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






NEARLY one year has flown since this notable pilgrimage
was ended; and as I sit here at home in San Francisco
thinking, I am moved to confess that day by day the mass of
my memories of the excursion have grown more and more
pleasant as the disagreeable incidents of travel which encumbered
them flitted one by one out of my mind—and now, if
the Quaker City were weighing her anchor to sail away on the
very same cruise again, nothing could gratify me more than to
be a passenger. With the same captain and even the same
pilgrims, the same sinners. I was on excellent terms with
eight or nine of the excursionists (they are my staunch friends
yet,) and was even on speaking terms with the rest of the
sixty-five. I have been at sea quite enough to know that that
was a very good average. Because a long sea-voyage not only
brings out all the mean traits one has, and exaggerates them,
but raises up others which he never suspected he possessed, and
even creates new ones. A twelve months' voyage at sea would
make of an ordinary man a very miracle of meanness. On the
other hand, if a man has good qualities, the spirit seldom moves
him to exhibit them on shipboard, at least with any sort of emphasis.
Now I am satisfied that our pilgrims are pleasant old
people on shore; I am also satisfied that at sea on a second
voyage they would be pleasanter, somewhat, than they were on
our grand excursion, and so I say without hesitation that I
would be glad enough to sail with them again. I could at least
enjoy life with my handful of old friends. They could enjoy
life with their cliques as well—passengers invariably divide up
into cliques, on all ships.


Page 649

And I will say, here, that I would rather travel with an excursion
party of Methuselahs than have to be changing ships
and comrades constantly, as people do who travel in the ordinary
way. Those latter are always grieving over some other
ship they have known and lost, and over other comrades whom
diverging routes have separated from them. They learn to
love a ship just in time to change it for another, and they become
attached to a pleasant traveling companion only to lose
him. They have that most dismal experience of being in a
strange vessel, among strange people who care nothing about
them, and of undergoing the customary bullying by strange
officers and the insolence of strange servants, repeated over
and over again within the compass of every month. They
have also that other misery of packing and unpacking trunks
—of running the distressing gauntlet of custom-houses—of
the anxieties attendant upon getting a mass of baggage from
point to point on land in safety. I had rather sail with a
whole brigade of patriarchs than suffer so. We never packed
our trunks but twice—when we sailed from New York, and
when we returned to it. Whenever we made a land journey,
we estimated how many days we should be gone and what
amount of clothing we should need, figured it down to a mathematical
nicety, packed a valise or two accordingly, and left
the trunks on board. We chose our comrades from among our
old, tried friends, and started. We were never dependent
upon strangers for companionship. We often had occasion to
pity Americans whom we found traveling drearily among
strangers with no friends to exchange pains and pleasures
with. Whenever we were coming back from a land journey,
our eyes sought one thing in the distance first—the ship—and
when we saw it riding at anchor with the flag apeak, we felt
as a returning wanderer feels when he sees his home. When
we stepped on board, our cares vanished, our troubles were at
an end—for the ship was home to us. We always had the same
familiar old state-room to go to, and feel safe and at peace and
comfortable again.

I have no fault to find with the manner in which our excursion


Page 650
was conducted. Its programme was faithfully carried out
—a thing which surprised me, for great enterprises usually
promise vastly more than they perform. It would be well if
such an excursion could be gotten up every year and the system
regularly inaugurated. Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry
and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it
sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views
of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one
little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

The Excursion is ended, and has passed to its place among
the things that were. But its varied scenes and its manifold
incidents will linger pleasantly in our memories for many a
year to come. Always on the wing, as we were, and merely
pausing a moment to catch fitful glimpses of the wonders of
half a world, we could not hope to receive or retain vivid impressions
of all it was our fortune to see. Yet our holyday
flight has not been in vain—for above the confusion of vague
recollections, certain of its best prized pictures lift themselves
and will still continue perfect in tint and outline after their
surroundings shall have faded away.

We shall remember something of pleasant France; and
something also of Paris, though it flashed upon us a splendid
meteor, and was gone again, we hardly knew how or where.
We shall remember, always, how we saw majestic Gibraltar
glorified with the rich coloring of a Spanish sunset and swimming
in a sea of rainbows. In fancy we shall see Milan again,
and her stately Cathedral with its marble wilderness of graceful
spires. And Padua—Verona—Como, jeweled with stars;
and patrician Venice, afloat on her stagnant flood—silent, desolate,
haughty—scornful of her humbled state—wrapping herself
in memories of her lost fleets, of battle and triumph, and
all the pageantry of a glory that is departed.

We can not forget Florence—Naples—nor the foretaste of
heaven that is in the delicious atmosphere of Greece—and
surely not Athens and the broken temples of the Acropolis.
Surely not venerable Rome—nor the green plain that compasses
her round about, contrasting its brightness with her


Page 651
gray decay—nor the ruined arches that stand apart in the
plain and clothe their looped and windowed raggedness with
vines. We shall remember St. Peter's: not as one sees it
when he walks the streets of Rome and fancies all her domes
are just alike, but as he sees it leagues away, when every
meaner edifice has faded out of sight and that one dome looms
superbly up in the flush of sunset, full of dignity and grace,
strongly outlined as a mountain.

We shall remember Constantinople and the Bosporus—the
colossal magnificence of Baalbec—the Pyramids of Egypt—
the prodigious form, the benignant countenance of the Sphynx
—Oriental Smyrna—sacred Jerusalem—Damascus, the “Pearl
of the East,” the pride of Syria, the fabled Garden of Eden,
the home of princes and genii of the Arabian Nights, the oldest
metropolis on earth, the one city in all the world that has
kept its name and held its place and looked serenely on while
the Kingdoms and Empires of four thousand years have risen
to life, enjoyed their little season of pride and pomp, and then
vanished and been forgotten!