"Motto, Signor; motto," was the answer which means, "very much, very much." It is the usual reply of all Italian peasants when asked regarding distance.
Paul was so refreshed that he did not mind the discouraging answer. He was on buoyant spirits and to it seemed to him as though he could dash along forever without tiring, his strength was so great. He felt there would be no difficulty in completing his undertaking in time. This unusual animation and feeling of wondrous power, he could only attribute to the effects of the food and wine. Pulling gaily along, he suddenly felt a tremendous pressure in his head, and apparently without the slightest cause, blood spurted from his mouth and nostrils. It occurred to him that he had burst a blood vessel.
Brilliant lights seemed to be burning in front, behind and all around him, with the intensity of electric search lights. A village appeared on the bank and he concluded to stop. Pulling in shore, he was bewildered to find only the mud bank. This discovery startled him into a realization that something was wrong with his brain. The mind was wavering between the hallucinations of a fever, and lucidity. Vagaries occasioned by a high temperature, would suddenly vanish as the struggling mind briefly asserted itself. As he resumed paddling, some swaying willows became three ladies attired in the Grecian bend costume, then a fad in America, smiling and bowing to him. His mind told him they were only willows; but his eyes would not be convinced.
Darkness fell about him. He had no idea of where he was going, and the lights burst on him again with increased brilliancy. No matter where his eyes turned, the intense rays would shine into them. He thought he had arrived at Cremona, and that some men were turning the reflector to annoy him. "Keep those lights off," he shouted, "don't you see they are blinding me?"
Reason came for an instant and told him there was no town and no lights. He knew he must call for help, but several minutes elapsed before he could remember the proper Italian word. Then he cried:
But only the echo responded from the lonely shore.
He again reached the bank, formed by a dyke which protects the lowlands from the floods. He climbed to the top, carrying the little tender in his arms. Then he could hear the tack, tack, tack, of some one pounding, and through an open door he saw a shoemaker hammering away at the sole of a boot on his knee. Attempting to enter, he staggered against a tree. The shoemaker appeared in another direction and the sound of the hammer was continually with him. Almost overcome with fatigue he decided to sit down, and then his paddle assumed the character of a companion, remonstrating with him and advising him to move on.
"I think I'll sit down here," Boyton would say.
"Indeed you won't," answered the paddle.
"But I must."
"If you do you will die. Come on."
Endeavoring to obey the commands of the paddle he continued to stagger on, falling at every few steps; but regaining his feet and pressing forward. Intense thirst consumed him and he went often to the brink of the river and drank quantities of water, burying his face in the muddy stream; the paddle all the while urging him to move on. Along the top of the dyke he came upon three posts placed for the purpose of keeping cattle from getting off the road. These posts became sneering, laughing men, wearing cloaks flung across their breasts, Italian fashion. They were insolent, and he challenged them to fight; but they only ridiculed him.
"You are the fellows that have been bothering me all night," he shouted, and dropping on one knee, he took a sheath knife from the tender and plunged it into the breast of one of the men. In a flash of reason he saw the knife quivering in a post.
Again the fevered voyager started, the paddle all the while telling him that he would soon strike some town or village. Two or three times the overwhelming desire for water compelled him to return to the river and drink. Every time he descended or climbed the dyke he grew weaker and finally decided to lie down at all hazards and sleep. The paddle earnestly remonstrated:
"It is death. Death if you lie down. Keep on," it said.
Fatigue obtained the mastery and he sank on the ground determined to sleep. Scarcely had he stretched his limbs on the muddy dyke, than he was partially aroused by the "dong, dong, dong," of a great bell clanging on the still night air. He counted twelve strokes.
"Ah, that is another illusion," he thought; but it brought him to a sitting posture, just as a bell of different tone sounded "ding, ding, ding," and again he counted twelve strokes.
The second sound convinced him that he was near a village, and heeding the commands of the paddle, he struggled to his feet and entered a road which he followed, passing under an old arch that spanned the highway, but he was afraid to touch it, thinking that it too, would disappear. Shortly the cobble stones of a street were felt through the rubber soles of his dress. He saw houses on each side, but kept on under the impression that if he approached them they would vanish, and he also conceived the idea that he must tread lightly or he would scare them away. As he advanced through the village street, arguing with the paddle that no real village was in sight, a light shining through a transom over the door of some outbuilding, attracted his attention, and he thought he might be in the vicinity of human beings. Hearing the sound of voices he approached the door, listening. Then another mad thought came to him, that he must make a desperate rush at the door and get inside before it melted away. He did so, and the frail barrier gave way before the pressure of his shoulder and he stumbled headlong into the place. He disturbed several men who were drinking and playing at some game and as he regained his feet he observed two of the men trying to escape through a window, while the others seized chairs and benches to repel an attack of what they imagined to be the Evil one.
"Molto malado!" cried Boyton.
At hearing this, the men gained confidence and put down their weapons.
"Medico? Albergo?" inquired the voyager.
One of the most intelligent of the party, said: "Ah, he wants a doctor and a hotel. He is sick," and they went out with him into the street which was then lighted by the moon. The men advanced in a group while Paul brought up the rear and in this way they proceeded until the hotel was reached, when some of the party began to throw pebbles against the upper window to awaken the landlord. While they were doing that and shouting, Paul counted them and found they numbered twelve. He concluded they were the twelve apostles.
"Pedro, Pedro, come down," shouted one of the apostles, "a Frenchman wants to get in."
Pedro at last appeared at the door with a light in his hand; but on seeing his strange visitor in the black dress covered with mud, he exclaimed: "No room, no room."
Boyton said "vino," a touch of reason coming to his aid.
"Yes," replied the landlord, "you can have wine."
He opened the door and the entire crowd entered a large room with an earthen floor and ranged around were several common board tables polished to a snowy whiteness, while on shelves were bright colored vessels and measures. On ordering the wine, Paul noticed the landlord eyeing him suspiciously, so he took from the little boat which he still carried, a book, among the leaves of which was some Italian paper money. Throwing a ten lire note ($2.00), to the landlord, he ordered wine for the full amount, and the twelve apostles were soon enjoying it. Boyton sat down and mechanically took the measure every time it was handed to him and drank. He tried to listen to the conversation of his strange comrades, but found himself dozing. The uproar made by the twelve, who had seldom experienced such a windfall, awakened the landlord's wife who entered the room and began to question the roysterers in a very emphatic manner. Going to Boyton, she lifted the rubber from his forehead and turning angrily to men, exclaimed:
"Can't you understand? This man has febbre del fuoco."
Taking the measure of wine away from Paul, she ordered her husband to build a fire and began to take off the rubber dress, in which she was assisted by some of the men. When the tunic was off, steam arose from the voyager's body as from a boiler, and when the pantaloons were removed, the good hostess unceremoniously ordered the twelve apostles into the street. She procured a chicken which was soon broiling, and brewing some kind of tea, she compelled Paul to eat and drink, after which he was escorted to a room and snugly covered up in a big, canopied bed. He was no sooner stretched on the mattress than he was sound asleep, not waking until the sun shone through the window next day. He then heard the murmur of voices in the street. Jumping up, his feet struck a cold tiled floor which sent a chill over him. Peering through the curtain, he discovered a crowd of people looking up at his room and a buzz of voices was heard all about the house. Not remembering where he was, he pulled a bell cord and the summons was answered by the landlady, who greeted him kindly and hoped he felt better. She also informed him that two gentlemen were below who wished to see him.
"Let no one up but a doctor," answered Paul; but in a few moments three men were ushered in. Boyton was unreasonably suspicious and testily told the men that he only wanted a doctor. One of the gentlemen explained in French that he was the mayor of Meletti; that one of his companions was a doctor and they had come to take care of and entertain him. Such gracious answers to rough and suspicious questions, disarmed Paul and they were soon on friendly terms. The mayor informed him that a carriage was at the door to convey him to his own house, where better care could be had. It was explained that the patient had nothing to wear except his underclothing, and the mayor immediately procured him a suit of clothes and escorted him through a gaping crowd to the carriage, nor would he permit Paul to settle the hotel bill.
After an hour's drive the voyager was comfortably installed in a mansion, under the ministrations of a distinguished physician. No one could have been better treated. He afterward learned that his host, beside his official position, was a large landed proprietor, owning most of the village, and was a member of the great family of Gattoni de Meletti.
Reports that the man in the rubber dress had been attacked by the fever, spread all over Italy, and great numbers of people came from surrounding towns to see him and inquire as to his condition. The fire fever with which Paul was attacked (febbre del fuoco), is peculiar to the districts along the lowlands of the Po, and he had been eighty-three consecutive hours in the water when it overcame him.
For more than a week the doctor was in close attendance and then Boyton was sufficiently restored to health to go about. He was treated with the utmost consideration. The mayor took pains to show him everything of interest. Among his other possessions, the hospitable Italian owned great droves of cows. The cows of that vicinity are known all over the world, the famous Parmesean cheese being made there. The mayor's herd wintered in long sheds and were so near of one size that looking along the stalls over their backs they seemed as even and as level as a floor. The stalls and everything about the sheds were as clean and as sweet smelling as could be.
The notoriety given to the town of Meletti by the presence of Boyton created much jealousy in the breasts of the people of Castlenuovo Bocco d'Adda, the town in which he first appeared. They became impressed with the idea that their village had been cheated out of considerable fame by reason of the action of the mayor of Meletti in taking him away; so in order to even things up they formed a Boyton club and promoted a big banquet in his honor. This was followed by a more stupendous entertainment given by the people of Meletti, and thus there was great rivalry between the villages to honor the distinguished guest. At the Meletti banquet people were present from Cremona, and Boyton gave an exhibition in the lake for the benefit of the poor.
When thoroughly restored to health, Paul continued his voyage and was tendered an ovation all the way. On the fourth day he ended the journey at Ferrara. When he landed he found that the enterprising agent before alluded to, had pursued the same tactics there that had distinguished him at Piacenza. He had told the people that Boyton would surely be down on a certain day, while at the time he was ill at Meletti. On the day set by the agent for his arrival, great crowds gathered on the bridge and along the banks. A log floating down on the current was hailed by the agent as the voyager, much to the disgust of the people who strained their eyes until darkness sent every one home. The agent having reached the limit of his credit in Ferrara, as he had at the town up the river, secretly disappeared to the shades of Milan, where it is supposed that he resumed his operatic career.
After leaving Ferrara, Boyton gave many exhibitions through the interior towns of Italy; and finally made arrangements for a voyage down the Arno from Florence to Pisa, a distance of about one-hundred kilometers. All Florence was worked up to a state of great excitement when it became known that the intrepid American, as he was called, was going to start on a voyage from that city. The banks of the Arno were literally jammed with people to witness the start. The river, which is fed by mountain streams, was rising rapidly owing to recent heavy rains above and many were the exclamations of doubt regarding his ability to accomplish the undertaking. A dam, called the pescaia, spans the river diagonally in the midst of the city and it was looked upon as a dangerous obstacle by the people. The start was made shortly before two o'clock in the afternoon and the rapid current, assisted by the powerful strokes of his paddle, soon carried Paul beyond sight of the crowds and he went over the dam in safety.
At nine o'clock he arrived at San Romano where an immense crowd, including the notables of the district, together with the municipal junta of Montopoli, awaited patiently as possible his arrival. Torches blazed along the bank to show him where to land and loud huzzas rolled up from the multitude when he stood on the shore. He was escorted to a small inn where his only refreshments were two cups of tea. The crowd demanded a speech, and to quiet the yelling, Paul stepped to the porch of the inn and delivered most of the Italian words he knew:
"Signori, taute grazie di vostra accoglienza, arrivederie, ciao!"
The speech was greeted with great applause and the crowd was satisfied. He remained at San Romano but a short time and again entered the water. At some little distance below the village, there is a weir which is considered a most formidable spot by the inhabitants. They endeavored to persuade Boyton to remain until morning and not attempt its passage in the darkness, especially as the river was now much higher than when he started. Paul laughed at their fears and amidst the plaudits of the spectators, disappeared in the darkness. The weir so feared by the people, proved a mere toy for him.
A demonstration in his honor was prepared at Pontedera, where he arrived at 12 o'clock. Regardless of the late hour, the banks were crowded and torches gleamed along the entire length of the town. The whole population seemed to have turned out. As Paul came opposite, he stood up in the water, saluting the assemblage. As he resumed his recumbent position, his hand came in contact with the upturned face of a dead woman. For a moment he was horrified; but fastening the body to a line, he carried it to shore, while the band played and the people cheered, little suspecting that the voyager had such a ghastly object in tow. He called out that he had the corpse of a woman with him. Some of the authorities took charge of it; but the crowd gave it no heed as they followed up the street, cheering and tumbling over one another in their anxiety to see him. One enthusiast, who thought he was being unduly crowded, rammed his torch down another's throat. Boyton was compelled to repeat the speech he made at San Romano. The banquet was a noble success; but very trying to the landlord who appeared to be completely upset at having such unusual trade. Instead of heeding orders for edibles, he would rush into the banqueting hall every few moments and nervously count the empty wine bottles. The guests yelled at him to hurry; but those bottles were counted several times before anything was set on the table to eat. Paul remained at Pontedera until morning, simply because he did not wish to reach Pisa until the following mid-day, which was the time appointed. Consequently it was 8 o'clock in the morning when he resumed the voyage; he was escorted to the river by the same enthusiastic crowds. At noon he arrived at Pisa. A unique reception had been arranged. The mayor and all the authorities were out to meet him in those peculiar looking boats that are seen nowhere else in the world, called Lancia Pisana. Those boats are of ancient make; none of them being manufactured at the present day. They are about thirty feet long, richly carved and gaudily painted. Under the escort of these gay boats, containing the notabilities, Paul landed and again great crowds tendered him an ovation.
Under the impression that Boyton could neither speak nor understand the Italian tongue, the officials had engaged a man who was supposed to be a great English scholar, to act as interpreter for him at the feast to be given in the evening. The fellow was a burr, sticking to the outer skirts of respectable society, and when he was engaged to act as interpreter on such an occasion, he felt himself to be a great man. He was over weighted with his importance. At the banquet he sat at Boyton's right hand and at every toast proposed, he would rise and bow in the most gracious manner. This rather embarrassed Paul, who understood about all that was being said and could speak enough Italian to make himself understood. He mentioned the fact to one or two of his entertainers, at the same time expressing a desire to be rid of the interpreter. The fellow was having too much pleasure to be easily disposed of, and it was not until some very vigorous words were passed, that he concluded to abandon the scene. In the meantime he had been honoring every toast with copious draughts of wine, and was very much intoxicated when he left the hall. He wandered about the streets and the more he thought of his dismissal, the deeper became his wrath and he concluded that he had been insulted. A few more measures of wine, partaken of at the cafe, determined him to wipe the insult out in blood. Having made up his mind to write Boyton a challenge, he entered a hotel with an air of great importance, and called to a waiter in a voice that could be heard all over the place:
"Waiter; a pen, ink and paper. I wish to write to Captain Paul Boyton." The materials were given him and the following is a verbatim copy of the challenge sent by the accomplished English scholar to Paul:
[Image of obviously illegible gibberish]
Next morning Boyton returned to Florence and that evening while entertaining some friends in his room, one of the guests looked out at the window and remarked how much higher the river was than it had been when he started for Pisa. Some of the guests advanced the opinion that it would be impossible for him to go into the river while it was in such a flood. Paul, overhearing them, said: "Ladies and gentlemen, if you will step out on the porch and wait a few moments, I will enter the river and paddle through the city in order to show you that I am equally as safe in such water as I would be were it as smooth as glass."
While he was preparing for this short trip, the news spread over the city like wildfire and by the time he was ready, people lined either shore. When he proposed the trip, he had forgotten about the dam before alluded to, and did not know that the water was pouring over it in such torrents that it was extremely dangerous. He entered the raging current and was rapidly carried toward it. When he realized the danger he was approaching, it was too late to retreat, owing to the terrific power of the current that was bearing him to the falls. As he went over the sloping volume of water, he was met at the bottom by an immense back wave which drove him under. Where the clashing waves embraced each other, he was checked and held, being rolled like a log that is caught between a back and an undertow. Thousands of people crowded the banks in the vicinity of the pescaia and they gave Boyton up as lost. Men turned pale and women fainted. Now and again they could see an arm protruding from the dark, angry waters; then a leg and an end of his paddle which he had the presence of mind to retain. It was impossible to get a rope to him and certain death to attempt a rescue with a boat.
"Only God can save him now," yelled some excited Italian, "no man can do it."
The multitude felt there was nothing to be done but to stand helplessly by and watch him drown. And what were Boyton's thoughts? He stated afterwards: "I thought of it being Christmas eve. The news of my death would be telegraphed to New York, my mother would hear of it and it would make a sad Christmas for her." The voyager straggled with all the strength he possessed against the awful power of the contending waters and fortunately succeeded in throwing himself out on a big wave and was carried down. A great sigh of relief went up from the crowd which sounded like the rush of distant wind.
Soon after Paul was pulled from the river insensible. When he recovered from that adventure, King Victor Emanuel gave permission for him to appear in the Jardin Boboli. The excitement was so great during that appearance and the crowd so large that ticket takers were carried away from the gates, and though many thus entered free, several thousand francs were realized.
Paul was now the fashion in Italy. Songs were composed and sung in his honor at the theatres, brands of cigars and other articles were given his name; business men had their calendars for the new year printed with his adventures detailed on them, and the citizens of Meletti christened a lake after him. Managers of places of amusement advertised that he would be present at their entertainments in order to draw crowds, and everywhere could be heard the praises of the wonderful American.
From Florence Paul went to Rome, where he visited General Pescetto, Italian Minister of Marine, with whom he had a pleasant conversation, during which the meeting with his son on the Po was mentioned.
"What can I do for you?" cordially asked the General.
"Well," answered 'Paul, "my business is introducing my life-saving dress, which will be the means of preserving many lives on the coast as well as on the men-of-war you are now constructing."
"Ah, you have proved the value of your dress. I have no doubt of its efficiency; but our government has expended vast sums of money already for the benefit of shipwrecked mariners and we are not as rich as we would wish to be. The means we now have for saving life on the coast are considered sufficient, and in regard to adopting your dress on our men-of-war, I fear you do not understand the nature of the Italian sailor. If we placed a number of your dresses on the Duelio, for instance, or on any of our men-of-war, the sailors would reason that the vessels were not seaworthy and we would have much difficulty in persuading them to enlist." "Suppose I could prove to you that it would be possible to slip under one of your men-of-war on a dark night and blow her to atoms. How would that be?"
"Ah," responded the General earnestly, "that is a different question. If you can prove that to me, I will call a commission to examine into it."
Ample proof was given as to the efficacy of the dress in the torpedo service, and to-day there are many drilled experts in the Italian navy, which serves to show how much more interest is manifested in life taking than in lifesaving. Arrangements were made for an exhibition in the bano del poplo. In preparing for this entertainment, Paul first experienced the manner most of the European artisans have of doing business and their original way of preparing bills for services rendered. It was necessary for him to engage a carpenter to build several small boats for use in the exhibition. Paul asked the landlord to assist him in making a contract with a workman. With the accommodating host's help, an agreement was made with a skilled worker in wood to build six little boats according to specifications given, for the sum of five lire each. The carpenter had the boats ready on time, and during the exhibition, constituted himself a sort of major domo, making himself very busy and very much in the way about the place, as though he had charge of the entire affair. At the close of the entertainment, he presented a bill for seventy-five lire, when according to his contract, it should have been but thirty lire. Paul refused to pay until the landlord should examine the account and pronounce it correct. When it was shown to that gentleman, he vigorously protested against its payment, pronouncing it robbery and compelling the carpenter to render an itemized account. Following is a copy of the itemized bill, which will be of interest to business men and artisans of other countries:
To six boats, per agreement................30 lire. Wood for building..........................11 Nails.......................................2 Labor and making...........................14 Pieces broken in bending....................5 Carrying boats to the bano..................2 Time lost while at exhibition..............10 Wine for poor boy who fell overboard........1
Total 75 lire
The above is a fair sample of how contracts are adhered to in many European countries. Paul paid the fellow the thirty lire that were due him, receiving the profane blessing of the irate builder. Boyton was just in time for the great Roman Carnival and had the pleasure, if such it may be called, of witnessing the spectacle of barbrie barbrie. This was cruel and dangerous sport—a horse race along the Corso, the principal thoroughfare in Rome; which is a narrow, winding street. The race was contested by five or six thoroughbred horses, nearly wild and very vicious. They were turned loose in the street without bridle or any other harness with the exception of a surcingle, from the sides of which hung like tassels, steel balls, with sharp, needle-like points projecting from their surface that served to prick and goad the animals to a frenzy of speed. The streets were lined with people and it was all the enormous force of guards could do to drive them out of danger to the sidewalks. The balconies and windows of the houses were also crowded. The start was made near the upper end of the city at the Place del Popolo, where anxious grooms held the struggling horses; until, at the firing of a cannon, the bridles were slipped and the frightened animals dashed madly down the street, with those wicked steel balls swinging in the air and cruelly beating their sides, spurring them to a terrific pace. Each horse bore a number and as immense sums of money are wagered, cannons were placed at intervals along the route which were fired a number of times to correspond with the number borne by the horse in the lead, thus indicating to the betters the number of the horse in front at the different stations. Perfect pandemonium reigned during this wild dash down the Corso. Men and women yelled as though they were mad, and the shrill voices of children were also heard above the roaring of the cannon.
At the end of the Corso a net was dropped across the street, into which the frenzied steeds plunged and were flung to the ground, a tangled and bleeding mass of noble horse-flesh. Some were killed outright and others were so maimed that they had to be dispatched to put them out of misery. More or less people were always killed at these barbarous races; but for some years the barbrie has been abolished.
While in the ancient city, Paul determined to make a voyage down the Tiber. He went up the river as far as he could get, to Orte. The distance from that town to Rome is about one hundred and ninety miles by river. News of his determination to try the Tiber having preceeded him to Orte, he was royally received by the authorities and populace. When the start was made, the mayor escorted him to the river, lustily blowing a horn all the way, like a fish peddler trying to attract attention. The Tiber is an uninteresting stream, running through the Roman Campagna, and is made up of great bends. He left Orte in the afternoon, and night came on terribly cold. Now and then he would get a cheer from people along the banks; but in a moment it was lost. He drove rapidly along all night without an adventure worth recording. About six o'clock next morning he was caught in an awkward manner in the branches of a tree that had washed into the stream and he only freed himself by cutting away the limbs with his knife, causing considerable delay. All day he drove energetically along, and the stream turned and twisted so much that he frequently passed the same village twice in swinging around great bends. At nightfall he came near frightening the life out of a shepherd. Not knowing where he was and hearing the bark of a dog he climbed up the bank to ascertain, if possible, his locality. He met the shepherd on top of the bank, who looked at him a moment and then scampered away across the plain as fast as his legs would carry him.
That night Paul was met by the Canottiere del Tevere, the leading boat club of Rome, and was accompanied by them for the rest of the journey. Next morning, when they neared Rome, they hauled up at a clubhouse for breakfast. For some miles before they reached the city, people came out on horseback and on foot, saluting them with vivas. At three o'clock they pulled into Rome and were welcomed by thousands of people, and Paul was agreeably astonished at hearing a band play Yankee Doodle in a house which was profusely decorated with American flags. In fact, the reception was something indescribable. People were crowded into every available space. A barge upset in the river, but all the occupants were saved. Boyton landed at Ripetta Grande and so great was the pressure of the throng that the iron band about the waist of his dress was crushed like an eggshell. No end of fetes followed, the citizens seeming to vie with one another as to which could give the most splendid entertainment.
Naples was next visited with the intention of crossing the famous bay. Paul arrived in that city in time for the carnival, and enjoyed seeing Victor Emanuel, that grim but good natured old king, open the festivities by driving through the streets and submitting to the bombardment of confetti. His majesty smiled and bowed as he passed along, throwing some of it back at those who were standing near. The confetti is made of plaster of Paris and easily crumbles to powder, as flour and it is thrown everywhere and at everybody by the gay, laughing people.
On the afternoon of February 16th, 1877, Boyton crossed on the steamer to Capri, having decided to start from that point. While on the island that afternoon, he visited the Blue Grotto, an opening in the island leading into a cave of rare beauty, which is daily visited by tourists. A boat passes through the entrance and directly the visitor is enshrouded in intense darkness; but the moment anything touches the water, the phosphorus causes it to light up a vivid, silver-like color. Paul put on his dress and paddled all through the wonderful grotto, the rubber appearing like a bright, silver armor as he agitated the water with his paddle.
At three o'clock next morning he started on his trip across the bay from the steamboat landing. Notwithstanding the early hour, all the inhabitants of the island were on hand to witness the start. To his surprise he found the effect of the water of the bay in the dark, the same as had been observed in the Blue Grotto. Even the fish darting about, would leave a phosphorescent trail.
When the sun rose that morning, Mt. Vesuvius loomed up before Paul in the clear atmosphere. It seemed very near and he thought he would reach Naples before time. About nine o'clock, the bay became very rough and soon the blue waves covered him. He kept paddling on and on, yet the grim, smoke-covered mountain seemed no nearer. At three o'clock in the afternoon, he sighted a felucca bearing down on him. When near enough, he stood up in the water and hailed her. The occupants of the little vessel came to the rail, pointed at the unusual object in the water and then the great sail was veered around and they scudded swiftly away. Sailors on that bay have a superstition about picking up a dead body and they either supposed Paul was a drowned person or some mysterious denizen of the deep. At any rate they were too badly frightened to investigate. At five o'clock, the voyager was nearing Naples in a rough sea. The excursion boats went out but almost missed him. Sounding the bugle, he attracted their attention. He landed at the city at about seven o'clock before an enormous crowd, among whom were King Victor Emmanuel, the sindaco with the other authorities of Naples. The usual banquet was prepared and it was a late hour that night before the ceremonies were concluded. The fishermen of the city presented Paul with an address signed by over four thousand people connected with the water, and Marianne Aguglia, Comtesse Desmouceaux published a poem commemorating the event. Victor Emmanuel invited Paul to exhibit before him in the arsenal, or military port. The King was accompanied by his morganatic wife, the Countess of Miraflores. He was delighted with the performance, more particularly with the torpedo display. One of the pieces of timber from the explosion fell near his feet; he laughed merrily about it, while the Countess drew away in alarm. After the exhibition, Boyton divested himself of the rubber dress and stood clad in a well-worn naval uniform. He was escorted to the presence of the royal pair by Admiral del Carette. The King asked Paul many questions in his quaint, Piedmontese French, and then observing that the voyager was fatigued, he ordered two goblets of wine to be brought in, which good health and fortune were pledged. Then an officer was ordered to bring the cross, which the King himself pinned on Paul's blue shirt, knighting him with the Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy saying:
"You are a brave man and deserve this token of our appreciation."
In several engagements about Naples, enormous sums of money were taken. Then Boyton proceeded to Messina. Before leaving Naples, he had made up his mind to attempt the dreaded straits of that name, and dare the dangers of the noted whirlpools of Scylla and Charybdis. Every one cheerfully assured him that the attempt would result in death, for beside the dangers of the whirlpools, the straits were infested with sharks.
Arriving at Messina, he determined to test the report of sharks. At early morning he went to the market place and procured a large piece of meat which he took out near the fort, where the sharks were said to be numerous. He threw a piece of the meat into the water and it slowly sank. Paul, as he saw it going down, believed that the stories of the sharks were exaggerated; but suddenly it was drawn out of sight. Another piece was thrown in and had scarcely touched the surface when there was a rush and a swirl and the meat was snapped up in a twinkling. An old hat was thrown in next and it was torn to shreds in a second. This undeniable proof that sharks were plentiful in the straits, made Paul feel very blue, as he did not fancy giving up an undertaking after once setting his mind to it.
It was noised about that Boyton would attempt to swim the straits. The people of the city and surrounding country grew excited, and all manner of bets were made on the result. One night as Boyton sat gloomily at a small table in the corner of a cafe, he overheard a man wager his oxen that the American would not attempt the passage and that he could not cross if he did. Though much disheartened, when Paul heard this, as well as many more doubts expressed as to his ability to accomplish the feat, he determined to attempt it at all hazards. An old legend is extant among the fishermen and peasants of the locality that the only human being who ever crossed the straits without the aid of a boat, was St. Francisco, who, being pursued by his enemies, spread his cloak on the water and stepping on it was wafted across without harm and escaped. So the proposed attempt of Boyton was looked upon as certain death.
After deciding to try the passage, Paul engaged a felucca, owned by the most expert spearsman in those waters, to accompany him, and another for the invited guests and newspaper men. These boats were ready on the morning of March 16th, 1877, and sailed from Messina for the coast of Calabria, from which point the start was to be made. They arrived there at seven o'clock the same morning. The party consisted of several prominent men of Messina, among them the editor of the Gazette. Everybody was armed for sharks, the editor being especially well equipped for slaughtering these wolves of the deep and very bold in his assertions of how he would protect Boyton from their attacks.
At a small, scattered village on the Calabrian side, the felucca containing Paul and his guests landed. The dress and those on board were put ashore and preparations were at once made for the start. A sirocco was blowing at the time, setting a heavy tide in the direction of the whirlpool of Scylla, or the Faro, as they call it there. The sea grew rougher while the little party stood on the beach and as Boyton was dressing the most anxious one in the group was the enthusiastic editor. His nerve was slowly oozing out at his finger ends.
The inhabitants of the village began crowding down to the shore and when they learned what was going on, an old white-haired man approached the voyager, and in the most earnest manner, addressed him in the Calabrian dialect: "Don't go, don't go," he cried. "I had a boy such as you, who was lost out there and the devils of the straits will get you."
The appeal of the old man was interpreted to Paul and was the only occurrence of the day that had a tendency to upset his nerves.
The expert spearsman had arranged a place on his boat where he could stand and harpoon any sharks that might attack the adventurer, while the guests on the other craft thought they were pretty well fixed to keep the monsters off. Everything being ready, the felucca backed in from her cable to get the guests aboard. All were safely on except the bold editor. He was pale and his knees were knocking together. His courage was gone and he persisted in remaining on shore, until one of the sailors lifted him bodily aboard.
The sea was very rough when Boyton stepped into it. He struck away as fast as he could and both feluccas kept a sharp lookout. He reached mid- channel without encountering any danger, and stopped to look about and take his bearings. He perceived that he was nearing Charybdis. On looking around, just as the foremost boat rose on a huge wave, he saw what he thought to be a shark directly under it. He pulled his knife and prepared for an attack. He was rather nervous, and the feluccas seemed an awful distance away. He called out that a shark was in sight. Immediately, as Paul was afterward informed, the brave editor dropped on his knees and began to pray that they might not all be swallowed up. The shark was darting from side to side of the boat, but spying Boyton's black figure, it turned on its side and swam for him. Paul braced for the attack, and when the monster was close enough he ripped it under the mouth, and in going down it struck him a severe blow in the side with its tail, then disappeared, leaving a trail of blood in its wake. Boyton made away as fast as he could, glad to escape the monster so easily. He was not attacked again. The tide was carrying him right to the place where he had first discovered the presence of sharks; but a number of boats came off from Messina, their occupants yelling and splashing the water, which served to frighten the brutes away.
On the outer edge of the whirlpool of Charybdis, which is a great eddy caused by a jutting point of land on which a fort is built, and on the ebb tide strong enough to swamp a boat, Paul worked for one hour without advancing a single yard; the people all the while expecting to see him swallowed up. He held out, however, and at last landed safely at Messina. The American ships laying there dipped their flags in salute, and the entire population was filled with astonishment at the successful termination of the feat. The valiant editor of the Gazette, after feeling himself safely ashore, became quite a lion, graphically picturing the adventures of the day to admiring crowds. From the wharf to the city hall, where a reception had been arranged, the streets on both sides were lined with troops to protect Paul from the crowds. On arriving at the hall, he fainted and an examination showed that three of his ribs had been broken by the shark's tail and that the steel band of his dress was bent close to his body by the great force of the blow. He was conveyed to his hotel where he remained for two weeks until he was quite strong again. For some time after the attack by the shark, Boyton took life easy. He visited Mt. Etna, Catalana, Syracuse and other places of interest in Sicily. At Syracuse, he spent a lazy week. It is one of the dirtiest town in the world; but Paul enjoyed everything he saw. When on the street, he was generally followed by a crowd of boys who were trying to sell all sorts of little trinkets. One of them especially, was very persistent in trying to dispose of an ancient coin of the Ceasars, which he guaranteed to be very valuable and for which he would take the paltry sum of ten lire. Boyton finally told him that he knew all about the coin, and would give two lire to find the man who made it. The young villain mysteriously whispered the information, which later on was found to be correct. Some of the boys would get him ten fine oranges for one cent on being given an extra penny for going on the errand.
It was a favorite amusement for Paul and his agent to go out on the road in hope of encountering brigands, who were reported numerous and bold. They would enter some low cabriolet that was suspected of harboring these knights of the mountains. With carbines concealed under their coats, they would make an ostentatious display of rolls of Italian paper money, expecting that some of the robbers would follow them out on the road and stir up a little excitement. The brigands were either too busy at something else, or they regarded the American as rather too dangerous a customer to attack for they never materialized. Before leaving the old town, the authorities induced him to give an exhibition, which was witnessed by the entire population, brigands included. Just before the entertainment, Boyton hung his rubber-suit on a stone wall in the sun, to dry. When the crowd had gathered, he hurried on with the dress; but flung it off with much greater rapidity, when he found it was full of the little green lizards which abound on the island.
When the P. & O. steamer arrived, Paul and his agent embarked for Malta, where they had their first clash with the authorities. There is a peculiar law in that sleepy old town which prohibits the posting of any bills larger than a small sheet, about the size of note paper. The night after their arrival, they plastered the town with one sheet posters, which looked to the natives bigger than one hundred sheet stands would in this country. Next morning the inhabitants stood aghast at the audacity of the Americans in doing such an unheard of thing. They were summoned before the Governor and the enormity of their offense solemnly revealed to them; but owing to the plea of ignorance of the law, they were discharged, and ordered to take down the bills as quickly as possible. In obedience to the mandate of the Governor, they employed a sleepy-eyed native to do the work, with instructions to take his time. It required two days to undo the work of one night, but the authorities were satisfied and the exhibition was the best advertised of any that had been in Malta for years.
Paul was a great favorite with the boatmen and fishermen of Malta, and spent all of his leisure time with these acquaintances, going fishing with them almost daily. The boatmen are peculiar and their boats are queer affairs, every one having a large eye painted on each side of the bow. Paul asked a fisherman why eyes were painted on the boats, and he gravely replied:
"How could the poor things see without eyes?"
Not one of these men could be induced to go out in a boat that had no eyes painted on her.
From Malta, Paul went to Tunis, and on landing there, was genuinely surprised. The passengers and their baggage were loaded into boats for transfer to shore, nearing which, they were met by crowds of bare legged natives who waded out as far as they could and when a boat was near enough, they grabbed the baggage and trotted off with it, regardless of the remonstrances of the owners. At the custom house, the luggage was found; each native sitting stoically on whatever he had chanced to capture, with an air of absolute proprietorship. After it was passed by the custom authorities, it was carried to the hotel by the howling mob, where, with many kicks and cuffs administered by the landlord, it was reclaimed. Paul gave an exhibition at this place on which the awe stricken Moors gazed in wonder. He then returned to Italy in which country he gave exhibitions with extraordinary success. While working north, he received an invitation to visit Lake Trasmene, celebrated in Roman history. All the villages about the lake joined in a demonstration that was to take place at Pastgnano. Boyton's program was to cross from the old town of Castiglioni de Lago to the former place. The mountaineers living near the lake came out in queer boats loaded to the water's edge, in which they followed him across. He observed the wind rising and knowing that the heavily laden boats would not live in any kind of rough weather, he warned them and begged them to go ashore; but very few heeded him. Scarcely had he landed when an Italian officer rushed in to where he was undressing, excitedly shouting:
"Oh, go back. Go back. They are drowning out there."
As quickly as possible, Paul returned to the lake and saw that one of the boats had swamped. The three men who occupied it were drowned and could not be found. The accident put a damper on the festivities of the day. The bands of music were hushed and much sorrow expressed for the unfortunates. The Syndaco, however, invited Boyton to a dinner, and they were enjoying themselves very well, considering the circumstances, when a delegation of the people called and made the statement that a majority of the crowd was dissatisfied. Many were from a great distance, and demanded to see L'uomo Pesce, a name they had given to Boyton, meaning "Man Fish." Some of the leading men of the town advised Paul that it would be better for him to give some kind of an entertainment, otherwise there might be a riot. So much against his will, he went out and gave an exhibition, before the bodies of the poor fellows were recovered. The mountaineers were satisfied, however, and went to their homes with all sorts of ideas of the "Man Fish." That night after sundown, the bodies were found and the weird cries of the relatives rang dismally through the streets until morning.
Next day Paul and his agent remained over to pay their last respects and attend the funeral. They witnessed the peculiar ceremonies of the Misericordia, a society that has for its object the burial of the dead. They wear long, white robes, covering their entire person, with holes cut for the eyes, nose and mouth. They formed a grim looking procession, and as they turned those expressionless faces toward one, they sent a cold shiver down the spine. Regardless of this uncanny feeling, Boyton and his friend followed the procession into the church and by so doing, gained the good will of the villagers, who assured them that they were in no way to blame for the accident. The entire receipts of the entertainment, with a liberal addition, were presented to the families of the drowned men.
Exhibitions followed in Milan, Turin, Genoa and other cities of northern Italy, then the travelers passed into France, to the headwaters of the Rhone. Paul had selected this river for his next voyage. With the intention of making the entire stream from its source to the Mediterranean, he visited Geneva, in Switzerland. Here he discovered that it would be impossible to start from the lake, as by doing so he would be carried into the great cavern known as Per du Rhone, in which the entire river disappears and makes a mysterious and unexplored passage under the mountain. He was anxious to try the underground current through the cavern and did not give up the idea until several experiments had convinced him that it would be foolhardy to make the attempt. He stationed one of his assistants at the point where the Rhone again comes to the surface and with the help of others, miles above at the mouth of the cavern, he sent in logs of wood, bladders and other buoyant objects, none of which were observed to pass through by the watcher below. The last and deciding experiment, was sending in a pair of live ducks and these, also were lost. He then concluded to start below the cavern and selected the little village of Seyssel as the best point to prepare for the voyage.
The Rhone when high is one of the most rapid rivers in the world, and Paul's trip from Seyssel to the Mediterranean was the swiftest he ever made. The entire distance is five hundred kilometers, or three hundred miles, and his actual running time was sixty hours. He was enabled to push along at this unusual rate on account of the freshets swelling the river to a flood. He passed in safety the perilous rapids of the Saute du Rhone; but near the frontier of France he had a marvelous escape from a frightful death. The authorities on the frontier are kept busy watching for smugglers who work contraband goods from Switzerland into France. A quantity of goods were smuggled through the lines by floating them down the river at night, and in order to catch such articles the officers of the Duane stretched a strong gate of chain work across the river just at the border. This gate is thickly set with sharp iron hooks which hold the packages that float against them. Paul was not informed of this dangerous bar to his progress. As he neared the frontier village he noticed the utmost excitement amongst the crowds congregated on the banks. From their wild gesticulations, he could see they were shouting; but he thought they were simply cheering him and continued his rapid approach on the swollen stream. When near enough he saw that their faces were pale and they were making motions for him to stop; but the current was so swift that such a thing was impossible. He was irresistibly carried along by the terrible force. He next noticed several guards rush out on the bridge, who, throwing off their coats, began quickly to turn heavy cranks, and then he saw the sheet of glistening hooks rising slowly from the water. Now he understood why they had tried to stop him. To be thrown with all that force against those hooks meant not only certain death, but fearful mutilation.
Swiftly he drew near the wicked looking points and slowly, oh, so slowly they rose above the water. The people watched with nervous dread. Could they be hoisted high enough before he reached them? Many a silent prayer was murmured that the guards would be successful. Bravely those men strained every muscle; but the thing was unwieldy and the work was slow—fearfully slow. The terror of the people was depicted on their faces. They now saw that the last row of hooks was nearing the surface, but Boyton was almost upon them. The panting and perspiring guards redoubled their efforts. Paul swept under and the lower line of hooks barely allowed him to pass unscathed. A great shout went up from the crowd.
The current at that point was running fully twelve miles an hour. Boyton was asked how he felt when going so rapidly: "Such lively motion," he said, "greatly excites you. Your heart beats fast; you feel as if you had enormous power, whereas you have no power at all. There is something in the danger that pleases and thrills you."
After passing under the smuggler's chain gate, his course ran between lines of hills which fringe the banks of the river. He could see here and there on the slopes, an old woman with a cow. Every cow seemed to have a woman attendant in that country. Now and again one of them would catch sight of Paul as he sped along. For a second she would gaze at the unusual object and then move off—she and her cow. One old dame happened to be nearer the water's edge than the others, the voyager saluted by standing up in the water and shouting:
She crossed herself, and fled.
Next morning he was nearing the rapids of the Saute du Rhone, and inquired of the people he saw: "How far is the Saute?
"About two kilometers," was the answer.
"Which side shall I take for safety?"
The next one told him to take the right, and at last he was advised to keep in the middle.
Finding he could gain no reliable information, he stood upright and looked about to see, if possible, what the danger was. Ahead of him was a rapid, running amid big, black rocks and crossed by a bridge which was crowded with people. It was too late to think of stopping himself and be swept into and through it like an arrow; but at the bottom he was carried against a wall of rock and nearly blinded. He hung there for a few moments to recover himself, and again felt the current bearing him away almost as fast as he approached. He was kindly received all along, and had he accepted one-third of the invitations to entertainments, some months would have been required to finish the voyage. On one lonely stretch, he saw a solitary countryman standing on the bank.
"Ho, ho; my good friend," he shouted.
"Who is there?" asked the startled farmer.
"Where are you going?"
"Well, get along, then; you are going home."
Probably the farmer had visited Lyons, and was not pleased with that city.
Paul entered Lyons at two o'clock, having been twenty-four hours under way. He was tendered a splendid reception and presented with several rich souvenirs. Resuming the journey, he traveled at the rate of fifteen miles an hour and many people accompanied him in boats for quite a distance down the stream. At places along the route, the banks were broken, the river flooded the lowlands, and he was frequently carried among groves of trees, requiring no little exertion to keep from being pounded against them by the force of the current. He paddled that night and all the next day and night without meeting unusual adventure, when he reached Pont St. Esprit, with its long stone bridge, through one arch of which, the river rushes with much force. The next day ended this rapid voyage, as he landed at Arles in safety. The entire population was out to receive him. Not thinking of his exhausted condition, a force of gendarmes who had been sent by the Mayor to escort him to the hotel de Vine, turned a deaf ear to his demands for a carriage, but insisted on his marching through the hot, dusty street, encased in the heavy rubber dress, carrying his little boat and paddle so the people would have a good chance to see him. The gendarmes meant everything in kindness; but in that case, kindness coupled with ignorance, resulted in Paul's arriving at the hotel barely able to walk; he expressed his gratitude in rather vigorous terms.
From Arles, Boyton visited Monaco on the invitation of Monsieur Blanc, who was then at the head of the great gambling institutions of that place. At the instance of this world-famous gambler, Paul gave an exhibition for which he was presented with two-thousand-five-hundred francs by his host and his agent received five-hundred francs. The evening after the exhibition, Monsieur Blanc escorted the voyager through the sumptuous gambling palace. Thinking to please Monsieur, who had been so generous with him, Paul thought he would wager a few francs at one of the numerous rouge et noir tables and was proceeding to put down a Napoleon, when he was observed by his host whose attention had been distracted for a moment.
"Don't you do it," said he quickly, grasping Paul by the arm, "there are fools enough here without your becoming one."
Monsieur drew his guest away from the table and took him into the private office where rouleaux of gold were stacked in great piles about the walls.
One of the queer superstitions of gamblers was vividly impressed on Boyton at this place. Leaving Monsieur Blanc's office he sauntered about through the rooms, deeply interested in the exciting scenes before him. It became noised around that he was in the place, and some one pointed him out. He was immediately besieged at almost every step by ladies who had been playing with ill success. They represented almost every nationality, French, American, Russian, English and Italian. Looking upon him as a lucky man, they tried to persuade him to play for them.
"Ah, Captain Boyton," one would say, "you are a man of great luck. If you put this bet down for me, I know I shall win."
That was the request made by several, when they had an opportunity to speak to him. One or two assistants would have been needed to accommodate all of them.
Leaving Monaco, Paul gave successful exhibitions in the principal cities of southern France and was honored with several decorations. At Lyons he gave an entertainment for the benefit of the poor in the Park of the Golden Head, at which fifteen thousand francs were realized. One of the handsomest ladies of the city, donned a suit and went into the water with him. As a mark of appreciation, the people presented him with a magnificent poinard, sheathed in a richly carved scabbard, ornamented with a handle of artistic design, weighing, with the exception of the blade of fine steel, ten pounds solid silver.
Exhibitions were given through Belgium until November 15th, 1877, In Brussels they took one thousand dollars a day for four days, and at a benefit for the poor given in the lake of the Bois de Cambrai, under the patronage of King Leopold, at which the Royal family was present, an enormous sum resulted. The king bestowed on Paul the medal of the First Order of Life Savers of Belgium.
November 17th, he began a voyage down the Somme, which occupied two days. He started at Amiens. On the evening of the first day, just before reaching Ponte Remy, where he intended to stop for the night, he was surprised at receiving a charge of shot. While he was drifting around a point above that place, a duck hunter who was concealed in the bushes mistook his feet for a pair of ducks and fired at them. Luckily the shot struck the heavy rubber soles of his dress and no damage was done. Boyton rose up in the water with a torrent of forcible comments in English, and the frightened sportsman rapidly disappeared in the darkness.
Starting early next morning, he arrived at Abbyville in the evening, where the customary generous reception awaited him. Next day he returned to Amiens where he gave an entertainment, and thence to Paris. He had a new tender built in the latter city, in anticipation of a voyage down the Loire. He christened the new tender the Isabel Alvarez du Toledo, in honor of a fair maid of Italy. He began the voyage of the Loire, December 8th, 1877, at Orleans, to make a run to Nantes, a distance of four hundred and nine miles. The weather was cold and miserable. The river is bad, numerous shifting sand bars making it difficult to keep the channel, and added to this are many beds of treacherous quicksands. The lowlands, through which the course of the river runs, leave a free vent for the wind to strike its surface, making it desirable for sail boats to navigate. They are mostly wood and provision boats, flat bottomed and built somewhat on the plan of canal boats. They carry an enormous square sail on a single mast, larger than any sail used on the greatest ships.
At nine o'clock in the morning the start was made from Orleans and Paul arrived at Blois in the evening, where he came very near having his arm broken by coming in contract with a pile as he was leaving, so instead of running all night as he had intended doing, he hauled up and remained at Blois, much to the satisfaction of the citizens who entertained him in the most pleasant manner.
The following afternoon he started for an all night run, in order to make up for lost time. At nightfall the weather grew intensely cold and ice soon covered all exposed parts of his dress. A small, but powerful lamp on the bow of the tender, gave him plenty of light and that evening furnished the means of some amusement. Along the frozen road which follows the river bank for quite a distance, he heard the clattering of the sabots of a belated peasant, who was singing to keep his courage up. Paul darkened the lamp by putting a piece of rubber over it, and when the profile of the peasant stood clear between him and the sky, he suddenly removed the rubber and turned, the light full on the man, at the same time sounding an unearthly blast on his bugle. The startled peasant uttered no sound; but the distant clinking of his sabots down the road, told how badly he was frightened.
About four o'clock that morning, Paul felt his dress touching bottom, the current slackened, and he knew he had wandered into a false channel. With some difficulty, he assumed an upright position and the moment he did so, found his legs grasped as in a vise.
He was caught in the quicksand.
With a feeling of horror he felt himself settling, settling in the treacherous sands, until he was slicked down nearly to the neck, his face almost even with the surface, the dark water gliding by him like some slimy serpent into the night.
The tender swung round with her bow pointing toward him, the strong light from the bull's eye glaring him in the face with its blinding rays. The little boat seemed to realize the awful situation and she tugged at the cord which fastened her to the dress, as though struggling to free him. From the moment the sands were felt, he' had worked to free himself, only to find that the effort sunk him deeper. He began to think he was not going to get out; that his time had come and not a trace on earth would be left to tell of his dreadful end. But his was not a nature to give up until the last gasp. The thought struck him that there was some chance for life by fully inflating the dress which, would have a tendency to lighten and give him more buoyancy. He seized the air tubes and in the desperation of a final hope, he blew for his life. He could feel himself lighting as the chambers filled. He had the dress inflated almost to bursting and with a powerful effort, he threw himself on his back. He was lifted clear and moved away on the gliding water, continuing the lonely journey with a prayer of thanksgiving in his heart.
At ten o'clock next morning he arrived at Tours, with nerves considerably shattered, and he accepted the invitation of that municipality to stop for refreshments. The kindness of the citizens and the officials was overwhelming, but he remained only long enough to become thoroughly rested when he again sought the river.
At every village during the entire trip, he was given a warm reception. The weather being cold, the mayors insisted on his drinking hot, highly spiced wine, and he was also invariably greeted with the question asked in all countries and all towns, American as well as European: "Are you not cold?"
The little boat was loaded down with supplies and invitations were continuous from chateau and cottage to stop and partake of refreshment. Sometimes he would run far into the night before hauling up, but usually his rest was broken by bands of music turning out to serenade him, and at one place, where there was no band, an enthusiastic admirer blew a hunting horn most of the night under his window. It was a frightful but well intended serenade.
When he reached Ancenes he was met by a crowd, headed by the mayor with a liberal supply of hot wine. From this point a boatman who was employed in placing stakes indicating the changes of current, for the guidance of navigators, insisted on accompanying Paul. He had been on a protracted spree and proved annoying.
"I know the river well," he said, "and will pilot you down."
"I assure you there is no necessity for a pilot," Paul answered, "I have journeyed so far without one and can go the rest of the way."
He could not get rid of the fellow that easily, so he concluded to try some other plan. After they had proceeded a short distance Boyton asked the persistent boatman to have a drink, at the same time handing him a bottle of very strong wine that had been given him to use in case he needed a stimulant. The fellow, already half intoxicated, absorbed most of the contents and was soon maudlin. He ran his boat around and across Boyton to the latter's great annoyance. He became drowsy, however, and finally fell into a deep sleep. That was the opportunity Paul desired. He seized the anchor that was in the bow of the fellow's boat and dropped it in the stream. The boat swung around and hung there, and Paul paddled away. When quite a distance down he heard faint cries of "Captain, Captain, where are you?" The boatman thought he was drifting; but Boyton never saw him again.
Below Ancenes Paul was met by Jules Verne, the distinguished novelist, who came up the river on a boat rowed by some of his sailors. He accompanied the voyager all the way to Nantes, where the trip terminated. The two men became great friends, the navigator enjoying the novelist's hospitality on his yacht and also at his residence in Nantes. Monsieur Verne afterward made use of the life-saving dress to illustrate scenes in a novel entitled "The Tribulations of a Chinaman." Nantes was reached eight days from the time of starting. Excursion steamers met them and fired salutes, The Hospitaliers des Sauveteurs Bretons, the leading life-saving society of France, elected Paul an officer of the first rank and gave him diplomas and medals.
Until January 15th, Paul remained in Nantes, then he went to Madrid. The weather was very cold. It was his intention to make a voyage on some of the Spanish rivers. On looking over the country, he selected the Tagus as being the least known and promising more adventure than any of the others. When it was announced that he was going to attempt that river, several of the-leading residents of Madrid endeavored to dissuade him; he received letters from many prominent people telling him that the river was not navigable, running as it did, through a wild, mountainous country, and full of waterfalls. He concluded to take a look at the stream himself and so form his own opinion. For this purpose he went to Toledo and found there a narrow, turbulent river, rushing over great masses of rock. He hired a mule and rode several miles down its banks and discovered no improvement. In making inquiries of the natives about the character of the river, the invariable answer was, "Mucho malo, Senor; mucho malo." "Very bad, sir; very bad."
Boyton was far from liking the looks of the river; but made up his mind to try it anyhow, especially as everyone told him he could not do it. After deciding on a course, he returned to Madrid and witnessed the fetes attending the marriage of King Alfonso and Queen Mercedes. The young King took great interest in the proposed voyage; he sent word over the country that the American was the guest of all Spain, and requested his people to receive him hospitably. Before leaving Madrid to begin the perilous undertaking, the Minister of the Interior gave Boyton maps of the river and all the information concerning it he possessed, which was surprisingly little: The maps were glaringly incorrect, as was afterward learned. Many towns that the maps located on the river were not near it.
When all was ready Paul's agent and baggage were sent to Lisbon to await the termination of the voyage. Paul returned to Toledo to make final preparations for the trip, which was one never before attempted. In fact, as far as was known, the river had never been navigated from source to mouth. It is three thousand five hundred feet above sea level at Toledo, which accounts for its rapid descent. On his return to the famous old city, Boyton was met by an aid-de-camp of the governor, who tendered the hospitality of that official, which was gratefully accepted for one day. That day was spent in visiting interesting points. The next morning, Thursday, January 31st, 1878, Paul drove to the river through the Gate of the Sun, and found a crowd of people assembled to see him start. In a few moments he was in the water, and the people cheered lustily as he began energetically to ply his paddle. As he turned the bend at the end of the first half mile, he took his last look at the stately Alcazar, away on the Crest of the hills, and at the ruins of the Moorish mills on the riverside below. Onward, and the bright, sunlit vision faded from his view.
"Now that I was started," said Paul, detailing an account of the wondrous journey, "I felt easier and stopped at noon to partake of a light dinner. I knew I was in for a tough job and made up my mind to go through with it. The river ran all over the country and was as changeable in temper as a novelist's heroine. Sometimes it was a mile wide, running slowly, with as calm and smooth a surface as a lake. Again, at the next bend it would dart toward a range of hills, and instead of going around them as its previously erratic course led me to expect, it would plough straight through the solid rocks. Then it would become as narrow as a canal, deep and rapid as a mill race, and in some places hurried along with the speed of an express train. The country was utterly wild, and it was not an unusual thing to paddle from morning until night without seeing a human being. As I knew nothing of the river except that I was bound for Lisbon, it may be imagined that I was not perfectly easy in my mind, I did not know but that the next angle in a canyon might land me in a whirlpool or over a fall.
"A great majority of the peasants do not read and were therefore ignorant of my undertaking. They are somewhat superstitious and my first adventure was with two of them. It was some hours after I left Toledo that I spied these men. They were great, hulking fellows, engaged in rolling a large stump up the steep hill, rising from the bank of the river. Slipping quietly along the surface, I got close behind them without their seeing me. When I hailed them, they gave me one startled look, released their hold on the stump which crashed down to the river, while they ran up and disappeared in the recesses of the hill. They never stopped to look the second time.
"I thought I would reach Peubla the first night; but owing to the extraordinary bends of the river, nightfall found me in a terribly rough portion of the country. I kept dashing from waterfall to waterfall, from rapid to rapid, until two o'clock in the morning, when the barking of a dog caused me to haul in. It was intensely cold and I was very tired. I blew a blast on my bugle and some very rough looking men came down to the bank. They proved to be shepherds and very kindly took me to their hut, which was not far from the water. They had the queerest way of keeping fire I ever saw. It was made of straw, the embers banked in such a way that there appeared to be only a black mass; but when they blew on the mass, a red glow would blush from it, throwing out considerable heat. Over this fire, they cooked a little soup for me. I remained in the hut until morning, stretching out on the floor for a little rest, while they stood about, speaking their mountain patois which I could not understand. I left them early in the morning, passing through wild mountain scenery and seeing no signs of habitation. No railroad or telegraph lines cross the river until near Lisbon and there was no way for me to get word to my friends. I arrived at Peubla at twelve o'clock and owing to the fact that I ran on to an old, broken bridge which cut my dress, I was compelled to haul up. The Alcalde was out in his high, picturesque cart, drawn by a tandem team of mules. I accepted his invitation, and was driven up through the olive groves to his house, followed by crowds of people. That night there was a sort of entertainment given in my honor and having no clothing with me except the heavy suit of underwear; I had to borrow a suit from the Alcalde in order to be presentable. The women of that place were most gracious and the girls as pretty as pictures. The Alcalde's little daughter took an interest in me. She talked to me a great deal, and in fact I could understand her Spanish much better than I could the adults. What a pretty little thing she was—a perfect type of Spanish beauty. She tried her best to deter me from continuing my voyage; but next morning she went to the river to see me start. In fact the entire village was there. When I was about to step into the water and was bidding her adieu, she pressed a small religious medal into my band, saying:
"Oh, I am so afraid you will never get to Lisbon. Take this, it will help you through, The Blessed Madonna will protect you from danger."
"I kissed the little one good bye and slipped into the water amid the vivas of the crowd. I was much grieved to hear, on reaching Lisbon, that the little girl died a few days after my departure.
"Nothing of interest occurred during the day except that it was very cold and rough and a snow storm was raging. On Sunday morning I arrived at Talavera, where the kindness of the people was so great I was compelled to leave the water and rest for awhile. From there the river ran through a lower country; but wound about so that I could never see more than a quarter of a mile ahead anywhere. There was a continual change of current, now very rapid and again sluggish and smooth. Just below the town is a water fall of considerable proportions and a great crowd had gone down there to see me shoot over. In a spirit of bravado, I stood up when near the brink and was hurled over head first. Had I hit a rock, it would have killed me. The people cheered, thinking that was the way I always went over them, but I tell you I made up my mind never to try the experiment again.
"It was not long until the land began to rise higher and higher, or rather, as it appeared to me, the river seemed to sink lower and lower and settle down among the great hills. I could not tell from the maps how I was working and I was anxious to see anyone in the hope that I could get some information. During Monday I swept on a flying current around a point of rock and was glad to catch sight of two men on the bank. One stood on the ground surrounded by a group of sheep, the other was up in a tree with a knife, lopping off the young limbs, throwing them to his companion who distributed them to the sheep. I hailed them with the cry of 'Hey, brother.' The man in the tree looked around and on discovering my black figure in the water, helplessly let go all holds and fell to the ground. His companion was startled; but when, recovering from the shock, I was pointed out, he ran to the bank, yelled something that seemed to be a warning and then both disappeared. As I passed on, I saw why he had shouted. A young, gipsy-like girl stood on a shelf of rock surrounded by goats. As the current was carrying me toward her, she gave a cry of alarm and faced me, the long-bearded goats doing the same. They formed a beautiful picture. Not wishing to frighten her, I called out some reassuring word in Spanish, and to show that she was not frightened, as were her male protectors, she seized a big stone and raising it defiantly over her head, awaited my approach. As I passed, I waved her an adieu and then she dropped the stone and fled up the mountain followed by her goats.
"All day I picked my way cautiously along, using every energy to avoid the varied shaped boulders which filled the river. At one time I appeared to shoot down a very steep hill. I was hemmed in by huge rocks that rose like a high wall on either side and there was no possible way to get out. The thought struck me that I was going into some subterranean passage, the perpendicular walls seeming to close in and swallow up the entire river. I was swept down by the mighty, though narrow current, and was beginning to feel sure that I was being carried into some underground rapids, when I was suddenly dumped into a deep pool, where the course of the river was running smooth and placidly along almost at right angles with the rapids above. At this abrupt turn, evidences of former floods were plain. Immense rocks were cut and carved in spiral columns as skillfully as any sculptor could have chiseled them. Great flocks of wild black ducks peculiar to the Tagus, were continually rising at my approach.
"At ten o'clock that night, hearing the heavy roar of rapids below and the river becoming wilder, I decided to stop until daylight. I crept cautiously in shore until I found an opening and there landed. There was no wood to build a fire and I laid for several hours in my dress. At daybreak I resumed the voyage and it looked as though I was penetrating the very bowels of the mountains, whose crests loomed high in the sky. I soon discovered the cause of the roar that had arrested my progress the night before. It was an ugly rapid, madly fighting sharp, broken rocks and I was dashed in amongst them. In trying to make a passage to escape a back water, something like that I had gone through on the Arno, at Florence, I turned so quickly that the little tender was thrown into the vortex on one side, tearing loose from my belt, while I was rapidly carried down the other. I never saw her again and what was more, I was left without provisions of any kind.
"That afternoon the river increased in speed and, dashed along at a mad rate. Once in a while, as I wheeled around some sharp bend, I could hear a sullen roar that plainly indicated the presence of falls below; but it seemed so far away that I paid but little attention to it. I kept driving steadily along, enjoying the exhilaration of the rapid pace, when my attention was attracted by the report of a gun. Looking up I saw a guarda civil, the gendarme of Spain, who held his carbine aloft and vigorously waved his hat with the other hand as I shot by. The current increased and the roar below became more audible. Going around another bend I saw a number of people on the bank waving their hats with a downward motion. That is the signal used in Spain when you are desired to approach. I misunderstood it, and thought it meant for me to take the other side, which I did and found I was in a current from which I could not extricate myself. Another sharp, turn and the village of Puente del Arzobispo came into sight with the heavy spray from the falls rising high in the air. The roar was like the deep rumbling of thunder when near at hand. I paid no attention to the shouts of the people to stop, for I saw could not possibly get out of the current, so I exerted myself to pass the falls safely. I saw where the water sank on the brink and I knew that was the course of the channel, and I also knew that my only chance of safety was to reach that point. All my energies were directed to it and in an instant I was on the brink of, a series of falls, tumbling from ledge to ledge like the steps of a colossal staircase. Fortunately I struck the deep channel—my only safe course. I was covered with foam and spray and could not see. All I could do was to trust to Providence and the depth of water, and I shortly found myself twisting around in a great pool below. Half stunned and almost smothered by frequent submerging and the weight of the volume of water that had fallen on me, I drifted helplessly toward the bank. The next thing I remembered was hearing sounds above me and a hand reaching down and grasping me, while a voice in French said:
"It's about all I do," was my answer.
Then strong arms hauled me out on the bank. The one who had addressed me was a priest, and through the midst of a madly excited crowd he escorted me up the street to the palace of the archbishop, a quaint old building, almost in ruins. Here every possible kindness was extended from the civil, military and religious authorities. At the banquet tendered me I was dressed in a suit of clothes half clerical, half military; but I enjoyed it as well as my tired bones would permit. I excused myself as early as I could and went to bed with the intention of making a start in the morning; but when morning came I felt so broken up and sore that I concluded to remain over and rest a day.
I was taken in hand by some of the prominent people and shown the places of interest in the village. Among those visited and one that greatly interested me, was the olive mills. The town is noted for the production of a superior olive oil; but the mode of producing it is most primitive, being almost the same as that used by the Moors hundreds of years ago. They first place the round, green olives in sacks that are then set in a large stone bowl into which a flat cover lifts. An old time screw with beam attachment presses on the stone cover, and as an ass, hitched to the end of the beam, tramps wearily round and round the screw presses the stone tight on the olives, squeezing the oil into cemented grooves at the bottom of the bowl through which it flows into casks. The refuse, or pummies, as we would call them, is fed to the hogs and cattle. It struck me at the time that with our improved American machinery, we could extract about four times as much oil out of the pummies thrown away, as they got out at the first pressing.
"Another place I visited under the escort of the good padre and an officer, was the prison. This prison contained as choice a collection of murderers as ever drew a knife across a helpless traveler's throat. The news of my coming had preceded me and these free knights of the mountains stood in rows along the corridors to receive me, backed up by several well armed carbineros. The worthy padre would point out the most distinguished of these gentlemen. 'That one,' he'd say, 'is in for killing two travelers at such or such a pass. This one abducted a wealthy man and demanded ransom from his family, to whom he sent the ears of the unfortunate, and the ransom not coming, his throat was slit. The one over there, killed four men before he was caught,' and so on down the line, such cheerful histories were told. I politely saluted each artist of the knife and carbine as I passed, and on leaving, one of them stepped up and addressed me in a patois which the padre translated. The request he made, struck me as being so ridiculous, that I could scarcely refrain from laughing. It was to the effect that they all had heard of my voyage down the river and all of them were anxious to witness my departure on the morrow and knew if I would kindly intercede with the Governor, they would have that happiness.
"The request was so absurd, that I had no thought of saying anything to the Governor about it. In going out, the Governor invited us into his private apartments, and while being entertained there, I jokingly told him of the queer request the brigands had made. I was more than ever astonished at his replying:
"Como no? Senor" "Why not, sir?"
"When starting, next morning, I was frequently warned that the river was very bad; but could get no information of any consequence, except that it wound through many canyons. The whole town turned out to see me off and as I was feeling very much refreshed, I was soon ready. Going to the bank, what was my astonishment to see all those gentle murderers standing in a row with carbineros on either side, guarding them. One of the brigands, the spokesman of the day before, stepped forward and addressed me thus.
"'Illustrious Captain. We would like much to form your escort down the river as a protection against the lawless characters which we are aware infest the mountains below; but being detained here against our will, we are unable to offer you that homage. But as a mark of our pure regard, on behalf of myself and worthy companions, I present you with this purse, a specimen of our own handicraft and may you never lack means to keep it full.'
"The purse was a long, knit affair in colored yarns, looking like an old fashioned necktie. I thanked them and regretted the cruel circumstances which prevented their accompanying me, while secretly rejoicing that such a disreputable looking set of villains was closely guarded.
"I took to the stream again and the mountains once more looked as if they were closing in on the river. At times I would sink into quiet pools, requiring incessant paddling to push through and then emerge into rapids that would necessitate the utmost labor to keep from being dashed on the rocks. I ran all that day without meeting any one. About ten o'clock at night, I noticed a light down the stream and sounded my bugle. I was tired and chilly and glad to hear a hail from the direction of the light. I landed at a sort of ferry and found a man and woman awaiting me with a lantern. They escorted me to a little cabin and the woman bustled about, building a fire out of weeds and other stuff, wood being very scarce. Their patois was of the mountains and I could not understand their speech nor they mine. By signs, however, we understood each other very well and I intimated to them that I would stretch out before the fire all night. But they refused to allow me to lie on the floor. I understood them to mean for me to take the bed as the man was going away somewhere. This I did and was soon sound asleep. At one o'clock in the morning, I was awakened with an impression that some one was in the room near me. I looked up and by the dim rush light saw a tall figure standing by the bedside, upright and stiff, a three cornered hat on his head, a carbine strapped across his back and a sword by his side. In answer to my look of wonder, he simply raised his right hand and gave a military salute. I asked:
"Que esta, Senor?" "What is it, sir?"
"His reply was: 'By order of the king, I am here to offer you protection and assistance.'
"Thanking him for his courtesy, I turned over in bed and went to sleep again.
"After breakfast of wild boar bacon, which was the sweetest meat I ever tasted, the guard and my host accompanied me to the river. I carried a good supply of gold and silver with me; but all offers of money throughout the entire eight hundred miles of this voyage, were peremptorily refused. It was impossible to spend a cent. In fact, the money wore through the little bag I carried it in and I found it loose in my dress. The only place I used a cent on the trip was at Talavera. A boy who had done an errand for me, accepted a peseta. When it was found out, he was sent back with it and apologized for his conduct.
"The river now began to get very narrow and to bury itself in canyons, so that during the day the sun scarcely ever shone on the water except at noon when it was directly overhead. Since losing my little tender, I had no way to carry provisions except in a small oil cloth strapped on my breast. The host of the cabin had insisted on my taking some of the wild boar bacon with me; but seeing their stores were low, I took but very little, which I easily devoured at noon. For three days I continued the voyage through canyons and during the entire time the only signs of human life I saw was an occasional glimpse of people far up in the mountains, passing along, but too distant to attract their attention. My progress was slow owing to the long stretches of dead water I would strike, it was silent and lonely. The wild black ducks I would scare up were the only signs of life on the river. All the sleep I took was during daylight. I would haul up on some dry rock near the shore and in a moment be buried in profound slumber. At night I dare not sleep, for I could hear the howling of the wolves that are fierce and plentiful along that part of the Tagus, and their dismal yells warned me to keep to the river.
"On the morning of the third day in the canyons, I was stiff, sore and hungry, having eaten nothing but wild olives, gathered near the banks, for two days. That morning the idea struck me that I must have wandered into some false channel, or some branch from the Tagus, as I could make no headway. I came to an upright position and with every sense sharpened by hunger, listened to hear, if possible, the ringing of a bell, the barking of a dog or any sign of life; for I had about reached the conclusion that it was time for me to leave the water and climb the mountain in search of some house or village; but not a sound broke the deathlike stillness, except the distant rumbling of rapids I had passed over or those below that I must soon encounter. As I wearily sank back in the water and grasped the paddle in the hope that farther down some opening in the mountain might give me a chance to escape, something familiar struck my senses. I could not tell what it was. It was intangible, yet I felt there was something about that belonged to human beings. Again I came to an upright position, peered in every direction and listened. It was then discovered what it was that had so affected me. It was the smell of smoke which the breeze was gently carrying up the river. I pushed down on my course with all my strength in hope of finding the fire, and on rounding a sharp bend was rewarded by seeing a thin, blue streak curling up from the mountain side. I landed a little above it and commenced clambering over great, detached rocks, until I gained a terrace on a level with the line of smoke. I paused to listen and heard the muffled sound of voices near me. The voices came from the other side of a small promontory around which I crawled. My soft rubber boots made no sound, and as I rounded the rock I was surprised to find myself almost alongside of two shepherds. One of them was stooping over the fire stirring something in a stew pan, while the other was rolling cigarettes in corn husks, their backs turned toward me. Previous experiences with these simple people of the mountains had taught me how superstitious and easily frightened they are, and wishing to gain some information from them as well as something to eat, I let the point of my iron shod paddle strike a rock, at the same time saluting them with 'buonos dias mis hermanos,'—good day, my brothers. The men sprang to their feet and turned around at the unexpected salutation. Then a wild yell rang through mountain top and ravine and they dashed away like a pair of frightened deer. At every hail for them to stop they only redoubled their efforts to escape and soon disappeared up the ravine. I sat down and made a breakfast off the provender they had left behind and enjoyed it as I never enjoyed anything before. I also absorbed a pig skin flask of Spanish wine which afforded me great consolation in my exhausted condition. I then took off the dress and dried myself before the fire and rising sun, in hopes the shepherds would take courage and return; but they never came back. Before dressing I left a Spanish dollar on the upturned bottom of the stew pan, and returned to the river much refreshed and all traces of hunger gone.
"I had not proceeded more than a league when I observed a man seated on a mule, occupying a point of rock overlooking the river. The man, on seeing me, raised a bugle to his lips and sounded a merry blast, which was, answered by loud cheers further down. On arriving opposite the lookout, I was informed that the Governor of Caceres and a party of ladies and gentlemen were waiting for me at a short distance below, and in a few moments I sighted the party and landed. I was warmly received by a numerous gathering. The Governor informed me they had driven across from Caceres the day before, to intercept me; that he had had a message from King Alphonso to see that I wanted for nothing. He pleasantly remarked to me in French, that it was an old Spanish custom to say to a guest, 'my house is yours,' but he would change the saying to 'my country is yours.'
"The place at which I landed was a ford or ferry. The Governor and his party were sheltered under a large tent which had been erected for the occasion, and were attended by a troop of servants and cooks. The latter had prepared a regular banquet and oh, how I wished I was so constituted that I could take enough food aboard to last me some days. As it was, the bounteous feast deserted by the shepherds, had filled me to repletion and I could do but scant justice to the load of luxuries they spread before me. I spent the day pleasantly with them, however, and parted that evening with many kind wishes and warnings. The Governor's engineer, who was one of the party, told me all he knew about the river and said I would soon reach the terrible rapids known as the Salto del Gitano—the Gypsey's Leap.
"After leaving the delightful company, I bowled away on a flying current and ere long heard a roar below warning me that I was approaching a dangerous point. I prepared to take it, no matter what it was. The river closed in between two natural walls, as narrow as a canal, and danced away at a lively pace. The water dashed over the rocks that obstructed its passage, and was churned into foam and spray that leaped high into the air. As the roar below grew more terrible, I lost some courage and endeavored to check up, fearing to encounter backwater. In attempting to stop myself, I grasped a rock as I was being carried by; but did not have strength enough to resist the force of the current, and so was hurled along. The current ran about thirty kilometers an hour, and the rocks were so high on either side that only a small strip of sky was visible overhead. The stream took on an abrupt turn about every hundred yards and was running in the most peculiar currents. I was tossed repeatedly from one side of the river to the other by sortie unseen action and bumped against the rocks. I dashed through two or three rapids and then came to a fall that almost deafened me with its roar. I saw the water in front of me rushing together in big waves and then jumping, leaving nothing but white foam to show where it disappeared. I was drawn down and whirled and thrown about; how I came out I can't tell. I do know, however, that I was puffing and trying to breathe. It was quite a while before my head became clear after that shaking up; but I kept right along.
"All that night I ran through another series of canyons until about two o'clock in the morning, I saw in the moonlight what seemed to be a thin string across the river, but on drawing closer, it proved to be the bridge at Alcantara. It is a queer stone bridge, with two abutments and one arch stretching across from one mountain to another, high up in the air. There was no one out and I climbed up to the level of the bridge. By calling and making a lot of noise, I succeeded in rousing the bridge tender, who took me to the house of the Alcalde where all turned out and welcomed me. I stopped there over Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed myself. At night I went to a theatrical entertainment and was called on for a speech, to which I responded to the best of my ability. I was presented to many ladies and thought them the handsomest I had seen in any part of Spain.
"I started early next morning and a short distance below, came to the point where the river is bordered on one side by Portugal, and I soon noticed a Portuguese flag flying from a mast and heard loud vivas from the crew of a flat bottomed boat with a cabin, which I ran alongside of and was informed that the boat had been sent by the Portuguese government to meet me. The captain also carried a letter from the Minister of Marine stating that the boat had been placed at my disposal. At this I felt wonderfully relieved. The hard work was now all over, as I simply followed the government craft for the remainder of the journey. It was quite a novelty at first to begin taking my meals regularly again and as there was an abundance of everything, I began to thoroughly enjoy the trip. We would tie up every night and I occupied the cabin.