The natural conclusion as to the cause of these remarkable phenomena would seem to be that the waters of the lakes, rivers, and springs descend by various channels to the fiery regions below, and are returned by the force of the steam thus created, bringing up with them the refuse which is deposited about the surface. Of the hundreds of these boiling springs only a score or so have been analyzed: no two, however, exhibit the same properties. The various chemical combinations seem to be without limit, and bathing in them is considered to be a specific for some skin-diseases, as well as for rheumatic affections. There can be no doubt but that all the medicinal virtues possessed by similar springs in Europe and America are found in these of New Zealand.
Ohinemutu is the most typical home of the natives, and for ages has formed the chief settlement of the Arawa tribe. Nothing could possibly be more grotesque than to see groups of the native women, from the wrinkled old grandams to the girls of a dozen years, bathing at all hours of the day in the warm, steaming pools. It is their daily, almost hourly resort. As a rule, a blanket forms their only covering; and if they are cold, day or night, casting this aside, they at once resort to the hot springs for warmth. Their chief occupations are literally bathing and smoking tobacco, the women using the pipe even more freely than the men. Of regular occupation they have none. A few potatoes are planted and allowed to grow without cultivation, and these with pork form their chief food. The little cooking in which they indulge is usually performed by the boiling springs, in which they hang their potatoes in small wicker baskets; and for baking purposes they use the red-hot stones that are to be found everywhere in this vicinity. These broad, flat stones are the identical ones on which the natives not long ago were accustomed to roast their prisoners of war before eating them.
A certain consistency is discovered in the manners and customs of this people who live so nearly after the style and laws which governed their ancestors, and which have been carefully preserved for hundreds of years. Superstition is born in a Maori. He is a professed Christian in most cases and accepts the Bible, but he is apt to give to it his own interpretation. These children of Nature follow their ancestral traditions modified by Christian influences. The original religion of the natives, if we may call it by that name, consists in a dim belief in a future state, quite undefined even in their own minds. It was largely a sort of ancestor worship, according to the missionaries, with a vague idea of some Being higher than anything human or finite. The sorcery which was universally practised among them filled up a certain measure of religious conviction and observance, nor is this by any means disused among them to-day. Many of the tribes can read and write, and educational facilities are freely offered to the rising generation by the English government.
The Maori differs in many essential particulars from most savage races with whom we are more familiar. He does not, as has been mentioned, foster a spirit of secret revenge, but when his enmity is aroused, it is openly displayed. This has been a tribal trait with the Maoris for centuries. Before declaring war the Maori always gives his enemy fair notice; still for ages he has been accustomed to go to war upon imaginary grievances, or, to put it more clearly, his great object was to make prisoners of war, and when made to cook and eat them. The early Maoris, and even so late as sixty years ago, looked upon war—what we call civil war—as being the only legitimate object of life.
Though these natives have mostly become Christianized, as we understand the term, still they live more like the lower class of animals than like human beings, seeming to prefer that sort of life even after half a century of intercourse with the whites. They now isolate themselves as a body in what is called the King's Country of the North Island, which embraces the Hot Lake District, where they live under their own laws and customs which are held inviolate by treaty with the English crown. Their decrease in numbers seems to be as rapid in their own district as it is where they are brought into more intimate relations with the whites. The English authorities respect their ownership of lands, and not an acre of it is to be had without just payment for it.
No intelligent person can be blind to the favorable position of New Zealand or to the promise of its future commercial importance. Situated, as it were, in the centre of this Southern Ocean, the future highway of the world, it is accessible from all quarters. On the west, not very far away, lie the busy harbors of Australia, with which her exchanges of merchandise are constant. Within easy reach of India and China on one side, she has California, Mexico, and South America on the other. To the north lie the hundreds of islands which constitute the groups of Polynesia, notable for their voluptuous climate and primitive fertility. With the opening of the Panama Canal or other available means for ships to cross the isthmus of South America, New Zealand will lie directly in the highway between Europe and the gold-fields of the great inland continent, between England and her largest and most promising colony.
The many beautiful islands of the South Sea must sooner or later come under the commercial sway of New Zealand, as they may be explored and civilized. Her admirable harbors, noble estuaries, and navigable rivers are elsewhere unsurpassed. If destined to achieve greatness, these islands, like those of Great Britain, will do so through the development and maintenance of maritime power; and with so many natural advantages as they possess we confidently predict for them this final accomplishment.
From Auckland we take a steamer for Asia by way of Sydney and other ports of Australia, crossing the Indian Ocean and landing at the extreme southerly point of India, at Tuticorin. It is a quaint old place of little present interest, though it was once famous for its pearl fisheries. We proceed northward by railway to Madura, where, there being no hotel, we take up our quarters in an unoccupied native house, situated in a grove of cocoanut-trees. Flies, mosquitoes, and scorpions dispute possession with us, and ugly-looking snakes creep close to the low piazza. Flying-foxes hang motionless from the branches of the trees; clouds of butterflies, many-colored, sunshine-loving creatures, in infinite variety, flit about the bungalow, some with such gaudy spread of wing as to tempt pursuit. Large bronze and yellow beetles walk through the short grass with the coolness and gait of domestic poultry. Occasionally a chameleon turns up its bright eye, as though to take our measure. The redundancy of insect and reptile life is wonderful in Southern India.
The principal attraction to the traveller in Madura, which contains some fifty thousand inhabitants, is a remarkable and very ancient temple supported by two thousand stone columns. It is probably one of the largest and finest monuments of Hindoo art in existence, covering in all its divisions, courts, shrines, colonnades, and tanks, twenty acres of ground. It has nine lofty tower-like gates of entrance and exit, each one of which has the effect of forming an individual pagoda. In the central area of the temple is what is known as the "Tank of the Golden Lily" being a large body of water covering a couple of acres of ground, and leading into which are broad stone steps on all sides. Here individuals of both sexes are seen constantly bathing for religious purification. A grand tank is the adjunct of every Indian temple. This mass of buildings contains many living sacred elephants, deified bulls, enshrined idols, and strange ornamentation, the aggregate cost of which must have been enormous. The elephants rival the beggars in their importunities, being accustomed to receive an unlimited amount of delicacies from visitors, such as fruits, sweetmeats, candies, and the like.
Another hundred miles northward by railway brings us to the city of Trichinopoly, where the famous natural rock five hundred feet in height is crowned by the Temple of Ganesa. The view from this eminence is exceptionally fine. The town far below us looks as though it had been shaken up and dropped there by a convulsion of nature. There is no regularity in the laying out of the place; it is a confused mass of buildings, narrow paths, crooked roads, and low-built mud cabins. In what is called the silversmith's quarter, amid filthy lanes, full of dirty children, mangy dogs, and moping cats, we find hovels containing finely wrought silver ornaments manufactured on the spot by the natives. So original and elegant are these wares that they have a reputation beyond the borders of India. Trichinopoly has over sixty thousand inhabitants. But however much there may be to interest us, we must not tarry long. Two hundred miles still northward bring us to Tanjore, a large fortified city, where we find a mammoth and gorgeously decorated car of Juggernaut, the Indian idol. It makes its annual excursion from the temple through the town, drawn by hundreds of worshippers, who come from great distances to assist at the ceremony. Pilgrims, delirious with fanaticism, used once to throw themselves under the wheels of the huge car and perish. This self-immolation is now almost entirely suppressed by the government, as is the kindred one of the burning of widows upon their husbands' funeral piles. From 1815 to 1826, published statistics show that fifteen thousand widows perished thus in India!
The great temple of Tanjore is fourteen stories in height, and measures two hundred feet from base to top. These temples all resemble each other in general design, and are characterized by grotesqueness, caricature, and vulgar images, as well as by infinite detail in their finish. Though they are gorgeously decked in colors, and gross in ornamentation, still they are so grand in size and on so costly a scale, as to create amazement rather than disgust. It would seem that a people equal to such efforts must have been capable of something better. In all grosser forms of superstition and idolatry, carnal and material elements seem to be essential to bind and attract the ignorant, and this is undoubtedly the governing policy of a religion, embodying emblems so outrageous to Christian sensibility. This grand pagoda at Tanjore, taken as a whole, is the most remarkable religious monument in India. In passing through the southern section of the country, we see many ruined temples in unpopulated districts, which belong to past ages; many mammoth stone elephants and bulls, crumbling by the wear of centuries. Large flocks of goats tended by herdsmen are seen distributed over the plains, and so level is the country, that the eye can make out these groups for miles away on either side of the railroad. Well-cultivated plantations of sugar-cane, plantains, wheat, rice, and orchards of fruit come into view. The old style of irrigation goes on, by means of buckets worked by hand, the same as was practised in the East four thousand years ago, while the very plough, rude and inefficient, which is used upon their plains to-day is after the antique fashion belonging to the same period. Indeed, except that the railroad runs through Southern India, there appears to have been no progress there for thousands of years. A lethargy of the most hopeless character seems to possess the common people. Their mud cabins are not suitable abodes for human beings, and are distanced in neatness by the ant-hills. Such a degraded condition of humanity can hardly be found elsewhere among semi-civilized races. The women are worn by hardships. The men are cadaverous and listless. Clothing among them is the exception; nudity is the rule. It seems strange, but it is true, that one-quarter of the human race goes naked in this nineteenth century.
A day's journey northward by railroad brings us to Madras, situated upon the Bay of Bengal. The city is spread out over a very large territory, with a number of broad, open fields and squares, designed for drilling of troops, some for ball-players, and some for ordinary parks. There is an abundant and handsome growth of trees all about the city, lining the main streets and testifying to the judicious attention given by the authorities to this species of ornamental shade so necessary in a warm climate. The wide streets are admirably kept, and are all macadamized. This applies, however, to the European portion of the town, with its fine, large public buildings, consisting of literary and scientific institutions as well as various educational and charitable ones. The native portion of Madras is contracted and dirty in the extreme, no attention being given to cleanliness or decency. The extensive English fort—Fort George—is one of the best constructed in the East, forming a most prominent feature of the city, and crowning a moderate rise of ground near the shore. Its attractive though warlike surroundings, white walls, flower plats, and green, sloping banks present a charming picture. Fort George was the original name of the city. A noble lighthouse is situated within the fortifications. Near this spot, along the coast to the northward, are the rock-cut temples of Mahabulihuram rendered familiar by Southey's admirable verses.
Dancing-girls are to be seen here, on the streets. They are attached to some native temple, as no religious ceremony or gala day is considered complete without them; and the same may be said of all large private entertainments, no guests ever dancing in the East. They prefer to hire it done for them. These Indian dancing-girls, with a musical accompaniment, tell a story by their performance, expressing grief, joy, jealousy, and other passions so well portrayed, that one easily interprets the pantomime. They preserve strict propriety in their dances, which are curious to witness, their ankles being covered with silver bells, and their wrists and arms similarly decked.
No more unprotected spot could be found on the surf-beaten shore of the Coromandel coast than this where stands Madras. It is so completely exposed to the northeast monsoons as to be inaccessible for sailing-vessels from October to January, and yet it was the first British capital in India. There is usually such a surf on the shore that nothing but the native boats can weather it; and when high winds prevail, it is too much even for them. We embark by steamship from Madras, and after a voyage of nearly a thousand miles up the coast and Hoogly River, land at Calcutta, which is the political capital of India, though since the Suez Canal has been opened, Bombay rivals it commercially.
Calcutta is a very interesting city, very Indian, notwithstanding that so many Europeans live here, and that it has so long been under English rule, but it is by no means entitled to the designation so often given to it, namely, the "City of Palaces." It is quite modern, having no remains of antiquity about it, and in 1686 was but a mud village. As seen from the Hoogly, when one first arrives, it exhibits a strong array of fine public buildings; but a passage of a few rods, diverging from the main thoroughfare, brings the visitor upon the dirty streets, the mean and narrow houses, and general squalor of the native population.
The Burning Ghat, where cremation is going on at all hours of the day, is the first place the stranger visits. The bodies are brought in and placed upon a square pile of wood, raised to a height of four feet, in the open yard. Under the wood there is plenty of combustible material; the torch is applied, and instantly all is hidden by the flames. In three hours nothing but calcined bones and ashes are left. These are carefully gathered and cast into the river. The Ghat is open to the sky, so that the ventilation is perfect, but the atmosphere is nevertheless impregnated with an unpleasant odor. The Hoogly River being one of the outlets of the much-revered Ganges, is considered to be equally sacred. Close by the Burning Ghat, along the river's front, there is a number of sheds, with only partial shelter from the street, where poor dying Hindoos are brought to breathe their last, believing that if they pass away close to the sacred water, their spirits will be instantly wafted to the regions of bliss. Here they are attended by people who make this their business, and it is believed that they often hasten the demise of the sufferers by convenient means. Human life is held of very little account among these people, whose faith bridges the gulf of death, and who were at one time so prone to suicide by drowning in the Ganges, as to render it necessary on the part of the English to establish watchmen every night along the city shore of the sacred river to prevent it.
At the close of each day, about an hour before sunset, all fashionable Calcutta turns out in state for a drive on the Maiden,—the Hindoostanee name for esplanade,—a broad and finely macadamized roadway, extending along the river's bank by the fort and cricket grounds. It is the Indian Hyde Park, or Bengal Champs Elysees (the famous Parisian boulevard). The variety, elegance, and costliness of the equipages in grand livery are surprising. The whole scene is enlivened by the beautiful dresses of the ladies, the dashing costumes and gold lace of the nabobs, the quaint Oriental dress of their barefooted attendants, and the spirited music of the military band. The superb horses in their gold-mounted harnesses dash over the course at a spirited gait; the twilight hour is brief, the shadows lengthen, when a hundred electric lamps flash upon the scene, rivalling the light of day. Then the occupants of the open vehicles, and the equestrians, gather about the Eden Garden, in rows, six or eight deep, and listen to the popular airs, or chat merrily in the intervals. The Cascine at Florence, the Pincio at Rome, the Chiaja at Naples, the Prado at Madrid—none of these famous drives can compare with the Maiden of Calcutta for gayety, variety, and attractiveness.
Calcutta is said to contain a population of a million. It is sometimes visited by cyclones, and the fierceness of these warrings of the elements may be judged by the fact that at the last occurrence of the sort thirty thousand native houses were totally destroyed in half an hour. The Hoogly River often experiences the effect of tidal waves during the monsoons, which dash up from the sea at a speed of twenty miles an hour, causing much destruction. Ships lying off the city on such occasions often part their cables and are driven on shore, while many of the small craft along the eighty miles of river course are entirely destroyed.
A journey of four hundred miles to the northward, the last half of which is performed by narrow-gauge railway, which climbs zigzag fashion over a very hilly country, will enable us to reach Darjeeling, nearly nine thousand feet above the level of the sea. Here we are in proximity to and in full view of the Himalayan range of mountains, the loftiest on the globe. The lowest peak is over twenty thousand feet in height; the highest exceeds twenty-eight thousand. Upon the range rest eleven thousand feet of perpetual snow. There can be no animal life in that Arctic region—only the snow and ice rest there in endless sleep. The Himalayas—meaning the "Halls of Snow"—form the northern boundary of India, and shut out the country from the rest of Asia. Thibet, which lies just over the range, whence we view it, is virtually inaccessible by this route, the wild region between being nearly impassable. Bold parties of traders, wrapped in sheepskins, do sometimes force their way over the mountains at an elevation of eighteen thousand feet, but it is a most hazardous thing to do, and the bones of worn-out mules mark the frozen way, telling of suffering and abandonment. The little yak cow, whose bushy tail is manufactured into lace, has been found to be the best and most enduring animal to depend upon when such journeys are performed. She will patiently toil up the steep gorges with a load on her back, and will drop dead in her tracks before she will show any stubbornness or want of courage. The culminating point of the range, and the highest mountain peak in the world, is Mount Everest, which is a little over twenty-nine thousand feet in height above the level of the sea.
Darjeeling is becoming the centre of a great tea-producing district, and thus India bids fair to rival China in a product which has seemed to belong almost exclusively to China from time immemorial. English capitalists are largely embarking in this enterprise, and extensive tea-plantations are already in full process of successful yielding, sending tea annually to the London market. At first it seems strange to see the tea-plant flourishing at such an altitude, covering hundreds of acres of the mountain's sides, on the road descending from Darjeeling, towards the plains of Hindoostan, but it must be remembered that the latitude of this region is just about that of Florida and the West Indies. As to the product of these tea-fields, one realizes no difference in its flavor from that of the Chinese leaf. In England it is known as Assam tea.
As we descend towards the level country, amid many other flowering trees, the magnolia is most prominent. The wild and abundant growth of the rhododendron, which here becomes a forest tree, mingles with a handsome species of cedar, which rises in dark and stately groups and forms a marked feature in the landscape. The general luxuriance of the vegetation is conspicuous, thickly clothing the branches of the trees with mosses, ferns, and creeping vines. Here we observe the cotton-tree, with its red blossoms, which yields a coarse material for native use. Also a species of lotus called "Queen of the Forest," the leaves of which are used by the common people in place of tea. Many bright and exquisitely delicate ferns spring up among the damp undergrowth about the places where we stop to take water for our little, noisy, spluttering engine. Brilliant butterflies float like motes in the sunshine, contrasting with the repulsive whip-snakes seen hanging from the low branches of the trees. Vegetation and animal life seem to be singularly abundant and prolific in these foot-hills of the famous mountain range.
Our course now lies towards Benares, over the plains of Middle India, some five hundred miles from Calcutta. The people on the route seem to be wretchedly poor, living in the most primitive mud cabins thatched with straw. Such squalor and visible poverty can be found nowhere else in any country outside of Ireland, and yet we are passing through a famous agricultural district which ought to support thrifty farmhouses and smiling villages. It abounds in productive rice, wheat, sugar-cane, and vast poppy fields,—these last treacherously beautiful,—and from which the opium of commerce is derived. The presence of such abundance makes the contrast in the condition of the peasantry all the more puzzling. There must be something radically wrong in the modes of the governing power. This part of India is noted for the excellence and prolific yield of its sugar crops. From here, also, indigo and saltpetre are exported in large quantities. Along the route traversed by the railway we see fruit-trees of various sorts native to this section, such as tamarinds, almonds, mangos, oranges, cocoanuts, and other products of the palm family. Temples, centuries in age and quite in ruins, come into view now and again, often adjacent to a cluster of low mud hovels. From the branches of the trees flit birds of such fantastic colors as to cause exclamations of surprise. Occasional specimens of the bird-of-paradise are seen, with its long and graceful tail-feathers glittering in the sunshine and presenting an array of bright colors which are not preserved upon this bird in captivity. Tall flamingoes in snowy plumage, just touched with scarlet on either wing, fly lazily over the ponds, or stand by the banks resting quietly upon one long, slim leg. Parrots abound in carnival hues, and buff-colored doves, with soft white rings of feathers about their necks, coquet lovingly together.
Benares, the first large city on the united Ganges and Jumna, may be called the citadel of Hindooism, containing about a hundred and fifty thousand permanent inhabitants and as many more floating population, composed of pilgrims constantly coming and going. What Jerusalem is to the Jew, Rome to the Roman Catholic, Mecca to the Mohammedan, Benares is to the Hindoo. It is supposed by many to be the oldest known habitation of man. Twenty-five centuries ago, when Rome was unknown and Athens was in its youth, Benares was already famous. It is situated on the left bank of the Ganges, to bathe in which river insures to the devout Hindoo forgiveness of all sins and an easy passport to the regions of the blest. Here, as in Calcutta, cremation is constantly going on beside the river. While we are looking at the scene there comes a family group bearing a body to the funeral pile. It is covered by a linen sheet. In the folded hands are white rosebuds, and orange blossoms encircle the marble brow. There is no apparent lack of heart-felt grief. It is the body of a young maiden decked for her bridal with death. After a few moments the red flames wind themselves ravenously about the youthful body, and quickly all is blackness and ashes.
Benares is mostly supported by the presence of pilgrims, but there is manufactured here a brass ware of such exquisite finish as to defy competition. In her dark alleys and narrow lanes they also produce a fine article of silver embroidery of marvellous delicacy and beauty, greatly prized by travellers as a souvenir. The pilgrims who participate in the river scenes are by no means all of the lower classes; now and then a gorgeously dressed official may be seen, with a long line of attendants, wending his steps towards the river's front. Infirm old men and little children, crazy-looking devotees and comely youths, boys and girls, people of all ages and degrees, are represented in the motley groups who come to these muddy waters for moral purification. There is a singular mingling of races also, for these people do not all speak one tongue. They are from the extreme north and the extreme south of India, while the half-starved vagrants seen among them, and who come from Middle India, could not make themselves understood by people from either extreme. A common purpose moves them, but they cannot express themselves in a common language. Pilgrims are here from Thibet and Cashmere, from the far-off Himalayan country, as well as from Tuticorin, on the Indian Ocean. Numberless idols and symbols of the most vulgar character abound all over the town, in small temples, before which men and women bow down in silent devotion. Idolatry is here seen in its most repulsive form. The delusion, however, is perfect, and these poor creatures are terribly in earnest.
Animals are worshipped, such as bulls, snakes, monkeys, and pigeons. One of the peculiar temples of the city is devoted solely to the worship of monkeys, where hundreds of these mischievous animals find a luxurious home, no one ever interfering with their whims except to pet and to feed them. This temple contains a singular altar, before which devotional rites are performed by believing visitors. On the Ghats, beside the river, these Hindoos pass the happiest hours of their sad lives, coming from the confined, dirty, unwholesome streets and alleys in which they sleep and eat, to pray and to bathe, as well as to breathe the fresh air and to bask in the sun. The hideous fakirs, or begging Oriental monks, make their fixed abode here, living entirely in the open air, most of them diseased, and all misshapen by voluntarily acquired deformity. Their distorted limbs are fixed in attitudes of penance until they become set and immovable. There are pious believers enough to kneel before them and to give them food and money by which means to support their strange and fanatical self-immolation.
We visit at Benares an ancient observatory of more than ordinary interest, erected by a famous Hindoo patron of science, Rajah Manu. Though it is now quite neglected and in partial ruins, a sun-dial, a zodiac, meridian lines, and astronomical appliances are still distinctly traced upon heavy stones arranged for celestial observations. This proves that astronomy was well advanced at Benares hundreds of years before Galileo was born, and it will be remembered that the astronomers of India first settled the fact of the rotation of the earth. The Man-Mundil, as this observatory is called, forms a most important historic link between the days of the Pharaohs and the nineteenth century.
Five hundred miles of travel by way of Cawnpore will bring us to Delhi, where a visit to the crumbling palace of the late king will show us the remains of that famous Peacock Throne, the marvel of the world when the Mogul dynasty was at its zenith—a throne of solid gold, ornamented with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds, the aggregate value of which was thirty million dollars. It was six feet long and four feet broad, surmounted by a gold canopy supported by twelve pillars composed of the same precious metal. The back of the throne was so constructed as to represent a peacock with expanded tail, the natural colors of which were exactly imitated with rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and other precious stones. Delhi was for centuries the proudest metropolis of India; within a circle of twenty miles of the present locality, one city after another has established its capital, ruled in splendor, and passed away. One monument, which we find in the environs, has thus far defied the destructive finger of time,—the Katub-Minar, which stands alone amid hoary ruins, the loftiest single column in the world, but of which there is no satisfactory record. It is not inappropriately considered one of the greatest architectural marvels of India, and whoever erected it achieved a triumph of gracefulness and skill. It is built of red stone elaborately ornamented in the form of a minaret, measuring about fifty feet in diameter at the base and ten at the top, with a height from the ground of two hundred and fifty feet, divided into five stories, each fitted with an outer gallery and adorned with colossal inscriptions. The whole exterior is fluted from base to top, narrowing gradually towards the summit.
In the broad main thoroughfare of Delhi—the Chandni Chowk—one constantly meets ponderous elephants, solemn and awkward camels, fine Arabian horses, and the diminutive, toy-like ponies of Cashmere. Daily marriage processions of the most fantastic description crowd the roadway, with the animals just named caparisoned in a gaudy, harlequin style, accompanied by unskilled musicians on foot, whose qualifications evidently consist in being able to make the greatest amount of noise upon a drum, fife, or horn, which are the three instruments employed on these occasions. Some of the white horses in the processions are painted in parts, sky-blue, and some are decked with saffron-yellow. In the ranks are covered bullock-carts with peep-holes, in which ride the women of the harem. Mingled with these are men bearing banners with Hindoo mottoes and ludicrous caricatures, half human and half animal. This is called a marriage procession, but upon careful inquiry it is found to be only a betrothal of children too young to marry. The boy-bridegroom appears upon an elephant, and is dressed like a circus rider; but the future bride, probably a little girl of six or eight years, does not appear: she remains at home to be called upon by this motley crowd, when a brief ceremony takes place,—presents being duly exchanged,—and the farce is then ended.
A journey of nine hundred miles, still over these broad plains of India, will bring us to the city of Agra, which, like Delhi, stands not on the Ganges, but on its great tributary, the Jumna. It is an important city, containing over forty thousand inhabitants. To all who visit this place the first object of interest will be the Taj (pronounced Tahj) Mahal, or tomb of the wife of the Emperor Shah-Jehan. It is the most interesting edifice in India and one of the most beautiful in the world. A tomb in this country means a magnificent structure of marble, with domes and minarets, the walls inlaid with precious stones, and the whole surrounded by gardens, fountains, and artificial lakes, covering from ten to twenty acres. Cheap as labor is in India, the Taj must have cost some fifteen millions of dollars, and was seventeen years in building. The Mogul Emperor resolved to erect the most superb monument ever reared to commemorate a woman's name, and he succeeded, for herein Mohammedan architecture reached its height. The mausoleum is situated in a spacious garden, the equal of which can hardly be found elsewhere, beautiful to the eye and delightful to the senses, with fragrant flowers, exotic and indigenous. This grand structure, with the ripeness of centuries upon it, is no ruin; all is fragrant and fresh as at the hour when it was completed. It is of white marble, three hundred feet in height, the principal dome being eighty feet high, and of such exquisite form and harmony is the whole that it seems almost to float in the air.
In the centre of the Taj, beneath the glorious dome, are two raised and ornamented marble frames, covering the resting-place of the emperor and his wife. How appropriate is the inscription at the threshold: "To the memory of an undying love." As we stand beneath the cupola, let us repeat in a low tone of voice a verse from Longfellow's "Psalm of Life"; instantly there will roll through the dimly lighted vault above a soft and solemn repetition, which will sound as though voices were repeating the psalm in the skies. Nothing finer or more lovely in architecture exists than this faultless monument, this ideal of Saracenic art.
By consulting a map of India it will be seen that few regions in the world present such an array of remarkable cities as have sprung up and flourished in the Ganges-Jumna valley. Here we have Agra, Delhi, Cawnpore, Lucknow, Allahabad, Benares, Mirozapur, Patna, Decca, and Murshedabad. What historic associations arise at the bare mention of these Indian cities!
On our way southward we pass through the beautiful, though small Indian city of Jeypore, which is under native rule; those we have heretofore visited are subject to Great Britain. It is quite ancient, though there are no ruins here, everything giving evidence of present prosperity, peace, and abundance. The houses are painted in rather gaudy colors, but are neat and pretty. Queer little canvas-covered, two-wheeled carts, their tops shaped like half an egg-shell, are drawn about the town by bullocks at a lively trot. Some are closely curtained, containing women of the harem. Oriental seclusion is the rule with the women. Under the prince who rules here the population exhibits a marked contrast to those of India generally, over which the authority of England extends. There are no mud cabins here, no beggars, no visible want or poverty. The people are decently clothed, and well lodged in neat-looking houses, mostly two stories in height. The streets are broad and well kept, with bright, bubbling fountains here and there. Our excursions in this neighborhood are made upon camels or elephants. Wild animals are abundant, the tiger especially being much dreaded. Here, as at Singapore, men, women and children are daily sacrificed to their rapacious appetites in various parts of the district. It is said to be a fact, that these animals having once tasted human flesh, will be satisfied with none other, but will leave the antelope and smaller game unmolested, though they are known to abound in the vicinity, and lie in wait for days to capture human prey, even invading the villages at night. English hunters visit Jeypore in large numbers annually to capture this dangerous game.
From this native city to Bombay is a distance of seven hundred miles by railway, most of the route being very sparsely inhabited. The larger portion of India is an immense plain, so that the road is generally very monotonous. Nearly seven hundred thousand acres of these plains are cultivated with poppies. A large share of these opium farms, as they may be called, belong to the English government, and are cultivated by their agents. Those which are conducted on private account are very heavily taxed, and are mostly carried on in the interest of the Parsee merchants of Bombay, who have for many years controlled the largest share of the opium trade. We frequently see near these gorgeous poppy-fields ripening acres of grain, which would be stripped of their valuable property by the great flocks of birds, noticed at all times, floating like clouds over our heads, were precautions not taken to drive them away. For this purpose a tall platform is raised upon poles to a height of twenty feet in the centre of each grain-field, with a slight straw shelter over it, upon which a young boy or girl is stationed, and whence they overlook several acres of grain. They have no firearms, but are supplied with a simple sling and a few well-chosen stones: should a bird be seen too near the precious grain, an unerring stone will find him, and his body becomes a warning to the rest of the flock. The precision with which these girls and boys will throw a stone a long distance is marvellous. The monkeys which so abound in Southern India are not to be got rid of in so easy a manner. Birds will not fly after dark, nor much before sunrise, but the monkeys raid the fruit and vegetable fields by night, and are capable of organizing a descent upon some promising point with all the forethought of human thieves.
The opening of communication with England by the Red Sea route has given to Bombay a great business impetus, and it possesses to-day more elements of future greatness than any other city of Asia. The two principal capitals of the country are situated on opposite sides of the great peninsula, Calcutta being on the Bay of Bengal, and Bombay on the Sea of Arabia. We have in the latter a population of a million and over, one hundred thousand of whom are Parsees, a class of merchants originally from Persia, who represent a large share of the wealth of the city. They are by far the most enterprising and intelligent of the natives of India, and are in entire sympathy with the English government. Socially, they keep to themselves, strictly preserving their well-defined individuality. This people settled here more than eight centuries ago, after their expulsion from Persia. Their temples contain no images, nothing but the altars bearing the sacred fire which their fathers brought with them when they landed here so long ago, and which has never been extinguished, according to their traditions. They worship the sun as the representative of God, and fire in all its forms, as well as the ocean, which would seem to be an antagonistic agent; but as their religion recognizes one good and one evil principle ever contending for the mastery of the universe, perhaps these emblems are no contradiction.
One of the first places to which we are attracted in Bombay is Malabar Hill, a lofty eminence just outside the city. On the top are the five famous "Towers of Silence," which constitute the cemetery of the Parsees. When a death occurs among them, the body is brought here, and after a brief ceremony the corpse is carried into one of the towers, where it is exposed upon a grating. The bearers retire at once, and the door is locked. These towers are open at the top, and on the cornices hundreds of vultures are seen waiting; as soon as the body is left, they swoop down to their awful meal, eagerly tearing and devouring the corpse. The hideous detail is not visible, but the reappearance of those evil birds in a gorged condition is only too significant of what has occurred. The devouring flames which consumed the bodies at Calcutta and at Benares did not shock us like this.
Bombay is made up of fine public buildings, sumptuous dwellings, and low hovels, not mingled indiscriminately, as is often seen in European cities, each class being found clustering in its special locality. In Florence, Rome, or Naples, a half-starved cobbler will be found occupying a stall beneath a palace; but though poverty and riches jostle each other everywhere, the lines of demarcation are more clearly defined in Bombay than elsewhere. A drive along the picturesque shore of the Arabian Sea is an experience never to be forgotten. It will be sure to recall to the traveller the beautiful environs of Genoa, with those winding, rock-cut roads overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Here the roads are admirably cool and half-embowered in foliage, among which the crimson sagittaria flaunting its fiery leaves and ponderous blossoms, everywhere meets the eye. About the fine villas which are set back a short distance from the roads, delightful gardens of choice flowers are seen, comprising an abundance of tropical plants, tall palms lining the drive-ways up to the houses, where the merchant princes dwell. Most of these are the residences of the Parsees, who in spite of their bigotry and their adherence to ancient superstitions, know how to make their homes beautiful.
In leaving India, a few thoughts naturally suggest themselves. Its history runs back through thousands of years and remotest dynasties, captivating the fancy with numberless ruins, which, while attesting the splendor of their prime, form also the only record of their history. The mosaic character of its population, the peculiarities of its animal kingdom, the luxuriance of its vegetation, the dazzling beauty of its birds and flowers, all crowd upon the memory in charming kaleidoscopic combinations. There can be no doubt of the early grandeur and high civilization of India. To the intellectual eminence of her people we owe the germs of science, philosophy, law, and astronomy. The most perfect of all tongues, the Sanskrit, has been the parent of many others, and now that her lustre has faded, and her children fallen into a condition of sloth and superstition, let us, at least, do her historic justice. Nor should we neglect to heed the lesson she so clearly presents; namely, that nations, like individuals, are subject to the unvarying laws of mutability.
The government of India is a military despotism, England maintaining her rule by force alone over a foreign people numbering four times as many as the whole population of the United States. Order is preserved at a cruel cost of life among an entire race who are totally unrepresented. In travelling from city to city one is not surprised to see many signs of restlessness among the common people, and to hear harsh expressions against British rule. While we recall with a thrill of horror the awful cruelties and the slaughter of human beings during the rebellion of the native race against the English authority in 1857, we do not wonder that a people, so goaded by oppression, should have made a vigorous and bloody struggle to obtain their independence.
We embark at Bombay on a voyage of three thousand miles across the Sea of Arabia and the Indian Ocean, through the Straits of Babelmandeb and the entire length of the Red Sea. The most southerly point of the voyage, taking us within fourteen degrees of the equator, carries us into an extremely warm temperature. The ship holds on her southwest course day after day, lightly fanned by the northeast monsoon, towards the mouth of the Red Sea. At the end of the sixth day we cast anchor at the Peninsula of Aden, a rocky, isolated spot held by English troops, and very properly called the Gibraltar of the Indian Ocean. Like that famous promontory, it was originally little more than a barren rock, which has been improved into a picturesque and habitable place, bristling with British cannon of heavy calibre. It is a spot much dreaded by sailors, the straits being half closed by sunken rocks, besides which the shore is considered to be the most unhealthy spot yet selected by civilized man as a residence. The Arabs call the strait Babelmandeb, that is, the "Gate of Tears," because of the number of vessels which have been wrecked here in the endeavor to enter from the open sea. Aden lies within the rainless zone, so that sometimes the inhabitants see no rainfall for three years together. The remains of an ancient and magnificent system of reservoirs hewn out of the solid rock, are seen here, the construction of which is placed at a date previous to the Christian era, and which have been adapted to modern use.
As we lie at anchor here, there come about the ship a score of young natives, from ten to fifteen years of age. By eloquent gestures, and the use of a few English words, they beg of us to throw small silver coin into the sea, for which they will dive in water that is at least seven fathoms deep. The instant a piece of money is thrown overboard, every canoe becomes emptied, and twenty human beings disappear from sight like a flash. Down, down go the divers, and in the depths struggle together for the trifle, some one of the throng being sure to rise to the surface with the coin displayed between his teeth. Nothing but otters and seals could be keener sighted or more expert in the water.
The general aspect of Aden from the sea, though picturesque, is not inviting, giving one an idea of great barrenness. The mountains and rocks have a peaked appearance, like a spear pointed at one, as much as to say, "better keep off." People who land, however, for the first time, are agreeably disappointed by finding that every opportunity for encouraging the growth of vegetation and imparting its cheerful effect to the hard rocky soil has been carefully improved.
Our course after leaving Aden is nearly north; the headlands of Abyssinia are long visible on our port side, while on the other we have a distant view of Arabia. Jeddah, the seaport of Mecca, with its bright minarets, is to be seen in the distance. In coasting along the shores of Nubia, the dense air from off the land is like a sirocco, suffocatingly hot. Suez is reached at last, a place which is all waste and barrenness, so we hasten on by railway to Cairo, a distance of two hundred miles.
Long after leaving Suez we see only a sandy desert, the yellow soil quivering in the heated atmosphere. It is a picture of desolation. Not a blade of grass, not a shrub or tree, until by and by we come upon gently undulating and fertile soil, enriched by the annual deposits from the Nile, where intelligent cultivation produces its natural results. Small herds of brown buffaloes or Eastern oxen are seen, and peasants plying the irrigating-buckets. The pastures become alive with sheep and goats and dromedaries. While we are approaching Cairo, and are yet two or three leagues away, the dim outlines of the everlasting pyramids are seen through the shimmering haze, softly outlined against the evening sky. It is impossible not to recall the words of the Humpback, in the Thousand and One Nights, as we see the pyramids and glistening minarets of the Oriental city coming into view; "He who hath not seen Cairo hath not seen the world; its soil is golden; its Nile is a wonder; its women are like the black-eyed virgins of Paradise; its houses are palaces; and its air is soft,—its odor surpassing that of aloes-wood and cheering the heart,—and how can Cairo be otherwise, when it is the Mother of the world?"
This ideal city of the Arabian Nights is very Oriental, very original, very curious. Its four hundred thousand souls form a strange conglomerate of humanity. In its narrow, picturesque streets one is jostled by gayly dressed Greeks and cunning Jews, by overladen donkeys and by sober, mournful-looking camels. One half expects to meet Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, as we still look for Antonio and the Jew on the Rialto at Venice. Like Paris, Cairo is a city of cafes. During the evening and far into the night crowds of individuals of every nationality are seen seated in groups before them in the open air, drinking every sort of known liquid, but coffee takes precedence of all others. In picturesqueness of costume the Turk leads the world. His graceful turban and flowing robes are worthy of the classic antique, while the rich contrast of colors which he wears adds to the striking effect. As he sits cross-legged before his open bazaar, or shop, smoking a long pipe, he looks very wise, very learned, though in point of fact there is no doubt more intelligence under the straw hat of a Yankee peddler than under three average turbans. The dark, narrow lanes and endless zigzag alleys have an indescribable interest, with their accumulated dirt of neglect and the dust of a land where rain is so seldom known. One looks up in passing at those overhanging balconies, imagining the fate of the harem-secluded women behind them, occasionally catching stolen glances from curious eyes peering between the lattices.
Egyptian porters, bent half double, are seen carrying on their backs loads that would stagger a brewer's horse. Women, who ride their horses and mules astride, are very careful to cover their faces from view, while their eyes gleam out of peep-holes. Other women, of a humbler class, jostle us in the streets, with little naked children straddling one shoulder, and holding on to the mother's head with both hands. People who ride upon donkeys require a boy to follow behind them with a stick to belabor the poor overladen creatures, without which they will not move forward, being so trained. Those who drive through the streets in carriages are preceded by a gorgeously draped runner bearing a white wand, and who constantly cries to clear the way. These runners go as fast as a horse usually trots, and seem never to tire. The common people lie down on the sidewalk, beside the road, in any nook or corner, to sleep off fatigue, just as a dog might do. Every public square has its fountain, and there are two hundred in Cairo.
The bazaars present a novel aspect. Here an old bearded Turk offers for sale odors, curious pastes and essences, with kohl for shading about the eyes, and henna dye for the fingers. Another has various ornaments of sandal wood, delicately wrought fans, and other trifles. His next-door neighbor, whose quarters are only a degree more dingy, offers pipes, curiously made, with carved amber mouthpieces, and others with long, flexible, silken tubes. Turbaned crowds stroll leisurely about. Now a strong and wiry Bedouin passes, leading his horse and taking count of everything with his sharp, black eyes, and now a Nile boatman. Yonder is an Abyssinian slave, and beyond is an Egyptian trader, with here and there a Greek or a Maltese. Amid it all one feels curious as to where Aladdin's uncle may be just now, with his new lamps to exchange for old ones. We will ascend the loftiest point of this Arabian city to obtain a more comprehensive view.
The mosque of Mehemet Ali, with its tapering minarets, overlooks Cairo, and is itself a very remarkable and beautiful edifice. This spacious building is lined throughout with Oriental alabaster, the exterior being covered with the same costly material. It contains the sarcophagus of Mehemet Ali, the most enlightened of modern rulers, before which lamps are burning perpetually. The interior of this mosque is the most effective, architecturally, of any temple in the East. There is a height and breadth, and a solemn dignity in its aspect, which cannot fail to impress every visitor. The exterior is much less striking, yet it is admirably balanced and harmonized. The situation of the mosque commands one of the most interesting views that can be conceived of. The city, with its countless minarets and domed mosques, its public buildings, and tree-adorned squares, its section of mud-colored houses and terraced roofs, lies in the form of a crescent at the visitor's feet; while the plains of Lower Egypt stretch far away in all directions. The tombs of the Mamelukes (a body of mounted soldiery of Egypt massacred by Mehemet Ali) lie close at hand, full of historic suggestiveness, and just beyond stands the lonely column of Heliopolis, four thousand years old, marking the site of the famous "City of the Sun." Towards the sea is the land of Goshen, where the sons of Jacob fed their flocks. A little more westerly, in the mysterious Nile, is seen the well-wooded island of Roda, quietly nestling in the broad bosom of the river. Here is the place where the infant Moses was found. The grand Aqueduct, with its high-reaching arches, reminds us of the ruins outside of Rome; while ten miles away are seen the time-defying Pyramids, the horizon ending at the borders of the great Libyan Desert. Far away to the southwest a forest of palms dimly marks the site of dead and buried Memphis, where Joseph interpreted a monarch's dream. It is the twilight hour as we stand in the open area of the mosque, and view the scene. The half-suppressed hum of a dense Eastern population comes up to us from the busy, low-lying city, and a strange, sensuous flavor of sandal wood, musk, and attar of roses floats on the golden haze of the sunset, indelibly fixing the scene upon the memory.
The Pyramids of Gizeh are situated about three leagues from Cairo, and, after crossing the Nile by an iron bridge, guarded at either end by two bronze lions, they are reached by a straight, level road, lined with well-trimmed trees. This road terminates at a rocky plateau, which serves to give these wonderful structures an elevated site, as well as to form a firm, natural foundation for the enormous weight of solid stone to be supported. There is always an importuning group of Arabs here, who live upon the gratuities obtained from visitors. They help people to ascend and descend the Pyramids for a fixed sum, or, for a few shillings, will run up and down them like monkeys. On the way between Cairo and the Pyramids, through the long alley of acacias, we pass hundreds of camels bound to the city, laden with green fodder and newly cut clover for stable use in town. Carts are not employed; the backs of camels and donkeys supersede the use of wheels.
Nothing new can be said about the Pyramids,—monuments hoary with age; the statistics relating to them are familiar. They simply show, standing there upon the border of the desert, a vast aggregate of labor performed by compulsion, and only exhibit the supreme folly of the monarchs, who thus vainly strove to erect monuments which should defy all time and perpetuate their fame. To-day not even the names of their founders are surely known. There are plausible suppositions enough about them, each writer upon the subject having plenty of arguments to support his special convictions; but their history rests, after all is said, amid a confusion of very thin speculation. There is little genius evinced in the design or execution of the Pyramids. Neither art, taste, nor religion is in any way subserved by these unequalled follies. There is no architectural excellence in them, though great skill is evinced in their construction, they are merely enormous piles of stone. Some pronounce them marvellous as evidences of ancient greatness and power. True; but if it were desirable, we could build loftier and larger ones in our day. As they are doubtless over four thousand years old, we admit that they are venerable, and that they are entitled to a certain degree of consideration on that account. In the religious instinct which led the Buddhists to build, at such enormous expense of time and money, the cave-temples of Elephanta, Ellora, and Carlee; in the idolatrous Hindoo temples of Madura and Tanjore, the shrines of Ceylon, the pagodas of China, and the temples of Japan, one detects an underlying and elevating sentiment, a grand and reverential idea, in which there may be more of acceptable veneration than we can fully appreciate; but in the Pyramids we have no expression of devotion, only an embodiment of personal vanity, which hesitated at nothing for its gratification, and which proved a total failure.
The immensity of the desert landscape, and the absence of any object for comparison, make these three pyramids seem smaller than they really are; but the actual height of the largest, that of Cheops, is nearly five hundred feet. The theory that they are royal tombs is generally accepted. Bunsen claims for Egypt nearly seven thousand years of civilization and prosperity before the building of these monuments. We do not often pause to realize how little of reliable history there is extant. Conjecture is not history. If contemporary record so often belies itself, what ought we to consider veracious of that which comes to us through the shadowy distance of thousands of years? Not many hundred feet from the nearest pyramid, and on a somewhat lower plane, stands that colossal mystery, the Sphinx. The Arabs call it "The Father of Terror," and it certainly has a weird and unworldly look. Its body and most of the head is hewn out of the solid rock where it stands, the upper portion forming the head and bust of a human being, to which is added the body with the paws of an animal. The great size of the figure will be realized when we mention the fact that the face alone is thirty feet long and half as wide. The body is in a sitting posture, with the paws extended forward some fifty feet or more. This strange figure is believed to be of much greater antiquity than the Pyramids, but no one can say how old it really is. Notwithstanding its mutilated condition, showing the furrows of time, the features have still a sad, tranquil expression, telling of the original dignity of the design.
From Cairo we take the railway to Ismailia, the little town situated midway on the Suez Canal, between the two seas, at the Bitter Lakes, through which the course of the canal runs. It is a pretty and attractive place, containing four or five thousand inhabitants, and is a creation of the last few years. Here we observe gardens filled with choice flowers and fruit-trees, vegetation being in its most verdant dress, promoted by irrigation from the neighboring fresh-water canal. The place has broad, neat streets, and a capacious central square, ornamented with large and thrifty trees. It was here that the representatives of all nations met on the occasion of the inaugurating ceremony on the completion of De Lesseps's canal. We take a small mail steamer at Ismailia, through the western half of the canal to Port Said, the Mediterranean terminus of the great artificial river. It is a fact worthy of remembrance that, with all our modern improvements and progressive ideas, the Egyptians were centuries before us in this plan of shortening the path of commerce between the East and the West; or, in other words, of connecting the Red Sea with that of the Mediterranean across the Isthmus and through the Gulf of Suez. The purpose was probably never thoroughly carried out until De Lesseps's consummation of it as it now exists.
Port Said, like Suez, derives its only interest and importance from the canal. It contains some seven thousand inhabitants, with a floating population of two thousand. The region round about it is perfectly barren, like Egypt nearly everywhere away from the valley of the Nile. Through that part of the desert which we pass in coming from Suez, one looks in vain for any continuous sign of vegetation. The entire absence of trees and forests accounts for the lack also of wild beasts, excepting the hyena and jackal, which are occasionally met with. Here and there, at long intervals, an oasis of green is seen, like a smile breaking over the arid face of nature. Once or twice we see a cluster of palms beside a rude well, hedged in by a little patch of green earth, about which a few camels or goats are quenching their thirst or cropping the scanty herbage. Some Arabs, in picturesque costumes, linger hard by. The tents pitched in the background are of the same low, flat-topped, camel's-hair construction as have been used by these desert tribes for many thousands of years.
Egypt has only her ruins, her antiquity, her Bible associations to give her interest with the world at large. Japan is infinitely to be preferred; China even rivals her in natural advantages; and India is much more inviting. In looking at Egypt we must forget her present and recall her past. The real Egypt is not the vast territory which we find laid down by geographers, reaching to the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and embracing equatorial regions; it is and was, even in the days of the Pharaohs and Ptolemies, the valley of the Nile, from the First Cataract to the Mediterranean Sea, hemmed in by the Libyan and Arabian deserts, whence there came to the rest of the world so much of art, science, and philosophy. The fellah or peasant, he who tills the soil, is of a fine and industrious race, well built, broad chested, and lithe of frame. He is the same figure that his ancestors were of old, as represented on the tombs and temples of Thebes, and on the slabs one sees from Gizeh, in the museum of Cairo. He still performs his work in the nineteenth century just as he did before the days of Moses, scattering the seed and irrigating by hand. He is little seen in the cities,—his place is in the field, where he lives and thrives. Though his native land has found such various masters in Greek and Roman, Arab and Turk, he has never lost his individuality; he has ever been, and is to-day, the same historic Egyptian.
The next point to which our course will take us is the Island of Malta, which involves a sail of a thousand miles from Port Said. The city of Valetta is the capital, having a population of a hundred and fifty thousand. The island is an English outpost, similar to Gibraltar, and, in a military point of view, is about as important. It is twenty miles long and sixteen wide, and has held a conspicuous place in historical records for nearly three thousand years. The houses of the city are mostly large stone structures, and many have notable architectural merit, fronting thoroughfares of good width, well paved, and lighted with gas. An aspect of cleanliness and freshness pervades everything. Many of the streets run up the steep hillside on which the town stands, and are flanked by broad stone steps for foot-passengers, the roadway of such streets being quite inaccessible for vehicles. The principal thoroughfare is the Strada Reale, nearly a mile long, lined with attractive stores and dwelling-houses, forming a busy and pleasant boulevard. The houses over the stores are ornamented by convenient iron balconies, where the citizens can sit and enjoy the cool evening breezes after the hot days that linger about Malta nearly all the year round.
At the upper end of the Strada Reale we observe a large and imposing stone opera-house, presenting a fine architectural aspect, being ornamented with lofty Corinthian columns, a side portico and broad stone steps leading up to the vestibule. A visit to the Church of St. John will afford much enjoyment. It was built a little over three hundred years since by the Knights of the Order of St. John, who lavished fabulous sums of money upon its erection and its elaborate ornamentation. Statuary and paintings of rare merit abound within its walls, and gold and silver ornaments render the work of great aggregate value. The entire roof of the church, which is divided into zones, is admirably painted in figures of such proportions as to look life-size from the floor, representing prominent Scriptural scenes. In this church the Knights seem to have vied with each other in adding to its ornaments and its treasures, so that the rich marbles, bas-reliefs, and mosaics are almost confusing in their abundance. The floor is formed of inlaid marble slabs, which cover the last resting-places of the most distinguished Knights of the famous Order of St. John.
Snow is not known in Malta, but ice sometimes forms during the coldest nights of winter, though only in very thin layers, the climate being much like that of Southern Italy. Fruit and ornamental trees abound, and flowers attract the eye in nearly every domestic window. There must be a prevailing refinement of taste in this island city, otherwise the abundance of flowers offered for sale in the Strada Reale would not find purchasers. There is a section near the harbor named Casal Attand; that is, the "Village of Roses." Casal in Maltese signifies village. There is also Casal Luca, the "Village of Poplars," and still another, Casal Zebbug, the "Village of Olives," a natural and appropriate system of nomenclature. It is extremely interesting to visit the armory of the Knights of St. John, to see the rusty lances, dimmed sword-blades, and tattered battle-flags which were borne by the Crusaders in the days of Saladin and Coeur de Lion. A visit to Fort St. Angelo, perched upon the summit of the island, enables us to look far away over the blue Mediterranean, dotted by the picturesque maritime rig of these waters. It is pleasant to stroll about the bright, cleanly streets of Valetta, to chat with the smiling flower-girls who occupy the little kiosks (flower-stands) on the corners of the Strada Reale, and to enjoy a cooling ice in the gardens of the cafe adjoining the Knights' Palace. But we must not linger here, whence we sail for Gibraltar, a thousand miles away, at the other end of this great inland sea.
Arrived at the famous Rock, we are at once impressed upon landing with its military importance. Every other person one meets is in uniform, and cannon are as plenty as at Woolwich or West Point. The Signal Station is fifteen hundred feet in height. The zigzag path leading to the summit is lined with wild-flowers, though we come now and again upon embrasures, whence protrude grim-muzzled guns. Further up we stoop to gather some daphnes and disclose a battery screened by fragrant and blooming flowers. From the top the view is magnificent; the white wings of commerce which sprinkle the sea look like sea-gulls, and steamships are only discernible by the long line of smoke trailing behind them. Far below us, on the Spanish side, lies the town, a thick mass of yellow, white, and brown houses; and nestling in the bay is the shipping, looking like toy-boats. The mountain ranges of Ceuta and Andalusia, on opposite continents, mingle with soft, over-shadowing clouds, while over our heads is a glorious dome of turquoise blue, such as no temple raised by the hand of man can imitate.
We find that England has thus established and maintains a line of outposts from the Mediterranean to the far East, beginning at Gibraltar, thence to Malta, Aden, Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, and Hong Kong, completely dominating the South of Asia, and giving her a clear route to her extensive possessions in India.
We embark at Gibraltar for Tangier in a small coasting steamer, crossing the straits which separate Europe from Africa, a distance of less than a hundred miles. As we draw away from the Spanish shore, the long range of Andalusian mountains stands out compact and clear, the snow-white summits sparkling in the sunshine. On the lowlands, sloping to the water's edge, the fields are robed in a soft green attire, dotted with herds of goats and cattle. Old stone watch-towers line the shore at regular intervals, and coast-guard houses sheltering squads of soldiers, for this region is famous as the resort of smugglers and lawless bands of rovers. On the opposite coast of Africa, the Ceuta range grows every moment more distinct, the loftiest peaks mantled with snow, like the bleached, flowing drapery of the Bedouins. Still further on, dazzling white hamlets enliven the Morocco shore, with deep green, tropical verdure in the background. Ceuta attracts our interest, being a Spanish penal colony, which is surrounded by jealous, warlike Moors, slave-traders, and smugglers.
Tangier stands on the western shore of a shallow bay, upon a sloping hillside, but it is not at all impressive as one approaches it. The windowless houses rise like cubical blocks of masonry one above another, dominated by a few square towers which crown the several mosques; while here and there a consular flag floats lazily upon the air from a lofty pole. The rude, irregular wall which surrounds the city is seen stretching about it, pierced with arched Moorish gates.
Oriental as Cairo is, Tangier strikes us as even more so. In coming from Gibraltar, one seems, by a single step as it were, to have passed from civilization to barbarism. There is no European quarter here. Every evidence of the proximity of the opposite continent disappears: the distance might be immeasurable. The city has narrow, dirty, twisted streets, through which no vehicle can pass, and which are scarcely accessible for donkeys, camels, and foot-passengers. There is not a straight or level street in all Tangier. Veiled women, clad in white, move about the lanes like uneasy spirits; men in scarlet turbans and striped robes lounge carelessly about, with their bare heels sticking out of yellow slippers. Now we meet a tawny Arab, a straggling son of the desert, his striped abba or white bournous (robe-like garments) hanging in graceful folds about his tall, straight figure; and now a Nubian, with only a waistcloth about his body. The scene is constantly changing. There are Jews, with dark blue vests and red sashes; Jewesses, in bright purple silks, and with uncovered, handsome faces. Here and there is seen a Maltese or Portuguese sailor hiding from punishment for some crime committed on the opposite continent. The variety of races one meets in these contracted passage-ways is indeed curious, represented by faces yellow, bronze, white, and black. Add to all, the crowd of donkey-boys, camels, goats, and street pedlers, crying, bleating, blustering, and braying, and we get an idea of the sights and sounds that constantly greet one in this Moorish capital.
The slave market is situated just outside of the city walls, where the sales take place on the Sabbath, which is regarded as a sort of holiday. The average price of the women and girls is from fifty to sixty dollars, according to age and good looks; the men vary much in price, according to the demand for labor. About the large open space of the market is a group of Bedouins, just arrived from the interior with dried fruits, dates, and the like. Camels and men, weary after the long tramp, are reclining upon the ground, forming a picture only to be seen on the border of the desert, and beneath the glow and shimmer of an African sun.
We ascend the heights, which form a background to the city. The sloping hillside is mostly occupied by a few European merchants and the consuls of the several nations. Their villas are very picturesque, half buried in foliage, and located in an atmosphere redolent with fruits and flowers. From the fronts of their dwellings the view is superb: the broad piazzas are hung here and there with hammocks, telling of luxurious out-door life; family groups are seen taking their morning coffee on the verandas, and the voices of many children ring out, clear and bird-like, floating up to the eyrie where we are perched; down towards the shore lies brown, dingy, dirty Tangier, with its mud-colored groups of tiled roofs, its teeming population, its mouldy old walls, its Moorish arched gates, and its minarets, square and dominant. On our way back we again pass through the slave market, where a bevy of dancing-girls with tambourines and castanets look wistfully at us, hoping for an audience.
Nearly the last sound that greets our ears, as we walk over the irregular pavements and through the narrow lanes toward the pier whence we are to embark, is the rude music of the snake-charmer; and the last sight is that of a public story-teller in one of the little squares, earnestly gesticulating before a score of eager listeners while he recites a chapter from the "Thousand and One Nights."
The sultan of Morocco is supreme, and holds the lives and fortunes of his subjects at his will. He is judge and executioner of the laws, which emanate from himself. Taxation is so heavy as to amount to prohibition, in many departments of enterprise; exportation is hampered, agriculture so heavily loaded with taxes that it is only pursued so far as to supply the bare necessities of life; manufacture is just where it was centuries ago, and is performed with the same primitive tools; the printing-press is unknown; there are no books, save the Koran; and the language is such a mixture of tongues, and is so corrupted, as to hardly have a distinctive existence. The people obey the local sheikhs (pronounced shāk); above them are the cadis, who control provinces; and still higher, are the pashas, who are accountable only to the sultan.
Returning to Gibraltar we take a coasting steamer along the shore of Spain eastward to Malaga, the city of raisins and sweet wine. It is commercially one of the most important cities of the country, and was once the capital of an independent state. It was a large and prosperous Phoenician metropolis centuries before the time of Christ upon earth. The older portions of the city have all the Moorish peculiarities of construction,—narrow streets, crooked passages, small barred windows, and heavy doors; but the modern part of Malaga is characterized by broad, straight thoroughfares and elegantly built houses of stone. This is especially the case with the Alameda, which has a central walk ornamented by flowers and shrubs, and which is bordered with handsome almond-trees. On either side of this broad promenade is a good roadway, flanked by houses of pleasing architectural effect, lofty and well relieved.
There are several fine open squares in Malaga, some of which contain statues and ornamental trees, together with well-kept flower-beds. The discovery not long since of Roman antiquities in the environs has created a warm interest among archaeologists. The trade of the city in wine and dried fruits is large. Four-fifths of the forty thousand butts of sweet wine shipped from here are exported to the United States. The present population is about a hundred and twenty-five thousand, made up of a community of more than average respectability, though beggars are found to be very annoying in the public streets. The old Moorish castle crowning the seaward heights has been converted into a modern fortress, affording a charming view from its battlements. In the squares and streets, as well as in the market-place, women sit each morning weaving fresh-cut flowers of rose-buds, mignonette, pansies, violets, and geraniums into pretty little clusters, of which they sell many as button-hole bouquets. One may be sure there is always a refined element in the locality, whether otherwise visible or not, where such an appreciation is manifested. The bull-fight may thrive, the populace may be riotous, education at a very low ebb, and art almost entirely neglected; but when a love of nature is evinced in the appreciation of beautiful flowers, there is still extant on the popular heart the half-effaced image of its Maker.
It is an interesting fact that Spain, in the time of Julius Caesar, contained nearly eighty million inhabitants, but to-day it has less than eighteen million. By glancing at the map it will be perceived that Spain is a large country, comprising nearly the whole of the southern peninsula of Europe, Portugal being confined to a very small space. It is about double the size of Great Britain, and is rich in every known mineral, though poor enough in the necessary energy and enterprise requisite to improve such possibilities. In many sections of the country great natural fertility is apparent, but nature has to perform the lion's share of the work in producing crops. In the environs of Malaga, and the southern provinces generally, there are orange, lemon, and olive groves miles in extent. The Moors had a poetical saying that this favored region was dropped from paradise, but there is more of poetry than truth in the legend. What is really required is good cultivation and skilled agricultural enterprise. These would develop a very different condition of affairs and give to legitimate effort a rich reward. The sugar-cane, the grape-vine, the fig-tree, and the productive olive, mingling with the myrtle and the laurel, gratify the eye in and about the district of Malaga; but as one advances inland, the products become natural or wild, cultivation primitive and only partial, grain-fields being scarce and universal neglect the prominent feature.
Granada is situated about seventy miles north of Malaga, where set the sun of Moorish glory, but where still exists that embodiment of romance, the Alhambra. This palace-fortress is the one attraction of the district. It is difficult to realize that the Moors possessed such architectural skill, and that they produced such splendid palaces centuries ago. It is also quite as remarkable that Time, the great destroyer, should have spared for our admiration such minute, lace-like carvings, and such brilliant mosaics. The marvel of the architecture is its perfect harmony; there are no jarring elements in this superb structure, no false notes in the grand anthem which it articulates. In visiting the Alhambra one must be assisted by both history and the imagination; he must know something of the people who built and beautified it; he must be able to summon back the brave warriors and beautiful ladies from the dim past to people again these glorious halls. He must call to life the orange, the myrtle, and the myriads of fragrant flowers that bloomed of old in these now silent marble courts. As we pass from one section to another, from hall to hall, chamber to chamber, lingering with busy thoughts amid the faded glory, the very atmosphere teems with historical reminiscences of that most romantic period, the mediaeval days, when the Moors held regal court in Andalusia. A lurking sympathy steals over us for that exiled people who could create and give life to such a terrestrial paradise.
Alhambra signifies "Red Castle," and the vermilion-tinted structure, with its outlying towers, was thus appropriately named. In the days of its glory it was half palace, half fortress; indeed, a city in itself, capable of accommodating quite an army, and containing within its walls an immense cistern as a water supply, besides armories, storehouses, foundry, and every appliance of a large citadel. A considerable portion of the far-reaching walls is still extant. Under good generalship, and properly manned, the place must have been nearly impregnable to attack with such arms as were in use at the period. For a long time after the expulsion of the Moors, the Castilian monarchs made it their royal residence, and revelled within its splendid walls; but they finally deserted it. The place was next infested by a lawless community of smugglers and banditti, who made it their headquarters, whence to sally forth and lay the neighboring plains under contribution. Then came the French as conquerors, who expelled the lawless intruders, themselves, perhaps, quite as deserving of the title; but they did good work in clearing what had become an Augean stable of its worst filth and partially restoring the choicest work of the Moorish builders. To-day the Spanish government guards with jealous care a monumental treasure which cannot be equalled in the kingdom.
A day's journey northward brings us to Cordova, which was the capital of Moorish Spain ten centuries ago, when the city could boast a million inhabitants. Now it has thirty thousand. One of the most prominent objects is the ancient stone bridge, supported by broad, irregular arches. For two thousand years that old bridge has battled with the elements; Romans, Moors, and Spaniards have fiercely contended at its entrances; the tides of victory and of defeat have swept again and again across its roadway. Leaning over its stone barriers we watch the river pursue its rapid course just as it has done for twenty centuries. Palaces, temples, shrines, may crumble, nations rise and fall, but the Guadalquiver still flows on.
The one great interest of Cordova is its cathedral, erected sixteen centuries ago. Beautiful are its still remaining hundreds of interior columns, composed of porphyry, jasper, granite, alabaster, verd-antique, and marble of various colors. Each of the columns upholds a small pilaster, and between them is a horseshoe arch, no two of the columns being alike. They came from Greece, Rome, Constantinople, Damascus, and the Temple of Jerusalem. All the then known world was put under contribution to furnish the twelve hundred columns of this wonderful temple. The great mosque was changed into a cathedral after the expulsion of the Arabs, but a large portion of the interior is untouched and remains as it was when the caliphs worshipped here. Inside and out it is gloomy, massive, and frowning, forming one of the most remarkable links still existing in Spain between the remote past and the present. It appears to be nearly as large upon the ground as St. Peter's at Rome, and contains fifty separate chapels within its capacious walls. It has, in its passage through the several dynasties of Roman, Moorish, and Spanish rule, received distinctive architectural marks from each. Its large, cool court of orange-trees, centuries old, its battlemented walls and huge gateway, its famous fountains and its mingled palms and tall cypresses, all combine to perfect an impressive picture of the dead and buried thousands connected with its history.
We still pursue a northerly course. From Cordova to Madrid is about three hundred miles by railway, carrying us through some very interesting and typical scenery. Occasionally a gypsy camp is passed, pitched near our route, presenting the usual domestic groups, mingled with animals, covered carts, lazy men stretched on the greensward, and busy women cooking the evening meal. Long strings of mules, with widespread panniers, are seen winding across the plain, sometimes in charge of a woman clad in gaudy colors, while her lazy husband thrums a guitar as he lies across one of the mules. Towards evening groups of peasants, male and female, with farming tools in their hands, are seen winding their steps towards some hamlet after the day's labor. Arched stone bridges, old and moss-grown, come into view, spanning small watercourses on their way from the mountains to join more pretentious streams. Elevated spots show us the ruins of old stone towers, once a part of some feudal stronghold, but the eye seeks in vain for well-wooded slopes, thrifty groves, or cultivated fields with promising crops. While the more practical traveller realizes a sense of disappointment at the paucity of thrift and vegetation, the poet and the artist will find enough to delight the eye and to fire the imagination in Spain. The ever-transparent atmosphere, and the lovely cloud-effects that prevail, are accompaniments which will hallow the desolate regions for the artist at all seasons. The poet has only to wander among the former haunts of the Moors and view the crumbling monuments of their gorgeous, luxurious, and artistic taste, to be equally absorbed and inspired.
When we arrive at Madrid, the first query which suggests itself is, why Charles V. should have made his capital on this spot. True, it is in about the geographical centre of Spain, but it is hemmed in on all sides by arid plains, and has an adjacent river, so-called, but which in America would be known as a dry gulch. It is difficult to see what possible benefit can be derived from a waterless river. Like the Arno at Florence, it seems troubled with a chronic thirst. In short, the Manzanares has the form of a river without the circulation. In the days of Charles II. its dry bed was turned into a sort of race-course and drive-way, but since the completion of the magnificent Prado it has been abandoned even for this purpose. Eight or nine hundred years ago Madrid was a fortified outpost of Toledo—"imperial" Toledo. Though it is situated between two and three thousand feet above sea-level, it does not seem to possess the advantages usually following such position, the climate being scorchingly hot in summer and piercingly cold in winter. So that one comes to the conclusion that in point of climate, as well as in location, the Spanish capital is a mistake.
Having been established when the furor for cathedral-building had passed, the city has none within its borders, though there is no lack of modern churches. Notwithstanding these criticisms, Madrid is a large and fine city, with some four hundred thousand inhabitants; not noticeable, like Genoa, Rome, or Florence, for palaces and ancient monuments, but it is well laid out, the streets broad and nicely paved, while numerous open squares ornament the several sections. Some of these are filled with attractive shrubbery and ornamental trees, as well as statuary. Among the latter are representations of Murillo, Philip III., Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Philip V., Calderon, and others. The finest statue in the city is that of Philip IV., representing that monarch on horseback, the animal in a prancing position. This is a wonderfully life-like bronze, designed by Velasquez. It forms the centre of the Plaza del Oriente, or square in front of the royal palace, from which it is separated, however, by a broad thoroughfare. According to history, Galileo showed the artist how the horse could be sustained in its remarkable position, the whole weight of the rider and the animal resting on the hind legs.
On the Prado, the grand public drive of the citizens, there are fine marble statues, and groups combined with very elegant fountains. The Puerto del Sol, that is, the "Gate of the Sun," is situated in the heart of the city, and is always full of busy life. A dozen large streets and boulevards radiate from this area, where the lines of street-cars also meet and diverge. The fashionable idlers of the town hold high carnival in the Puerto del Sol, day and night. One is half dazed by the whirl of carriages, the rush of pedestrians, the passing of military bands with marching regiments, and the clatter of horses' feet caused by dashing equestrians. This plaza or square is a scene of incessant movement from early morn until midnight. Like Paris and Vienna, Madrid does not seem to thoroughly awaken until evening, the tide of life becoming most active under the glare of gas-light. The Prado, just referred to, is to Madrid what the Champs Elysees and the Bois de Boulogne are to Paris, a splendid avenue, through the centre of which runs a walk and garden similar to the Unter den Linden of Berlin, or Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, save that it is more extensive than either of these last named. The Prado nearly joins the Public Garden of Madrid, on the borders of the city proper, in which there are also fine carriage-drives, roadways for equestrians, many delightful shaded walks, and paths lined with choice flowers. On Sundays and holidays these grounds are thronged with citizens and their families for out-of-door enjoyment; several military bands distributed about the grounds add to the attraction.
The royal palace is located upon a slightly elevated site, and is so isolated as to give full effect to its appearance. It is the only building of a remarkable character, architecturally speaking, in the city; being the largest, and one of the finest, royal palaces in Europe. It belongs to the Tuscan style, and cost between five and six million dollars a hundred years ago. The base is of granite; but the upper portion is built of a fine white stone, very closely resembling marble.
In its splendid art collection of the Museo, the city has a treasure only equalled by the Louvre at Paris and the galleries of Florence. To artists it is the one attraction of Madrid, and is principally composed of works by Spanish masters, though also containing many other fine works of art. Here we may see forty examples by the hand of Murillo, sixty-four from Velasquez, sixty by Rubens, twenty-five from Paul Veronese, thirty-four by Tintoretto, and many by Andrea del Sarto, Titian, Vandyke, and others of similar artistic fame. It is believed that Murillo appears at his best in this collection. Being a native of Seville, he is seen, as it were, at home; and artists declare that his works here show more power and expression than anywhere else. So we go to Antwerp to appreciate Rubens, though we find him so fully represented elsewhere. The same may be said of Velasquez as of Murillo; he also was at home here, and cannot be fairly, or rather fully, judged outside of the Madrid gallery.
When the French were masters in Spain, they proved to be terrible agents of destruction; leaving marks of their devastation everywhere. Not content with stealing many unequalled works of art, they often wantonly destroyed what they could not conveniently take away with them. In the tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella, at Grenada, they pried open the royal coffins, in search of treasure; at Seville they broke open the coffin of Murillo, and scattered his ashes to the wind; Marshal Soult treated the ashes of Cervantes in a similar manner. War desecrates all things, human and divine, but sometimes becomes a Nemesis (goddess of retribution), dispensing poetical justice; as when Waterloo caused the return to Spain of a portion of her despoiled art-treasures.
The bull-ring of the capital will seat eighteen thousand spectators. Here, on each Sunday of the season, exhibitions are given to enthusiastic crowds, the entertainments always being honored by the presence of the state dignitaries, and members of the royal family. The worst result of such cruelty is that it infects the beholders with a like spirit. We all know how cruel the English became during the reign of Henry the Eighth. Sunday is always a gala-day in Madrid, though the attendance upon early mass is very general, at least among the women. It is here, as at Paris and other European capitals, the chosen day for military parades, horse races, and the bull fight. Most of the shops are open, and do a profitable business; especially is this the case with the liquor and cigar stores and the cafes. The lottery-ticket vendor makes double the usual day's sales on this occasion, and the itinerant gamblers, with their little tables, have crowds about them wherever they locate. The gayly dressed flower-girls, with dainty little baskets rich in color and captivating in fragrance, press button-hole bouquets on the pedestrians, while men perambulate the streets with cakes and candies displayed in open wooden boxes hung about their necks. In short, Sunday is made a holiday, when grandees and beggars come forth like marching regiments into the Puerto del Sol. The Prado and public gardens are crowded with gayly dressed people, children, and nurses, the costumes of the latter being of the most theatrical character. No one who can walk stays within doors on Sunday at Madrid.
The cars will take us forty miles hence to Toledo, where the rule of the Moor is seen in foot-prints which time has not yet obliterated. It seems like realizing a mediaeval dream to walk the narrow, sombre streets of this famous old capital. Strangely steep, winding, and irregular, they are! The reason for constructing them thus was doubtless that they might be the more easily defended when attacked by an enemy. In the days of her prime, Toledo saw many battles, both inside and outside of her gates. One can touch the houses of these streets, in many instances, on both sides at the same time by extending the arms. There are scores of deserted buildings, securely locked up, the heavy gates studded with great iron nails, while the lower windows are closely iron-grated. Some of them are open and unguarded, having paved entrances or court-yards, with galleries around them, upon which the rooms open. Everything bespeaks their Moorish origin. Some of these houses, which were palaces once, are now used as storehouses, some as carpenter-shops, some occupied as manufactories, while the appearance of all shows them to have been designed for a very different use.