Chicago ver Chap 3 & 4 as "In the City of Palaces"



Fate picks out and sets the unhappy up in a carriage for the poor, but content, to see them. The consul was quite right. But this truth is not so apparent in Italy or France as in England.

In the matchless and magnificent turnouts, gay with colour and gorgeous trappings, pouring down the avenues of wood that echo with music, rounding the corners of watered ways that wind in terraces set with walls of roses, hung above the sea, you have much to look upon besides the tired masks of flesh and blood that but half hide the soul with its sea of troubles.

In England, in the great drive of Hyde Park, you have little to behold but the faces there. Such sad faces! The most mournful sight to me is that of an Englishman driving in Hyde Park for pleasure.

He sits as if he was bolstered up in bed, and his physician was feeling his pulse. He is so stiff that you might imagine him chiselled from some sort of very ugly stone, hat and all. You had almost as well expect to see a Grenadier guardsman lift his bearskin cap as to see an Englishman's hat move from his head, unless a royal personage appears, while he takes this mournful round in the great ride of the kingdom. The marble head of Julius Caesar is about as likely to fall from the shoulders of the bust in the British Museum, as is the head of an Englishman to turn to the right or the left as he sits there, holding his hands so stiffly, looking so stern, so pitiful, as if he was expecting every moment to hear that melancholy physician say that he must die to-morrow.

The poor stand on the outside, fifty deep, and look on in silence at this pageant of black solemnity. All London is there in the season. The carriages are at least four deep. They are packed in like sardines; there is not room enough left for a baby-cart. They move at one and the same mournful pace the whole string round. They look in the same direction; they wear the same clothes, the same sad, woebegone, and melancholy look, the same doleful, doomed expression the whole drive through — the indescribable expression of the damned.

Once upon a time a careless little country girl, full of sunshine and good health, came to town in an open wagon with her parents. It was her first sight of London; and she stood up by the side of her red-faced, good-natured mother, clapping her little red hands and shouting out her delight at whatever took her fancy.

The little party struck Hyde Park near the great Marble Arch about three in the afternoon in the full blossom of a London May.

The child looked in, tiptoed up, looked again — and then she made it out in a moment. She knew perfectly well what it was now. She tiptoed up again, clapped her hands in a sweet shy tattoo, shook back her curls and called out, —

"Oh, mamma, mamma! see, mamma, what a pretty, pretty funeral!"

What a light, airy, fairy-like drive is this little round between the rows of acacia and locust trees of Genoa! It lies there lifted above the sea, above the city. It is in the heart of the old battle-beaten town, and one might well understand that on this little half levelled mountain's summit men first sat down and began to build as they did on the Palatine Hill.

You know perfectly well, as you stand there — or drive in the cool shadow of the trees, sprinkled by the fountains and fanned by winds from the sea — that here stood fortress and battlement, and that there, up that forty-foot wall, to the left, the barbarian, clad in hairy skins, climbed with his sword in his teeth, was beaten back, climbed again and again, till the rocks were too slippery with blood to hold his fingers. You are certain that you stand on the heart and core of Genoa. Stand here at noon in the cool of the trees, while the Italian lies flat on his back, and sound asleep, and thick on the ground as the dead after battle all around you in the shade of trees, of fountains, of walls, of benches— and looking out upon the sea, you can count a hundred sails. They, too, seem to be asleep. In a little time, when the sun has rounded the meridian, your Italian will awaken. He will half rise, settle back on his elbow, and half awake, half asleep, will sing an opera with a dozen or two in chorus, and never miss a note.

Happy, happy fellows! They are so perfectly happy, so careless, that you too must take in some of this happiness in Italy, if you live there, in spite of yourself.

To your left, on a hill across a dried river and a dusty valley, with lonesome and darkbrown fig-trees, you see Byron's bouse, which he named Paradiso; and not far away is the half year's residence of Charles Dickens, which he named the Pink Jail. A little further to your left, and two miles up this dried-up river — the bed of which is spread with clothes laid out to dry — is the beautiful Campo Santo, the fairest and airiest churchyard in all the civilized world.

Around your back bends the great wall of Genoa. It is so high, where it climbs over the spurs of the Apennines, that it is occasionally in some place hidden in the clouds. Miles and miles back and up, and on this wall is a strange, a dark-browed and gloomy building. A stranger walked that way once, and while yet nearly half a mile off he heard howls, and the clank of chains, and the most doleful sounds you can conceive. He went up under the walls of this place, and asked what it meant.

This was the great prison of Genoa, and some miserable wretches were being flogged.

The howling ceased; but the rattling chains kept rattling more than before; and the men told him the prisoners were then being fed.

Before you, or a little to the left, the sea makes a diversion, and dim and distant away across the bay you see — if you have the eye of a mountaineer — a shore that is sacred to the ashes of Shelley. Under your feet, or around the corner of 'the bay a mile or two, and standing almost in the water, is a thin, blue marble shaft that means a whole volume of history. There it was that Garibaldi first embarked with his red-shirted band for the farther Sicily.

On that high bluff before you, around which the sea always swells and sings in an unsatisfied sort of a way, stands a church with a story worth ten times the pay the old man at the door will ask for telling it.

Yonder, where no woman's foot may enter, lie the bones of John the Baptist, and you fall to wondering, as the good priests show you through the chapel, what- ever in the world John the Baptist had done that no woman is permitted to kneel at his tomb or water the place with her tears. You find it the gloomiest place on earth, and your only prayer, as you turn to go away, is that you may not be laid to rest in a place that is never made fair with the presence of woman.

Yonder in a church, guarded and kept as the sacredest relic of all that has yet been brought from Jerusalem, is the Holy Grail, which but to see is health and happiness for life. Yet, consistent enough with all this virtue, it is to be beheld but once in all the year.

A little further to your right, and down there where the steamboats whistle around a granite quay that smells all the time of paraffin and fish, and looking straight down into the railroad depot, stands the monument of the great navigator, mounted by a colossal figure, and bristling all around with marble prows of ships, and chains, and anchors.

Yet amidst all this splendour Alpho Murietta was moody and disappointed. Had he been asked why he felt disappointed, he could not have told. Had he asked himself the question, he could not have answered it. His was a mind that moved by instinct, not by reason.

The truth is he dreaded going to the Gardens for fear he should meet the One Fair Woman. Yet not for fear he should meet her. Quite the reverse. Away down deep in his heart, deeper than any measure of his could fathom, lay the fear, the possibility, that she was not there. He dreaded to find out the truth, for fear that he should find she was not in Genoa. So long as he did not know she was not there, just so long might he go on, and dream, and hope, and fancy that she was there, within the great walls of the old monarch of the Mediterranean.

This was the summer, the brief bridal day of the old Queen of the Sea. Surely she would be there, the fairest of the fair, the most splendid in all the splendour.

Never lover leapt ashore and swallowed up the crowd with his eyes in search of the one to meet him there, with more eagerness than did Murietta peer through this pageant in search of her, the moment he found he had been led to the centre of attraction.

"Yes, you are right; the miserable meet here."

He said this to the consul with all his heart; for when a man is miserable he sees misery in all things.

They sauntered on together towards the hotel, Murietta threw away the stump of his cigar. An old man kneeling before a crucifix, and under a little red lamp that burned perpetually at the feet of a Virgin in blue, with a tin crown, sprang up and caught it before it fairly touched the ground. The old man was thin as a ghost, and seemed very wretched as he stood still before them. Murietta hastily handed him a franc. The old man threw himself at his feet, and with his face lifted devoutly, and clasped hands, said :

"Dio mio! I thought my Saviour was in heaven!"

The artist handed him another franc, and much afiected, moved on.

"The pious old man sees my long hair, and takes me for the Saviour."

"The devil he does! He took me for the Saviour for about six months; then I quit giving him money, and he changed his mind!"

Start reading Chapter 4 ofThe One Fair Lady
Go back to the Index