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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




Page 586


WE cast up the account. It footed up pretty fairly.
There was nothing more at Jerusalem to be seen, except
the traditional houses of Dives and Lazarus of the parable,
the Tombs of the Kings, and those of the Judges; the
spot where they stoned one of the disciples to death, and beheaded
another; the room and the table made celebrated by
the Last Supper; the fig-tree that Jesus withered; a number
of historical places about Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives,
and fifteen or twenty others in different portions of the city

We were approaching the end. Human nature asserted itself,
now. Overwork and consequent exhaustion began to
have their natural effect. They began to master the energies
and dull the ardor of the party. Perfectly secure now, against
failing to accomplish any detail of the pilgrimage, they felt
like drawing in advance upon the holyday soon to be placed to
their credit. They grew a little lazy. They were late to
breakfast and sat long at dinner. Thirty or forty pilgrims had
arrived from the ship, by the short routes, and much swapping
of gossip had to be indulged in. And in hot afternoons, they
showed a strong disposition to lie on the cool divans in the
hotel and smoke and talk about pleasant experiences of a
month or so gone by—for even thus early do episodes of travel
which were sometimes annoying, sometimes exasperating and
full as often of no consequence at all when they transpired,
begin to rise above the dead level of monotonous reminiscences
and become shapely landmarks in one's memory. The fog-whistle,


Page 587
smothered among a million of trifling sounds, is not noticed
a block away, in the city, but the sailor hears it far at sea,
whither none of those thousands of trifling sounds can reach.
When one is in Rome, all the domes are alike; but when he has
gone away twelve miles, the city fades utterly from sight and
leaves St. Peter's swelling above the level plain like an anchored
balloon. When one is traveling in Europe, the daily
incidents seem all alike; but when he has placed them all two
months and two thousand miles behind him, those that were
worthy of being remembered are prominent, and those that
were really insignificant have vanished. This disposition to
smoke, and idle and talk, was not well. It was plain that it
must not be allowed to gain ground. A diversion must be
tried, or demoralization would ensue. The Jordan, Jericho
and the Dead Sea were suggested. The remainder of Jerusalem
must be left unvisited, for a little while. The journey
was approved at once. New life stirred in every pulse. In
the saddle—abroad on the plains—sleeping in beds bounded
only by the horizon: fancy was at work with these things in a
moment.—It was painful to note how readily these town-bred
men had taken to the free life of the camp and the desert.
The nomadic instinct is a human instinct; it was born with
Adam and transmitted through the patriarchs, and after thirty
centuries of steady effort, civilization has not educated it entirely
out of us yet. It has a charm which, once tasted, a man
will yearn to taste again. The nomadic instinct can not be
educated out of an Indian at all.

The Jordan journey being approved, our dragoman was notified.

At nine in the morning the caravan was before the hotel
door and we were at breakfast. There was a commotion about
the place. Rumors of war and bloodshed were flying every
where. The lawless Bedouins in the Valley of the Jordan and
the deserts down by the Dead Sea were up in arms, and were
going to destroy all comers. They had had a battle with a
troop of Turkish cavalry and defeated them; several men
killed. They had shut up the inhabitants of a village and a


Page 588
Turkish garrison in an old fort near Jericho, and were besieging
them. They had marched upon a camp of our excursionists
by the Jordan, and the pilgrims only saved their lives
by stealing away and flying to Jerusalem under whip and spur
in the darkness of the night. Another of our parties had been
fired on from an ambush and then attacked in the open day.
Shots were fired on both sides. Fortunately there was no
bloodshed. We spoke with the very pilgrim who had fired
one of the shots, and learned from his own lips how, in this
imminent deadly peril, only the cool courage of the pilgrims,
their strength of numbers and imposing display of war material,
had saved them from utter destruction. It was reported
that the Consul had requested that no more of our pilgrims
should go to the Jordan while this state of things lasted; and
further, that he was unwilling that any more should go, at least
without an unusually strong military guard. Here was
trouble. But with the horses at the door and every body
aware of what they were there for, what would you have done?
Acknowledged that you were afraid, and backed shamefully
out? Hardly. It would not be human nature, where there
were so many women. You would have done as we did: said
you were not afraid of a million Bedouins—and made your
will and proposed quietly to yourself to take up an unostentatious
position in the rear of the procession.

I think we must all have determined upon the same line of
tactics, for it did seem as if we never would get to Jericho. I
had a notoriously slow horse, but somehow I could not keep
him in the rear, to save my neck. He was forever turning up
in the lead. In such cases I trembled a little, and got down
to fix my saddle. But it was not of any use. The others all
got down to fix their saddles, too. I never saw such a time
with saddles. It was the first time any of them had got out
of order in three weeks, and now they had all broken down at
once. I tried walking, for exercise—I had not had enough in
Jerusalem searching for holy places. But it was a failure.
The whole mob were suffering for exercise, and it was not fifteen


Page 589
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 589. In-line Illustration. Image of a bunch of men with donkeys in the desert. The caption reads, "AN EPIDEMIC."] minutes till they were all on foot and I had the lead again. It
was very discouraging.

This was all after we got beyond Bethany. We stopped at
the village of Bethany, an hour out from Jerusalem. They
showed us the tomb of Lazarus. I had rather live in it than
in any house in the town. And they showed us also a large
“Fountain of Lazarus,” and in the centre of the village the
ancient dwelling of Lazarus. Lazarus appears to have been a
man of property. The legends of the Sunday Schools do him
great injustice; they give one the impression that he was poor.
It is because they get him confused with that Lazarus who had
no merit but his virtue, and virtue never has been as respectable
as money. The house of Lazarus is a three-story edifice,
of stone masonry, but the accumulated rubbish of ages has
buried all of it but the upper story. We took candles and descended
to the dismal coll-like chambers where Jesus sat at
meat with Martha and Mary, and conversed with them about
their brother. We could not but look upon these old dingy
apartments with a more than common interest.


Page 590

[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 590. In-line Illustration. Image of men on donkeys running from Bedouins on horseback. The caption reads, "CHARGE ON BEDOUINS."]

We had had a glimpse, from a mountain top, of the Dead
Sea, lying like a blue shield in the plain of the Jordan, and
now we were marching down a close, flaming, rugged, desolate
defile, where no living creature could enjoy life, except, perhaps,
a salamander. It was such a dreary, repulsive, horrible
solitude! It was the “wilderness” where John preached,
with camel's hair about his loins—raiment enough—but he
never could have got his locusts and wild honey here. We
were moping along down through this dreadful place, every
man in the rear. Our guards—two gorgeous young Arab
sheiks, with cargoes of swords, guns, pistols and daggers on
board—were loafing ahead.


Every man shrunk up and disappeared in his clothes like a
mud-turtle. My
first impulse was
to dash forward
and destroy the
Bedouins. My
second was to
dash to the rear
to see if there
were any coming
in that direction.
I acted on the
latter impulse.
So did all the
others. If any
Bedouins had
approached us,
then, from that
point of the
compass, they
would have paid
dearly for their
rashness. We
all remarked
that, afterwards. There would have been scenes of riot and


Page 591
bloodshed there that no pen could describe. I know that, because
each man told what he would have done, individually;
and such a medley of strange and unheard-of inventions of
cruelty you could not conceive of. One man said he had
calmly made up his mind to perish where he stood, if need be,
but never yield an inch; he was going to wait, with deadly
patience, till he could count the stripes upon the first Bedouin's
jacket, and then count them and let him have it. Another
was going to sit still till the first lance reached within an
inch of his breast, and then dodge it and seize it. I forbear
to tell what he was going to do to that Bedouin that owned it.
It makes my blood run cold to think of it. Another was
going to scalp such Bedouins as fell to his share, and take his
bald-headed sons of the desert home with him alive for
trophies. But the wild-eyed pilgrim rhapsodist was silent.
His orbs gleamed with a deadly light, but his lips moved not.
Anxiety grew, and he was questioned. If he had got a Bedouin,
what would he have done with him—shot him? He
smiled a smile of grim contempt and shook his head. Would
he have stabbed him? Another shake. Would he have quartered
him—flayed him? More shakes. Oh! horror, what
would he have done?

“Eat him!”

Such was the awful sentence that thundered from his lips.
What was grammar to a desperado like that? I was glad in
my heart that I had been spared these scenes of malignant
carnage. No Bedouins attacked our terrible rear. And none
attacked the front. The new-comers were only a reinforcement
of cadaverous Arabs, in shirts and bare legs, sent far
ahead of us to brandish rusty guns, and shout and brag, and
carry on like lunatics, and thus scare away all bands of marauding
Bedouins that might lurk about our path. What a
shame it is that armed white Christians must travel under
guard of vermin like this as a protection against the prowling
vagabonds of the desert—those sanguinary outlaws who are
always going to do something desperate, but never do it. I
may as well mention here that on our whole trip we saw no


Page 592
Bedouins, and had no more use for an Arab guard than we
could have had for patent leather boots and white kid gloves.
The Bedouins that attacked the other parties of pilgrims so
fiercely were provided for the occasion by the Arab guards of
those parties, and shipped from Jerusalem for temporary service
as Bedouins. They met together in full view of the pilgrims,
after the battle, and took lunch, divided the bucksheesh
extorted in the season of danger, and then accompanied the
cavalcade home to the city! The nuisance of an Arab guard
is one which is created by the Sheiks and the Bedouins together,
for mutual profit, it is said, and no doubt there is a
good deal of truth in it.

We visited the fountain the prophet Elisha sweetened (it is
sweet yet;) where he remained some time and was fed by the

Ancient Jericho is not very picturesque as a ruin. When
Joshua marched around it seven times, some three thousand
years ago, and blew it down with his trumpet, he did the work
so well and so completely that he hardly left enough of the
city to cast a shadow. The curse pronounced against the rebuilding
of it, has never been removed. One King, holding
the curse in light estimation, made the attempt, but was
stricken sorely for his presumption. Its site will always
remain unoccupied; and yet it is one of the very best locations
for a town we have seen in all Palestine.

At two in the morning they routed us out of bed—another
piece of unwarranted cruelty—another stupid effort of our
dragoman to get ahead of a rival. It was not two hours to the
Jordan. However, we were dressed and under way before any
one thought of looking to see what time it was, and so we
drowsed on through the chill night air and dreamed of camp
fires, warm beds, and other comfortable things.

There was no conversation. People do not talk when they
are cold, and wretched, and sleepy. We nodded in the saddle,
at times, and woke up with a start to find that the procession
had disappeared in the gloom. Then there was energy and
attention to business until its dusky outlines came in sight


Page 593
again. Occasionally the order was passed in a low voice down
the line: “Close up—close up! Bedouins lurk here, every
where!” What an exquisite shudder it sent shivering along
one's spine!

We reached the famous river before four o'clock, and the
night was so black that we could have ridden into it without
seeing it. Some of us were in an unhappy frame of mind.
We waited and waited for daylight, but it did not come. Finally
we went away in the dark and slept an hour on the
ground, in the bushes, and caught cold. It was a costly nap,
on that account, but otherwise it was a paying investment
because it brought unconsciousness of the dreary minutes and
put us in a somewhat fitter mood for a first glimpse of the
sacred river.

With the first suspicion of dawn, every pilgrim took off his
clothes and waded into the dark torrent, singing:

“On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wistful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.”

But they did not sing long. The water was so fearfully cold
that they were obliged to stop singing and scamper out again.
Then they stood on the bank shivering, and so chagrined and
so grieved, that they merited honest compassion. Because another
dream, another cherished hope, had failed. They had
promised themselves all along that they would cross the Jordan
where the Israelites crossed it when they entered Canaan from
their long pilgrimage in the desert. They would cross where
the twelve stones were placed in memory of that great event.
While they did it they would picture to themselves that vast
army of pilgrims marching through the cloven waters, bearing
the hallowed ark of the covenant and shouting hosannahs, and
singing songs of thanksgiving and praise. Each had promised
himself that he would be the first to cross. They were at the
goal of their hopes at last, but the current was too swift, the
water was too cold!


Page 594

[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 594. In-line Illustration. Image of the Dead Sea and some rocks. The caption reads, "THE DEAD SEA."]

It was then that Jack did them a service. With that engaging
recklessness of consequences which is natural to youth,
and so proper and so seemly, as well, he went and led the way
across the Jordan, and all was happiness again. Every individual
waded over, then, and stood upon the further bank.
The water was not quite breast deep, any where. If it had
been more, we could hardly have accomplished the feat, for the
strong current would have swept us down the stream, and we
would have been exhausted and drowned before reaching a
place where we could make a landing. The main object compassed,
the drooping, miserable party sat down to wait for the
sun again, for all wanted to see the water as well as feel it.
But it was too cold a pastime. Some cans were filled from the
holy river, some canes cut from its banks, and then we mounted
and rode reluctantly away to keep from freezing to death.
So we saw the Jordan very dimly. The thickets of bushes
that bordered its banks threw their shadows across its shallow,
turbulent waters (“stormy,” the hymn makes them, which is
rather a complimentary stretch of fancy,) and we could not
judge of the width of the stream by the eye. We knew by
our wading experience, however, that many streets in America
are double as wide as the Jordan.

Daylight came, soon after we got under way, and in the
course of an hour or
two we reached the
Dead Sea. Nothing
grows in the flat,
burning desert
around it but weeds
and the Dead Sea
apple the poets say
is beautiful to the
eye, but crumbles to
ashes and dust when
you break it. Such
as we found were not
handsome, but they were bitter to the taste. They yielded no
dust. It was because they were not ripe, perhaps.


Page 595

The desert and the barren hills gleam painfully in the sun,
around the Dead Sea, and there is no pleasant thing or living
creature upon it or about its borders to cheer the eye. It is a
scorching, arid, repulsive solitude. A silence broods over the
scene that is depressing to the spirits. It makes one think of
funerals and death.

The Dead Sea is small. Its waters are very clear, and it
has a pebbly bottom and is shallow for some distance out from
the shores. It yields quantities of asphaltum; fragments of it
lie all about its banks; this stuff gives the place something of
an unpleasant smell.

All our reading had taught us to expect that the first plunge
into the Dead Sea would be attended with distressing results
—our bodies would feel as if they were suddenly pierced by
millions of red-hot needles; the dreadful smarting would continue
for hours; we might even look to be blistered from head
to foot, and suffer miserably for many days. We were disappointed.
Our eight sprang in at the same time that another
party of pilgrims did, and nobody screamed once. None of
them ever did complain of any thing more than a slight pricking
sensation in places where their skin was abraded, and then
only for a short time. My face smarted for a couple of hours,
but it was partly because I got it badly sun-burned while I was
bathing, and staid in so long that it became plastered over
with salt.

No, the water did not blister us; it did not cover us with a
slimy ooze and confer upon us an atrocious fragrance; it was
not very slimy; and I could not discover that we smelt really
any worse than we have always smelt since we have been in
Palestine. It was only a different kind of smell, but not conspicuous
on that account, because we have a great deal of variety
in that respect. We didn't smell, there on the Jordan,
the same as we do in Jerusalem; and we don't smell in Jerusalem
just as we did in Nazareth, or Tiberias, or Cesarea Philippi,
or any of those other ruinous ancient towns in Galilee.
No, we change all the time, and generally for the worse. We
do our own washing.


Page 596

It was a funny bath. We could not sink. One could stretch
himself at full length on his back, with his arms on his breast,
and all of his body above a line drawn from the corner of his
jaw past the middle of his side, the middle of his leg and
through his ancle bone, would remain out of water. He could
lift his head clear out, if he chose. No position can be retained
long; you lose your balance and whirl over, first on
your back and then on your face, and so on. You can lie comfortably,
on your back, with your head out, and your legs out
from your knees down, by steadying yourself with your hands.
You can sit, with your knees drawn up to your chin and your
arms clasped around them, but you are bound to turn over
presently, because you are top-heavy in that position. You
can stand up straight in water that is over your head, and from
the middle of your breast upward you will not be wet. But
you can not remain so. The water will soon float your feet to
the surface. You can not swim on your back and make any
progress of any consequence, because your feet stick away
above the surface, and there is nothing to propel yourself with
but your heels. If you swim on your face, you kick up the
water like a stern-wheel boat. You make no headway. A
horse is so top-heavy that he can neither swim nor stand up in
the Dead Sea. He turns over on his side at once. Some of
us bathed for more than an hour, and then came out coated
with salt till we shone like icicles. We scrubbed it off with a
coarse towel and rode off with a splendid brand-new smell,
though it was one which was not any more disagreeable than
those we have been for several weeks enjoying. It was the
variegated villainy and novelty of it that charmed us. Salt
crystals glitter in the sun about the shores of the lake. In
places they coat the ground like a brilliant crust of ice.

When I was a boy I somehow got the impression that the
river Jordan was four thousand miles long and thirty-five miles
wide. It is only ninety miles long, and so crooked that a man
does not know which side of it he is on half the time. In
going ninety miles it does not get over more than fifty miles
of ground. It is not any wider than Broadway in New York.


Page 597
There is the Sea of Galilee and this Dead Sea—neither of them
twenty miles long or thirteen wide. And yet when I was in
Sunday School I thought they were sixty thousand miles in

Travel and experience mar the grandest pictures and rob us
of the most cherished traditions of our boyhood. Well, let
them go. I have already seen the Empire of King Solomon
diminish to the size of the State of Pennsylvania; I suppose
I can bear the reduction of the seas and the river.

We looked every where, as we passed along, but never saw
grain or crystal of Lot's wife. It was a great disappointment.
For many and many a year we had known her sad story, and
taken that interest in her which misfortune always inspires.
But she was gone. Her picturesque form no longer looms
above the desert of the Dead Sea to remind the tourist of the
doom that fell upon the lost cities.

I can not describe the hideous afternoon's ride from the
Dead Sea to Mars Saba. It oppresses me yet, to think of it.
The sun so pelted us that the tears ran down our cheeks once
or twice. The ghastly, treeless, grassless, breathless canons
smothered us as if we had been in an oven. The sun had
positive weight to it, I think. Not a man could sit erect under
it. All drooped low in the saddles. John preached in this
“Wilderness!” It must have been exhausting work. What
a very heaven the massy towers and ramparts of vast Mars
Saba looked to us when we caught a first glimpse of them!

We staid at this great convent all night, guests of the hospitable
priests. Mars Saba, perched upon a crag, a human
nest stuck high up against a perpendicular mountain wall, is
a world of grand masonry that rises, terrace upon terrace away
above your head, like the terraced and retreating colonnades
one sees in fanciful pictures of Belshazzar's Feast and the palaces
of the ancient Pharaohs. No other human dwelling is
near. It was founded many ages ago by a holy recluse who
lived at first in a cave in the rock—a cave which is inclosed in
the convent walls, now, and was reverently shown to us by the
priests. This recluse, by his rigorous torturing of his flesh,


Page 598
his diet of bread and water, his utter withdrawal from all society
and from the vanities of the world, and his constant
prayer and saintly contemplation of a skull, inspired an emulation
that brought about him many disciples. The precipice
on the opposite side of the canon is well perforated with the
small holes they dug in the rock to live in. The present occupants
of Mars Saba, about seventy in number, are all hermits.
They wear a coarse robe, an ugly, brimless stove-pipe of a hat,
and go without shoes. They eat nothing whatever but bread
and salt; they drink nothing but water. As long as they live
they can never go outside the walls, or look upon a woman—
for no woman is permitted to enter Mars Saba, upon any pretext

Some of those men have been shut up there for thirty years.
In all that dreary time they have not heard the laughter of a
child or the blessed voice of a woman; they have seen no
human tears, no human smiles; they have known no human
joys, no wholesome human sorrows. In their hearts are no
memories of the past, in their brains no dreams of the future.
All that is lovable, beautiful, worthy, they have put far away
from them; against all things that are pleasant to look upon,
and all sounds that are music to the ear, they have barred
their massive doors and reared their relentless walls of stone
forever. They have banished the tender grace of life and left
only the sapped and skinny mockery. Their lips are lips that
never kiss and never sing; their hearts are hearts that never
hate and never love; their breasts are breasts that never swell
with the sentiment, “I have a country and a flag.” They are
dead men who walk.

I set down these first thoughts because they are natural—
not because they are just or because it is right to set them
down. It is easy for book-makers to say “I thought so and so
as I looked upon such and such a scene”—when the truth
is, they thought all those fine things afterwards. One's first
thought is not likely to be strictly accurate, yet it is no crime
to think it and none to write it down, subject to modification
by later experience. These hermits are dead men, in several


Page 599
respects, but not in all; and it is not proper, that, thinking ill
of them at first, I should go on doing so, or, speaking ill of
them I should reiterate the words and stick to them. No, they
treated us too kindly for that. There is something human
about them somewhere. They knew we were foreigners and
Protestants, and not likely to feel admiration or much friendliness
toward them. But their large charity was above considering
such things. They simply saw in us men who were
hungry, and thirsty, and tired, and that was sufficient. They
opened their doors and gave us welcome. They asked no questions,
and they made no self-righteous display of their hospipitality.
They fished for no compliments. They moved
quietly about, setting the table for us, making the beds, and
bringing water to wash in, and paid no heed when we said it
was wrong for them to do that when we had men whose business
it was to perform such offices. We fared most comfortably,
and sat late at dinner. We walked all over the building
with the hermits afterward, and then sat on the lofty battlements
and smoked while we enjoyed the cool air, the wild
scenery and the sunset. One or two chose cosy bed-rooms to
sleep in, but the nomadic instinct prompted the rest to sleep
on the broad divan that extended around the great hall, because
it seemed like sleeping out of doors, and so was more
cheery and inviting. It was a royal rest we had.

When we got up to breakfast in the morning, we were new
men. For all this hospitality no strict charge was made. We
could give something if we chose; we need give nothing, if
we were poor or if we were stingy. The pauper and the miser
are as free as any in the Catholic Convents of Palestine. I
have been educated to enmity toward every thing that is Catholic,
and sometimes, in consequence of this, I find it much
easier to discover Catholic faults than Catholic merits. But
there is one thing I feel no disposition to overlook, and no disposition
to forget: and that is, the honest gratitude I and all
pilgrims owe, to the Convent Fathers in Palestine. Their
doors are always open, and there is always a welcome for any
worthy man who comes, whether he comes in rags or clad in


Page 600
purple. The Catholic Convents are a priceless blessing to the
poor. A pilgrim without money, whether he be a Protestant
or a Catholic, can travel the length and breadth of Palestine,
and in the midst of her desert wastes find wholesome food and
a clean bed every night, in these buildings. Pilgrims in better
circumstances are often stricken down by the sun and the
fevers of the country, and then their saving refuge is the Convent.
Without these hospitable retreats, travel in Palestine
would be a pleasure which none but the strongest men could
dare to undertake. Our party, pilgrims and all, will always
be ready and always willing, to touch glasses and drink health,
prosperity and long life to the Convent Fathers of Palestine.

So, rested and refreshed, we fell into line and filed away
over the barren mountains of Judea, and along rocky ridges
and through sterile gorges, where eternal silence and solitude
reigned. Even the scattering groups of armed shepherds we
met the afternoon before, tending their flocks of long-haired
goats, were wanting here. We saw but two living creatures.
They were gazelles, of “soft-eyed” notoriety. They looked
like very young kids, but they annihilated distance like an express
train. I have not seen animals that moved faster, unless
I might say it of the antelopes of our own great plains.

At nine or ten in the morning we reached the Plain of the
Shepherds, and stood in a walled garden of olives where the
shepherds were watching their flocks by night, eighteen centuries
ago, when the multitude of angels brought them the
tidings that the Saviour was born. A quarter of a mile away
was Bethlehem of Judea, and the pilgrims took some of the
stone wall and hurried on.

The Plain of the Shepherds is a desert, paved with loose
stones, void of vegetation, glaring in the fierce sun. Only the
music of the angels it knew once could charm its shrubs and
flowers to life again and restore its vanished beauty. No less
potent enchantment could avail to work this miracle.

In the huge Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, built fifteen
hundred years ago by the inveterate St. Helena, they took us
below ground, and into a grotto cut in the living rock. This was

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[Description: 500EAF. Illustration page. Image of three men standing in an ornate room with paintings, carvings, and lanterns. There is a man with a cross on the back of his robe kneeling in fron of a small enclosure.]


Page 601
the “manger” where Christ was born. A silver star set in the
floor bears a Latin inscription to that effect. It is polished
with the kisses of many generations of worshiping pilgrims.
The grotto was tricked out in the usual tasteless style observable
in all the holy places of Palestine. As in the Church of
the Holy Sepulchre, envy and uncharitableness were apparent
here. The priests and the members of the Greek and Latin
Churches can not come by the same corridor to kneel in the
sacred birthplace of the Redeemer, but are compelled to approach
and retire by different avenues, lest they quarrel and
fight on this holiest ground on earth.

I have no “meditations,” suggested by this spot where the
very first “Merry Christmas!” was uttered in all the world,
and from whence the friend of my childhood, Santa Claus, departed
on his first journey, to gladden and continue to gladden
roaring firesides on wintry mornings in many a distant land
forever and forever. I touch, with reverent finger, the actual
spot where the infant Jesus lay, but I think—nothing.

You can not think in this place any more than you can in
any other in Palestine that would be likely to inspire reflection.
Beggars, cripples and monks compass you about, and make
you think only of bucksheesh when you would rather think of
something more in keeping with the character of the spot.

I was glad to get away, and glad when we had walked
through the grottoes where Eusebius wrote, and Jerome fasted,
and Joseph prepared for the flight into Egypt, and the dozen
other distinguished grottoes, and knew we were done. The
Church of the Nativity is almost as well packed with exceeding
holy places as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself.
They even have in it a grotto wherein twenty thousand children
were slaughtered by Herod when he was seeking the life
of the infant Saviour.

We went to the Milk Grotto, of course—a cavern where
Mary hid herself for a while before the flight into Egypt. Its
walls were black before she entered, but in suckling the Child,
a drop of her milk fell upon the floor and instantly changed
the darkness of the walls to its own snowy hue. We took


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many little fragments of stone from here, because it is well
known in all the East that a barren woman hath need only to
touch her lips to one of these and her failing will depart from
her. We took many specimens, to the end that we might confer
happiness upon certain households that we wot of.

We got away from Bethlehem and its troops of beggars and
relic-peddlers in the afternoon, and after spending some little
time at Rachel's tomb, hurried to Jerusalem as fast as possible.
I never was so glad to get home again before. I never have
enjoyed rest as I have enjoyed it during these last few hours.
The journey to the Dead Sea, the Jordan and Bethlehem was
short, but it was an exhausting one. Such roasting heat, such
oppressive solitude, and such dismal desolation can not surely
exist elsewhere on earth. And such fatigue!

The commonest sagacity warns me that I ought to tell the
customary pleasant lie, and say I tore myself reluctantly away
from every noted place in Palestine. Every body tells that,
but with as little ostentation as I may, I doubt the word of
every he who tells it. I could take a dreadful oath that I have
never heard any one of our forty pilgrims say any thing of the
sort, and they are as worthy and as sincerely devout as any
that come here. They will say it when they get home, fast
enough, but why should they not? They do not wish to array
themselves against all the Lamartines and Grimeses in the
world. It does not stand to reason that men are reluctant to
leave places where the very life is almost badgered out of them
by importunate swarms of beggars and peddlers who hang in
strings to one's sleeves and coat-tails and shriek and shout in
his ears and horrify his vision with the ghastly sores and malformations
they exhibit. One is glad to get away. I have
heard shameless people say they were glad to get away from
Ladies' Festivals where they were importuned to buy by bevies
of lovely young ladies. Transform those houris into dusky
hags and ragged savages, and replace their rounded forms with
shrunken and knotted distortions, their soft hands with scarred
and hideous deformities, and the persuasive music of their
voices with the discordant din of a hated language, and then


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see how much lingering reluctance to leave could be mustered.
No, it is the neat thing to say you were reluctant, and then
append the profound thoughts that “struggled for utterance,”
in your brain; but it is the true thing to say you were not
reluctant, and found it impossible to think at all—though in
good sooth it is not respectable to say it, and not poetical,

We do not think, in the holy places; we think in bed, afterwards,
when the glare, and the noise, and the confusion are
gone, and in fancy we revisit alone, the solemn monuments of
the past, and summon the phantom pageants of an age that
has passed away.