Roman Holidays And Others, By W. D. Howells

























































































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ROMAN HOLIDAYS AND OTHERS

By W. D. HOWELLS


HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
Copyright, 1908, by HARPER & BROTHERS - Page 1
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ROMAN HOLIDAYS AND OTHERS

By W. D. HOWELLS

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON Copyright, 1908, by HARPER & BROTHERS. Copyright, 1908, by THE SUN PRINTING AND PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION. Published October, 1908.

CONTENTS

I. UP AND DOWN MADEIRA

II. TWO UP-TOWN BLOCKS INTO SPAIN

III. ASHORE AT GENOA

IV. NAPLES AND HER JOYFUL NOISE

V. POMPEII REVISITED

VI. ROMAN HOLIDAYS

VII. A WEEK AT LEGHORN

VIII. OVER AT PISA

IX.. BACK AT GENOA

X. EDEN AFTER THE FALL

ROMAN HOLIDAYS AND OTHERS

I

UP AND DOWN MADEIRA.

No drop-curtain, at any theatre I have seen, was ever so richly imagined, with misty tops and shadowy clefts and frowning cliffs and gloomy valleys and long, plunging cataracts, as the actual landscape of Madeira, when we drew nearer and nearer to it, at the close of a tearful afternoon of mid-January. The scenery of drop-curtains is often very holdly beautiful, but here Nature, if she had taken a hint from art, had certainly bettered her instruction. During the waits between acts at the theatre, while studying the magnificent painting beyond the trouble of the orchestra, I have been most impressed by the splendid variety which the artist had got into his picture, where the spacious frame lent itself to his passion for saying everything; but I remembered his thronging fancies as meagre and scanty in the presence of the stupendous reality before me. I have, for instance, not even mentioned the sea, which swept smoother and smoother in toward the feet of those precipices and grew more and more trans-lucently purple and yellow and green, while half a score of cascades shot straight down their fronts in shafts of snowy foam, and over their pachydermatous shoulders streamed and hung long reaches of gray vines or mosses. To the view from the sea the island is all, with its changing capes and promontories and bays and inlets, one immeasurable mountain; and on the afternoon of our approach it was bestridden by a steadfast rainbow, of which we could only see one leg indeed, but that very stout and athletic.

There were breadths of dark woodland aloft on this mountain, and terraced vineyards lower down; and on the shelving plateaus yet farther from the heights that lost themselves in the clouds there were scattered white cottages; on little levels close to the sea there were set white villas. These, as the ship coquetted with the vagaries of the shore, thickened more and more, until after rounding a prodigious headland we found ourselves in face of the charming little city of Funchal: long horizontal lines of red roofs, ivory and pink and salmon walls, evenly fenestrated, with an ancient fortress giving the modern look of things a proper mediaeval touch. Large hotels, with the air of palaces, crowned the upland vantages; there were bell-towers of churches, and in one place there was a wide splotch of vivid color from the red of the densely flowering creeper on the side of some favored house. There was an acceptable expanse of warm brown near the quay from the withered but unfailing leaves of a sycamore-shaded promenade, and in the fine roadstead where we anchored there lay other steamers and a lead-colored Portuguese war-ship. I am not a painter, but I think that here are the materials of a water-color which almost any one else could paint. In the hands of a scene-painter they would yield a really unrivalled drop-curtain. I stick to the notion of this because when the beautiful goes too far, as it certainly does at Madeira, it leaves you not only sated but vindictive; you wish to mock it.

The afternoon saddened more and more, and one could not take an interest in the islanders who came out in little cockles and proposed to dive for shillings and sixpences, though quarters and dimes would do. The company's tender also came out, and numbers of passengers went ashore in the mere wantonness of paying for their dinner and a night's lodging in the annexes of the hotels, which they were told beforehand were full. The lights began to twinkle from the windows of the town, and the dark fell upon the insupportable picturesqueness of the prospect, leaving one to a gay-ety of trooping and climbing lamps which defined the course of the streets.

The morning broke in sunshine, and after early breakfast the launches began to ply again between the ship and the shore and continued till nearly all the first and second cabin people had been carried off. The people of the steerage satisfied what longing they had for strange sights and scenes by thronging to the sides of the steamer until they gave her a strong list landward, as they easily might, for there were twenty-five hundred of them. At Madeira there is a local Thomas Cook & Son of quite another name, but we were not finally sure that the alert youth on the pier who sold us transportation and provision was really their agent. However, his tickets served perfectly well at all points, and he was of such an engaging civility and personal comeliness that I should not have much minded their failing us here and there. He gave the first charming-touch of the Latin south whose renewed contact is such a pleasure to any one knowing it from the past. All Portuguese as Funchal was, it looked so like a hundred little Italian towns that it seemed to me as if I must always have driven about them in calico-tented bullock-carts set on runners, as later I drove about Eunchal.

It was warm enough on the ship, but here in the town we found ourselves in weather that one could easily have taken for summer, if the inhabitants had not repeatedly assured us that it was the season of winter, and that there were no flowers and no fruits. They could not, if they had wished, have denied the flies; these, in a hotel interior to which we penetrated, simply swarmed.

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