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The innocents abroad, or, The new Pilgrim's progress

being some account of the steamship Quaker City's pleasure excursion to Europe and the Holy land ; with descriptions of countries, nations, incidents and adventures, as they appeared to the author






This Venice, which was a haughty, invincible, magnificent
Republic for nearly fourteen hundred years; whose armies
compelled the world's applause whenever and wherever
they battled; whose navies well nigh held dominion of the
seas, and whose merchant fleets whitened the remotest oceans
with their sails and loaded these piers with the products of
every clime, is fallen a prey to poverty, neglect and melancholy
decay. Six hundred years ago, Venice was the Autocrat of
Commerce; her mart was the great commercial centre, the distributing-house
from whence the enormous trade of the Orient
was spread abroad over the Western world. To-day her piers
are deserted, her warehouses are empty, her merchant fleets
are vanished, her armies and her navies are but memories.
Her glory is departed, and with her crumbling grandeur of
wharves and palaces about her she sits among her stagnant
lagoons, forlorn and beggared, forgotten of the world. She that
in her palmy days commanded the commerce of a hemisphere
and made the weal or woe of nations with a beck of her puissant
finger, is become the humblest among the peoples of the
earth,—a peddler of glass beads for women, and trifling toys
and trinkets for school-girls and children.

The venerable Mother of the Republics is scarce a fit subject
for flippant speech or the idle gossipping of tourists. It seems
a sort of sacrilege to disturb the glamour of old romance that
pictures her to us softly from afar off as through a tinted mist,
and curtains her ruin and her desolation from our view. One
ought, indeed, to turn away from her rags, her poverty and
her humiliation, and think of her only as she was when she


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sunk the fleets of Charlemagne; when she humbled Frederick
Barbarossa or waved her victorious banners above the battlements
of Constantinople.

We reached Venice at eight in the evening, and entered a
hearse belonging to the Grand Hotel d'Europe. At any rate,
it was more like a hearse than any thing else, though to speak
by the card, it was a gondola. And this was the storied gondola
of Venice!—the fairy boat in which the princely eavaliers
of the olden time were wont to cleave the waters of the moonlit
canals and look the eloquence of love into the soft eyes of
patrician beauties, while the gay gondolier in silken doublet
touched his guitar and sang as only gondoliers can sing! This
the famed gondola and this the gorgeous gondolier!—the one
an inky, rusty old canoe with a sable hearse-body clapped on to
the middle of it, and the other a mangy, barefooted guttersnipe
with a portion of his raiment on exhibition which should
have been sacred from public scrutiny. Presently, as he turned
a corner and shot his hearse into a dismal ditch between two
long rows of towering, untenanted buildings, the gay gondolier
began to sing, true to the traditions of his race. I stood it a
little while. Then I said:

“Now, here, Roderigo Gonzales Michael Angelo, I'm a pilgrim,
and I'm a stranger, but I am not going to have my feelings
lacerated by any such caterwauling as that. If that goes
on, one of us has got to take water. It is enough that my
cherished dreams of Venice have been blighted forever as to
the romantic gondola and the gorgeous gondolier; this system
of destruction shall go no father; I will accept the hearse,
under protest, and you may fly your flag of truce in peace, but
here I register a dark and bloody oath that you shan't sing.
Another yelp, and overboard you go.”

I began to feel that the old Venice of song and story had
departed foreover. But I was too hasty. In a few minutes we
swept gracefully out into the Grand Canal, and under the mellow
moonlight the Venice of poetry and romance stood revealed.
Right from the water's edge rose long lines of stately
palaces of marble; gondolas were gliding swiftly hither and


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thither and disappearing suddenly through unsuspected gates
and alleys; ponderous stone bridges threw their shadows
athwart the glittering waves. There was life and motion everywhere,
and yet everywhere there was a hush, a stealthy sort
of stillness, that was suggestive of secret enterprises of bravoes
and of lovers; and clad half in moonbeams and half in mysterious
shadows, the grim old mansions of the Republic seemed
to have an expression about them of having an eye out for just
such enterprises as these at that same moment. Music came
floating over the waters—Venice was complete.

It was a beautiful picture—very soft and dreamy and beautiful.
But what was this Venice to compare with the Venice
of midnight? Nothing. There was a fête—a grand fête in
honor of some saint who had been instrumental in checking
the cholera three hundred years ago, and all Venice was abroad
on the water. It was no common affair, for the Venetians did
not know how soon they might need the saint's services again,
now that the cholera was spreading every where. So in one
vast space—say a third of a mile wide and two miles long—
were collected two thousand gondolas, and every one of them
had from two to ten, twenty and even thirty colored lanterns
suspended about it, and from four to a dozen occupants. Just
as far as the eye could reach, these painted lights were massed
together—like a vast garden of many-colored flowers, except
that these blossoms were never still; they were ceaselessly gliding
in and out, and mingling together, and seducing you into
bewildering attempts to follow their mazy evolutions. Here
and there a strong red, green, or blue glare from a rocket that
was struggling to get away, splendidly illuminated all the boats
around it. Every gondola that swam by us, with its crescents
and pyramids and circles of colored lamps hung aloft, and
lighting up the faces of the young and the sweet-scented and
lovely below, was a picture; and the reflections of those lights,
so long, so slender, so numberless, so many-colored and so distorted
and wrinkled by the waves, was a picture likewise, and
one that was enchantingly beautiful. Many and many a party
of young ladies and gentlemen had their state gondolas hand-somely


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[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 220. In-line Illustration. Image of a gondolier standing on his gondola in the moonlight. He has his hands over his ears. The caption reads, "DISGUSTED GONDOLIER."] decorated, and ate supper on board, bringing their
swallow-tailed, white-cravatted varlets to wait upon them, and
having their tables tricked out as if for a bridal supper. They
had brought along the costly globe lamps from their drawing-rooms,
and the lace and silken curtains from the same places,
I suppose. And they had also brought pianos and guitars, and
they played and sang operas, while the plebeian paper-lanterned
gondolas from the suburbs and the back alleys crowded
around to stare and listen.

There was music every where—chorusses, string bands, brass
bands, flutes, every thing. I was so surrounded, walled in,
with music, magnificence and loveliness, that I became inspired
with the spirit of the scene, and sang one tune myself. However,
when I observed that the other gondolas had sailed away,
and my gondolier was preparing to go overboard, I stopped.

The fête was magnificent. They kept it up the whole night
long, and I never enjoyed myself better than I did while it

What a funny old city this Queen of the Adriatic is! Narrow
streets, vast, gloomy marble palaces, black with the corroding
damps of centuries, and all partly submerged; no dry


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land visible any where, and no sidewalks worth mentioning;
if you want to go to church, to the theatre, or to the restaurant,
you must call a gondola. It must be a paradise for cripples,
for verily a man has no use for legs here.

For a day or two the place looked so like an overflowed Arkansas
town, because of its currentless waters laving the very
doorsteps of all the houses, and the cluster of boats made fast
under the windows, or skimming in and out of the alleys and
by-ways, that I could not get rid of the impression that there
was nothing the matter here but a spring freshet, and that the
river would fall in a few weeks and leave a dirty high-water
mark on the houses, and the streets full of mud and rubbish.

In the glare of day, there is little poetry about Venice, but
under the charitable moon her stained palaces are white again,
their battered sculptures are hidden in shadows, and the old
city seems crowned once more with the grandeur that was hers
five hundred years ago. It is easy, then, in fancy, to people
these silent canals with plumed gallants and fair ladies—with
Shylocks in gaberdine and sandals, venturing loans upon the
rich argosies of Venetian commerce—with Othellos and Desdemonas,
with Iagos and Roderigos—with noble fleets and victorious
legions returning from the wars. In the treacherous
sunlight we see Venice decayed, forlorn, poverty-stricken, and
commerceless—forgotten and utterly insignificant. But in the
moonlight, her fourteen centuries of greatness fling their glories
about her, and once more is she the princeliest among the
nations of the earth.

“There is a glorious city in the sea;
The sea is in the broad, the narrow streets,
Ebbing and flowing; and the salt-sea weed
Clings to the marble of her palaces.
No track of men, no footsteps to and fro,
Lead to her gates! The path lies o'er the sea,
Invisible: and from the land we went,
As to a floating city—steering in,
And gliding up her streets, as in a dream,
So smoothly, silently—by many a dome,
Mosque-like, and many a stately portico,
The statues ranged along an azure sky;


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By many a pile, in more than Eastern pride,
Of old the residence of merchant kings;
The fronts of some, tho' time had shatter'd them,
Still glowing with the richest hues of art,
As tho' the wealth within them had run o'er.”

What would one naturally wish to see first in Venice! The
Bridge of Sighs, of course—and next the Church and the
Great Square of St. Mark, the Bronze Horses, and the famous
Lion of St. Mark.

We intended to go to the Bridge of Sighs, but happened into
the Ducal Palace first—a building which necessarily figures
largely in Venetian poetry and tradition. In the Senate
Chamber of the ancient Republic we wearied our eyes with
staring at acres of historical paintings by Tintoretto and Paul
Veronese, but nothing struck us forcibly except the one thing
that strikes all strangers forcibly—a black square in the midst
of a gallery of portraits. In one long row, around the great
hall, were painted the portraits of the Doges of Venice (venerable
fellows, with flowing white beards, for of the three hundred
Senators eligible to the office, the oldest was usually
chosen Doge,) and each had its complimentary inscription
attached—till you came to the place that should have had Marino
Faliero's picture in it, and that was blank and black—
blank, except that it bore a terse inscription, saying that the
conspirator had died for his crime. It seemed cruel to keep that
pitiless inscription still staring from the walls after the unhappy
wretch had been in his grave five hundred years.

At the head of the Giant's Staircase, where Marino Faliero
was beheaded, and where the Doges were crowned in ancient
times, two small slits in the stone wall were pointed out—two
harmless, insignificant orifices that would never attract a stranger's
attention—yet these were the terrible Lions' Mouths!
The heads were gone (knocked off by the French during their
occupation of Venice,) but these were the throats, down which
went the anonymous accusation, thrust in secretly at dead of
night by an enemy, that doomed many an innocent man to
walk the Bridge of Sighs and descend into the dungeon which


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none entered and hoped to see the sun again. This was in the
old days when the Patricians alone governed Venice—the
common herd had no vote and no voice. There were one
thousand five hundred Patricians; from these, three hundred
Senators were chosen; from the Senators a Doge and a Council
of Ten were selected, and by secret ballot the Ten chose
from their own number a Council of Three. All these were
Government spies, then, and every spy was under surveillance
himself—men spoke in whispers in Venice, and no man trusted
his neighbor—not always his own brother. No man knew
who the Council of Three were—not even the Senate, not even
the Doge; the members of that dread tribunal met at night in
a chamber to themselves, masked, and robed from head to foot
in scarlet cloaks, and did not even know each other, unless by
voice. It was their duty to judge heinous political crimes, and
from their sentence there was no appeal. A nod to the executioner
was sufficient. The doomed man was marched down
a hall and out at a door-way into the covered Bridge of Sighs,
through it and into the dungeon and unto his death. At no
time in his transit was he visible to any save his conductor. If
a man had an enemy in those old days, the cleverest thing he
could do was to slip a note for the Council of Three into the
Lion's mouth, saying “This man is plotting against the Government.”
If the awful Three found no proof, ten to one they
would drown him anyhow, because he was a deep rescal, since
his plots were unsolvable. Masked judges and masked executioners,
with unlimited power, and no appeal from their judgments,
in that hard, cruel age, were not likely to be lenient
with men they suspected yet could not convict.

We walked through the hall of the Council of Ten, and
presently entered the infernal den of the Council of Three.

The table around which they had sat was there still, and
likewise the stations where the masked inquisitors and executioners
formerly stood, frozen, upright and silent, till they received
a bloody order, and then, without a word, moved off,
like the inexorable machines they were, to carry it out. The
frescoes on the walls were startlingly suited to the place. In


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all the other saloons, the halls, the great state chambers of the
palace, the walls and ceilings were bright with gilding, rich
with elaborate carving, and resplendent with gallant pictures
of Venetian victories in war, and Venetian display in foreign
courts, and hallowed with portraits of the Virgin, the Saviour
of men, and the holy saints that preached the Gospel of Peace
upon earth—but here, in dismal contrast, were none but pictures
of death and dreadful suffering!—not a living figure but
was writhing in torture, not a dead one but was smeared with
blood, gashed with wounds, and distorted with the agonies
that had taken away its life!

From the palace to the gloomy prison is but a step—one
might almost jump across the narrow canal that intervenes.
The ponderous stone Bridge of Sighs crosses it at the second
story—a bridge that is a covered tunnel—you can not be seen
when you walk in it. It is partitioned lengthwise, and through
one compartment walked such as bore light sentences in ancient
times, and through the other marched sadly the wretches
whom the Three had doomed to lingering misery and utter
oblivion in the dungeons, or to sudden and mysterious death.
Down below the level of the water, by the light of smoking
torches, we were shown the damp, thick-walled cells where
many a proud patrician's life was eaten away by the long-drawn
miseries of solitary imprisonment—without light, air,
books; naked, unshaven, uncombed, covered with vermin; his
useless tongue forgetting its office, with none to speak to; the
days and nights of his life no longer marked, but merged into
one eternal eventless night; far away from all cheerful sounds,
buried in the silence of a tomb; forgotten by his helpless
friends, and his fate a dark mystery to them forever; losing his
own memory at last, and knowing no more who he was or how he
came there; devouring the loaf of bread and drinking the water
that were thrust into the cell by unseen hands, and troubling
his worn spirit no more with hopes and fears and doubts and
longings to be free; ceasing to scratch vain prayers and complainings
on walls where none, not even himself, could see
them, and resigning himself to hopeless apathy, driveling childishness,


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lunacy! Many and many a sorrowful story like this
these stony walls could tell if they could but speak.

In a little narrow corridor, near by, they showed us where
many a prisoner, after lying in the dungeons until he was forgotten
by all save his persecutors, was brought by masked executioners
and garroted, or sewed up in a sack, passed through
a little window to a boat, at dead of night, and taken to some
remote spot and drowned.

They used to show to visitors the implements of torture wherewith
the Three were wont to worm secrets out of the accused—
villainous machines for crushing thumbs; the stocks where a
prisoner sat immovable while water fell drop by drop upon his
head till the torture was more than humanity could bear; and
a devilish contrivance of steel, which inclosed a prisoner's head
like a shell, and crushed it slowly by means of a screw. It
bore the stains of blood that had trickled through its joints
long ago, and on one side it had a projection whereon the torturer
rested his elbow comfortably and bent down his ear to
catch the moanings of the sufferer perishing within.

Of course we went to see the venerable relic of the ancient
glory of Venice, with its pavements worn and broken by the
passing feet of a thousand years of plebeians and patricians—The
Cathedral of St. Mark. It is built entirely of precious marbles,
brought from the Orient—nothing in its composition is domestic.
Its hoary traditions make it an object of absorbing interest to
even the most careless stranger, and thus far it had interest for
me; but no further. I could not go into ecstacies over its
coarse mosaics, its unlovely Byzantine architecture, or its five
hundred curious interior columns from as many distant quarries.
Every thing was worn out—every block of stone was smooth
and almost shapeless with the polishing hands and shoulders
of loungers who devoutly idled here in by-gone centuries and
have died and gone to the dev—no, simply died, I mean.

Under the altar repose the ashes of St. Mark—and Matthew,
Luke and John, too, for all I know. Venice reveres those relics
above all things earthly. For fourteen hundred years St.
Mark has been her patron saint. Every thing about the city


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[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 226. In-line Illustration. Image of St. Mark's Cathedral. The caption reads, "THE CATHEDRAL OF ST. MARK'S."] seems to be named after him or so named as to refer to him in
some way—so named, or some purchase rigged in some way to
scrape a sort of hurrahing acquaintance with him. That seems
to be the idea. To be on good terms with St. Mark, seems to
be the very summit of Venetian ambition. They say St. Mark
had a tame lion, and used to travel with him—and every where
that St. Mark went, the lion was sure to go. It was his protector,
his friend, his librarian. And so the Winged Lion of
St. Mark, with the open Bible under his paw, is a favorite emblem
in the grand old city. It casts its shadow from the most
ancient pillar in Venice, in the Grand Square of St. Mark,
upon the throngs of free citizens below, and has so done for
many a long century. The winged lion is found every where—
and doubtless here, where the winged lion is, no harm can


Page 227

St. Mark died at Alexandria, in Egypt. He was martyred,
I think. However, that has nothing to do with my legend.
About the founding of the city of Venice—say four hundred
and fifty years after Christ—(for Venice is much younger than
any other Italian city,) a priest dreamed that an angel told him
that until the remains of St. Mark were brought to Venice,
the city could never rise to high distinction among the nations;
that the body must be captured, brought to the city, and a
magnificent church built over it; and that if ever the Venetians
allowed the Saint to be removed from his new resting-place,
in that day Venice would perish from off the face of the
the earth. The priest proclaimed his dream, and forthwith
Venice set about procuring the corpse of St. Mark. One expedition
after another tried and failed, but the project was
never abandoned during four hundred years. At last it was
secured by stratagem, in the year eight hundred and something.
The commander of a Venetian expedition disguised himself,
stole the bones, separated them, and packed them in vessels
filled with lard. The religion of Mahomet causes its devotees
to abhor anything that is in the nature of pork, and so when
the Christian was stopped by the officers at the gates of the city,
they only glanced once into his precious baskets, then turned
up their noses at the unholy lard, and let him go. The bones
were buried in the vaults of the grand cathedral, which had
been waiting long years to receive them, and thus the safety
and the greatness of Venice were secured. And to this day
there be those in Venice who believe that if those holy ashes
were stolen away, the ancient city would vanish like a dream,
and its foundations be buried forever in the unremembering