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Chapter 42


The sea is breaking in long swells below the window, and a glorious planet shines in the place of the sunset that has died away. This is our first resting-place since leaving Rome. We have been walking all day over the bare and dreary Campagna, and it is a relief to look at last on the broad, blue expanse of the Tyrrhene Sea.

When we emerged from the cool alleys of Rome, and began to climb up and down the long, barren swells, the sun beat down on us with an almost summer heat. On crossing a ridge near Castel Guido, we took our last look of Rome, and saw from the other side the sunshine lying like a dazzling belt on the far Mediterranean. The country is one of the most wretched that can be imagined. Miles and miles of uncultivated land, with scarcely a single habitation, extend on either side of the road, and the few shepherds who watch their flocks in the marshy hollows, look wild and savage enough for any kind of crime. It made me shudder to see every face bearing such a villainous stamp.

Civita Vecchia, Jan. 1.

We left Palo just after sunrise, and walked in the cool of the morning beside the blue Mediterranean. On the right, the low outposts of the Appenines rose, bleak and brown, the narrow plain between them and the shore resembling a desert, so destitute was it of the signs of civilized life. A low, white cloud that hung over the sea, afar off, showed us the locality of Sardinia, though the land was not visible. The sun shone down warmly, and with the blue sky and bluer sea we could easily have imagined a milder season. The barren scenery took a new interest in my eyes, when I remembered that I was spending amidst it that birth-day which removes me, in the eyes of the world, from dependant youth to responsible manhood.

In the afternoon we found a beautiful cove in a curve of the shore, and went to bathe in the cold surf. It was very refreshing, but not quite equal to the sulphur-bath on the road to Tivoli. The mountains now ran closer to the sea, and the road was bordered with thickets of myrtle. I stopped often to beat my staff into the bushes, and inhale the fragrance that arose from their crushed leaves. The hills were covered with this poetical shrub, and any acre of the ground would make the fortune of a florist at home.

The sun was sinking in a sky of orange and rose, as Civita Vecchia came in sight on a long headland before us. Beyond the sea stretched the dim hills of Corsica. We walked nearly an hour in the clear moonlight, by the sounding shore, before the gate of the city was reached. We have found a tolerable inn, and are now enjoying the pleasures of supper and rest.

Marseilles, Jan. 16.

At length we tread the shore of France--of sunny Provence--the last unvisited realm we have to roam through before returning home. It is with a feeling of more than common relief that we see around us the lively faces and hear the glib tongues of the French. It is like an earnest that the "roughing" we have undergone among Bohemian boors and Italian savages is well nigh finished, and that, henceforth, we shall find civilized sympathy and politeness, if nothing more, to make the way smoother. Perhaps the three woful days which terminated at half-past two yesterday afternoon, as we passed through the narrow strait into the beautiful harbor which Marseilles encloses in her sheltering heart, make it still pleasanter. Now, while there is time, I must describe those three days, for who could write on the wet deck of a steamboat, amid all the sights and smells which a sea voyage creates? Description does not flourish when the bones are sore with lying on planks, and the body shivering like an aspen leaf with cold.

About the old town of Civita Vecchia there is not much to be said, except that it has the same little harbor which Trajan dug for it, and is as dirty and disagreeable as a town can well be. We saw nothing except a little church, and the prison-yard, full of criminals, where the celebrated bandit, Gasparoni, has been now confined for eight years.

The Neapolitan Company's boat, Mongibello, was advertised to leave the 12th, so, after procuring our passports, we went to the office to take passage. The official, however, refused to give us tickets for the third place, because, forsooth, we were not servants or common laborers! and words were wasted in trying to convince him that it would make no difference. As the second cabin fare was nearly three times as high, and entirely too dear for us, we went to the office of the Tuscan Company, whose boat was to leave in two days. Through the influence of an Italian gentleman, secretary to Bartolini, the American Consul, whom we met, they agreed to take us for forty-five francs, on deck, the price of the Neapolitan boat being thirty.

Rather than stay two days longer in the dull town, we went again to the latter Company's office and offered them forty-five francs to go that day in their boat. This removed the former scruples, and tickets were immediately made out. After a plentiful dinner at the albergo, to prepare ourselves for the exposure, we filled our pockets with a supply of bread, cheese, and figs, for the voyage. We then engaged a boatman, who agreed to row us out to the steamer for two pauls, but after he had us on board and an oar's length from the quay, he said two pauls apiece was his bargain. I instantly refused, and, summoning the best Italian I could command, explained our agreement; but he still persisted in demanding double price. The dispute soon drew a number of persons to the quay, some of whom, being boatmen, sided with him. Finding he had us safe in his boat, his manner was exceedingly calm and polite. He contradicted me with a "pardon, Signore!" accompanying the words with a low bow and a graceful lift of his scarlet cap, and replied to my indignant accusations in the softest and most silvery-modulated Roman sentences. I found, at last, that if I was in the right, I cut the worse figure of the two, and, therefore, put an end to the dispute by desiring him to row on at his own price.

The hour of starting was two, but the boat lay quietly in the harbor till four, when we glided out on the open sea, and went northward, with the blue hills of Corsica far on our left. A gorgeous sunset faded away over the water, and the moon rose behind the low mountains of the Italian coast. Having found a warm and sheltered place near the chimney, I drew my beaver further over my eyes, to keep out the moonlight, and lay down on the deck with my knapsack under my head. It was a hard bed, indeed; and the first time I attempted to rise, I found myself glued to the floor by the pitch which was smeared along the seams of the boards! Our fellow-sufferers were a company of Swiss soldiers going home after a four years' service under the King of Naples, but they took to their situation more easily than we.

Sleep was next to impossible, so I paced the deck occasionally, looking out on the moonlit sea and the dim shores on either side. A little after midnight we passed between Elba and Corsica. The dark crags of Elba rose on our right, and the bold headlands of Napoleon's isle stood opposite, at perhaps twenty miles' distance. There was something dreary and mysterious in the whole scene, viewed at such a time--the grandeur of his career, who was born on one and exiled to the other, gave it a strange and thrilling interest.

We made the light-house before the harbor of Leghorn at dawn, and by sunrise were anchored within the mole. I sat on the deck the whole day, watching the picturesque vessels that skimmed about with their lateen sails, and wondering how soon the sailors, on the deck of a Boston brig anchored near us, would see my distant country. Leaving at four o'clock, we dashed away, along the mountain coast of Carrara, at a rapid rate. The wind was strong and cold, but I lay down behind the boiler, and though the boards were as hard as ever, slept two or three hours. When I awoke at half-past two in the morning, after a short rest, Genoa was close at hand. We glided between the two revolving lights on the mole, into the harbor, with the amphitheatre on which the superb city sits, dark and silent around us. It began raining soon, the engine-fire sank down, and as there was no place of shelter, we were shortly wet to the skin.

How long those dreary hours seemed, till the dawn came! All was cold and rainy and dark, and we waited in a kind of torpid misery for daylight. The entire day, I passed sitting in a coil of rope under the stern of the cabin, and even the beauties of the glorious city scarce affected me. We lay opposite the Doria palace, and the constellation of villas and towers still glittered along the hills; but who, with his teeth chattering and limbs numb and damp, could feel pleasure in looking on Elysium itself?

We got under way again at three o'clock. The rain very soon hid the coast from view, and the waves pitched our boat about in a manner not at all pleasant. I soon experienced sea-sickness in all its horrors. We had accidentally made the acquaintance of one of the Neapolitan sailors, who had been in America. He was one of those rough, honest natures I like to meet with--their blunt kindness, is better than refined and oily-tongued suavity. As we were standing by the chimney, reflecting dolefully how we should pass the coming night, he came up and said; "I am in trouble about you, poor fellows! I don't think I shall sleep three hours to-night, to think of you. I shall tell all the cabin they shall give you beds, because they shall see you are gentlemen!" Whether he did so or the officers were moved by spontaneous commiseration, we knew not, but in half an hour a servant beckoned us into the cabin, and berths were given us.

I turned in with a feeling of relief not easily imagined, and forgave the fleas willingly, in the comfort of a shelter from the storm. When I awoke, it was broad day. A fresh breeze was drying the deck, and the sun was half-visible among breaking clouds. We had just passed the Isle of the Titan, one of the Isles des Hyères, and the bay of Toulon opened on our right. It was a rugged, rocky coast, but the hills of sunny Provence rose beyond. The sailor came up with a smile of satisfaction on his rough countenance, and said: "You did sleep better, I think; I did tell them all!" coupling his assertion with a round curse on the officers.

We ran along, beside the brown, bare crags till nearly noon, when we reached the eastern point of the Bay of Marseilles. A group of small islands, formed of bare rocks, rising in precipices three or four hundred feet high, guards the point; on turning into the Gulf, we saw on the left the rocky islands of Pomegues, and If, with the castle crowning the latter, in which Mirabeau was confined. The ranges of hills which rose around the great bay, were spotted and sprinkled over with thousands of the country cottages of the Marseilles merchants, called Bastides; the city itself was hidden from view. We saw apparently the whole bay, but there was no crowd of vessels, such as would befit a great sea-port; a few spires peeping over a hill, with some fortifications, were all that was visible. At length we turned suddenly aside and entered a narrow strait, between two forts. Immediately a broad harbor opened before us, locked in the very heart of the hills on which the city stands. It was covered with vessels of all nations; on leaving the boat, we rowed past the "Aristides," bearing the blue cross of Greece, and I searched eagerly and found, among the crowded masts, the starry banner of America.

I have rambled through all the principal parts of Marseilles, and am very favorably impressed with its appearance. Its cleanliness and the air of life and business which marks the streets, are the more pleasant after coming from the dirty and depopulated Italian cities. The broad avenues, lined with trees, which traverse its whole length, must be delightful in summer. I am often reminded, by its spacious and crowded thoroughfares, of our American cities. Although founded by the Phoceans, three thousand years ago, it has scarcely an edifice of greater antiquity than three or four centuries, and the tourist must content himself with wandering through the narrow streets of the old town, observing the Provençal costumes, or strolling among Turks and Moors on the Quai d'Orléans.

We have been detained here a day longer than was necessary, owing to some misunderstanding about the passports. This has not been favorable to our reduced circumstances, for we have, now but twenty francs each, left, to take us to Paris. Our boots, too, after serving us so long, begin to show signs of failing in this hour of adversity. Although we are somewhat accustomed to such circumstances, I cannot help shrinking when I think of the solitary napoleon and the five hundred miles to be passed. Perhaps, however, the coin will do as much as its great namesake, and achieve for us a Marengo in the war with fate.

Bayard Taylor