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    Chapter 27

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    Chapter 28
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    So far, good. If any man has a right to feel proud of himself, and
    satisfied, surely it is I. For I have written about the Coliseum, and
    the gladiators, the martyrs, and the lions, and yet have never once used
    the phrase "butchered to make a Roman holiday." I am the only free white
    man of mature age, who has accomplished this since Byron originated the

    Butchered to make a Roman holiday sounds well for the first seventeen or
    eighteen hundred thousand times one sees it in print, but after that it
    begins to grow tiresome. I find it in all the books concerning Rome--and
    here latterly it reminds me of Judge Oliver. Oliver was a young lawyer,
    fresh from the schools, who had gone out to the deserts of Nevada to
    begin life. He found that country, and our ways of life, there, in those
    early days, different from life in New England or Paris. But he put on a
    woollen shirt and strapped a navy revolver to his person, took to the
    bacon and beans of the country, and determined to do in Nevada as Nevada
    did. Oliver accepted the situation so completely that although he must
    have sorrowed over many of his trials, he never complained--that is, he
    never complained but once. He, two others, and myself, started to the
    new silver mines in the Humboldt mountains--he to be Probate Judge of
    Humboldt county, and we to mine. The distance was two hundred miles. It
    was dead of winter. We bought a two-horse wagon and put eighteen hundred
    pounds of bacon, flour, beans, blasting-powder, picks and shovels in it;
    we bought two sorry-looking Mexican "plugs," with the hair turned the
    wrong way and more corners on their bodies than there are on the mosque
    of Omar; we hitched up and started. It was a dreadful trip. But Oliver
    did not complain. The horses dragged the wagon two miles from town and
    then gave out. Then we three pushed the wagon seven miles, and Oliver
    moved ahead and pulled the horses after him by the bits. We complained,
    but Oliver did not. The ground was frozen, and it froze our backs while
    we slept; the wind swept across our faces and froze our noses. Oliver
    did not complain. Five days of pushing the wagon by day and freezing by
    night brought us to the bad part of the journey--the Forty Mile Desert,
    or the Great American Desert, if you please. Still, this
    mildest-mannered man that ever was, had not complained. We started across
    at eight in the morning, pushing through sand that had no bottom; toiling
    all day long by the wrecks of a thousand wagons, the skeletons of ten
    thousand oxen; by wagon-tires enough to hoop the Washington Monument to
    the top, and ox-chains enough to girdle Long Island; by human graves;
    with our throats parched always, with thirst; lips bleeding from the
    alkali dust; hungry, perspiring, and very, very weary--so weary that when
    we dropped in the sand every fifty yards to rest the horses, we could
    hardly keep from going to sleep--no complaints from Oliver: none the next
    morning at three o'clock, when we got across, tired to death.

    Awakened two or three nights afterward at midnight, in a narrow canon, by
    the snow falling on our faces, and appalled at the imminent danger of
    being "snowed in," we harnessed up and pushed on till eight in the
    morning, passed the "Divide" and knew we were saved. No complaints.
    Fifteen days of hardship and fatigue brought us to the end of the two
    hundred miles, and the Judge had not complained. We wondered if any
    thing could exasperate him. We built a Humboldt house. It is done in
    this way. You dig a square in the steep base of the mountain, and set up
    two uprights and top them with two joists. Then you stretch a great
    sheet of "cotton domestic" from the point where the joists join the
    hill-side down over the joists to the ground; this makes the roof and the
    front of the mansion; the sides and back are the dirt walls your digging
    has left. A chimney is easily made by turning up one corner of the roof.
    Oliver was sitting alone in this dismal den, one night, by a sage-brush
    fire, writing poetry; he was very fond of digging poetry out of himself
    --or blasting it out when it came hard. He heard an animal's footsteps
    close to the roof; a stone or two and some dirt came through and fell by
    him. He grew uneasy and said "Hi!--clear out from there, can't you!"
    --from time to time. But by and by he fell asleep where he sat, and pretty
    soon a mule fell down the chimney! The fire flew in every direction, and
    Oliver went over backwards. About ten nights after that, he recovered
    confidence enough to go to writing poetry again. Again he dozed off to
    sleep, and again a mule fell down the chimney. This time, about half of
    that side of the house came in with the mule. Struggling to get up, the
    mule kicked the candle out and smashed most of the kitchen furniture, and
    raised considerable dust. These violent awakenings must have been
    annoying to Oliver, but he never complained. He moved to a mansion on
    the opposite side of the canon, because he had noticed the mules did not
    go there. One night about eight o'clock he was endeavoring to finish his
    poem, when a stone rolled in--then a hoof appeared below the canvas--then
    part of a cow--the after part. He leaned back in dread, and shouted
    "Hooy! hooy! get out of this!" and the cow struggled manfully--lost
    ground steadily--dirt and dust streamed down, and before Oliver could get
    well away, the entire cow crashed through on to the table and made a
    shapeless wreck of every thing!

    Then, for the first time in his life, I think, Oliver complained. He

    "This thing is growing monotonous!"

    Then he resigned his judgeship and left Humboldt county. "Butchered to
    make a Roman holyday" has grown monotonous to me.

    In this connection I wish to say one word about Michael Angelo
    Buonarotti. I used to worship the mighty genius of Michael Angelo--that
    man who was great in poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture--great in
    every thing he undertook. But I do not want Michael Angelo for
    breakfast--for luncheon--for dinner--for tea--for supper--for between
    meals. I like a change, occasionally. In Genoa, he designed every
    thing; in Milan he or his pupils designed every thing; he designed the
    Lake of Como; in Padua, Verona, Venice, Bologna, who did we ever hear of,
    from guides, but Michael Angelo? In Florence, he painted every thing,
    designed every thing, nearly, and what he did not design he used to sit
    on a favorite stone and look at, and they showed us the stone. In Pisa
    he designed every thing but the old shot-tower, and they would have
    attributed that to him if it had not been so awfully out of the
    perpendicular. He designed the piers of Leghorn and the custom house
    regulations of Civita Vecchia. But, here--here it is frightful. He
    designed St. Peter's; he designed the Pope; he designed the Pantheon, the
    uniform of the Pope's soldiers, the Tiber, the Vatican, the Coliseum, the
    Capitol, the Tarpeian Rock, the Barberini Palace, St. John Lateran, the
    Campagna, the Appian Way, the Seven Hills, the Baths of Caracalla, the
    Claudian Aqueduct, the Cloaca Maxima--the eternal bore designed the
    Eternal City, and unless all men and books do lie, he painted every thing
    in it! Dan said the other day to the guide, "Enough, enough, enough!
    Say no more! Lump the whole thing! say that the Creator made Italy from
    designs by Michael Angelo!"

    I never felt so fervently thankful, so soothed, so tranquil, so filled
    with a blessed peace, as I did yesterday when I learned that Michael
    Angelo was dead.

    But we have taken it out of this guide. He has marched us through miles
    of pictures and sculpture in the vast corridors of the Vatican; and
    through miles of pictures and sculpture in twenty other palaces; he has
    shown us the great picture in the Sistine Chapel, and frescoes enough to
    frescoe the heavens--pretty much all done by Michael Angelo. So with him
    we have played that game which has vanquished so many guides for us
    --imbecility and idiotic questions. These creatures never suspect--they
    have no idea of a sarcasm.

    He shows us a figure and says: "Statoo brunzo." (Bronze statue.)

    We look at it indifferently and the doctor asks: "By Michael Angelo?"

    "No--not know who."

    Then he shows us the ancient Roman Forum. The doctor asks: "Michael

    A stare from the guide. "No--thousan' year before he is born."

    Then an Egyptian obelisk. Again: "Michael Angelo?"

    "Oh, mon dieu, genteelmen! Zis is two thousan' year before he is born!"

    He grows so tired of that unceasing question sometimes, that he dreads to
    show us any thing at all. The wretch has tried all the ways he can think
    of to make us comprehend that Michael Angelo is only responsible for the
    creation of a part of the world, but somehow he has not succeeded yet.
    Relief for overtasked eyes and brain from study and sightseeing is
    necessary, or we shall become idiotic sure enough. Therefore this guide
    must continue to suffer. If he does not enjoy it, so much the worse for
    him. We do.

    In this place I may as well jot down a chapter concerning those necessary
    nuisances, European guides. Many a man has wished in his heart he could
    do without his guide; but knowing he could not, has wished he could get
    some amusement out of him as a remuneration for the affliction of his
    society. We accomplished this latter matter, and if our experience can
    be made useful to others they are welcome to it.

    Guides know about enough English to tangle every thing up so that a man
    can make neither head or tail of it. They know their story by heart--the
    history of every statue, painting, cathedral or other wonder they show
    you. They know it and tell it as a parrot would--and if you interrupt,
    and throw them off the track, they have to go back and begin over again.
    All their lives long, they are employed in showing strange things to
    foreigners and listening to their bursts of admiration. It is human
    nature to take delight in exciting admiration. It is what prompts
    children to say "smart" things, and do absurd ones, and in other ways
    "show off" when company is present. It is what makes gossips turn out in
    rain and storm to go and be the first to tell a startling bit of news.
    Think, then, what a passion it becomes with a guide, whose privilege it
    is, every day, to show to strangers wonders that throw them into perfect
    ecstasies of admiration! He gets so that he could not by any possibility
    live in a soberer atmosphere. After we discovered this, we never went
    into ecstasies any more--we never admired any thing--we never showed any
    but impassible faces and stupid indifference in the presence of the
    sublimest wonders a guide had to display. We had found their weak point.
    We have made good use of it ever since. We have made some of those
    people savage, at times, but we have never lost our own serenity.

    The doctor asks the questions, generally, because he can keep his
    countenance, and look more like an inspired idiot, and throw more
    imbecility into the tone of his voice than any man that lives. It comes
    natural to him.

    The guides in Genoa are delighted to secure an American party, because
    Americans so much wonder, and deal so much in sentiment and emotion
    before any relic of Columbus. Our guide there fidgeted about as if he
    had swallowed a spring mattress. He was full of animation--full of
    impatience. He said:

    "Come wis me, genteelmen!--come! I show you ze letter writing by
    Christopher Colombo!--write it himself!--write it wis his own hand!

    He took us to the municipal palace. After much impressive fumbling of
    keys and opening of locks, the stained and aged document was spread
    before us. The guide's eyes sparkled. He danced about us and tapped the
    parchment with his finger:

    "What I tell you, genteelmen! Is it not so? See! handwriting
    Christopher Colombo!--write it himself!"

    We looked indifferent--unconcerned. The doctor examined the document
    very deliberately, during a painful pause.--Then he said, without any
    show of interest:

    "Ah--Ferguson--what--what did you say was the name of the party who wrote

    "Christopher Colombo! ze great Christopher Colombo!"

    Another deliberate examination.

    "Ah--did he write it himself; or--or how?"

    "He write it himself!--Christopher Colombo! He's own hand-writing, write
    by himself!"

    Then the doctor laid the document down and said:

    "Why, I have seen boys in America only fourteen years old that could
    write better than that."

    "But zis is ze great Christo--"

    "I don't care who it is! It's the worst writing I ever saw. Now you
    musn't think you can impose on us because we are strangers. We are not
    fools, by a good deal. If you have got any specimens of penmanship of
    real merit, trot them out!--and if you haven't, drive on!"

    We drove on. The guide was considerably shaken up, but he made one more
    venture. He had something which he thought would overcome us. He said:

    "Ah, genteelmen, you come wis me! I show you beautiful, O, magnificent
    bust Christopher Colombo!--splendid, grand, magnificent!"

    He brought us before the beautiful bust--for it was beautiful--and sprang
    back and struck an attitude:

    "Ah, look, genteelmen!--beautiful, grand,--bust Christopher Colombo!
    --beautiful bust, beautiful pedestal!"

    The doctor put up his eye-glass--procured for such occasions:

    "Ah--what did you say this gentleman's name was?"

    "Christopher Colombo!--ze great Christopher Colombo!"

    "Christopher Colombo--the great Christopher Colombo. Well, what did he

    "Discover America!--discover America, Oh, ze devil!"

    "Discover America. No--that statement will hardly wash. We are just
    from America ourselves. We heard nothing about it. Christopher Colombo
    --pleasant name--is--is he dead?"

    "Oh, corpo di Baccho!--three hundred year!"

    "What did he die of?"

    "I do not know!--I can not tell."

    "Small-pox, think?"

    "I do not know, genteelmen!--I do not know what he die of!"

    "Measles, likely?"

    "May be--may be--I do not know--I think he die of somethings."

    "Parents living?"


    "Ah--which is the bust and which is the pedestal?"

    "Santa Maria!--zis ze bust!--zis ze pedestal!"

    "Ah, I see, I see--happy combination--very happy combination, indeed.
    Is--is this the first time this gentleman was ever on a bust?"

    That joke was lost on the foreigner--guides can not master the subtleties
    of the American joke.

    We have made it interesting for this Roman guide. Yesterday we spent
    three or four hours in the Vatican, again, that wonderful world of
    curiosities. We came very near expressing interest, sometimes--even
    admiration--it was very hard to keep from it. We succeeded though.
    Nobody else ever did, in the Vatican museums. The guide was bewildered
    --non-plussed. He walked his legs off, nearly, hunting up extraordinary
    things, and exhausted all his ingenuity on us, but it was a failure; we
    never showed any interest in any thing. He had reserved what he
    considered to be his greatest wonder till the last--a royal Egyptian
    mummy, the best preserved in the world, perhaps. He took us there. He
    felt so sure, this time, that some of his old enthusiasm came back to

    "See, genteelmen!--Mummy! Mummy!"

    The eye-glass came up as calmly, as deliberately as ever.

    "Ah,--Ferguson--what did I understand you to say the gentleman's name

    "Name?--he got no name!--Mummy!--'Gyptian mummy!"

    "Yes, yes. Born here?"

    "No! 'Gyptian mummy!"

    "Ah, just so. Frenchman, I presume?"

    "No!--not Frenchman, not Roman!--born in Egypta!"

    "Born in Egypta. Never heard of Egypta before. Foreign locality,
    likely. Mummy--mummy. How calm he is--how self-possessed. Is, ah--is
    he dead?"

    "Oh, sacre bleu, been dead three thousan' year!"

    The doctor turned on him savagely:

    "Here, now, what do you mean by such conduct as this! Playing us for
    Chinamen because we are strangers and trying to learn! Trying to impose
    your vile second-hand carcasses on us!--thunder and lightning, I've a
    notion to--to--if you've got a nice fresh corpse, fetch him out!--or by
    George we'll brain you!"

    We make it exceedingly interesting for this Frenchman. However, he has
    paid us back, partly, without knowing it. He came to the hotel this
    morning to ask if we were up, and he endeavored as well as he could to
    describe us, so that the landlord would know which persons he meant. He
    finished with the casual remark that we were lunatics. The observation
    was so innocent and so honest that it amounted to a very good thing for a
    guide to say.

    There is one remark (already mentioned,) which never yet has failed to
    disgust these guides. We use it always, when we can think of nothing
    else to say. After they have exhausted their enthusiasm pointing out
    to us and praising the beauties of some ancient bronze image or
    broken-legged statue, we look at it stupidly and in silence for five,
    ten, fifteen minutes--as long as we can hold out, in fact--and then ask:

    "Is--is he dead?"

    That conquers the serenest of them. It is not what they are looking for
    --especially a new guide. Our Roman Ferguson is the most patient,
    unsuspecting, long-suffering subject we have had yet. We shall be sorry
    to part with him. We have enjoyed his society very much. We trust he
    has enjoyed ours, but we are harassed with doubts.

    We have been in the catacombs. It was like going down into a very deep
    cellar, only it was a cellar which had no end to it. The narrow passages
    are roughly hewn in the rock, and on each hand as you pass along, the
    hollowed shelves are carved out, from three to fourteen deep; each held a
    corpse once. There are names, and Christian symbols, and prayers, or
    sentences expressive of Christian hopes, carved upon nearly every
    sarcophagus. The dates belong away back in the dawn of the Christian
    era, of course. Here, in these holes in the ground, the first Christians
    sometimes burrowed to escape persecution. They crawled out at night to
    get food, but remained under cover in the day time. The priest told us
    that St. Sebastian lived under ground for some time while he was being
    hunted; he went out one day, and the soldiery discovered and shot him to
    death with arrows. Five or six of the early Popes--those who reigned
    about sixteen hundred years ago--held their papal courts and advised with
    their clergy in the bowels of the earth. During seventeen years--from
    A.D. 235 to A.D. 252--the Popes did not appear above ground. Four were
    raised to the great office during that period. Four years apiece, or
    thereabouts. It is very suggestive of the unhealthiness of underground
    graveyards as places of residence. One Pope afterward spent his entire
    pontificate in the catacombs--eight years. Another was discovered in
    them and murdered in the episcopal chair. There was no satisfaction in
    being a Pope in those days. There were too many annoyances. There are
    one hundred and sixty catacombs under Rome, each with its maze of narrow
    passages crossing and recrossing each other and each passage walled to
    the top with scooped graves its entire length. A careful estimate makes
    the length of the passages of all the catacombs combined foot up nine
    hundred miles, and their graves number seven millions. We did not go
    through all the passages of all the catacombs. We were very anxious to
    do it, and made the necessary arrangements, but our too limited time
    obliged us to give up the idea. So we only groped through the dismal
    labyrinth of St. Callixtus, under the Church of St. Sebastian. In the
    various catacombs are small chapels rudely hewn in the stones, and here
    the early Christians often held their religious services by dim, ghostly
    lights. Think of mass and a sermon away down in those tangled caverns
    under ground!

    In the catacombs were buried St. Cecilia, St. Agnes, and several other of
    the most celebrated of the saints. In the catacomb of St. Callixtus, St.
    Bridget used to remain long hours in holy contemplation, and St. Charles
    Borromeo was wont to spend whole nights in prayer there. It was also the
    scene of a very marvelous thing.

    "Here the heart of St. Philip Neri was so inflamed with divine love
    as to burst his ribs."

    I find that grave statement in a book published in New York in 1808, and
    written by "Rev. William H. Neligan, LL.D., M. A., Trinity College,
    Dublin; Member of the Archaeological Society of Great Britain."
    Therefore, I believe it. Otherwise, I could not. Under other
    circumstances I should have felt a curiosity to know what Philip had for

    This author puts my credulity on its mettle every now and then. He tells
    of one St. Joseph Calasanctius whose house in Rome he visited; he visited
    only the house--the priest has been dead two hundred years. He says the
    Virgin Mary appeared to this saint. Then he continues:

    "His tongue and his heart, which were found after nearly a century
    to be whole, when the body was disinterred before his canonization,
    are still preserved in a glass case, and after two centuries the
    heart is still whole. When the French troops came to Rome, and when
    Pius VII. was carried away prisoner, blood dropped from it."

    To read that in a book written by a monk far back in the Middle Ages,
    would surprise no one; it would sound natural and proper; but when it is
    seriously stated in the middle of the nineteenth century, by a man of
    finished education, an LL.D., M. A., and an Archaeological magnate, it
    sounds strangely enough. Still, I would gladly change my unbelief for
    Neligan's faith, and let him make the conditions as hard as he pleased.

    The old gentleman's undoubting, unquestioning simplicity has a rare
    freshness about it in these matter-of-fact railroading and telegraphing
    days. Hear him, concerning the church of Ara Coeli:

    "In the roof of the church, directly above the high altar, is
    engraved, 'Regina Coeli laetare Alleluia.' In the sixth century
    Rome was visited by a fearful pestilence. Gregory the Great urged
    the people to do penance, and a general procession was formed. It
    was to proceed from Ara Coeli to St. Peter's. As it passed before
    the mole of Adrian, now the Castle of St. Angelo, the sound of
    heavenly voices was heard singing (it was Easter morn,) 'Regina
    Coeli, laetare! alleluia! quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia!
    resurrexit sicut dixit; alleluia!' The Pontiff, carrying in his
    hands the portrait of the Virgin, (which is over the high altar and
    is said to have been painted by St. Luke,) answered, with the
    astonished people, 'Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia!' At the same time
    an angel was seen to put up a sword in a scabbard, and the
    pestilence ceased on the same day. There are four circumstances
    which 'CONFIRM'--[The italics are mine--M. T.]--this miracle: the
    annual procession which takes place in the western church on the
    feast of St Mark; the statue of St. Michael, placed on the mole of
    Adrian, which has since that time been called the Castle of St.
    Angelo; the antiphon Regina Coeli which the Catholic church sings
    during paschal time; and the inscription in the church."
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