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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 7
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    I think the Azores must be very little known in America. Out of our
    whole ship's company there was not a solitary individual who knew
    anything whatever about them. Some of the party, well read concerning
    most other lands, had no other information about the Azores than that
    they were a group of nine or ten small islands far out in the Atlantic,
    something more than halfway between New York and Gibraltar. That was
    all. These considerations move me to put in a paragraph of dry facts
    just here.

    The community is eminently Portuguese--that is to say, it is slow, poor,
    shiftless, sleepy, and lazy. There is a civil governor, appointed by the
    King of Portugal, and also a military governor, who can assume supreme
    control and suspend the civil government at his pleasure. The islands
    contain a population of about 200,000, almost entirely Portuguese.
    Everything is staid and settled, for the country was one hundred years
    old when Columbus discovered America. The principal crop is corn, and
    they raise it and grind it just as their great-great-great-grandfathers
    did. They plow with a board slightly shod with iron; their trifling
    little harrows are drawn by men and women; small windmills grind the
    corn, ten bushels a day, and there is one assistant superintendent to
    feed the mill and a general superintendent to stand by and keep him from
    going to sleep. When the wind changes they hitch on some donkeys and
    actually turn the whole upper half of the mill around until the sails are
    in proper position, instead of fixing the concern so that the sails could
    be moved instead of the mill. Oxen tread the wheat from the ear, after
    the fashion prevalent in the time of Methuselah. There is not a
    wheelbarrow in the land--they carry everything on their heads, or on
    donkeys, or in a wicker-bodied cart, whose wheels are solid blocks of
    wood and whose axles turn with the wheel. There is not a modern plow in
    the islands or a threshing machine. All attempts to introduce them have
    failed. The good Catholic Portuguese crossed himself and prayed God to
    shield him from all blasphemous desire to know more than his father did
    before him. The climate is mild; they never have snow or ice, and I saw
    no chimneys in the town. The donkeys and the men, women, and children of
    a family all eat and sleep in the same room, and are unclean, are ravaged
    by vermin, and are truly happy. The people lie, and cheat the stranger,
    and are desperately ignorant, and have hardly any reverence for their
    dead. The latter trait shows how little better they are than the donkeys
    they eat and sleep with. The only well-dressed Portuguese in the camp
    are the half a dozen well-to-do families, the Jesuit priests, and the
    soldiers of the little garrison. The wages of a laborer are twenty to
    twenty-four cents a day, and those of a good mechanic about twice as
    much. They count it in reis at a thousand to the dollar, and this makes
    them rich and contented. Fine grapes used to grow in the islands, and an
    excellent wine was made and exported. But a disease killed all the vines
    fifteen years ago, and since that time no wine has been made. The
    islands being wholly of volcanic origin, the soil is necessarily very
    rich. Nearly every foot of ground is under cultivation, and two or three
    crops a year of each article are produced, but nothing is exported save a
    few oranges--chiefly to England. Nobody comes here, and nobody goes
    away. News is a thing unknown in Fayal. A thirst for it is a passion
    equally unknown. A Portuguese of average intelligence inquired if our
    civil war was over. Because, he said, somebody had told him it was--or
    at least it ran in his mind that somebody had told him something like
    that! And when a passenger gave an officer of the garrison copies of the
    Tribune, the Herald, and Times, he was surprised to find later news in
    them from Lisbon than he had just received by the little monthly steamer.
    He was told that it came by cable. He said he knew they had tried to lay
    a cable ten years ago, but it had been in his mind somehow that they
    hadn't succeeded!

    It is in communities like this that Jesuit humbuggery flourishes. We
    visited a Jesuit cathedral nearly two hundred years old and found in it a
    piece of the veritable cross upon which our Saviour was crucified. It
    was polished and hard, and in as excellent a state of preservation as if
    the dread tragedy on Calvary had occurred yesterday instead of eighteen
    centuries ago. But these confiding people believe in that piece of wood
    unhesitatingly.

    In a chapel of the cathedral is an altar with facings of solid silver--at
    least they call it so, and I think myself it would go a couple of hundred
    to the ton (to speak after the fashion of the silver miners)--and before
    it is kept forever burning a small lamp. A devout lady who died, left
    money and contracted for unlimited masses for the repose of her soul, and
    also stipulated that this lamp should be kept lighted always, day and
    night. She did all this before she died, you understand. It is a very
    small lamp and a very dim one, and it could not work her much damage, I
    think, if it went out altogether.

    The great altar of the cathedral and also three or four minor ones are a
    perfect mass of gilt gimcracks and gingerbread. And they have a swarm of
    rusty, dusty, battered apostles standing around the filagree work, some
    on one leg and some with one eye out but a gamey look in the other, and
    some with two or three fingers gone, and some with not enough nose left
    to blow--all of them crippled and discouraged, and fitter subjects for
    the hospital than the cathedral.

    The walls of the chancel are of porcelain, all pictured over with figures
    of almost life size, very elegantly wrought and dressed in the fanciful
    costumes of two centuries ago. The design was a history of something or
    somebody, but none of us were learned enough to read the story. The old
    father, reposing under a stone close by, dated 1686, might have told us
    if he could have risen. But he didn't.

    As we came down through the town we encountered a squad of little donkeys
    ready saddled for use. The saddles were peculiar, to say the least.
    They consisted of a sort of saw-buck with a small mattress on it, and
    this furniture covered about half the donkey. There were no stirrups,
    but really such supports were not needed--to use such a saddle was the
    next thing to riding a dinner table--there was ample support clear out to
    one's knee joints. A pack of ragged Portuguese muleteers crowded around
    us, offering their beasts at half a dollar an hour--more rascality to the
    stranger, for the market price is sixteen cents. Half a dozen of us
    mounted the ungainly affairs and submitted to the indignity of making a
    ridiculous spectacle of ourselves through the principal streets of a town
    of 10,000 inhabitants.

    We started. It was not a trot, a gallop, or a canter, but a stampede,
    and made up of all possible or conceivable gaits. No spurs were
    necessary. There was a muleteer to every donkey and a dozen volunteers
    beside, and they banged the donkeys with their goad sticks, and pricked
    them with their spikes, and shouted something that sounded like
    "Sekki-yah!" and kept up a din and a racket that was worse than Bedlam
    itself. These rascals were all on foot, but no matter, they were always
    up to time--they can outrun and outlast a donkey. Altogether, ours was
    a lively and a picturesque procession, and drew crowded audiences to the
    balconies wherever we went.

    Blucher could do nothing at all with his donkey. The beast scampered
    zigzag across the road and the others ran into him; he scraped Blucher
    against carts and the corners of houses; the road was fenced in with high
    stone walls, and the donkey gave him a polishing first on one side and
    then on the other, but never once took the middle; he finally came to the
    house he was born in and darted into the parlor, scraping Blucher off at
    the doorway. After remounting, Blucher said to the muleteer, "Now,
    that's enough, you know; you go slow hereafter."

    But the fellow knew no English and did not understand, so he simply said,
    "Sekki-yah!" and the donkey was off again like a shot. He turned a corner
    suddenly, and Blucher went over his head. And, to speak truly, every
    mule stumbled over the two, and the whole cavalcade was piled up in a
    heap. No harm done. A fall from one of those donkeys is of little more
    consequence than rolling off a sofa. The donkeys all stood still after
    the catastrophe and waited for their dismembered saddles to be patched up
    and put on by the noisy muleteers. Blucher was pretty angry and wanted
    to swear, but every time he opened his mouth his animal did so also and
    let off a series of brays that drowned all other sounds.

    It was fun, scurrying around the breezy hills and through the beautiful
    canyons. There was that rare thing, novelty, about it; it was a fresh,
    new, exhilarating sensation, this donkey riding, and worth a hundred worn
    and threadbare home pleasures.

    The roads were a wonder, and well they might be. Here was an island with
    only a handful of people in it--25,000--and yet such fine roads do not
    exist in the United States outside of Central Park. Everywhere you go,
    in any direction, you find either a hard, smooth, level thoroughfare,
    just sprinkled with black lava sand, and bordered with little gutters
    neatly paved with small smooth pebbles, or compactly paved ones like
    Broadway. They talk much of the Russ pavement in New York, and call it a
    new invention--yet here they have been using it in this remote little
    isle of the sea for two hundred years! Every street in Horta is
    handsomely paved with the heavy Russ blocks, and the surface is neat and
    true as a floor--not marred by holes like Broadway. And every road is
    fenced in by tall, solid lava walls, which will last a thousand years in
    this land where frost is unknown. They are very thick, and are often
    plastered and whitewashed and capped with projecting slabs of cut stone.
    Trees from gardens above hang their swaying tendrils down, and contrast
    their bright green with the whitewash or the black lava of the walls and
    make them beautiful. The trees and vines stretch across these narrow
    roadways sometimes and so shut out the sun that you seem to be riding
    through a tunnel. The pavements, the roads, and the bridges are all
    government work.

    The bridges are of a single span--a single arch--of cut stone, without a
    support, and paved on top with flags of lava and ornamental pebblework.
    Everywhere are walls, walls, walls, and all of them tasteful and
    handsome--and eternally substantial; and everywhere are those marvelous
    pavements, so neat, so smooth, and so indestructible. And if ever roads
    and streets and the outsides of houses were perfectly free from any sign
    or semblance of dirt, or dust, or mud, or uncleanliness of any kind, it
    is Horta, it is Fayal. The lower classes of the people, in their persons
    and their domiciles, are not clean--but there it stops--the town and the
    island are miracles of cleanliness.

    We arrived home again finally, after a ten-mile excursion, and the
    irrepressible muleteers scampered at our heels through the main street,
    goading the donkeys, shouting the everlasting "Sekki-yah," and singing
    "John Brown's Body" in ruinous English.

    When we were dismounted and it came to settling, the shouting and jawing
    and swearing and quarreling among the muleteers and with us was nearly
    deafening. One fellow would demand a dollar an hour for the use of his
    donkey; another claimed half a dollar for pricking him up, another a
    quarter for helping in that service, and about fourteen guides presented
    bills for showing us the way through the town and its environs; and every
    vagrant of them was more vociferous, and more vehement and more frantic
    in gesture than his neighbor. We paid one guide and paid for one
    muleteer to each donkey.

    The mountains on some of the islands are very high. We sailed along the
    shore of the island of Pico, under a stately green pyramid that rose up
    with one unbroken sweep from our very feet to an altitude of 7,613 feet,
    and thrust its summit above the white clouds like an island adrift in a
    fog!

    We got plenty of fresh oranges, lemons, figs, apricots, etc., in these
    Azores, of course. But I will desist. I am not here to write Patent
    Office reports.

    We are on our way to Gibraltar, and shall reach there five or six days
    out from the Azores.
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    Chapter 7
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