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Chapter 66: Italy and Switzerland

Wednesday, May 14th, after twelve days in Constantinople, we went on board the Italian steamer Odonne and sailed about five o'clock in the afternoon for Greece. The passage via the Archipelago was so interesting that we remained on deck till we saw the lights which showed the way into the little harbor of Piraus. After a sleep of three hours, near six o'clock in the morning, we.landed at the principal dock of the city, and I immediately secured a carriage for Athens. The road was comfortable, being macadamized, and the farms were good to look at though not very productive. The people seemed like ours of New England, active and industrious, everybody doing something. As we came to Athens, we cried out, “Beautiful” ; for we saw the new part of the city first. The modern structures of white marble were very attractive. The new part had clean streets and sidewalks of stone. We went straight to the Hotel d'athens, and after refreshment with plenty of clear water, and a nice breakfast, we looked up our good American Minister, Mr. Schuyler. He was a handsome and charming young man and glad enough to welcome his countrymen. While in Greece we paid a visit to different churches, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the old walls of the city, the Temple of Theseus, and the little [514] chapel on the top of a steep mound called the Temple of the Winds, and all other places that tourists must see. A special privilege came to us on Tuesday, May 20th, in attending King George's reception. The king was goodlooking, tall, strongly built, about forty years of age, and of high culture. We were introduced by our minister and the king received us most graciously. In speaking English his tone and manner were those of England. The reception itself was not crowded and seemed very like those given by our college presidents at Commencement seasons.

Many ancient towns were pointed out to us while in Greece, and especially from the deck of our departing steamer the few remaining tumble-down buildings of Corinth, but we did not go ashore for further inspection. The ruins of the old Corinthian Acropolis were in sight.

Friday morning at Brindisi, Italy, we disembarked from the steamer Pelops about sunrise and went at once to the railroad station. The country round about as we left Brindisi was attractive and fertile. The city itself had wide and clean streets, but notwithstanding the general look of prosperity there was a large sprinkling of beggars among the people. We sped by rail across a beautiful land, having every variety of scenery that any country can exhibit, till we came to the charming town of Caserta. Our hotel here was called “Ville de Florence” ; in that summer heat we had good air besides a broad and charming outlook. I noticed that there were artificial stone floors, arched ceilings, rooms wainscoted with cement and colored like green marble. As we had planned, we rested here over Sunday.

Quite early Sunday morning Jamie and I sauntered [515] out and walked to the suburbs where we found a large field dotted with troops, then quietly at rest. Soon the reviewing officer, an Italian general, appeared. Immediately the men, about 3,000, were called to attention and marched into position for review. All exercises were had then at double-quick time. The men were hearty looking — not very well “set up,” still the soldiers were vigorous and active. Though their uniforms were somewhat soiled, and discipline not very apparent, still we said to each other, “Not so bad” We enjoyed the exercises and especially the music.

Most of the day was spent in visiting churches. By four o'clock the next morning we climbed up the neighboring mountain to the old monastery, said to be the only one of any size then presentable in all Italy. There were about 180 students, taught by German and Italian priests. One conducted us into their wonderful chapel, where we had an opportunity to see and participate in the morning worship. We enjoyed the old pictures and rich carvings and took much interest in looking through the students' rooms, which were like small cells in a prison and had scarcely more conveniences. One of the priests, seemingly the Superior, said to me that he heard that the American minister, then one of the Astor family of New York, had visited the grand palace at Caserta. He hoped that he would come up to the monastery sometime, as he desired to see him. He declared with animation that he wanted to set eyes on a man that was worth more than a million dollars and could draw his check for any amount he liked.

Our morning walk and climb gave us good appetites, so that we enjoyed our breakfast when we [516] reached the Pompeii Hotel. We left for Rome before eleven o'clock that same Monday morning, May 26th, and were in the great city by two-thirty in the afternoon. We looked up the Alberti Hotel, where we took rooms to our liking, and here we met many friends from America and some who had traveled with us, such as the Chief Justice of Greece, Miss Clark, a Massachusetts teacher, and others. We spent one week in Rome, a city which from my youth I had longed to see, and enjoyed every moment of that week.

One day we visited the Pantheon, the Amphitheatre and the Roman Forum-so much of it as had been recently uncovered. We looked upon the Obelisks upon the Arches of Triumph and the innumerable monuments which have kept up the record of the Emperors from Romulus to the Casars. Here were the Seven Hills in plain view, and then the places which had been crowned with as magnificent palaces as the ancient world knew. Another day we were in St. Peter's, ascending to the very highest point we could of that loftiest of structures; and we studied for a-while the whole surrounding country. We were invited to see, in the interior, the Pope's chapel with its timehonored pictures and its wonderful carvings. We took in chapel after chapel as we traversed the immense spaces below and saw everything that anybody can see except on public occasions. We came away impressed with the thought that St. Peter's of Rome, about which we had read all our lives, had not disappointed our expectations. That great cathedral was broader, longer, higher, more complete, and more magnificent than we had dreamed.

Another day we went to a public parade in the new part of Rome across the Tiber and on the way drank [517] at the beautiful fountain. We had the privilege of sitting with an American lady, the wife of an Italian count, who showed that she was happy enough to meet us Americans and speak with us about the home land. Just then the King and Queen were reviewing several well-equipped regiments of the line. Sunday reviews are popular in Europe, except perhaps with the Sultan of Turkey, who is wont to have some 20,000 soldiers escort him to his mosque worship on Friday. On Sunday morning after that review our friends took us to the Rev. Dr. Nevins's Episcopal church, where we had a helpful service. We found at the church Mrs. John Harris. She had been one of the most efficient missionary workers among our soldiers during the Civil War. I had seen so much of her then that I was glad to meet the noble lady again. Her Italian home was near Florence. She seemed well and contented, though kept abroad by order of her physician, who forbade a sea voyage. Perhaps there were no more instructive lessons than those my son and I had in visiting the studios of different celebrated artists. Rome was full of them, and studios were the popular resort of sightseers.

Hardly any young man goes to Rome without experiencing some kind of romantic adventure. I had mine. The first day we ventured out from our hotel and crossed the Tiber we saw an active, restless multitude apparently composed of people from every civilized nation of the world. From the midst of what appeared to me to be a large family group, a little girl rushed out. She perhaps was ten years old. She came with a skip and a jump and extended one hand to me; in the other was a beautiful bouquet, tiny but variegated and sweet. She was tidily dressed, had a pretty figure [518] and a laughing face. She tried to speak English as she asked me to buy her nosegay. As I shook my head, not having any change to give her, and pleaded poverty, she took me by the hand and said what I took to be: “I go with you.” She tripped along for a time by my side, humming some snatch of a tune or trying to make me understand her talk. At last she smiled in my face, put her flowers into my side pocket and ran away, laughing aloud. Jamie said, “Father, you ought not to have encouraged that child, she will bother you to death.” But I liked to be so bothered! Every day when we came she would quickly discover us and come up, clapping her hands and dancing around. I was away from home, away from our own little children, so that the caressing of this beautiful child was only a reminder and a comfort. It may not mean much, but I am always proud of the quick approach and happy recognition of a child.

One day was given to the Catacombs. It was of strange interest to be there underground, to go from tomb to tomb, and follow out the long gallery, and look into the dark corners and singular niches, and trace the lineaments of those who had been long ago distinguished and the mottoes which were preserved. All this was noteworthy, but to me after all it was a grewsome place arid I was glad when we had completed our underground wanderings and come out where we could breathe fresh air again. My son, who had become very fond of ancient bridges, singular pavings, and road constructions, took me to the old Appian Way where some of the Christians of Rome, few indeed in number, came out to meet the Apostle Paul. We noticed the narrowness of the way, the peculiarity of the [519] pavement, and wondered at the preservation for more than eighteen centuries of that roadway.

From the Vatican to the tombs, and from the tombs to the prison where St. Paul was confined, to this old Appian Way, and thence to the modern hotel, to the new city on the right bank of the Tiber, and to the palace of the King in sight of the Seven Hills of the ancient city, simply jostled us from the old to the new and from the new to the old and made us feel that the centuries themselves are not very far apart.

The special attractions, such as the sculpture and architecture of the modern churches, then the friends met from home and the evening spent in the Roman circus together, and my little child romance are now after twenty years the things most distinct in my recollection.

It was a bright morning, June 2, 1884, when we left Rome accompanied by Mrs. Harris, Dr. McMorris, and Miss Kate Field. It was a picturesque, hilly country all the way from Rome to Florence. After a good night's rest we began our rambles in that renowned city. The cathedral, that every tourist has seen, I found remarkable, not so much for its size as for its simplicity and beauty of form. After taking in the grand structure from different points of view within and without, we went on to the Piazza Signoria. What we observed here were the ancient monuments and the medallion sculptures. Passing through the long corridor to the Pitti Gallery, we studied the statuary and pictures till our necks ached. At the Portia Roma the special thing to see was the statue of Dante; that was like meeting the picture of a well-known friend. Later we visited the house which was said to be his home when in Florence. We also delighted our [520] eyes with the home of Michael Angelo. Indeed, there was nothing remarkable about it except the feeling we had that it was where Michael Angelo had lived.

The most interesting things to me in Florence were those in line of record about Savonarola. Our visit extended to what is called St. Mark's Square, and particularly St. Mark's Church where Savonarola had preached. We went into the monastery which the guide told us contained Savonarola's cell. In the monastery we found a monument that had been erected to his memory. It is still doubtful whether this magnificent preacher of the truth should be classed with churchmen or statesmen; perhaps with both.

In the morning of Wednesday June 4, 1884, we crossed the Apennines, enjoying the grand scenery all the time we could keep outside these blinding tunnels. My eye fell here and there upon the mountain sides and followed the terraces up to the very top of the highest hills. I had not thought that Italy was so thickly settled, but as we sped along we saw villages, cities, and castles everywhere.

Padua interested me on account of its antiquity and its military character. The city was only about twenty miles southwest of Venice and wonderfully fortified. Its principal hall is covered with extraordinary paintings and also contains the monument of the great writer Livy. I had read Livy when a freshman in college. The University of Padua, too, has always been remarkable for its students, sometimes having upward of 2,000.

Of all the rivers we crossed that day the Po was largest. As we approached nearer to Venice my son called my attention to the “Rubicon.” Having arrived at Venice, we had, June 4th, our first ride in a [521] gondola. The effect produced by finding canals instead of streets, and gondolas propelled by oarsmen rather than a cab, was new and vivid. After enjoying our starlight rowing, we landed at an excellent hotel.

Early on the 5th we set out for St. Mark's and, looking diligently through the cathedral near by, regarded with interest the peculiar tower. It was not long before we were standing on the upper platform at its very top. Here we had, that morning, a clear view of the extensive city and its surroundings. Some young Jews called our attention to the clock on the tower and we beheld the bronze men striking the bell. Quite a multitude were with us while we were on the broad piazza and beholding the happy, active pigeons beautiful and so tame that they would light on your shoulders and feed from your hand. We next went to the Mus6o (an academy). The pictures and old sculptures in alto relievo absorbed our attention for a time-we brought away a well-marked catalogue. Then came a welcome rest while we lunched. After that we passed on to the Doge's Palace, took a look at the historic rooms, the Senate House, and the Library, all decorated with abundant paintings. When we came into the street we turned and viewed, on the outside, the Doge's prison, and talked about the bridge which passes from the palace to the prison, named the “Bridge of Sighs,” and could almost realize the aching of the human hearts that passed from the palace to the prison never to return.

Venice had everywhere the appearance of decay, though still very beautiful and attractive. What you see, however, leaves a feeling of sadness as if for something passing away. You ask yourself, How can 125,--000 people continue to live there? There is little evidence [522] of enterprise or progress. About ten o'clock in the evening of this day we again went on board a large gondola and with some German students as companions made our way to the train which left the city that night.

We were in Milan the morning of June 6th, where the weather was mild and the skies clear. From the top of the cathedral, ethereal in its surpassing beauty, we had a magnificent view, which took in an immense portion of Italy. The city is circular and still encompassed on three sides by walls. The entire circuit is about eight miles. It can be entered from its different quarters by ten gates. It has sidewalks thoroughly paved. The Brera Palace, which was formerly a Jesuit College, was, when we were there, a great public school of art with a library of 140,000 books.

At Turin we visited an Exposition, which was in active operation just outside the city limits, and saw the multitude-various peoples and climes were represented. From Saturday to Sunday we slept twelve hours and then attended an English church service at eleven o'clock. We walked about the city considerably Sunday afternoon, but it was on Monday, June 9th, that we accomplished the most. My son was especially interested in the mechanical department. We examined also the war and art divisions of the Exposition. On this same day we went from Turin to Bellinzona, an Italian town of some importance, really in Switzerland, situated on the left bank of the Tecino. It used to be guarded by three old castles and completely commanded the road through the valley where it is located. We arrived at midnight and the hotels were closed and so we decided to stay in the depot, but the railroad agent said that le must close up that building [523] and that we could not be allowed to remain in it, so we walked about the city for a while and when we were weary, without asking permission crept into some cars that were waiting at the station, and slept there until the morning of June 10th. The train left very early for the mountains. En route before 5 A. M. we caught glimpses of old towers and castles here and there. The land was rough and rocky, but the scenery was grand. The sides of some of the mountains were terraced high up and under cultivation.

Nothing took our attention more than the St. Gothard's Tunnel. The longest reach in that tunnel without opening except for ventilation was ten miles. Having the opportunity to look up, we could see above us a loop of the road we were ascending. The sound of our cars at times resembled the Cascades of the Columbia.

In Lucerne, Switzerland, by 1 P. M. of the same day, where we spent but a few hours, the country is rugged as always in Switzerland, and the ravines and valleys so narrow that it is a comfort to look out upon Lake Lucerne. We had a glimpse of the old tower that was once the lighthouse from which the city and the canton took their names. Lucerne also has an arsenal of importance ready for any sudden need. The famous Lion, a monument to the Swiss guard that was so faithful in its defense of Louis XVI of France, reminded us of the pictures and history of that heroic event.

The next morning by 6.30 we arrived in Paris and went at once to our hotel. That day we took a trip to Versailles with some American friends and examined the fine furniture of the palace. The grounds around the palatial building our party pronounced [524] superb. We were happy that evening after our return to Paris to spend an hour with other intimate friends from the United States. To see them was like a breath of air from home.

At our hotel not far from the Opera, there was a group of Theosophists together with the famous Madame Blavatsky, who was at that time their inspiration and leader. Some newspaper people in America had sent to Paris Mrs. Laura C. Holloway, a writer who had previous to this time written a sketch of my life. Mrs. Holloway had been sent to make a study of this society, which claimed at that time to be investigating Buddhism and other religions of the Orient. She was to examine the pros and cons concerning them and make a report to the friends who sent her. I was glad to become acquainted with Madame Blavatsky, a Russian countess, who could speak eight languages with fluency. She spoke English like an Englishwoman. She smoked her pipe like a man of the world and was habitually rough in her manners and untidy in her dress, but exceptionally intelligent and entertaining. At that time I was simply introduced. Later during my European visit I came across the party again in Germany.

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