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Chapter 13


Old-Homesickness--The Ideal and the Real--A beautiful but perilous
woman with a past--The Garden of Eden a Montreal ice-palace--Confused
mountain of family luggage--Poplars for lances--Miraculous crimson
comforters--Rivers of human gore--Curling mustachios and nothing to
do--Odd behavior of grown people--Venus, the populace, and the
MacDaniels--The happiness to die in Paris--Lived alone with her
constellations--"O'Brien's Belt"--A hotel of peregrinations--Sitting
up late--Attempted assassination--My murderer--An old passion
reawakened--Italian shells and mediaeval sea-anemones--If you were in
the Garden of Eden--An umbrella full of napoleons--Was Byron an
Esquimau?

--

No doubt my father had grown fond of England during his four years'
residence there. Except for its profits he had not, indeed, liked the
consular work; but even that had given zest to his several excursions
from it, which were in themselves edifying and enjoyable. The glamour
of tradition, too, had wrought upon him, and he had made friends and
formed associations. Such influences, outwardly gentle and unexacting,
take deeper hold of the soul than we are at the time aware. They show
their strength only when we test them by removing ourselves from their
physical sphere.

Accordingly, though he looked forward with pleasure to leaving England
for the Continent, he was no sooner on the farther side of the narrow
seas than he began to be conscious of discomfort, which was only
partly bodily or sensible. An unacknowledged homesickness afflicted
him--an Old-Homesickness, rather than a yearning for America. He may
have imagined that it was America that he wanted, but, when at last we
returned there, he still looked back towards England. As an ideal,
America was still, and always, foremost in his heart; and his death
was hastened partly by his misgiving, caused by the civil war, lest
her best days were past. But something there was in England that
touched a deep, kindred chord in him which responded to nothing else.
America might be his ideal home, but his real home was England, and
thus he found himself, in the end, with no home at all outside of the
boundaries of his domestic circle. A subconscious perception of this
predicament, combined with his gradually failing health, led him to
say, in a moment of frank self-communion, "Since this earthly life is
to come to an end, I do not try to be contented, but weary of it while
it lasts."

It is true that Rome, vehemently as at first he rebelled against it,
came at last to hold a power over him. Rome, if you give it
opportunity, subtly fastens its grasp upon both brain and heart, and
claims sympathies which are as undeniable as our human nature itself.
Yet there is something morbid in our love for the mystic city, like a
passion for some beautiful but perilous woman with a past--such as
Miriam in The Marble Faun, for example. Only an exceptionally
vigorous and healthy constitution can risk it without danger. Had my
father visited Rome in his young manhood, he might have both cared for
it less and in a sense have enjoyed it more than he did during these
latter years of his life.

But from the time we left London, and, indeed, a little before that,
he was never quite himself physically. Our departure was made at the
most inclement moment of a winter season of unusual inclemency; they
said (as they always do) that no weather to be compared with it had
been known for twenty years. We got up before dawn in London, and
after a dismal ride in the train to Folkestone, where the bitter waves
of the English Channel left edgings of ice on the shingle beach where
I went to pick up shells, we were frost-bitten all our two-hours
passage across to Boulogne, where it became cold in dead earnest, and
so continued all through Paris, Lyons, and Marseilles, and down the
Mediterranean to Genoa and Civita Vecchia, and thence up the long,
lonely, bandit-haunted road to Rome, and in Rome, with exasperating
aggravations, right up to April, or later. My own first recollection
of St. Peter's is that I slid on the ice near one of the fountains in
the piazza of that famous edifice; and my father did the same, with a
savage satisfaction, no doubt, at thus proving that everything was
what it ought not to be. Either in London, or at some intermediate
point between that and Paris, he caught one of the heaviest colds that
ever he had; and its feverish and debilitating effects were still
perceptible in May. "And this is sunny Italy--and this is genial
Rome!" he wrathfully exclaims. It was like looking forward to the
Garden of Eden all one's life, and going to vast trouble and expense
to get there, and, on arriving, finding the renowned spot to be a sort
of Montreal ice-palace. The palaces of Rome are not naturally fitted
to be ice-palaces, and the cold feels all the colder in them by
consequence.

But I am going too fast. The first thing my father did, after getting
on board the little Channel steamer, was to go down in the cabin and
drink a glass of brandy-and-water, hot, with sugar; and he afterwards
remarked that "this sea-passage was the only enjoyable part of the
day." But the wind cut like a scimitar, and he came on deck
occasionally only--as when I came plunging down the companion-way to
tell him, with the pride of a discoverer, that France was broad in
sight, and the sun was shining on it. "Oh!" exclaimed my mother,
looking up from her, pale discomfortableness on a sofa, with that
radiant smile of hers, and addressing poor Miss Shepard, who was still
further under the sinister influence of those historic alpine
fluctuations which have upset so many. "Oh, Ada, Julian says the sun
is shining on France!" Ada never stirred. She was the most amiable and
philosophic of young ladies; but if thought could visit her reeling
brain at that moment, she probably wondered why Providence had been so
inconsiderate as to sever Britain from its Gallic base in those old
geologic periods before man was yet born to sea-sickness.

Sunshine on the pale, smooth acclivities of France, and half a dozen
bluff-bowed fishing-boats, pitching to the swell, were all that was
notable on our trip across; and of Boulogne I remember nothing, except
the confused mountain of the family luggage on the pier, and
afterwards of its being fed into the baggage-car of the train.
Ollendorff abandoned me thus early in my travels; nor was my father
much better off. But Miss Shepard, now restored to life, made amends
for her late incompetence by discoursing with excited French officials
with what seemed to me preternatural intelligence; indeed, I half
doubted whether there were not some conspiracy to deceive in that
torrent of outlandish sounds which she and they were so rapidly
pouring forth to one another. However, all turned out well, and there
we were, in a compartment of a French railway-train, smelling of stale
tobacco, with ineffective zinc foot-warmers, and an increasing veil of
white frost on the window-panes, which my sisters and myself spent our
time in trying to rub off that France might become visible. But the
white web was spun again as fast as we dissipated it, and nothing was
to be seen, at all events, but long processions of poplars, which
interested me only because I imagined myself using them as lances in
some romantic Spenserian adventure of knight-errantry--for the spell
of that chivalric dream still hung about me. So we came to Amiens, a
pallid, clean, chilly town, with high-shouldered houses and a tall
cathedral, and thence went on to Paris at five o'clock. It was already
dusk, and our transit to the Hotel de Louvre in crowded cabs, through
streets much unlike London, is the sum of my first impressions of the
wonderful city.

Then, marshalled by princely yet deferential personages in rich
costumes, we proceeded up staircases and along gilded corridors to a
suite of sumptuous apartments, with many wax candles in candelabra,
which were immediately lighted by an attendant, and their lustre was
reflected from tall mirrors which panelled the rooms. The furniture
thus revealed was costly and elegant, but hardly comfortable to an
English-bred sense; the ceilings were painted, the floor rich with
glowing carpets. But the glow of color was not answered by a glow of
any other sort; a deadly chill pervaded this palatial place, which
fires, as big as one's fist, kindled in fireplaces as large as hall
bedrooms, did nothing to dissipate. Hereupon our elders had compassion
on us, and, taking from the tall, awful bedsteads certain crimson
comforters, they placed each of us in an easy-chair and tucked the
comforters in over us. These comforters, covered with crimson silk,
were of great thickness, but also of extraordinary lightness, and for
a few minutes we had no confidence in their power to thaw us. But they
were filled with swan's-down; and presently a novel and delightful
sensation--that of warmth--began to steal upon us. It steadily
increased, until in quarter of an hour there might be seen upon our
foreheads and noses, which were the only parts of us open to view, the
beads of perspiration. It was a marvellous experience. The memory of
the crimson comforters has remained with me through life; light as
sunset clouds, they accomplished the miracle of importing tropic
warmth into the circle of the frozen arctic. I think we must have been
undressed and night-gowned before this treatment; at any rate, I have
forgotten how we got to bed, but to bed we somehow got, and slept the
blessed sleep of childhood.


The next morning my father, apparently as an accompaniment of his
cold, was visited by a severe nosebleed; no importance was attached to
it, beyond its preventing him from going forth to superintend the
examination of our luggage at the custom-house--the mountain having
been registered through from London. This duty was, therefore, done by
Miss Shepard and my mother. The next day, at dinner, the nosebleeding
began again. "And thus," observed my father, "my blood must be
reckoned among the rivers of human gore which have been shed in Paris,
and especially in the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotines used
to stand"--and where our restaurant was. But these bleedings, which
came upon him at several junctures during his lifetime, and were
uniformly severe and prolonged, probably had a significance more
serious than was supposed. The last one occurred not many weeks before
his death, and it lasted twenty-four hours; he was never the same
afterwards. He joked about it then, as now, but there was the
forewarning of death in it.

But that day lies still unsuspected in the future, six years away. For
the present, we were in splendid Paris, with Napoleon III. in the
Tuileries, and Baron Haussmann regnant in the stately streets. For a
week we went to and fro, admiring and--despite the cold, the
occasional icy rains, and once even a dark fog--delighted. In spirit
and in substance, nothing could be more different from London. For my
part, I enjoyed it without reservation; the cold, which depressed my
sick father, exhilarated me. For Notre Dame, the Tuileries, the
Louvre, the Madeleine, the pictures, and the statues, I cared little
or nothing; I hardly even heeded the column of the Place Vendome or
the mighty mass of the Arc de Triomphe. But the Frenchiness of it all
captivated me. The throngs in the streets were kaleidoscopic in
costume and character: priests, soldiers, gendarmes, strange figures
with turbans and other Oriental accoutrements; women gayly dressed and
wearing their dresses with an air; men with curling mustachios, and
with nothing to do, apparently, but amuse themselves; romantic artists
with soft felt hats and eccentric beards; grotesque figures of poverty
in rags and with ominous visages, such as are never seen in London;
martial music, marching regiments, with gorgeous generals on
horseback, with shining swords; church processions; wedding pageants
crowding in and out of superb churches; newspapers, shop-signs, and
chatter, all in French, even down to the babble of the small children.
And the background of this parade was always the pleasant, light-hued
buildings, the majority of them large and of a certain uniformity of
aspect, as if they had been made in co-operation, and to look pretty,
instead of independently and incongruously, as in England. These
people seemed to be all playing and prattling; nobody worked; even the
shopkeepers held holiday in their shops. Such was my boyish idea of
Paris. Napoleon had been emperor only five or six years; he had been
married to Eugenie only four or five; and, so far as one could judge
who knew nothing of political coups d'etat and crimes, he was the
right man in the right place. Moreover, the French bread was a
revelation; it tasted better than cake, and was made in loaves six
feet long; and the gingerbread, for sale on innumerable out-door
stalls, was better yet, with quite a new flavor. I ate it as I walked
about with my father. He once took a piece himself, and, said he, "I
desired never to taste any more." How odd is, sometimes, the behavior
of grown-up people!

But even my father enjoyed the French cookery, though he was in some
doubt whether it were not a snare of the evil one to lure men to
indulgence. We dined in the banquet-hall of our hotel once or twice
only; in general we went to neighboring restaurants, where the food
was just as good, but cost less. I was always hungry, but hungrier
than ever in Paris. "I really think," wrote my father, "that Julian
would eat a whole sheep." In his debilitated state he had little
appetite either for dinners or for works of art; he looked even upon
the Venus of Milo with coldness. "It seemed," wrote he, speaking of
the weather one morning, "as if a cold, bitter, sullen agony were
interposed between each separate atom of our bodies. In all my
experience of bad atmospheres, methinks I never knew anything so
atrocious as this. England has nothing to compare with it." The "grip"
was a disease unnamed at that epoch, but I should suppose that it was
very vividly described in the above sentence. He had the grip, and
for nearly six months he saw everything through its medium.

Besides the Venus and the populace, we saw various particular persons.
I went with my father to the bank, and saw a clerk give him a long
roll of bright gold coins, done up in blue paper; and we visited, or
were visited by, a Miss MacDaniel and her mother, two Salem women, "of
plain, New England manners and appearance," wrote my father, "and they
have been living here for nearly two years. The daughter was formerly
at Brook Farm. The mother suffered so much from seasickness on the
passage that she is afraid to return to America, and so the daughter
is kept here against her will, and without enjoyment, and, as I judge,
in narrow circumstances. It is a singular misfortune. She told me that
she had been to the Louvre but twice since her arrival, and did not
know Paris at all." This looks like a good theme for Mr. Henry James.

We called on the American minister to Paris, Judge John Young Mason, a
simple and amiable personage. He was rubicund and stolid, and talked
like a man with a grievance; but, as my father afterwards remarked, it
was really Uncle Sam who was the aggrieved party, in being mulcted of
seventeen thousand dollars a year in order that the good old judge
should sleep after dinner in a French armchair. The judge was
anticipating being superseded in his post, but, as it turned out, was
not driven to seek second-rate employment to support himself in his
old age; he had the happiness to die in Paris the very next year.

But the most agreeable of our meetings was with Miss Maria Mitchell,
the astronomer, who, like ourselves, was stopping a few days in Paris
on her way to Rome. She desired the protection of our company on the
journey, though, as my father remarked, she looked well able to take
care of herself. She was at this time about forty years old; born in
Nantucket; the plainest, simplest, heartiest of women, with a face
browned by the sun, of which she evidently was accustomed to see as
much as of the other stars in the heavens. Her mouth was resolute and
full of expression; but her remarkable feature was her eyes, which
were dark and powerful, and had the kindest and most magnetic look of
comradeship in them. Her dark hair was a little grizzled. She was
dressed in plain gray, and was active and energetic in her movements.
She was, as the world knows, a woman of unusual intellect and
character; but she had lived alone with her constellations, having
little contact with the world or practical knowledge of it, so that in
many respects she was still as much a child as I was, and I
immediately knew her for my friend and playmate and loved her with all
my heart. There was a charming quaintness and innocence about her, and
an immense, healthy curiosity about this new old world and its
contents. She had a great flow of native, spontaneous humor, and could
say nothing that was not juicy and poignant. She was old-fashioned,
yet full of modern impulses and tendencies; warmhearted and impulsive,
but rich in homely common-sense. Though bold as a lion, she was,
nevertheless, beset with the funniest feminine timidities and
misgivings, due mainly, I suppose, to her unfamiliarity with the ways
of the world. There was already a friendship of long standing between
her and Miss Shepard, and they did much of their sightseeing during
the coming year together, and debated between themselves over the
statues and pictures. Her talk with us children was of the fine,
countrified, racy quality which we could not resist; and in the
evenings, as we journeyed along, she told us tales of the stars and
gave us their names. On the steamer going to Genoa, one night, she
pointed out to me the constellation Orion, then riding high aloft in
glittering beauty, and I kindly communicated to my parents the
information that the three mighty stars were known to men as O'Brien's
Belt. This was added to the ball of jolly as a household word.

Miss Mitchell's trunk was contributed to our mountain, when we set out
anew on our pilgrimage, with a result at first deplorable, for the
number of our own pieces of luggage being known and registered in the
official documents, it turned out, at our first stopping-place, that
the trunk of our new companion had been substituted for one of our
own, which, of course, was left behind. It was ultimately recovered, I
believe, but it seemed as if the entire world of French officialdom
had to be upheaved from its foundations in order to accomplish it.

Our route lay through Lyons to Marseilles. At Lyons I remember only
the enormous hotel where we slept the first night, with corridors
wandering like interminable streets, up-stairs and down, turning
corners, extending into vistas, clean-swept, echoing, obscure, lit
only by the glimmering candle borne by our guide. We seemed to be
hours on our journey through these labyrinths; and when at last we
reached our rooms, they were so cold and so unwarmable that we were
fain to journey back again, up and down, along and athwart, marching
and countermarching past regiments of closed doors, until at length we
attained the region of the hotel dining-saloon, where it was at least
two or three degrees less cold than elsewhere. After dinner we had to
undertake a third peregrination to bed, and a fourth the next morning
to get our train. The rooms of the hotel were on a scale suited to
the length of the connecting thoroughfares, and the hotel itself stood
hard by a great, empty square with a statue in the middle of it. But
the meals were not of a corresponding amplitude. And I think it was at
the railway station of this town that the loss of the trunk was
discovered.

The region from Lyons to Marseilles, along the valley of the Rhone,
with the lower ranges of the Alps on our left hand, was much more
picturesque than anything France had shown us hitherto. Ancient
castles crowned many of the lower acclivities; there were villages in
the vales, and presently vineyards and olive groves. The Rhone, blue
and swift as its traditions demanded, kept us close company much of
the way; the whole range of country was made for summer, and the
wintry conditions under which we saw it seemed all the more improper.
It must have been near midnight when our train rolled into the station
at Marseilles, and my pleasure in "sitting up late" had long become
stale.

The sun shone the next morning, and, being now in the latitude of
Florence and such places, it could not help being hot, though the
shaded sides of the streets were still icy cold; and most of the
streets were so narrow that there was a great deal of shade. The
whole population seemed to be out-of-doors and collecting in the sun,
like flies, a very animated and voluble population and of a democratic
complexion; the proportion of poor folks was noticeable, and the
number of women, who seemed to camp out in the squares and
market-places, and there gossip and do their knitting, as other women
might at their firesides; but here the sun is the only fire. But a
good deal of the bustle this morning was occasioned by the news from
Paris that an attempt to assassinate Napoleon III. had been made the
day before; had we remained one day longer in Paris we might have
assisted at the spectacle. The Marseilles people seemed to take it
comfortably; nobody was very sorry that the attempt had been made, nor
very glad that it had not succeeded. It was something to talk about.
It was ten years more before the French got thoroughly used to the
nephew of his uncle and decided that he was, upon the whole, a good
thing; and soon after they lost him. And for a decade after Sedan,
chatting with the boulevardiers in Paris, they would commonly tell me
that they wished they had the empire back again. Perhaps they will
have it, some day.

There was a great deal of filth in Marseilles streets and along her
wharves and in the corners of her many public squares; and even our
hotel, the "Angleterre," was anything but clean; it was a tall, old
rookery, from the windows of our rooms in which I looked down into an
open space between the strange, old buildings, and saw a juggler do
his marvels on a bit of carpet spread on the pavement, while a woman
handed him the implements of magic out of a very much travelled and
soiled deal-box. Later in the day, when the place was deserted, I
heedlessly flung out of the window the contents of a glass of water,
and, looking after it in its long descent, I was horrified to see
approaching a man of very savage and piratical aspect, with a terrible
black beard and a slouch hat. As luck would have it, the water struck
him full on the side of the face, probably the first time in many a
year that he had felt the impact of the liquid there. I withdrew my
head from the window in alarm, mingled with the natural joy that a boy
cannot help feeling at such a catastrophe; and by-and-by, when I felt
certain that he must have passed on, I peeped out again, but what were
my emotions at beholding him planted terribly right under the window
where he had been baptized, and staring upward with a blood-thirsty
expression. I immediately drew back again, but too late--our eyes had
met, and he had made a threatening gesture at me. I now felt that a
very serious thing had happened, and that if I ventured out upon the
streets again I should assuredly be assassinated; that it would be no
mere attempt, as in the case of the Emperor, but a pronounced success.
I did not tell my fears to any of my family--I had not, to say the
truth, informed any of them of the incident which had imperilled my
life, but I no longer felt any curiosity to see more of Marseilles,
and was sincerely thankful when I found myself, betimes next morning,
on board the Calabrese, bound for Genoa. I never saw my murderer
again, but I could make a fair likeness of him, I believe, to-day.
The trip to Genoa, and onward to Civita Vecchia, lasted two or three
days, the steamer generally pursuing her course by night and laying up
by day.

The first morning, soon after sunrise, found us approaching the bay of
Genoa, with the sun rising over the Mediterranean on our right and
throwing its light upon the curving acclivity on which the city
stands. The water had a beautiful blue-green color and was wonderfully
clear, so that, looking down through it over the ship's side, as we
glided slowly to our moorings, I saw sea-weeds and blocks of marble
and other marine curiosities which reawakened my old passion for
aquariums. Indeed, to be candid with the reader--as is my study
throughout this narrative--nothing in Genoa the Superb itself has, I
find, remained with me so distinctly as that glimpse of the floor of
the bay through the clear sea-water. I did not care to go up into the
town and see the palaces and churches; I wanted to stay on the beach
and hunt for shells--Italian shells--and classical or mediaeval
sea-anemones. Of course, I had to go up into the town; and I saw, no
doubt, the churches and the palaces, with their rooms radiant with the
mellow brilliance of precious marbles and painted ceilings, and
statues and pictures, under the personal conduct of no less an
individual than Salvator Rosa himself--for that was the name of our
guide--and for years afterwards I never doubted that he was the
creator of the paintings which, in Rome and elsewhere, bore his
signature. I say I must have seen these things, but in memory I cannot
disentangle them from the innumerable similar objects which I beheld,
later, in other Italian cities; their soft splendor and beautiful art
could not hold their own for me beside that cool translucence of the
Mediterranean inlet, with its natural marvels dimly descried as'I bent
over the boat's side. It was for that, and not for the other, that my
heart yearned, and that became a part of me, all the more, no doubt,
that it was denied me. Our aim in the world is beauty and happiness;
but we are late in learning that they exist in the will and
imagination, and not in this or that accredited and venerable thing or
circumstance that is mechanically obtruded on our unready attention.
If you were put down in the Garden of Eden, and told that you might
stay there an hour and no more, what would you do? How would you
"improve" your time? Would you run to and fro, and visit the spot
where Adam first stood erect, and the place where he sat when he named
the animals, and the thymey bank on which he slept while Eve was
taking form from his rib, and the tree on which grew the fruit of the
knowledge of good and evil, and the precise scene of the temptation
and the fall, and the spot on which stood the altars on which Cain and
Abel offered their sacrifices, and where, presently, wrathful Cain
rose up against his brother and slew him? Would you make sure of all
these set sights in order that you might reply satisfactorily to the
cloud of interviewers awaiting you outside the Garden? Or would you
simply throw yourself down on the grass wherever the angel happened to
leave you, and try to see or to realize or to recall nothing, but
passively permit your soul to feel and experience and grow what way it
would, prompted by the inner voice and guided by the inner light,
heedless of what the interviewers were expecting and of what duty and
obligation and the unique opportunity demanded? It is worth thinking
about. It may be conceded that there is some risk to run.

I next find myself in a coach, with four horses harnessed to it,
trundling along the road from Civita Vecchia to Rome; for of Monaco I
recall nothing, nor of Leghorn; and though we passed within sight of
Elba, I saw only a lonely island on our starboard beam. As for the
coach, it was a necessity, if we would continue our journey, for the
railroad was still in the future in 1858. The coach-road was not only
as rugged and uneasy as it had been any time during the past three
hundred years, but it was outrageously infested by banditti; and,
indeed, a robbery had taken place on it only a week or two before. For
miles and miles on end it was totally destitute of dwellings, and
those that we saw might well have been the harboring-places of
iniquity. Moreover, we were so long delayed in making our start that
it was already afternoon before we were under way, and finally one of
our horses gave out ere we were many miles advanced, compelling us to
hobble along for the remainder of the trip at reduced speed. As the
shades of evening began to fall, we saw at intervals sundry persons
lurking along the roadway, clad in long cloaks and conical hats, with
the suggestion of the barrel of a musket about them, and it is
probable that we were preserved from a tragic fate only by the
fortunate accident that we were just behind the mail-coach and might
theoretically have hailed it for help had we been attacked. Meanwhile,
my father, with ostensible pleasantry, suggested that we should hide
our gold coin (of which we carried a considerable store) in various
queer, out-of-the-way receptacles. I remember that an umbrella was
filled with a handful or two of the shining pieces, and stuck with
studied carelessness through the straps in the roof of the vehicle.
This was regarded by us children as excellent sport, though I think
there was a lingering feeling of apprehension in the bottom of my
soul. My father kept a moderate sum in napoleons in his pockets, so
that, should the worst happen, the bandits might fancy it was our all.
But then there was our mountain of luggage, incredibly strapped on the
top of the conveyance, and behind it, and no reasonable bandits, one
would suppose, could have failed to be satiated with that. However, it
was written that we were to reach Rome unscathed, albeit long after
dark, and though we did not get past the Porta del Popolo without
suffering legalized robbery on the part of the custom-house officials.
But by that time we were so weary, downcast, and chilled that
depredation and outrage could not rouse or kindle us.

We ended, at last, in one of those refrigerator hotels to which our
travels had made us accustomed, in one of the hollow, dull, untoward
caverns of which I was presently put to bed and to sleep. "Oh, Rome,
my country, City of the Soul!" Oh, Byron, were you an Esquimau?

Julian Hawthorne

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