ROMAN HOLIDAYS AND OTHERS
By W. D. Howells
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON Copyright, 1908, by HARPER & BROTHERS. Copyright, 1908, by THE SUN PRINTING AND PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION. Published October, 1908.
I. UP AND DOWN MADEIRA
II. TWO UP-TOWN BLOCKS INTO SPAIN
III. ASHORE AT GENOA
IV. NAPLES AND HER JOYFUL NOISE
V. POMPEII REVISITED
VI. ROMAN HOLIDAYS
VII. A WEEK AT LEGHORN
VIII. OVER AT PISA
IX.. BACK AT GENOA
X. EDEN AFTER THE FALL
ROMAN HOLIDAYS AND OTHERS
I. UP AND DOWN MADEIRA.
No drop-curtain, at any theatre I have seen, was ever so richly imagined, with misty tops and shadowy clefts and frowning cliffs and gloomy valleys and long, plunging cataracts, as the actual landscape of Madeira, when we drew nearer and nearer to it, at the close of a tearful afternoon of mid-January. The scenery of drop-curtains is often very boldly beautiful, but here Nature, if she had taken a hint from art, had certainly bettered her instruction. During the waits between acts at the theatre, while studying the magnificent painting beyond the trouble of the orchestra, I have been most impressed by the splendid variety which the artist had got into his picture, where the spacious frame lent itself to his passion for saying everything; but I remembered his thronging fancies as meagre and scanty in the presence of the stupendous reality before me. I have, for instance, not even mentioned the sea, which swept smoother and smoother in toward the feet of those precipices and grew more and more trans-lucently purple and yellow and green, while half a score of cascades shot straight down their fronts in shafts of snowy foam, and over their pachydermatous shoulders streamed and hung long reaches of gray vines or mosses. To the view from the sea the island is all, with its changing capes and promontories and bays and inlets, one immeasurable mountain; and on the afternoon of our approach it was bestridden by a steadfast rainbow, of which we could only see one leg indeed, but that very stout and athletic.
There were breadths of dark woodland aloft on this mountain, and terraced vineyards lower down; and on the shelving plateaus yet farther from the heights that lost themselves in the clouds there were scattered white cottages; on little levels close to the sea there were set white villas. These, as the ship coquetted with the vagaries of the shore, thickened more and more, until after rounding a prodigious headland we found ourselves in face of the charming little city of Funchal: long horizontal lines of red roofs, ivory and pink and salmon walls, evenly fenestrated, with an ancient fortress giving the modern look of things a proper mediaeval touch. Large hotels, with the air of palaces, crowned the upland vantages; there were bell-towers of churches, and in one place there was a wide splotch of vivid color from the red of the densely flowering creeper on the side of some favored house. There was an acceptable expanse of warm brown near the quay from the withered but unfailing leaves of a sycamore-shaded promenade, and in the fine roadstead where we anchored there lay other steamers and a lead-colored Portuguese war-ship. I am not a painter, but I think that here are the materials of a water-color which almost any one else could paint. In the hands of a scene-painter they would yield a really unrivalled drop-curtain. I stick to the notion of this because when the beautiful goes too far, as it certainly does at Madeira, it leaves you not only sated but vindictive; you wish to mock it.
The afternoon saddened more and more, and one could not take an interest in the islanders who came out in little cockles and proposed to dive for shillings and sixpences, though quarters and dimes would do. The company's tender also came out, and numbers of passengers went ashore in the mere wantonness of paying for their dinner and a night's lodging in the annexes of the hotels, which they were told beforehand were full. The lights began to twinkle from the windows of the town, and the dark fell upon the insupportable picturesqueness of the prospect, leaving one to a gayety of trooping and climbing lamps which defined the course of the streets.
The morning broke in sunshine, and after early breakfast the launches began to ply again between the ship and the shore and continued till nearly all the first and second cabin people had been carried off. The people of the steerage satisfied what longing they had for strange sights and scenes by thronging to the sides of the steamer until they gave her a strong list landward, as they easily might, for there were twenty-five hundred of them. At Madeira there is a local Thomas Cook & Son of quite another name, but we were not finally sure that the alert youth on the pier who sold us transportation and provision was really their agent. However, his tickets served perfectly well at all points, and he was of such an engaging civility and personal comeliness that I should not have much minded their failing us here and there. He gave the first charming-touch of the Latin south whose renewed contact is such a pleasure to any one knowing it from the past. All Portuguese as Funchal was, it looked so like a hundred little Italian towns that it seemed to me as if I must always have driven about them in calico-tented bullock-carts set on runners, as later I drove about Eunchal.
It was warm enough on the ship, but here in the town we found ourselves in weather that one could easily have taken for summer, if the inhabitants had not repeatedly assured us that it was the season of winter, and that there were no flowers and no fruits. They could not, if they had wished, have denied the flies; these, in a hotel interior to which we penetrated, simply swarmed. If it was winter in Funchal it was no wintrier than early autumn would have been in one of those Italian towns of other days; it had the same temperament, the same little tree-planted spaces, the same devious, cobble-paved streets, the same pleasant stucco houses; the churches had bells of like tone, and if their facades confessed a Spanish touch they were not more Spanish than half the churches in Naples. The public ways were of a scrupulous cleanliness, as if, with so many English signs glaring down at them, they durst not untidy out-of-doors, though in-doors it was said to be different with them. There are three thousand English living at Funchal and everybody speaks English, however slightly. The fresh faces of English girls met us in the streets and no doubt English invalids abound.
We shipmates were all going to the station of the funicular railway, but our tickets did not call for bullock-sleds and so we took a clattering little horse-car, which climbed with us through up-hill streets and got us to the station too soon. Within the closed grille there the handsomest of swarthy, black-eyed, black-mustached station-masters (if such was his quality) told us that we could not have a train at once, though we had been advised that any ten of us could any time have a train, because the cars had all gone up the mountain and none would be down for twenty minutes. He spoke English and he mitigated by a most amiable personality sufferings which were perhaps not so great as we would have liked to think. Some of us wandered off down a pink-and-cream colored avenue near by and admired so much the curtains of red-and-yellow flowers—a cross between honeysuckles and trumpet blossoms—overhanging a garden-wall that two friendly boys began to share our interest in them. One of them mounted the other and tore down handfuls of the flowers, which they bestowed upon us with so little apparent expectation of reward that we promptly gave them of the international copper coinage current in Madeira, and went back to the station doubtless feeling guiltier than they. Had we not been accessory after the fact to something like theft and, as it was Sunday, to Sabbath-breaking besides? Afterward flowers proved so abundant in Madeira in spite of its being winter, that we could not feel the larceny a serious one, and the Sunday was a Latin Sabbath well used to being broken. The pony engine which was to push our slanting car over the cogged track up the mountain arrived with due ceremony of bell and whistle, and we were let through the grille by the station-master as politely as if we had been each his considered guest. Then the climb began through the fields of sugar-cane, terraced vineyards, orchards of fruit trees, and gardens of vegetables planted under the arbors over which the grapes were trained. One of us told the others that the vegetables were sheltered to save them from being scorched by the summer sun, and that much of the work among them was done by moonlight to save the laborers from the same fate. I do not know how he had amassed this knowledge, and I am not sure that I have the right to impart it without his leave. I myself saw some melons lolling on one of the tiled roofs of the cottages where they had perhaps been pushed by the energetic forces of the earth and sky. The grape-vines were quiescent, partly because it was winter, as everybody said, and partly because the wine culture is no longer so profitable in the island. It has been found for the moment that Madeira is bad for the gout, and this discovery of the doctors is bad for the peasants (already cruelly overtaxed by Portugal), who are leaving their homes in great numbers and seeking their fortunes in both of the Americas, as well as the islands of all the seas. It must be a heartbreak for them to forsake such homes as we saw in the clean white cottages, with the balconies and terraces.
But there were no signs of depopulation either of old or young. Smiling mothers and fathers of all ages, in their Sunday leisure and their Sunday best, watched our ascent as if they had never seen the like before, and our course was never so swift but we could be easily overtaken by the children; they embarrassed us with the riches of the camellias which they flung in upon us, and they were accompanied by small dogs which barked excitedly. Our train almost grazed the walls of the door-yards as we passed through the succession of the one- and two-story cottages, which dotted the mountain-side in every direction. When the eye could leave them it was lured from height to height, and at each rise of the track to some wider and lovelier expanse of the sea. We could see merely our own steamer in the roadstead, with the Portuguese war-ship, and the few other vessels at anchor, but we could never exhaust the variety of those varied mountain slopes and tops. Their picturesqueness of form and their delight of color would beggar any thesaurus of its descriptive reserves, and yet leave their beauty almost unhinted. A drop-curtain were here a vain simile; the chromatic glories of colored postal-cards might suggest the scene, but then again they might overdo it. Nature is modest in her most magnificent moods, and I do not see how she could have a more magnificent mood than Madeira. It can never be represented by my art, but it may be measurably stated: low lying sea; the town scattering and fraying everywhere into outlying hamlets, villas and cottages; steep rising upon steep, till they reach uninhabitable climaxes where the woods darken upward into the everlasting snows, in one whole of grandeur resuming in its unity every varying detail.
I dwell rather helplessly upon the scenery, because it was what we professedly went up or half up, or one-tenth or-hundredth up, the mountain for. Un-professedly we went up in order to come down by the toboggan of the country, though we vowed one another not to attempt anything so mad. In the meanwhile, before it should be time for lunch, we could walk up to a small church near the station and see the people at prayer in an interior which did not differ in bareness and tawdriness from most other country churches of the Latin south, though it had a facade so satisfyingly Spanish, because I suppose it was so perfectly Portuguese, that heart could ask no more. Not all the people were at prayer within; irregular files of them attended our progress to give us the opportunity of doing charity. The beggars were of every sort, sex, and age, and some, from the hands they held out, with fingers reduced to their last joints, looked as if they might be lepers, but I do not say they were. What I am sure of is that the faces of the worshippers—men, women, and children—when they came out of the church were of a gentleness which, if it was not innocence and goodness, might well have passed for those virtues. They had kind eyes, which seemed as often blue as black, and if they had no great beauty they were seldom quite ugly. I wish I could think we strangers, as they gazed curiously, timorously at us, struck them as favorably.
An involuntary ferocity from the famine which we began to feel may have glared from our visages, for we had eaten nothing for three hours, which was long for saloon passengers. At the first restaurant which we found, and in which we all but sat down at table, our coupons were not good, but this was not wholly loss, for we recouped ourselves in the beauties of the walk on which we wandered along the mountain-side to the right of the restaurant. At the point where we were no longer confident of our way an opportune native appeared and Jed us over paths paved with fine pebbles, sometimes wrought into geometric patterns, and always through pleasing sun and shade, till we reached a pretty hotel set, with its gardens before it, on a shelf of level land and commanding a view of our steamer and the surrounding sea. Tropic growths, which I will venture to call myrtle, oleander, laurel, and eucalyptus, environed the hotel, not too closely nor densely, and our increasing party was presently discovered from the head of its steps by a hospitable matron, who with a cry of comprehensive welcome ran within and was replaced by a head-waiter of as friendly aspect and much more English. He said our coupons were good there and that our luncheon would be ready in two minutes; for proof of the despatch with which we should be served he held up the first and second fingers of his right hand. Restored by his assurance, we did not really mind waiting twice the tale of all his ten fingers, and we spent our time variously in wandering about the plateau, among the wonted iron tables and chairs in front of the hotel, in being photographed in a fairy grotto behind it, and in examining the visitors' book in the parlor. The names of visitors from South Africa largely prevailed, for the Cape Town steamers, oftener than any others, touch at Madeira, but there was one traveller of Portuguese race who had written his name in bold characters above the cry, "Long live the Portuguese Republic." Soon after the Portuguese monarchy ceased to live for a time in the person of the murdered king and his heir, but it is doubtful if the health of the potential republic was as great as before.
That bright Sunday morning no shadow of the black event was forecast, and we gave our unstinted sympathy to our unknown co-republican. The luncheon, when we were called to it, had merits of novelty and quality which I will celebrate only as regards the delicate fish fresh from the sea, and the pease fresh from the garden, with poached eggs fresh from the coop dropped upon them. The conception of chops which followed was not so faultless, though the fruit with which we ended did much to repair any error of kid which may have mistaken itself for lamb. Perhaps our enthusiasm was heightened by the fine air which had sharpened our appetites. At any rate, it all ended in an habitual transaction in real estate by which I became the owner of the place, without expropriating the actual possessor, and established there those castles in Spain belonging to me in so many parts of the world.
There remained now nothing for us to do but to toboggan down the mountain, and we overcame our resolution not to do so far enough to go and look at the toboggans under the guidance of our head-waiter. When once we had looked we were lost. The toboggans were flat baskets set on iron-shod runners, and well cushioned and padded; they held one, two, or three passengers; the track on which they descended was paved, in gentle undulations, with thin pebbles set on edge and greased wherever the descent found a level. A smiling native, with a strong rope attached to the toboggan, stood on each side of it, and held it back or pulled it forward, according to the exigencies of the case. It is long since I slid down hill on a sled of my own, and I do not pretend to recall the sensation; but I can remember nothing so luxurious in transportation as the swift flight of the Madeira toboggan, which you temper at will through its guides and guards, but do not wish to temper at all when your first alarm, mainly theoretical, passes into the gayety ending in exultant rejoicing at the bottom of the course.
Our two toboggan men were possibly vigilant and reassuring beyond the common, but one was quite silently so; the other, who spoke a little English, encouraged us from time to time to believe that they were "strong mans," afterward correcting himself in conformity to the rules of Portuguese grammar, which make the adjective agree in number with the noun, and declaring that they were "strongs mans." We met many toboggan men who needed to be "strongs mans" in their ascent of our track, with their heavy toboggans on their heads; but some of them did not look strong, and our own arrived spent and panting at the bottom. Something like that is what always spoils pleasure in this world. Even when you have paid for it with your money, some one else has paid with his person twice as much, and you have not equalled his outlay when you have tipped him your handsomest.
A shilling apiece seemed handsome for those "strongs mans," but afterward there were watches of the nights when the spirit grieved that the shilling had not been made two apiece or even half a crown, and I wish now that the first reader of mine who toboggans down Madeira would make up the difference for me in his tip to those poor fellows. I do not mind if he adds a few pennies for the children who ran before our toboggan and tossed camellias into it, and then followed in the hopes of a reward, which we tried not to disappoint.
The future traveller need not add to the fee of the authorized and numbered guide who took possession of us as soon as we got out of our basket and led us unresisting to a waiting bullock sled. He invited himself into it, and gave himself the best of characters in the autobiography into which he wove his scanty instruction concerning the objects we passed. A bullock sled is not of such blithe progress as a toboggan, but it is very comfortable, and it is of an Oriental and litter-like dignity, with its calico cushions and curtains. One could not well use it in New York, but it serves every purpose of a cab in Funchal, where we noted a peculiar feature of local commerce which I hesitate to specify, since it cast apparent discredit upon woman. It was, as I have noted, Sunday; but every shop where things pleasing or even useful to women were sold was wide open, and somewhat flaringly invited the custom of our fellow-passengers of that sex; but there was not a shop where such things as men's collars were for sale, or anything pleasing or useful to man, but was closed and locked fast. I must except from this sweeping statement the cafes, but these should not count, for women as well as men frequented them, as we ascertained by going to a very bowery one on the quay and ordering a bottle of the best and dryest Madeira. We wished perhaps to prove that it was really not bad for gout, or perhaps that it was no better than the Madeira you get in New York for the same price. Even with the help of friends, of the sex which could have been freely buying native laces, hats, fans, photographs, parasols, and tailor-made dresses, we could not finish that bottle. Glass after glass we bestowed on our smiling guide, with no final effect upon the bottle and none upon him, except to make him follow us to the tender and take an after-fee for showing us a way which we could not have missed blindfold. It was rather strange, but not stranger than the behavior of the captain of the tender, who, when he had collected our tickets, invited a free-will offering for collecting them, and mostly got it.
When we were safely and gladly on board our steamer again, we had nothing to do, until the deck-steward came round with tea, but watch the islanders swarming around us in their cockles and diving for sixpences and shillings, which they caught impartially with their fingers and toes. With so many all shouting and gesticulating, one could not venture one's silver indiscriminately; one must employ some particular diver, and I selected for my investments a poor young fellow who had lost an arm. With his one hand and his two feet he never failed of the coin I risked, and I wish they had been many enough to enable him to retire from the trade, which even in that mild air kept him visibly shivering when out of the water. I do not know his name, but I commend him to future travellers by the token of his pathetic mutilation.
By-and-by we felt the gentle stir of the steamer under us; the last tender went ashore, and the divers retired in their cockles from our side. Funchal began to rearrange the lines of her streets, while keeping those of her roofs and house-walls and terraced gardens. We passed out of the roadstead, we rounded the mighty headland by which we had entered, and were once more in face of that magnificent drop-curtain, which had now fallen upon one of the most vivid and novel passages of our lives.
II. TWO UP-TOWN BLOCKS INTO SPAIN
There is nothing strikes the traveller in his approach to the rock of Gibraltar so much as its resemblance to the trade-mark of the Prudential Insurance Company. He cannot help feeling that the famous stronghold is pictorially a plagiarism from the advertisements of that institution. As the lines change with the ship's course, the resemblance is less remarkable; but it is always remarkable, and I suppose it detracts somewhat from the majesty of the fortress, which we could wish to be more entirely original. This was my feeling when I first saw Gibraltar four years ago, and it remains my feeling after having last seen it four weeks ago. The eye seeks the bold, familiar legend, and one suffers a certain disappointment in its absence. Otherwise Gibraltar does not and cannot disappoint the most exacting tourist.
The morning which found us in face of it was in brisk contrast to the bland afternoon on which we had parted from Madeira. No flocking coracles surrounded our steamer, with crews eager to plunge into the hissing brine for shillings or equivalent quarters. The whitecaps looked snow cold as they tossed under the sharp north wind, and the tender which put us ashore had all it could do to embark and disembark us upright, or even aslant. But, once in the lee of the rocky Africa breathed a genial warmth across the strait beyond which its summits faintly shimmered; or was it the welcome of Cook's carriages which warmed us so? We were promised separate vehicles for parties of three or four, with English-speaking drivers, and the promise was fairly well kept. The carriages bore a strong family likeness to the pictures of Spanish state coaches of the seventeenth century, and were curtained and cushioned in reddish calico. Rubber tires are yet unknown in southern Europe, and these mediaeval arks bounded over the stones with a violence which must once have been characteristic of those in the illustrations. But the English of our English-speaking driver was all that we could have asked for the shillings we paid Cook for him, or, if it was not, it was all we got. He was an energetic young fellow and satisfyingly Spanish in coloring, but in his eagerness to please he was less grave than I could now wish; I now wish everything in Spain to have been in keeping.
What was most perfectly, most fittingly in keeping was the sight of the Moors whom we began at once to see on the wharves and in the streets. They probably looked very much like the Moors who followed their caliph, if he was a caliph, into Spain when he drove Don Roderick out of his kingdom and established his own race and religion in the Peninsula. Moslem costumes can have changed very little in the last eleven or twelve hundred years, and these handsome fellows, who had come over with fresh eggs and vegetables and chickens and turkeys from Tangier, could not have been handsomer when they bore scimitars and javelins instead of coops and baskets. They had baggy drawers on, and brown cloaks, with bare, red legs and yellow slippers; one, when he took his fez off, had a head shaved perfectly bald, like the one-eyed Calender or the Barber's brother out of the Arabian Nights; the sparse mustache and short-forked beard heightened the verisimilitude. Whether they squatted on the wharf, or passed gravely through the street, or waited for custom in their little market among the hen-coops and the herds of rather lean, dispirited turkeys (which had not the satisfaction of their American kindred in being fattened for the sacrifice, for in Europe all turkeys are served lean), these Moors had an allure impossible to any Occidental race. It was greater even than that of their Semitic brethren, who had a market farther up in the town, and showed that a Jewish market could be much filthier than a' Moorish market without being more picturesque. Into the web of Oriental life were wrought the dapper figures of the red-coated, red-cheeked English soldiers, with blue, blue eyes and incredible red and yellow hair, lounging or hurrying orderlies with swagger-sticks, and apparently aimless privates no doubt bent 'upon quite definite business or pleasure. Now and then an English groom led an English horse through the long street from which the other streets in Gibraltar branch up and down hill, for there is no other level; and now and then an English man or woman rode trimly by.
The whole place is an incongruous mixture of Latin and Saxon. The strictly South-European effect of the houses and churches is a mute protest against the alien presence which keeps the streets so clean and maintains order by means of policemen showing under the helmets of the London bobby the faces of the native alguazil. In the shops the saleswomen speak English and look Spanish. Our driver, indeed, looked more Spanish than he spoke English.
His knowledge of our rude tongue extended hardly beyond the mention of certain conventional objects of interest, and did not suffice to explain why we could not see the old disused galleries of the fortifications. I do not know why we wished to see these; I doubt if we really did so, but we embittered life for that well-meaning boy by our insistence upon them, and we brought him under unjust suspicion of deceit by forcing him to a sort of time-limit in respect to them. We appealed from him to the blandest of black-mus-tached, olive-skinned bobby-alguazils, who directed us to a certain government office for a permit. There our application caused something like dismay, and we were directed to another office, but were saved from the shame of failure by incidentally learning that the galleries could not be seen till after three o'clock. As our ship sailed at that hour, we were probably saved a life-long disappointment.
Everywhere the rock of the Prudential beetles and towers over the town; but the fortifications are so far up in the sky that you can really distinguish nothing but the Marconi telegraphic apparatus at the top. Along the sea-level, which the town mostly keeps, the war-like harness of the stronghold shows through the civil dress of the town in barracks and specific forts and gray battle-ships lying at anchor in the docks. But all is simple and reserved, in the right English fashion. The strength of the place is not to be put forth till it is needed, which will be never, since it is hard to imagine how it can ever be even attempted by a hostile force. This is not saying, I hope, that an American fleet could not batter it down, nor leave one letter of the insurance advertisement after another on the face of the precipice.
There is a pretty public garden at Gibraltar in that part of the town which is farthest from the steamer's landing, and this proved the end of our excursion in our state coach. We found other state coaches there, and joined their passengers in strolling over the pleasant paths and trying to make out what bird it was singing somewhere in the trees. We made out an almond-tree in bloom, after some dispute; and, in fact, the climate there was much softer than at the landing, so insidiously soft that it required great force of character to keep from buying the flowers which some tasteful boys gathered from the public beds. There is a mild monument or two in this garden, to what memories I promptly failed to remember afterward; but as there are more military memories in the world than is good for it, and as these were undoubtedly military memories, I cannot much blame myself in the matter. After viewing them, there was nothing left to do but to get lunch, which we got extremely good at the hotel where a friend led us. There was at this hotel a head-waiter, in a silver-braided silk dress-coat of a mauve color, who imagined our wants so perfectly that I shall always regret not taking more of the omelette; the table-waiter urged it upon us twice with true friendliness. The eggs must have been laid for it in Africa that morning at daybreak, and brought over by a Moorish marketman, but we turned from the poetic experience of this omelette in the greedy hope of better things. Better things there could not be, but the fish was as good as the fish at Madeira, and the belief of the chops that they were lamb and not kid seemed better founded.
There had been an excellent bottle of Rioja Blanca, such as you may have as good at some Spanish restaurant in New York for as little money; and the lunch, when reckoned up in English shillings and Spanish undertones, was not cheap. Yet it was not dear, either, and there was no specific charge for that silver-braided dress-coat of a mauve color. An English dean in full clericals, and some English ladies talking in the waiting-room, added an agreeable confusion to our doubt of where and what we were, and we came away from the hotel as well content as if we had lunched in Plymouth or Bath. The table-waiter took an extra fee for confiding that he was a Milanese, and was almost the only Italian in Gibraltar; whether he was right or not I do not know, but it was certainly not his fault that we did not take twice of the omelette.
It is said that living is dear in Gibraltar, especially in the matter of house rent. The houses in the town are like all the houses of Latin Europe in their gray or yellowish walls of stone or stucco and their dark-green shutters. There is an English residential quarter at the east end of the town, where the houses may be different, for all I know; the English of our driver or the hire of our state coach did not enable us to visit that suburb, where the reader may imagine villas standing in grounds with lawns and gardens about them. The English have prevailed nothing against the local civilization in most things, while they have infected it with the costliness of the whole Anglo-Saxon life. We should not think seven hundred dollars in New York dear for even a quite small house, but it has come to that in Gibraltar, and there they think it dear, with other things proportionately so. Of course, it is an artificial place; the fortress makes the town, and the town in turn lives upon the fortress.
The English plant themselves nowhere without gathering English conveniences or conventions about them; Americans would not always think them comforts. There is at Gibraltar a club or clubs; there is a hunt, there is a lending library, there is tennis, there is golf, there is bridge, there is a cathedral, and I dare say there is gossip, but I do not know it. It was difficult to get land for the golf links, we heard, because of the Spanish jealousy of the English occupation, which they will not have extended any farther over Spanish soil, even in golf links. Gibraltar is fondly or whimsically known to the invaders as Gib, and I believe it is rather a favorite sojourn, though in summer it is frightfully hot, held out on the knees and insteps of the rock to the burning African sun, which comes up every morning over the sea after setting Sahara on fire.
All this foreign life must be exterior to the aboriginal Spanish life which has so long outlasted the Moorish, and is not without hope of outlasting the English. I do not know what the occupations and amusements of that life are, but I will suppose them unworthy enough. There must be a certain space of neutral life uniting or dividing the two, which would form a curious inquiry, but would probably not lend itself to literary study. Besides this middle ground there is another neutral territory at Gibraltar which we traversed after luncheon, in order to say that we had been in Spain. That was the country of many more youthful dreamers in my time than, I fancy, it is in this. We used then, much more than now, to read Washington Irving, his Tales of the Alhambra, and his history of The Conquest of Granada, and we read Prescott's histories of Spanish kings and adventures in the old world and the new. We read Don Quixote, which very few read now, and we read Gil Blas, which fewer still now read; and all these constituted Spain a realm of faery, where every sort of delightful things did or could happen. I for my part had always expected to go to Spain and live among the people I had known in those charming books, yet I had been often in Europe, and had spent whole years there without ever going near Spain. But now, I saw, was my chance, and when the friend who had been lunching with us asked if we would not like to drive across that neutral territory and go into Spain a bit, it seemed as if the dream of my youth had suddenly renewed itself with the purpose of coming immediately true. It was a charmingly characteristic foretaste of Spanish travel that the driver of the state coach which we first engaged should, when we presently came back, have replaced himself by another for no other reason than, perhaps, that he could so provide us with a worse horse. I am not sure of this theory, and I do not insist upon it, but it seems plausible.
As soon as we rounded the rock of Gibraltar and struck across a flatter country than I supposed could be found within fifty miles of Gibraltar, we were swept by a blast which must have come from the Pyrenees, it was so savagely rough and cold. It may be always blowing there as a Spanish protest against the English treatment of the neutral territory; in fact, it does not seem quite the thing to build over that space as the English have done, though the structures are entirely peaceable, and it is not strange that the Spaniards have refused to meet them half-way with a good road over it, or to let them make one the whole way. They stand gravely opposed to any further incursion. Officially in all the Spanish documents the place is styled "Gibraltar, temporarily occupied by Great Britain," and there is a little town which you see sparkling in the sun no great way off in Spain called San Roque, of which the mayor is also mayor of Gibraltar; he visits his province once a year, and many people living for generations over the Spanish line keep the keys of the houses that they personally or ancestrally own in Gibraltar. The case has its pathos, but as a selfish witness I wish they had let the English make that road through the neutral territory. The present road is so bad that our state coach, in bounding over its inequalities, sometimes almost flung us into the arms of the Spanish beggars always extended toward us. They were probably most of them serious, but some of the younger ones recognized the bouffe quality of their calling. One pleasant starveling of ten or twelve entreated us for bread with a cigarette in his mouth, and, being rewarded for his impudence, entered into the spirit of the affair and asked for more, just as if we had given nothing.
A squalid little town grew up out of the flying gravel as we approached, and we left our state coach at the custom-house, which seemed the chief public edifice. There the inspectors did not go through the form of examining our hand-bags, as they would have done at an American frontier; and they did not pierce our carriage cushions with the long javelins with which they are armed for the detection of smuggling among the natives who have been shopping in Gibraltar. As the gates of that town are closed every day at nightfall by a patrol with drum and fife, and everybody is shut either in or out, it may easily happen with shoppers in haste to get through that they bring dutiable goods into Spain; but the official javelins rectify the error.
We left our belongings in our state coach and started for that stroll in Spain which I have measured as two up-town blocks, by what I think a pretty accurate guess; two cross-town blocks I am sure it was not. It was a mean-looking street, unswept and otherwise unkempt, with the usual yellowish or grayish buildings, rather low and rather new, as if prompted by a mistaken modern enterprise. They were both shops and dwellings; I am sure of a neat pharmacy and a fresh-looking cafe restaurant, and one dwelling all faced with bright-green tiles. An alguazil—I am certain he was an alguazil, though he looked like an Italian carabiniere and wore a cocked hat—loitered into a police station; but I remember no one else during our brief stay in that street except those bouffe boy beggars. Of course, they wished to sell us postal-cards, but they were willing to accept charity on any terms. Otherwise our Spanish tour was, so far as we then knew, absolutely without incident; but when we got too far away to return we found that we had been among brigands as well as beggars, and all the Spanish picaresque fiction seemed to come true in the theft of a black chudda shawl, which had indeed been so often lost in duplicate that it was time it was entirely lost. Whether it was secretly confiscated by the customs, or was accepted as a just tribute by the populace from a poetic admirer, I do not know, but I hope it is now in the keeping of some dark-eyed Spanish girl, who will wear it while murmuring through her lattice to her novio on the pavement outside. It was rather heavy to be worn as a veil, but I am sure she could manage it after dark, and could hold it under her chin, as she leaned forward to the grille, with one little olive hand, so that the novio would think it was a black silk mantilla. Or if it was a gift from him, it would be all right, anyway.
Our visit to Spain did not wholly realize my early dreams of that romantic land, and yet it had not been finally destitute of incident. Besides, we had not gone very far into the country; a third block might have teemed with adventure, but we had to be back on the steamer before three o'clock, and we dared not go beyond the second. Even within this limit a love of reality underlying all my love of romance was satisfied in the impression left by that dusty, empty, silent street. It seemed somehow like the street of a new, dreary, Western American town, so that I afterward could hardly believe that the shops and restaurants had not eked out their height with dashboard fronts. It was not a place that I would have chosen for a summer sojourn; the sense of a fly-blown past must have become a vivid part of future experience, and yet I could imagine that if one were born to it, and were young and hopeful, and had some one to share one's youth and hope, that Spanish street, which was all there was of that Spanish town, might have had its charm. I do not say that even for age there was not a railway station by which one might have got away, though there was no sign of any trains arriving or departing—perhaps because it was not one o'clock in the morning, which is the favorite hour of departure for Spanish trains.
When we turned to drive back over the neutral territory the rock of Gibraltar suddenly bulked up before us, in a sheer ascent that left the familiar Prudential view in utterly inconspicuous unimpressive-ness. Till one has seen it from this point one has not truly seen it. The vast stone shows like a half from which the other half has been sharply cleft and removed, that the sense of its precipitous magnitude may unrelievedly strike the eye; and it seems to have in that moment the whole world to tower up in from the level at its feet. No dictionary, however unabridged, has language adequate to convey the notion of it.
III. ASHORE AT GENOA
The pride of Americans in their native scenery is brought down almost to the level of the South Shore of Long Island in arriving home from the Mediterranean voyage to Europe. The last thing one sees in Europe is the rock of Gibraltar, but before that there have been the snow-topped Maritime Alps of Italy and the gray-brown, softly rounded, velvety heights of Spain; and one has to think very hard of the Palisades above the point where they have been blasted away for road-making material if one wishes to keep up one's spirits. The last time I came home the Mediterranean way I had a struggle with myself against excusing our sandy landscape, when we came in sight of it, with its summer cottages for the sole altitudes, to some Italian fellow-passengers who were not spellbound by its grandeur. I had to remember the Rocky Mountains, which I had never seen, and all the moral magnificence of our life before I could withhold the words of apology pressing to my lips. I was glad that I succeeded; but now, going back by the same route, I abandoned myself to transports in the beauty of the Mediterranean coast which I hope were not untrue to my country. Perhaps there is no country which can show anything like that beauty, and America is no worse off than the rest of the world; but I am not sure that I have a right to this consolation. Again there were those
"Silent pinnacles of aged snow,"
flushed with the Southern sun; in those sombre slopes of pine; again the olives climbing to their gloom; again the terraced vineyards and the white farmsteads, with villages nestling in the vast clefts of the hills, and all along the sea-level the blond towns and cities which broidei the hem of the land from Marseilles to Genoa. One is willing to brag; one must be a good American; but, honestly, have we anything like that to show the arriving foreigner? For some reason our ship was abating the speed with which she had crossed the Atlantic, and now she was swimming along the Mediterranean coasts so slowly and so closely that it seemed as if we could almost have cast an apple ashore, though probably we could not. We were at least far enough off to mistake Nice for Monte Carlo and then for San Remo, but that was partly because our course was so leisurely, and we thought we must have passed Nice long before we did. It did not matter; all those places were alike beautiful under the palms of their promenades, with their scattered villas and hotels stretching along their upper levels, and the ranks of shops and dwellings solidly forming the streets which left the shipping of their ports to climb to the gardens and farms beyond the villas. Cannes, Mentone, Ventimiglia, Ospedeletti, Bordighera, Taggia, Alassio: was that their fair succession, or did they follow in another order? Once more it did not matter; what is certain is that the golden sun of the soft January afternoon turned to crimson and left the last of them suffused in dim rose before we drifted into Genoa and came to anchor at dusk beside a steamer which had left New York on the same day as ours. By her vast size we could measure our own and have an objective perception of our grandeur. We had crossed in one of the largest ships afloat, but you cannot be both spectacle and spectator; and you must match your magnificence with some rival magnificence before you can have a due sense of it. That was what we now got at Genoa, and we could not help pitying the people on that other ship, who must have suffered shame from our overwhelming magnitude; the fact that she was of nearly the same tonnage as our own ship had nothing to do with the case.
After the creamy and rosy tints of those daughters of climate along the Riviera, it was pleasant to find a many-centuried mother of commerce like Genoa of the dignified gray which she wears to the eye, whether it looks down on her from the heights above her port or up at her from the thickly masted and thickly funnelled waters of the harbor. Most European towns have red tiled roofs, which one gets rather tired of putting into one's word paintings, but the roofs of Genoa are gray tiled, and gray are her serried house walls, and gray her many churches and bell-towers. The sober tone gratifies your eye immensely, and the fact that your eye has noted it and not attributed the conventional coloring of southern Europe to the city is a flattery to your pride which you will not refuse. It is not a setting for opera like Naples; there is something businesslike in it which agrees with your American mood if you are true to America, and recalls you to duty if you are not.
I had not been in Genoa since 1864 except for a few days in 1905, and I saw changes which I will mostly not specify. Already at the earlier date the railway had cut through the beautiful and reverend Doria garden and left the old palace some scanty grounds on the sea-level, where commerce noisily encompassed it with trains and tracks and lines of freight-cars. But there had remained up to my last visit that grot on the gardened hill-slope whence a colossal marble Hercules helplessly overlooked the offence offered by the railroad; and now suddenly here was the lofty wall of some new edifice stretching across in front of the Hercules and wholly shutting him from view; for all I know it may have made him part of its structure.
Let this stand for a type of the change which had passed upon Genoa and has passed or is passing upon all Italy. The trouble is that Italy is full of very living Italians, the quickest-witted people in the world, who are alert to seize every chance for bettering themselves financially as they have bettered themselves politically. For my part, I always wonder they do not still rule the world when I see how intellectually fit they are to do it, how beyond any other race they seem still equipped for their ancient primacy. Possibly it is their ancient primacy which hangs about their necks and loads them down. It is better to have too little past, as we have, than too much, as they have. But if antiquity hampers them, they are tenderer of its vast mass than we are of our little fragments of it; tenderer than any other people, except perhaps the English, have shown themselves; but when the time comes that the past stands distinctly in the way of the future, down goes the past, even in Italy. I am not saying that I do not see why that railroad could not have tunnelled under the Doria garden rather than cut through it; and I am waiting for that new building to justify its behavior toward that poor old Hercules; but in the mean time I hold that Italy is for the Italians who now live in it, and have to get that better living out of it which we others all want our countries to yield us; and that it is not merely a playground for tourists who wish to sentimentalize it, or study it, or sketch it, or make copy of it, as I am doing now.
All the same I will not deny that I enjoyed more than any of the improvements which I noted in Genoa that bit of the old Doria palace-grounds which progress has left it. The gray edifice looks out on the neighboring traffic across the leanness of a lovely old garden, with statues and stone seats, and in the midst a softly soliloquizing fountain, painted green with moss and mould. When you enter the palace, as you do in response to a custodian who soon comes with a key and asks if you would like to see it, you find yourself, one flight up, in a long glazed gallery, fronting on the garden, which is so warm with the sun that you wish to spend the rest of your stay in Genoa there. It is frescoed round with classically imagined portraits of the different Dorias, and above all the portrait of that great hero of the republic. I do not know that this portrait particularly impresses you; if you have been here before you will be reserving yourself for the portrait which the custodian will lead you to see in the ultimate chamber of the rather rude old palace, where it is like a living presence.
It is the picture of a very old man in a flat cap, sitting sunken forward in his deep chair, with his thin, long hands folded one on the other, and looking wearily at you out of his faded eyes, in which dwell the memories of action in every sort and counsel in every kind. Victor in battles by land and sea, statesman and leader and sage, he looks it all in that wonderful effigy, which shuns no effect of his more than ninety years, but confesses his great age as a part of his greatness with a pathetic reality. The white beard, with "each particular hair" defined, falling almost to the pale, lean hands, is an essential part of the presentment, which is full of such scrupulous detail as the eye would unconsciously take note of in confronting the man himself and afterward supply in the remembrance of the whole. As if it were a part of his personality, on a table facing him, covered with maps and papers, sits the mighty admiral's cat, which, with true feline im-passiveness, ignores the spectator and gives its sole regard to the admiral. There are possibly better portraits in the world than this, which was once by Sebastiano del Piombo and is now by Titian; but I remember none which has moved me more.
We tried in vain for a photograph of it, and then after a brief glance at the riches of the Church of the Annunziata, where we were followed around the interior by a sacristan who desired us to note that the pillars were "All inlady, all inlady" with different marbles, and, after a chilly moment in San Lorenzo, which the worshippers and the masons were sharing between them in the prayers and repairs always going on in cathedrals, we drove for luncheon to the hotel where we had sojourned in great comfort three years before. Genoa has rather a bad name for its hotels, but we had found this one charming, perhaps because when we had objected to going five flights up the landlord had led us yet a floor higher, that we might walk into the garden. It is so in much of Genoa, where the precipitous nature of the site makes this vivid contrast between the levels of the front door and the back gate. Many of the streets have been widened since Heine saw the gossiping neighbors touching knees across them, but nothing less than an earthquake could change the temperamental topography of the place. It has its advantages; when there is a ring at the door the housemaid, instead of panting up from the kitchen to answer it, has merely to fall down five pairs of stairs. It cannot be denied, either, that the steep incline gives a charm to the streets which overcome it with sidewalks and driveways and trolley-tracks. Such a street as the Via Garibaldi (there is a Via Garibaldi in every Italian city, town, and village, and ought to be a dozen), compactly built, but giving here and there over the houses' shoulders glimpses of the gardens lurking behind them, is of a dignity full of the energy which a flat thoroughfare never displays or imparts. Without the inspiration lent us by the street, I am sure we should never have got to the top of it with our cab when we went to the Campo Santo; and, as it was, we had to help our horses upward by involuntarily straining forward from our places. But the Campo Santo was richly worth the effort, for to visit that famous cemetery is to enjoy an experience of which it is the unique opportunity.
I wish to celebrate it because it seems to me one of the frankest expressions of national taste and nature, and I do like simplicity—in others. The modern Italians are the most literal of the realists in all the arts, and, as I had striven for reality in my own poor way, I was perhaps the more curious to see its effects in sculpture which I had heard of so much. I will own that they went far beyond my expectation and possibly my wishes; but it is not to be supposed that it is only inferior artists who have abandoned themselves to the excesses of fidelity so abundant in the Campo Santo. There are, of course, enough poor falterings of allegory and tradition in the marble walls and floors of this vast residence of the dead (as it gives you the cheerful impression of being), but the characteristic note of the place is a realism braving it out in every extreme of actuality. Possibly the fact is most striking in that death-bed scene where the family, life-size and unsparingly portraitured, and, as it were, photographed in marble, are gathered in the room of the dying mother. She lies on a bedstead which bears every mark of being one of a standard chamber-set in the early eighteen-seventies, and about her stand her husband and her sons and daughters and their wives and husbands, in the fashions of that day. I recall a brother, in a cutaway coat, and a daughter, in a tie-back, embraced in their grief and turning their faces away from their mother toward the spectator; and doubtless there were others whom to describe in their dress would render as grotesque. It is enough to say that the artist, of a name well known in Italy and of uncommon gift, has been as true to the moment in their costume as to the eternal humanity in their faces. He has done what the sculptor or painter of the great periods of art used to do with their historical and scriptural people—he has put them in the dress of his own time and place; and it is impossible to deny him a convincing logic. No sophistry or convention of drapery in the scene could have conveyed its pathos half so well, or indeed at all. It does make you shudder, I allow; it sets your teeth on edge; but then, if you are a real man or woman, it brings the lump into your throat; the smile fails from your lip; you pay the tribute of genuine pity and awe. I will not pretend that I was so much moved by the meeting in heaven of a son and father: the spirit of the son in a cutaway, with a derby hat in his hand, gazing with rapture into the face of the father's spirit in a long sack-coat holding his marble bowler elegantly away from his side, if I remember rightly. But here the fact wanted the basis of simplicity so strong in the other scene; in the mixture of the real and the ideal the group was romanticistic.
There are innumerable other portrait figures and busts in which the civic and social hour is expressed. The women's hair is dressed in this fashionable way or that; the men's beards are cut in conformity to the fashion or the personal preference in side whiskers or mustache or imperial or goatee; and their bronze or marble faces convey the contemporary character of aristocrat or bourgeois or politician or professional. I do not know just what the reader would expect me to say in defence of the full-length figure of a lady in decollete and trained evening dress, who enters from the tomb toward the spectator as if she were coming into a drawing-room after dinner. She is very beautiful, but she is no longer very young, and the bare arms, which hang gracefully at her side, respond to an intimation of embonpoint in the figure, with a slightly flabby over-largeness where they lose themselves in the ample shoulders. Whether this figure is the fancy of the sorrowing husband or the caprice of the defunct herself, who wished to be shown to after-time as she hoped she looked in the past, I do not know; but I had the same difficulty with it as I had with that father and son; it was romanticistic. Wholly realistic and rightly actual was that figure of an old woman who is said to have put by all her savings from the grocery business that she might appear properly in the Campo Santo, and who is shown there short and stout and common, in her ill-fitting best dress, but motherly and kind and of an undeniable and touching dignity.
If I am giving the reader the impression that I went to the Campo Santo in my last stop at Genoa, I am deceiving him; I record here the memories of four years ago. I did not revisit the place, but I should like to see it again, if only to revive my recollections of its unique interest. I did really revisit the Pal-lavicini-Durazzo palace, and there revived the pleasure I had known before in its wonderful Van Dycks. Most wonderful was and will always be the "Boy in White," the little serene princeling, whoever he was, in whom the painter has fixed forever a bewitching mood and moment of childhood. "The Mother with two Children" is very well and self-evidently true to personality and period and position; but, after all, she is nothing beside that "Boy in White," though she and her children are otherwise so wonderful. Now that I speak of her, however, she rather grows upon my recollection as a woman greater than her great world and proudly weary of it.
She was a lady of that very patrician house whose palace, in its cold grandeur and splendor, renews at once all one's faded or fading sense of the commercial past of Italy, when her greatest merchants were her greatest nobles and dwelt in magnificence unparalleled yet since Rome began to be old. Genoa, Venice, Pisa, Florence, what state their business men housed themselves in and environed themselves with! Their palaces by the hundreds were such as only the public edifices of our less simple State capitols could equal in size and not surpass in cost. Their folie des grandeurs realized illusions in architecture, in sculpture, and in painting which the assembled and concentrated feats of those arts all the way up and down Fifth Avenue, and in the millionaire blocks eastward could not produce the likeness of. We have the same madness in our brains; we have even a Roman megalomania, but the effect of it in Chicago or Pittsburg or Philadelphia or New York has not yet got beyond a ducal or a princely son-in-law. The splendors of such alliances have still to take substantial form in a single instance worthy to compare with a thousand instances in the commercial republics of Italy. This does not mean that our rich people have not so much money as the Italians of the Renaissance, but that perhaps in their folie des grandeurs they are a different kind of madmen; it means also that land and labor are dearer positively and comparatively with us, and that our pork-packing or stock-broking princes prefer to spend on comfort rather than size in their houses, and do not like the cold feet which the merchant princes of Italy must have had from generation to generation. I shall always be sorry I did not wear arctics when I went to the Pallavicini-Durazzo palace, and I strongly urge the reader to do so when he goes.
He will not so much need them out-of-doors in a Genoese January, unless a tramontana is blowing, and there was none on our half-day. But in any case we did not walk. We selected the best-looking cab-horse we could find, and he turned out better than his driver, who asked a fabulous price by the hour. We obliged him to show his tariff, when his wickedness was apparent from the printed rates. He explained that the part we were looking at was obsolete, and he showed us another part, which was really for drives outside the city; but we agreed to pay it, and set out hoping for good behavior from him that would make up the difference. Again we were deceived; at the end he demanded a franc beyond even his unnatural fare. I urged that one should be reasonable; but he seemed to think not, and to avoid controversy I paid the extortionate franc. I remembered that just a month before, in New York, I had paid an extortionate dollar in like circumstances.
Nevertheless, that franc above and beyond the stipulated extortion impoverished me, and when we came to take a rowboat back to our steamer I beat the boatman down cruelly, mercilessly. He was a poor, lean little man, with rather a superannuated boat, and he labored harder at the oar than I could bear to see without noting his exertion to him. This was fatal; instantly he owned that I was right, and he confessed, moreover, that he was the father of a family, and that some of his children were then suffering from sickness as well as want. What could one do but make the fare up to the first demand of three francs after having got the price down to one and a half? At the time it seemed to me that I was somehow by this means getting the better of the cabman who had obliged me to pay a franc more than his stipulated extortion, but I do not now hope to make it appear so to the reader.
IV. NAPLES AND HER JOYFUL NOISE
We heard the joyful noise of Naples as soon as our steamer came to anchor within the moles whose rigid lines perhaps disfigure her famous bay, while they render her harbor so secure. The noise first rose to us, hanging over the guard, and trying to get phrases for the glory of her sea and sky and mountains and monuments, from a boat which seemed to have been keeping abreast of us ever since we had slowed up. It was not a largo boat, but it managed to contain two men with mandolins, a mother of a family with a guitar, and a young girl with an alternate tambourine and umbrella. The last instrument was inverted to catch the coins, such as they were, which the passengers flung down to the minstrels for their repetitions of "Santa Lucia," "Funicoli-Funicola," "II Cacciatore," and other popular Neapolitan airs, such as "John Brown's Body" and "In the Bowery." To the songs that had a waltz movement the mother of a family performed a restricted dance, at some risk of falling overboard, while she smiled radiantly up at us, as, in fact, they all did, except the young girl, who had to play simultaneously on her tambourine and her inverted umbrella, and seemed careworn. Her anxiety visibly deepened to despair when she missed a shilling, which must have looked as large to her as a full moon as it sank slowly down into the sea.
But her despair did not last long; nothing lasts long in Naples except the joyful noise, which is incessant and perpetual, and which seems the expression of the universal temperament in both man and beast. Our good-fortune placed us in a hotel fronting the famous Castel dell' Ovo, across a little space of land and water, and we could hear, late and early, the cackling and crowing of the chickens which have replaced the hapless prisoners of other days in that fortress. At times the voices of the hens were lifted in a choral of self-praise, as if they had among them just laid the mighty structure which takes its name from its resemblance to the egg they ordinarily produce. In other lands the peculiar note of the donkey is not thought very melodious, but in Naples before it can fade away it is caught up in the general orchestration and ceases in music. The cabmen at our corner, lying in wait by scores for the strangers whom it is their convention to suppose ignorant of their want of a carriage, quarrelled rhythmically with one another; the mendicants, lying everywhere in wait for charity, murmured a modulated appeal; if you heard shouts or yells afar off they died upon your ear in a strain of melody at the moment when they were lifted highest. I am aware of seeming to burlesque the operatic fact which every one must have noticed in Naples; and I will not say that the neglected or affronted babe, or the trodden dog, is as tuneful as the midnight cat there, but only that they approach it in the prevailing tendency of all the local discords to soften and lose themselves in the general unison. This embraces the clatter of the cabs, which are seldom less than fifty years old, and of a looseness in all their joints responsive to their effect of dusty decrepitude. Their clatter penetrates the volumed tread of the myriad feet in a city where, if you did not see all sorts of people driving, you would say the whole population walked. Above the manifold noises gayly springing to the sky spreads and swims the clangor of the church-bells and holds the terrestrial uproar in immeasurable solution. It would be rash to say that the whole population of Naples is always in the street, for if you look into the shops or cafes, or, I dare say, the houses, you will find them quite full; but the general statement verifies itself almost tiresomely in its agreement with what everybody has always said of Naples. It is so quite what you expect that if you could you would turn away in satiety, especially from the swarming life of the poor, which seems to have no concealments from the public, but frankly works at all the trades and arts that can be carried on out-of-doors; cooks, eats, laughs, cries, sleeps, wakes, makes love, quarrels, scolds, does everything but wash itself—clothes enough it washes for other people's life. There is a reason for this in the fact that in bad weather at Naples it is cold and dark and damp in-doors, and in fine so bright and warm and charming without that there is really no choice. Then there is the expansive temperament, which if it were shut up would probably be much more explosive than it is now. As it is, it vents itself in volleyed detonations and scattered shots which language can give no sense of.
For the true sense of it you must go to Naples, and then you will never lose the sense of it. I had not been there since 1864, but when I woke up the morning after my arrival, and heard the chickens cackling in the Castel dell' Ovo, and the donkeys braying, and the cab-drivers quarrelling, and the cries of the street vendors, and the dogs barking, and the children wailing, and their mothers scolding, and the clatter of wheels and hoops and feet, and all that mighty harmony of the joyful Neapolitan noises, it seemed to me that it was the first morning after my first arrival, and I was still only twenty-seven years old. As soon as possible, when the short but sweet Vincenzo had brought up my breakfast of tea and bread-and-butter and honey (to which my appetite turned from the gross superabundance of the steamer's breakfasts with instant acquiescence), and announced with a smile as liberal as the sunshine that it was a fine day, I went out for those impressions which I had better make over to the reader in their original disorder. Vesuvius, which was silver veiled the day before, was now of a soft, smoky white, and the sea, of a milky blue, swam round the shore and out to every dim island and low cape and cliffy promontory. The street was full of people on foot and in trolleys and cabs and donkey pleasure-carts, and the familiar teasing of cabmen and peddlers and beggars began with my first steps toward what I remembered as the Toledo, but what now called itself, with the moderner Italian patriotism, the Via Roma. The sole poetic novelty of my experience was in my being offered loaves of bread which, when I bought them, would be given to the poor, in honor of what saint's day I did not learn. But it was all charming; even the inattention of the young woman over the book-counter was charming, since it was a condition of her flirtation with the far younger man beside me who wanted something far more interesting from her than any brief sketch of the history of Naples, in either English or Italian or French or, at the worst, German. She was very pretty, though rather powdered, and when the young man went away she was sympathetically regretful to me that there was no such sketch, in place of which she offered me several large histories in more or less volumes. But why should I have wanted a history of Naples when I had Naples itself? It was like wanting a photograph when you have the original. Had I not just come through the splendid Piazza San Ferdinando, with the nobly arcaded church on one hand and the many-statued royal palace on the other, and between them a lake of mellow sunshine, as warm as ours in June?
What I found Naples and the Neapolitans in 1908 I had found them in 1864, and Mr. Gray (as he of the "Elegy" used to be called on his title-pages) found them in 1740. "The streets," he wrote home to his mother, "are one continued market, and thronged with populace so much that a coach can hardly pass. The common sort are a jolly, lively kind of animals, more industrious than Italians usually are; they work till evening; then they take their lute or guitar (for they all play) and walk about the city or upon the seashore with it, to enjoy the fresco." There was, in fact, a bold gayety in the aspect of the city, without the refinement which you do not begin to feel till you get into North Italy. When I came upon church after church, with its facade of Spanish baroque, I lamented the want of Gothic delicacy and beauty, but I was consoled abundantly later in the churches antedating the Spanish domination. I had no reason, such as travellers give for hating places, to be dissatisfied with Naples in any way. I had been warned that the customs officers were terrible there, and that I might be kept hours with my baggage. But the inspector, after the politest demand for a declaration of tobacco, ordered only a small valise, the Benjamin of its tribe, opened and then closed untouched; and his courteous forbearance, acknowledged later through the hotel porter, cost me but a dollar. The hotel itself was inexpressibly better in lighting, heating, service, and table than any New York hotel at twice the money—in fact, no money could buy the like with us at any hotel I know of; but this is a theme which I hope to treat more fully hereafter. It is true that the streets of Naples are very long and rather narrow and pretty crooked, and full of a damp cold that no sunlight seems ever to hunt out of them; but then they are seldom ironed down with trolley-tracks; the cabs feel their way among the swarming crowds with warning voices and smacking whips; even the prepotent automobile shows some tenderness for human life and limb, and proceeds still more cautiously than the cabs and carts—in fact, I thought I saw recurrent proofs of that respect for the average man which seems the characteristic note of Italian liberty; and this belief of mine, bred of my first observations in Naples, did not, after twelve weeks in Italy, prove an illusion. If it is not the equality we fancy ourselves having, it is rather more fraternity in effect.
The failure of other researches for that sketch of Neapolitan history left me in the final ignorance which I must share with the reader; but my inquiries brought me prompt knowledge of one of those charming features in which the Italian cities excel, if they are not unique. I remember too vaguely the Galleria, as they call the beautiful glazed arcade of Milan, to be sure that it is finer than the Galleria at Naples, but I am sure this is finer than that at Genoa, with which, however, I know nothing in other cities to compare. The Neapolitan gallery, wider than any avenue of the place, branching in the form of a Greek cross to four principal streets, is lighted by its roof of glass, and a hundred brilliant shops and cafes spread their business and leisure over its marble floor. Nothing could be architecturally more cheerful, and, if it were not too hot in summer, there could be no doubt of its adaptation to our year, for it could be easily closed against the winter by great portals, and at other seasons would give that out-door expansion which in Latin countries hospitably offers the spectacle of pleasant eating and drinking to people who have nothing to eat and drink. These spectators could be kept at a distance with us by porters at the entrances, while they would not be altogether deprived of the gratifying glimpses.
I do not know whether poverty avails itself of its privileges by visiting the Neapolitan gallery; but probably, like poverty elsewhere, it is too much interested by the drama of life in its own quarter ever willingly to leave it. Poverty is very conservative, for reasons more than one; its quarter in Naples is the oldest, and was the most responsive to our recollections of the Naples of 1864. Overhead the houses tower and beetle with their balconies and bulging casements, shutting the sun, except at noon, from the squalor below, where the varied dwellers bargain and battle and ply their different trades, bringing their work from the dusk of cavernous shops to their doorways for the advantage of the prevailing twilight. Carpentry and tailoring and painting and plumbing, locksmithing and copper-smithing go on there, touching elbows with frying and feeding, and the vending of all the strange and hideous forms of flesh, fish, and fowl. If you wish to know how much the tentacle of a small polyp is worth you may chance to see a cent pass for it from the crone who buys to the boy who sells it smoking from the kettle; but the price of cooked cabbage or pumpkin must remain a mystery, along with that of many raw vegetables and the more revolting viscera of the less-recognizable animals.
The poor people worming in and out around your cab are very patient of your progress over the terrible floor of their crooked thoroughfare, perhaps because they reciprocate your curiosity, and perhaps because they are very amiable and not very sensitive. They are not always crowded into these dismal chasms; their quarter expands here and there into market-plates, like the fish-market where the uprising of the fisherman Masaniello against the Spaniards fitly took place; and the Jewish market-place, where the poor young Corra-dino, last of the imperial Hohenstaufen line, was less appropriately beheaded by the Angevines. The open spaces are not less loathsome than the reeking alleys, but if you have the intelligent guide we had you approach them through the triumphal arch by which Charles V. entered Naples, and that is something. Yet we will now talk less of the emperor than of the guide, who appealed more to my sympathy.
He had been six years in America, which he adored, because, he said, he had got work and earned his living there the very day he landed. That was in Boston, where he turned his hand first to one thing and then another, and came away at last through some call home, honoring and loving the Americans as the kindest, the noblest, the friendliest people in the world. I tried, politely, to persuade him that we were not all of us all he thought us, but he would not yield, and at one place he generously claimed a pre-eminence in wickedness for his fellow-Neapolitans. That was when we came to a vast, sorrowful prison, from which an iron cage projected into the street. Around this cage wretched women and children and old men clustered till the prisoners dear to them were let into it from the jail and allowed to speak with them. The scene was as public as all of life and death is in Naples, and the publicity seemed to give it peculiar sadness, which I noted to our guide. He owned its pathos; "but," he said, "you know we have a terrible class of people here in Naples." I protested that there were terrible classes of people everywhere, even in America. He would not consent entirely, but in partly convincing each other we became better friends. He had a large black mustache and gentle black eyes, and he spoke very fair English, which, when he wished to be most impressive, he dropped and used a very literary Italian instead. He showed us where he lived, on a hill-top back of our gardened quay, and said that he paid twelve dollars a month for a tenement of five rooms there. Schooling is compulsory in Naples, but he sends his boy willingly, and has him especially study English as the best provision he can make for him—as heir of his own calling of cicerone, perhaps. He has a little farm at Bavello, which he tills when it is past the season for cultivating foreigners in Naples; he expects to spend his old age there; and I thought it not a bad lookout. He was perfectly well-mannered, and at a hotel where we stopped for tea he took his coffee at our table unbidden, like any American fellow-man. He and the landlord had their joke together, the landlord warning me against him in English as "very bad man," and clapping him affectionately on the shoulder to emphasize the irony. We did not demand too much social information of him; all the more we valued the gratuitous fact that the Neapolitan nobles were now rather poor, because they preferred a life of pleasure to a life of business. I could have told him that the American nobles were increasingly like them in their love of pleasure, but I would not have known how to explain that they were not poor also. He was himself a moderate in politics, but he told us, what seems to be the fact everywhere in Italy, that singly the largest party in Naples is the Socialist party.
He went with me first one day to the beautiful old Church of Santa Chiara, to show me the Angevine tombs there, in which I satisfied a secret, lingering love for the Gothic; and then to the cathedral, where the sacristan showed us everything but the blood of St. Jannarius, perhaps because it was not then in the act of liquefying; but I am thankful to say I saw one of his finger-bones. My guide had made me observe how several of the churches on the way to this were built on the sites and of the remnants of pagan temples, and he summoned the world-old sacristan of St. Januarius to show us evidences of a rival antiquity in the crypt; for it had begun as a temple of Neptune. The sacristan practically lived in those depths and the chill sanctuary above them, and-he was so full of rheumatism that you could almost hear it creak as he walked; yet he was a cheerful sage, and satisfied with the fee which my guide gave him and which he made small, as he explained, that the sacristan might not be discontented with future largesse. I need not say that each church we visited had its tutelary beggar, and that my happy youth came back to me in the blindness of one, or the mutilation of another, or the haggish wrinkles of a third. At Santa Chiara I could not at first make out what it was which caused my heart to rejoice so; but then I found that it was because the church was closed, and we had to go and dig a torpid monk out of his crevice in a cold, many-storied cliff near by, and get him to come and open it, just as I used, with the help of neighbors, to do in the past.
Our day ended at sunset—a sunset of watermelon red—with a visit to the Castel Nuovo, where my guide found himself at home with the garrison, because, as he explained, he had served his term as a soldier. He was the born friend of the custodian of the castle church, which was the most comfortable church for warmth we had visited, and to which we entered by the bronze gates of the triumphal arch raised in honor of the Aragonese victory over the Angevines in 1442, when this New Castle was newer than it is now. The bronze gates record in bas-relief the battles between the French and Spanish powers in their quarrel over the people one or other must make its prey; but whether it was to the greater advantage of the Neapolitans to be battened on by the house of Aragon and then that of Bourbon for the next six hundred years after the Angevines had retired from the banquet is problematical. History is a very baffling study, and one may be well content to know little or nothing about it. I knew so little or had forgotten so much that I scarcely deserved to be taken down into the crypt of this church and shown the skeletons of four conspirators for Anjou whom Aragon had put to death—two laymen and an archbishop by beheading, and a woman by dividing crosswise into thirds. The skeletons lay in their tattered and dusty shrouds, and I suppose were authentic enough; but I had met them, poor things, too late in my life to wish for their further acquaintance. Once I could have exulted to search out their story and make much of it; but now I must leave it to the reader's imagination, along with most other facts of my observation in Naples.
I was at some pains to look up the traces of my lost youth there, and if I could have found more of them no doubt I should have been more interested in these skeletons. For forty-odd years I had remembered the prodigious picturesqueness of certain streets branching from a busy avenue and ascending to uplands above by stately successions of steps. When I demanded these of my guide, he promptly satisfied me, and in a few moments, there in the Chiaja, we stood at the foot of such a public staircase. I had no wish to climb it, but I found it more charming even than I remembered. All the way to the top it was banked on either side with glowing masses of flowers and fruits and the spectacular vegetables of the South, and between these there were series of people, whom I tacitly delegated to make the ascent for me, passing the groups bargaining at the stalls. Nothing could have been better; nothing that I think of is half so well in New York, where the markets are on that dead level which in the social structure those above it abhor; though there are places on the East River where we might easily have inclined markets.
Other associations of that far past awoke with my identification of the hotel where we had stayed at the end of the Villa Nazionale. In those days the hotel was called, in appeal to our patriotism, more flattered then than now in Europe, Hotel Washington; but it is to-day a mere pension, though it looks over the same length of palm-shaded, statue-peopled garden. The palms were larger than I remembered them, and the statues had grown up and seemed to have had large families since my day; but the lovely sea was the same, with all the mural decorations of the skyey horizons beyond, dim precipices and dreamy island tops, and the dozing Vesuvius mistakable for any of them. At one place there was a file of fishermen, including a fisherwoman, drawing their net by means of a rope carried across the carriage-way from the seawall, with a splendid show of their black eyes and white teeth and swarthy, bare legs, and always there were beggars, both of those who frankly begged and those who importuned with postal-cards. This terrible traffic pervades all southern Europe, and everywhere pesters the meeting traveller with undesired bargains. In its presence it is almost impossible to fit a scene with the apposite phrase; and yet one must own that it has its rights. What would those boys do if they did not sell, or fail to sell, postal-cards. It is another aspect of the labor problem, so many-faced in our time. Would it be better that they should take to open mendicancy, or try to win the soft American heart with such acquired slang as "Skiddoo to twenty-three"? One who had no postal-cards had English enough to say he would go away for a penny; it was his price, and I did not see how he could take less; when he was reproached by a citizen of uncommon austerity for his shameless annoyance of strangers, I could not see that he looked abashed—in fact, he went away singing. He did not take with him the divine beauty of the afternoon light on the sea and mountains; and, if he was satisfied, we were content with our bargain.
In fact, it would be impossible to exaggerate in the praise of that incomparable environment. At every hour of the day, and, for all I know, the night, it had a varying beauty and a constant loveliness. Six days out of the week of our stay the sunshine was glorious, and five days of at least a May or September warmth; and though one day was shrill and stiff with the tramontana, it was of as glorious sunshine as the rest. The gale had blown my window open and chilled my room, but with that sun blazing outside I could not believe in the hurricane which seemed to blow our car up the funicular railway when we mounted to the height where the famous old Convent of San Martino stands, and then blew us all about the dust-clouded streets of that upland in our search for the right way to the monastery. It was worth more than we suffered in finding it; for the museum is a record of the most significant events of Neapolitan history from the time of the Spanish domination down to that of the Garibaldian invasion; and the church and corridors through which the wind hustled us abound in paintings and frescos such as one would be willing to give a whole week of quiet weather to. I do not know but I should like to walk always in the convent garden, or merely look into it from my window in the cloister wall, and gossip with my fellow-friars at their windows. We should all be ghosts, of course, but the more easily could the sun warm us through in spite of the tramontana.
I do not know that Naples is very beautiful in certain phases in which Venice and Genoa are excellent. Those cities were adorned by their sons with palaces of an outlook worthy of their splendor. But in the other Italian cities the homes of her patricians were crowded into the narrow streets where their architecture fails of its due effect. It is so with them in Naples, and even along the Villa Nazionale, where many palatial villas are set, they seclude themselves in gardens where one fancies rather than sees them. These are, in fact, sometimes the houses of the richest bourgeoisie—bankers and financiers—and the houses which have names conspicuous in the mainly inglorious turmoil of Neapolitan history help unnoted to darken the narrow and winding ways of the old city. A glimpse of a deep court or of a towering facade is what you get in passing, but it is to be said of the sunless streets over which they gloom that they are kept in a modern neatness beside which the dirt of New York is mediaeval. It is so with most other streets in Naples, except those poorest ones where the out-door life insists upon the most intimate domestic expression. Even such streets are no worse than our worst streets, and the good streets are all better kept than our best.
I am not sure that there are even more beggars in Naples than in New York, though I will own that I kept no count. In both cities beggary is common enough, and I am not noting it with disfavor in either, for it is one of my heresies that comfort should be constantly reminded of misery by the sight of it—comfort is so forgetful. Besides, in Italy charity costs so little; a cent of our money pays a man for the loss of a leg or an arm; two cents is the compensation for total blindness; a sick mother with a brood of starving children is richly rewarded for her pains with a nickel worth four cents. Organized charity is not absent in the midst of such volunteers of poverty; one day, when we thought we had passed the last outpost of want in our drive, two Sisters of Charity suddenly appeared with out-stretched tin cups. Our driver did not imagine our inexhaustible benovelence; he drove on, and before we could bring him to a halt the Sisters of Charity ran us down, their black robes flying abroad and their sweet faces flushed with the pursuit. Upon the whole it was very humiliating; we could have wished to offer our excuses and regrets; but our silver seemed enough, and the gentle sisters fell back when we had given it.