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CURIOSITIES OF THE SECRET CAVERNS.
cave in the sea extremity of Gibraltar ; history says Rome held this part of the country about the Christian era, and these things seem to confirm the statement.
In that cave, also, are found human bones, crusted with a very thick, stony coating, and wise men have ventured to say that those men not only lived before the flood, but as much as ten thousand years before it. It may be true-it looks reasonable enough—but as long as those parties can't vote any more, the matter can be of no great public interest. In this cave, likewise, are found skeletons and fossils of animals that exist in every part of Africa, yet within memory and tradition have never existed in any portion of Spain save this lone peak of Gibraltar ! So the theory is that the channel between Gibraltar and Africa was once dry land, and that the low, neutral neck between Gibraltar and the Spanish hills behind it was once ocean, and of course that these African animals, being over at Gibraltar (after rock, perhaps—there is plenty there), got closed out when the great change occurred. The hills in Africa, across the channel, are full of apes, and there are now, and always have been, apes on the rock of Gibraltarbut not elsewhere in Spain ! The subject is an interesting one.
There is an English garrison at Gibraltar of 6,000 or 7,000 men, and so uniforms of flaming red are plenty ; and red and blue, and undress costumes of snowy white, and also the queer uniform of the bare-kneed Highlander; and one sees soft-eyed Spanish girls from San Roque, and veiled Moorish beauties (I suppose they are beauties) from Tarifa, and turbaned, sashed, and trousered Moorish merchants from Fez, and long-robed, bare-legged, ragged Mohammedan vagabonds from Tetouan and Tangier, some brown, some yellow, and some as black as virgin ink-and Jews from all around, in gaberdine, skull-cap, and slippers, just as they are in pictures and theatres, and just as they were three thousand years ago, no doubt. You can easily understand that a tribe (somehow our pilgrims suggest that expression, because they march in a straggling procession through these foreign places with such an Indian-like air of complacency and independence about them,) like ours, made up from fifteen or sixteen States of the Union, found enough to stare at in this shifting panorama of fashion to-day.
Speaking of our pilgrims reminds me that we have one or two people among us who are sometimes an annoyance. However, I do not count the Oracle in that list. I will explain that the Oracle is an innocent old ass who eats for four and looks wiser than the whole Academy of France would have any right to look, and never uses a one-syllable word when he can think of a longer one, and never by any possible chance knows the meaning of any long word he uses, or ever gets it in the right place : yet he will serenely venture an opinion on the most abstruse subject, and back it up complacently with quotations from authors who never exist and final
when cornered, will slide to the other side of the question, say he has been there all the time, and come back at
you with your own spoken arguments, only with the big words all tangled, and play them in your very teeth as original with himself. He reads a chapter in the guide-books, mixes the facts all up, with his bad memory, and then goes off to inflict the whole mess on somebody as wisdom which has been festering in his brain for years, and which he gathered in college from erudite authors who are dead, now, and out of print. This morning at breakfast he pointed out of the window and said :
“ Do you see that there hill out there on that African coast ? It's one of them Pillows of Herkewls, I should say—and there's the ultimate one alongside of it.”
“ The ultimate one that is a good word—but the Pillars are not both on the same side of the strait.” (I saw he had been deceived by a carelessly written sentence in the Guide Book.)
“Well, it ain't for you to say, nor for me. Some authors states it that way, and some states it different. Old Gibbons don't say nothing about, -just shirks it complete–Gibbons always done that when he got stuck_but there is Rolampton, what does he say? Why, he says that they was both on the same side, and Trinculian, and Sobaster, and Syraccus, and Langomarganbl—".
“Oh, that will do—that's enough. If you have got your hand in for inventing authors and testimony, I have nothing more to say-let them be on the same side."
We don't mind the Oracle. We rather like him. We can tolerate the Oracle very easily ; but we have a poet and a goodnatured enterprising idiot on board, and they do distress the company. The one gives copies of his verses to Consuls, commanders, hotel-keepers, Arabs, Dutch,—to anybody, in fact, who will submit to a grievous infliction most kindly meant. His poetry is all very well on shipboard, notwithstanding when he wrote an“ Ode to the Ocean in a storm" in one half-hour, and an Apostrophe to the Rooster in the Waist of the Ship” in the next, the transition was considered to be rather abrupt; but when he sends an invoice of rhymes to the Governor of Fayal and another to the Commanderin-Chief and other dignitaries in Gibraltar, with the compliments of the Laureate of the Ship, it is not popular with the passengers.
The other personage I have mentioned is young and green, and not bright, not learned, and not wise. He will be, though, some day, if he recollects the answers to all his questions. He is known about the ship as the “Interrogation Point," and this by constant use has become shortened to “Interrogation." He has distinguished himself twice already. In Fayal they pointed out a hill and told him it was eight hundred feet high and eleven hundred feet long. And they told him there was a tunnel two thousand feet long and one thousand feet high running through the hill from end to end. He believed it. He repeated it to everybody, discussed it, and read it from his notes. Finally he took a useful hint from this remark which a thoughtful old pilgrim made ;
À PRIVATE FROLIC IN AFRICA,
"Well, yes, it is a little remarkable--singular tunnel altogether -stands up out of the top of the hill about 200 feet, and one end of it sticks out of the hill about nine hundred !"
Here in Gibraltar he corners these educated British officers and badgers them with braggadocio about America and the wonders she can perform. He told one of them a couple of our gunboats could come here and knock Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea!
At this present moment, half a dozen of us are taking a private pleasure excursion of our own devising. We form rather more than half the list of white passengers on board a small steamer bound for the venerable Moorish town of Tangier, Africa. Nothing could be more absolutely certain than that we are enjoying ourselves. One cannot do otherwise who speeds over these sparkling waters, and breathes the soft atmosphere of this sunny land. Care cannot assail us here. We are out of its jurisdiction.
We even steamed recklessly by the frowning fortress of Malabat (a stronghold of the Emperor of Morocco) without a twinge of fear. The whole garrison turned out under arms, and assumed a threatening attitude-yet still we did not fear. The entire garrison marched and countermarched, within the rampart, in full view, yet notwithstanding even this we never flinched.
I suppose we really do not know what fear is. I inquired the name of the garrison of the fortress of Malabat, and they said it was Mehemet Ali Ben Sancom. I said it would be a good idea to get some more garrisons to help him ; but they said no ; he had nothing to do but hold the place, and he was competent to do that; had done it two years already. That was evidence which one could not well refute. There is nothing like reputation.
Every now and then, my glove purchase in Gibraltar last night intrudes itself upon mé. Dan and the ship's surgeon and I had been up to the great square, listening to the music of the fine military bands, and contemplating English and Spanish female loveliness and fashion, and, at nine o'clock, were on our way to the theatre, when we met the General, the Judge, the Commodore, the Colonel, and the Commissioner of the United States of America to Europe, Asia, and Africa, who had been to the Club House to register their several titles and impoverish the bill of fare ; and they told us to go over to the little variety store, near the Hall of Justice and buy some kid gloves. They said they were elegant, and very moderate in price. It seemed a stylish thing to go to the theatre in kid gloves, and we acted upon the hint. handsome young lady in the store offered me a pair of blue gloves. I did not want blue, but she said they would look very pretty on a hand like mine. The remark touched me tenderly. I glanced furtively at my hand, and somehow it did seem rather a comely member. I tried a glove on my left, and blushed a little. Manifestly the size was too small for me. But I felt gratified when she said :
"Oh, it is just right I" yet I knew it was no such thing.
I tugged at it diligently, but it was discouraging work. She said :
“Ah! I see you are accustomed to wearing kid gloves—but some gentlemen are so awkward about putting them on."
It was the last compliment I had expected. I only understand putting on the buckskin article perfectly. I made another effort, and tore the glove from the base of the thumb into the palm of the hand—and tried to hide the rent. She kept up her compliments, and I kept up my determination to deserve them or die :
"Ah, you have had experience !” [A rip down the back of the hand.] “ They are just right for you-your hand is very smallif they tear you need not pay for them.” [A rent across the middle.] “I can always tell when a gentleman understands putting on kid gloves. There is a grace about it that only comes with long practice. [The whole after-guard of the glove "fetched away,” as the sailors say, the fabric parted across the knuckles, and nothing was left but a melancholy ruin.]
I was too much flattered to make an exposure, and throw the merchandise on the angel's hands. I was hot, vexed, confused, but still happy ; but I hated the other boys for taking such an absorbing interest in the proceedings. I wished they were in Jericho. I felt exquisitely mean when I said cheerfully,
“ This one does very well ; it fits elegantly. I like a glove that fits. No, never mind, ma'am, never mind ; I'll put the other on in the street. It is warm here."
It was warm. It was the warmest place I ever was in. I paid the bill, and as I passed out with a fascinating bow, I thought I. detected a light in the woman's eye that was gently ironical ; and when I looked back from the street, and she was laughing all to herself about something or other, I said to myself, with withering sarcasm, “Oh, certainly; you know how to put on kid gloves, don't you ?—a self-complacent ass, ready to be flattered out of your senses by every petticoat that chooses to take the trouble to do it !"
The silence of the boys annoyed me. Finally, Dan said, musingly :
“Some gentlemen don't know how to put on kid gloves at all; but some do.”
And the doctor said (to the moon, I thought,)
“But it is always easy to tell when a gentleman is used to putting on kid gloves.”
Dan soliloquized, after a pause :
“Ah, yes; there is a grace about it that only comes with long, very long practice.”
Yes, indeed, I've noticed that when a man hauls on a kid glove like he was dragging a cat out of an ash-hole by the tail, he understands putting on kid gloves ; he's had ex
Boys, enough of a thing is enough! You think you are very smart, I suppose, but I don't. And if you go and tell any of those
old gossips in the ship about this thing, I'll never forgive you for it; that's all."
They let me alone then, for the time being. We always let each other alone in time to prevent ill feeling from spoiling a joke. But they had bought gloves, too, as I did. We threw all the purchases away together this morning. They were coarse, unsubstantial, freckled all over with broad yellow splotches, and could neither stand wear nor public exhibition. We had enter. tained an angel unawares, but we did not take her in. She did that for us.
Tangier! A tribe of stalwart Moors are wading into the sea to carry us ashore on their backs from the small boats.
THIS is royal! Let those who went up through Spain make the best of it-these dominions of the Emperor of Morocco suit our little party well enough. We have had enough of Spain at Gibraltar for the present. Tangier is the spot we have been longing for all the time. Elsewhere we have found foreign-looking things and foreign-looking people, but always with things and people intermixed that we were familiar with before, and so the novelty of the situation lost a deal of its force. We wanted something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign – foreign from top to bottom – foreign from centre to circumference ---foreign inside and outside and all around-nothing anywhere about it to dilute its foreignness — nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun. And lo! in Tangier we have found it. Here is not the slightest thing that ever we have seen save in pictures—and we always mistrusted the pictures before. We cannot any more. The pictures used to seem exaggerations—they seemed too weird and fanciful for reality. But behold, they were not wild enough-they were not fanciful enough-they have not told half the story. Tangier is a foreign land if ever there was one; and the true spirit of it can never be found in any book save the Arabian Nights. Here are no white men visible, yet swarms of humanity are all about us. Here is a packed and jammed city enclosed in a massive stone wall which is more than a thousand years old. All the houses nearly are one and two-story; made of thick walls of stone ; plastered outside ; square as a dry-goods box; flat as a floor on top ; no cornices ; whitewashed all over-a crowded city of snowy tombs! And the doors are arched with the peculiar arch we see in Moorish pictures; the floors are laid in vari. coloured diamond-flags ; in tesselated many-coloured porcelain squares wrought in the furnaces of Fez; in red tiles and broad