University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
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






WE returned to Constantinople, and after a day or two
spent in exhausting marches about the city and voyages
up the Golden Horn in caiques, we steamed away again. We
passed through the Sea of Marmora and the Dardanelles, and
steered for a new land—a new one to us, at least—Asia. We
had as yet only acquired a bowing acquaintance with it,
through pleasure excursions to Scutari and the regions round

We passed between Lemnos and Mytilene, and saw them as
we had seen Elba and the Balearic Isles—mere bulky shapes,
with the softening mists of distance upon them—whales in a
fog, as it were. Then we held our course southward, and
began to “read up” celebrated Smyrna.

At all hours of the day and night the sailors in the forecastle
amused themselves and aggravated us by burlesquing our visit
to royalty. The opening paragraph of our Address to the
Emperor was framed as follows:

“We are a handful of private citizens of America, traveling
simply for recreation—and unostentatiously, as becomes our
unofficial state—and, therefore, we have no excuse to
tender for presenting ourselves before your Majesty, save
the desire of offering our grateful acknowledgments to the
lord of a realm, which, through good and through evil
report, has been the steadfast friend of the land we love so

The third cook, crowned with a resplendent tin basin and


Page 404
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 404. In-line Illustration. Image of man standing on the deck of a ship. He is wearing a pot on his head, is wrapped in a sheet, and holds a belaying-pin in one hand. The caption reads, "SHIP EMPEROR."] wrapped royally in a table-cloth mottled with grease-spots and
coffee stains, and bearing a sceptre that looked strangely like a
belaying-pin, walked upon a dilapidated carpet and perched,
himself on the capstan, careless of the flying spray; his tarred
and weather-beaten Chamberlains, Dukes and Lord High Admirals
surrounded him, arrayed in all the pomp that spare
tarpaulins and remnants of old sails could furnish. Then the
visiting “watch below,” transformed into graceless ladies and
uncouth pilgrims, by
rude travesties upon
waterfalls, hoopskirts,
white kid gloves and
swallow-tail coats, moved
solemnly up the
companion way, and
bowing low, began a
system of complicated
and extraordinary smiling
which few monarchs
could look upon and
live. Then the mock
consul, a slush-plastered
deck-sweep, drew out a
soiled fragment of paper
and proceeded to read,

“To His Imperial
Majesty, Alexander II.,
Emperor of Russia:

“We are a handful of private citizens of America, traveling
simply for recreation,—and unostentatiously, as becomes our
unofficial state—and therefore, we have no excuse to tender for
presenting ourselves before your Majesty—”

The Emperor—“Then what the devil did you come for?”

—“Save the desire of offering our grateful acknowledgments
to the lord of a realm which—”

The Emperor—“Oh, d—n the Address!—read it to the


Page 405
police. Chamberlain, take these people over to my brother,
the Grand Duke's, and give them a square meal. Adien! I
am happy—I am gratified—I am delighted—I am bored.
Adien, adien—vamos the ranch! The First Groom of the
Palace will proceed to count the portable articles of value
belonging to the premises.”

The farce then closed, to be repeated again with every
change of the watches, and embellished with new and still more
extravagant inventions of pomp and conversation.

At all times of the day and night the phraseology of that
tiresome address fell upon our ears. Grimy sailors came down
out of the foretop placidly announcing themselves as “a handful
of private citizens of America, traveling simply for recreation
and unostentatiously,” etc.; the coal passers moved to their
duties in the profound depths of the ship, explaining the
blackness of their faces and their uncoutheness of dress, with
the reminder that they were “a handful of private citizens,
traveling simply for recreation,” etc., and when the cry rang
through the vessel at midnight: “Eight bells!—larboard
watch, turn out!
” the larboard watch came gaping and
stretching out of their den, with the everlasting formula: “Aye-aye,


Page 406
sir! We are a handful of private citizens of America,
traveling simply for recreation, and unostentatiously, as becomes
our unofficial state!”

As I was a member of the committee, and helped to frame
the Address, these sarcasms came home to me. I never heard
a sailor proclaiming himself as a handful of American citizens
traveling for recreation, but I wished he might trip and fall
overboard, and so reduce his handful by one individual, at
least. I never was so tired of any one phrase as the sailors
made me of the opening sentence of the Address to the Emperor
of Russia.

This seaport of Smyrna, our first notable acquaintance in
Asia, is a closely packed city of one hundred and thirty thousand
inhabitants, and, like Constantinople, it has no outskirts.
It is as closely packed at its outer edges as it is in the centre,
and then the habitations leave suddenly off and the plain beyond
seems houseless. It is just like any other Oriental city.
That is to say, its Moslem houses are heavy and dark, and as
comfortless as so many tombs; its streets are crooked, rudely
and roughly paved, and as narrow as an ordinary staircase;
the streets uniformly carry a man to any other place than the
one he wants to go to, and surprise him by landing him in the
most unexpected localities; business is chiefly carried on in
great covered bazaars, celled like a honeycomb with innumerable
shops no larger than a common closet, and the whole hive
cut up into a maze of alleys about wide enough to accommodate
a laden camel, and well calculated to confuse a stranger
and eventually lose him; every where there is dirt, every where
there are fleas, every where there are lean, broken-hearted
dogs; every alley is througed with people; wherever you look,
your eye rests upon a wild masquerade of extravagant costumes;
the workshops are all open to the streets, and the
workmen visible; all manner of sounds assail the ear, and over
them all rings out the muezzin's cry from some tall minaret,
calling the faithful vagabonds to prayer; and superior to the
call to prayer, the noises in the streets, the interest of the costumes—superior
to every thing, and claiming the bulk of attention


Page 407
first, last, and all the time—is a combination of Mohammedan
stenches, to which the smell of even a Chinese quarter
would be as pleasant as the roasting odors of the fatted calf to
the nostrils of the returning Prodigal. Such is Oriental luxury—such
is Oriental splendor! We read about it all our
days, but we comprehend it not until we see it. Smyrna is a
very old city. Its name occurs several times in the Bible, one
or two of the disciples of Christ visited it, and here was located
one of the original seven apocalyptic churches spoken of in
Revelations. These churches were symbolized in the Scriptures
as candlesticks, and on certain conditions there was a
sort of implied promise that Smyrna should be endowed
with a “crown of life.” She was to “be faithful unto death”
—those were the terms. She has not kept up her faith
straight along, but the pilgrims that wander hither consider
that she has come near enough to it to save her, and so
they point to the fact that Smyrna to-day wears her crown of
life, and is a great city, with a great commerce and full of energy,
while the cities wherein were located the other six
churches, and to which no crown of life was promised, have
vanished from the earth. So Smyrna really still possesses her
crown of life, in a business point of view. Her career, for
eighteen centuries, has been a chequered one, and she has been
under the rule of princes of many creeds, yet there has been
no season during all that time, as far as we know, (and during
such seasons as she was inhabited at all,) that she has been without
her little community of Christians “faithful unto death.”
Hers was the only church against which no threats were implied
in the Revelations, and the only one which survived.

With Ephesus, forty miles from here, where was located another
of the seven churches, the case was different. The “candlestick”
has been removed from Ephesus. Her light has been
put out. Pilgrims, always prone to find prophecies in the
Bible, and often where none exist, speak cheerfully and complacently
of poor, ruined Ephesus as the victim of prophecy.
And yet there is no sentence that promises, without due qualification,
the destruction of the city. The words are:


Page 408

“Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first
works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out
of his place, except thou repent.”

That is all; the other verses are singularly complimentary to
Ephesus. The threat is qualified. There is no history to show
that she did not repent. But the cruelest habit the modern
prophecy-savans have, is that one of coolly and arbitrarily fitting
the prophetic shirt on to the wrong man. They do it
without regard to rhyme or reason. Both the cases I have
just mentioned are instances in point. Those “prophecies”
are distinctly leveled at the “churches of Ephesus, Smyrna,”
etc., and yet the pilgrims invariably make them refer to the
cities instead. No crown of life is promised to the town of
Smyrna and its commerce, but to the handful of Christians
who formed its “church.” If they were “faithful unto death,”
they have their crown now—but no amount of faithfulness and
legal shrewdness combined could legitimately drag the city into
a participation in the promises of the prophecy. The stately
language of the Bible refers to a crown of life whose lustre
will reflect the day-beams of the endless ages of eternity, not
the butterfly existence of a city built by men's hands, which
must pass to dust with the builders and be forgotten even in
the mere handful of centuries vouchsafed to the solid world
itself between its cradle and its grave.

The fashion of delving out fulfillments of prophecy where
that prophecy consists of mere “ifs,” trenches upon the absured.
Suppose, a thousand years from now, a malarious swamp
builds itself up in the shallow harbor of Smyrna, or something
else kills the town; and suppose, also, that within that time
the swamp that has filled the renowned harbor of Ephesus and
rendered her ancient site deadly and uninhabitable to-day, becomes
hard and healthy ground; suppose the natural consequence
ensues, to wit: that Smyrna becomes a melancholy
ruin, and Ephesus is rebuilt. What would the prophecy-savans
say? They would coolly skip over our age of the world, and
say: “Smyrna was not faithful unto death, and so her crown
of life was denied her; Ephesus repented, and lo! her candlestick


Page 409
was not removed. Behold these evidences! How wonderful
is prophecy!”

Smyrna has been utterly destroyed six times. If her crown
of life had been an insurance policy, she would have had an
opportunity to collect on it the first time she fell. But she
holds it on sufferance and by a complimentary construction of
language which does not refer to her. Six different times,
however, I suppose some infatuated prophecy-enthusiast blundered
along and said, to the infinite disgust of Smyrna and the
Smyrniotes: “In sooth, here is astounding fulfillment of
prophecy! Smyrna hath not been faithful unto death, and behold
her crown of life is vanished from her head. Verily,
these things be astonishing!”

Such things have a bad influence. They provoke worldly
men into using light conversation concerning sacred subjects,
Thick-headed commentators upon the Bible, and stupid
preachers and teachers, work more damage to religion than
sensible, cool-brained clergymen can fight away again, toil as
they may. It is not good judgment to fit a crown of life upon
a city which has been destroyed six times. That other class
of wiseacres who twist prophecy in such a manner as to make
it promise the destruction and desolation of the same city, use
judgment just as bad, since the city is in a very flourishing
condition now, unhappily for them. These things put arguments
into the mouth of infidelity.

A portion of the city is pretty exclusively Turkish; the
Jews have a quarter to themselves; the Franks another quarter;
so, also, with the Armenians. The Armenians, of course,
are Christians. Their houses are large, clean, airy, handsomely
paved with black and white squares of marble, and in
the centre of many of them is a square court, which has in it
a luxuriant flower-garden and a sparkling fountain; the doors
of all the rooms open on this. A very wide hall leads to the
street door, and in this the women sit, the most of the day. In
the cool of the evening they dress up in their best raiment and
show themselves at the door. They are all comely of countenance,
and exceedingly neat and cleanly; they look as if they


Page 410
were just out of a band-box. Some of the young ladies—many
of them, I may say—are even very beautiful; they average a
shade better than American girls—which treasonable words I
pray may be forgiven me. They are very sociable, and will
smile back when a stranger smiles at them, bow back when he
bows, and talk back if he speaks to them. No introduction is
required. An hour's chat at the door with a pretty girl one
never saw before, is easily obtained, and is very pleasant. I
have tried it. I could not talk any thing but English, and the
girl knew nothing but Greek, or Armenian, or some such barbarous
tongue, but we got along very well. I find that in
cases like these, the fact that you can not comprehend each
other isn't much of a drawback. In that Russian town of
Yalta I danced an astonishing sort of dance an hour long, and
one I had not heard of before, with a very pretty girl, and we
talked incessantly, and laughed exhaustingly, and neither one
ever knew what the other was driving at. But it was splendid.
There were twenty people in the set, and the dance was very
lively and complicated. It was complicated enough without
me—with me it was more so. I threw in a figure now and
then that surprised those Russians. But I have never ceased
to think of that girl. I have written to her, but I can not
direct the epistle because her name is one of those nine-jointed
Russian affairs, and there are not letters enough in our alphabet
to hold out. I am not reckless enough to try to pronounce
it when I am awake, but I make a stagger at it in my dreams,
and get up with the lockjaw in the morning. I am fading. I
do not take my meals now, with any sort of regularity. Her
dear name haunts me still in my dreams. It is awful on teeth.
It never comes out of my mouth but it fetches an old snag
along with it. And then the lockjaw closes down and nips off
a couple of the last syllables—but they taste good.

Coming through the Dardanelles, we saw camel trains on
shore with the glasses, but we were never close to one till we
got to Smyrna. These camels are very much larger than the
scrawny specimens one sees in the menagerie. They stride
along these streets, in single file, a dozen in a train, with


Page 411
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 411. In-line Illustration. Image of a busy street scene. In the middle of the street is a towering camel being led along by a man on a small donkey. The caption reads, "A STREET SCENE IN SMYRNA."] heavy loads on their backs, and a fancy-looking negro in Turkish
costume, or an Arab, preceding them on a little donkey
and completely overshadowed and rendered insignificant by
the huge beasts. To see a camel train laden with the spices
of Arabia
and the rare
fabrics of
Persia come
through the
narrow alleys
of the
among porters
their burdens,

the glassware
Turks smoking
the famous
the crowds drifting to and fro in the fanciful costumes of the
East, is a genuine revelation of the Orient. The picture lacks
nothing. It casts you back at once into your forgotten boyhood,
and again you dream over the wonders of the Arabian
Nights; again your companions are princes, your lord is the
Caliph Haroun Al Raschid, and your servants are terrific
giants and genii that come with smoke and lightning and
thunder, and go as a storm goes when they depart!