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    Chapter 30

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    Chapter 31
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    ASCENT OF VESUVIUS--CONTINUED.

    "See Naples and die." Well, I do not know that one would necessarily die
    after merely seeing it, but to attempt to live there might turn out a
    little differently. To see Naples as we saw it in the early dawn from
    far up on the side of Vesuvius, is to see a picture of wonderful beauty.
    At that distance its dingy buildings looked white--and so, rank on rank
    of balconies, windows and roofs, they piled themselves up from the blue
    ocean till the colossal castle of St. Elmo topped the grand white pyramid
    and gave the picture symmetry, emphasis and completeness. And when its
    lilies turned to roses--when it blushed under the sun's first kiss--it
    was beautiful beyond all description. One might well say, then, "See
    Naples and die." The frame of the picture was charming, itself. In
    front, the smooth sea--a vast mosaic of many colors; the lofty islands
    swimming in a dreamy haze in the distance; at our end of the city the
    stately double peak of Vesuvius, and its strong black ribs and seams of
    lava stretching down to the limitless level campagna--a green carpet that
    enchants the eye and leads it on and on, past clusters of trees, and
    isolated houses, and snowy villages, until it shreds out in a fringe of
    mist and general vagueness far away. It is from the Hermitage, there on
    the side of Vesuvius, that one should "see Naples and die."

    But do not go within the walls and look at it in detail. That takes away
    some of the romance of the thing. The people are filthy in their habits,
    and this makes filthy streets and breeds disagreeable sights and smells.
    There never was a community so prejudiced against the cholera as these
    Neapolitans are. But they have good reason to be. The cholera generally
    vanquishes a Neapolitan when it seizes him, because, you understand,
    before the doctor can dig through the dirt and get at the disease the man
    dies. The upper classes take a sea-bath every day, and are pretty
    decent.

    The streets are generally about wide enough for one wagon, and how they
    do swarm with people! It is Broadway repeated in every street, in every
    court, in every alley! Such masses, such throngs, such multitudes of
    hurrying, bustling, struggling humanity! We never saw the like of it,
    hardly even in New York, I think. There are seldom any sidewalks, and
    when there are, they are not often wide enough to pass a man on without
    caroming on him. So everybody walks in the street--and where the street
    is wide enough, carriages are forever dashing along. Why a thousand
    people are not run over and crippled every day is a mystery that no man
    can solve. But if there is an eighth wonder in the world, it must be the
    dwelling-houses of Naples. I honestly believe a good majority of them
    are a hundred feet high! And the solid brick walls are seven feet
    through. You go up nine flights of stairs before you get to the "first"
    floor. No, not nine, but there or thereabouts. There is a little
    bird-cage of an iron railing in front of every window clear away up, up,
    up, among the eternal clouds, where the roof is, and there is always
    somebody looking out of every window--people of ordinary size looking
    out from the first floor, people a shade smaller from the second, people
    that look a little smaller yet from the third--and from thence upward
    they grow smaller and smaller by a regularly graduated diminution, till
    the folks in the topmost windows seem more like birds in an uncommonly
    tall martin-box than any thing else. The perspective of one of these
    narrow cracks of streets, with its rows of tall houses stretching away
    till they come together in the distance like railway tracks; its
    clothes-lines crossing over at all altitudes and waving their bannered
    raggedness over the swarms of people below; and the white-dressed women
    perched in balcony railings all the way from the pavement up to the
    heavens--a perspective like that is really worth going into Neapolitan
    details to see.

    ASCENT OF VESUVIUS--CONTINUED.

    Naples, with its immediate suburbs, contains six hundred and twenty-five
    thousand inhabitants, but I am satisfied it covers no more ground than an
    American city of one hundred and fifty thousand. It reaches up into the
    air infinitely higher than three American cities, though, and there is
    where the secret of it lies. I will observe here, in passing, that the
    contrasts between opulence and poverty, and magnificence and misery, are
    more frequent and more striking in Naples than in Paris even. One must
    go to the Bois de Boulogne to see fashionable dressing, splendid
    equipages and stunning liveries, and to the Faubourg St. Antoine to see
    vice, misery, hunger, rags, dirt--but in the thoroughfares of Naples
    these things are all mixed together. Naked boys of nine years and the
    fancy-dressed children of luxury; shreds and tatters, and brilliant
    uniforms; jackass-carts and state-carriages; beggars, Princes and
    Bishops, jostle each other in every street. At six o'clock every
    evening, all Naples turns out to drive on the 'Riviere di Chiaja',
    (whatever that may mean;) and for two hours one may stand there and see
    the motliest and the worst mixed procession go by that ever eyes beheld.
    Princes (there are more Princes than policemen in Naples--the city is
    infested with them)--Princes who live up seven flights of stairs and
    don't own any principalities, will keep a carriage and go hungry; and
    clerks, mechanics, milliners and strumpets will go without their dinners
    and squander the money on a hack-ride in the Chiaja; the rag-tag and
    rubbish of the city stack themselves up, to the number of twenty or
    thirty, on a rickety little go-cart hauled by a donkey not much bigger
    than a cat, and they drive in the Chiaja; Dukes and bankers, in sumptuous
    carriages and with gorgeous drivers and footmen, turn out, also, and so
    the furious procession goes. For two hours rank and wealth, and
    obscurity and poverty clatter along side by side in the wild procession,
    and then go home serene, happy, covered with glory!

    I was looking at a magnificent marble staircase in the King's palace, the
    other day, which, it was said, cost five million francs, and I suppose it
    did cost half a million, may be. I felt as if it must be a fine thing to
    live in a country where there was such comfort and such luxury as this.
    And then I stepped out musing, and almost walked over a vagabond who was
    eating his dinner on the curbstone--a piece of bread and a bunch of
    grapes. When I found that this mustang was clerking in a fruit
    establishment (he had the establishment along with him in a basket,) at
    two cents a day, and that he had no palace at home where he lived, I lost
    some of my enthusiasm concerning the happiness of living in Italy.

    This naturally suggests to me a thought about wages here. Lieutenants in
    the army get about a dollar a day, and common soldiers a couple of cents.
    I only know one clerk--he gets four dollars a month. Printers get six
    dollars and a half a month, but I have heard of a foreman who gets
    thirteen.

    To be growing suddenly and violently rich, as this man is, naturally
    makes him a bloated aristocrat. The airs he puts on are insufferable.

    And, speaking of wages, reminds me of prices of merchandise. In Paris
    you pay twelve dollars a dozen for Jouvin's best kid gloves; gloves of
    about as good quality sell here at three or four dollars a dozen. You
    pay five and six dollars apiece for fine linen shirts in Paris; here and
    in Leghorn you pay two and a half. In Marseilles you pay forty dollars
    for a first-class dress coat made by a good tailor, but in Leghorn you
    can get a full dress suit for the same money. Here you get handsome
    business suits at from ten to twenty dollars, and in Leghorn you can get
    an overcoat for fifteen dollars that would cost you seventy in New York.
    Fine kid boots are worth eight dollars in Marseilles and four dollars
    here. Lyons velvets rank higher in America than those of Genoa. Yet the
    bulk of Lyons velvets you buy in the States are made in Genoa and
    imported into Lyons, where they receive the Lyons stamp and are then
    exported to America. You can buy enough velvet in Genoa for twenty-five
    dollars to make a five hundred dollar cloak in New York--so the ladies
    tell me. Of course these things bring me back, by a natural and easy
    transition, to the

    ASCENT OF VESUVIUS--CONTINUED.

    And thus the wonderful Blue Grotto is suggested to me. It is situated on
    the Island of Capri, twenty-two miles from Naples. We chartered a little
    steamer and went out there. Of course, the police boarded us and put us
    through a health examination, and inquired into our politics, before they
    would let us land. The airs these little insect Governments put on are
    in the last degree ridiculous. They even put a policeman on board of our
    boat to keep an eye on us as long as we were in the Capri dominions.
    They thought we wanted to steal the grotto, I suppose. It was worth
    stealing. The entrance to the cave is four feet high and four feet wide,
    and is in the face of a lofty perpendicular cliff--the sea-wall. You
    enter in small boats--and a tight squeeze it is, too. You can not go in
    at all when the tide is up. Once within, you find yourself in an arched
    cavern about one hundred and sixty feet long, one hundred and twenty
    wide, and about seventy high. How deep it is no man knows. It goes down
    to the bottom of the ocean. The waters of this placid subterranean lake
    are the brightest, loveliest blue that can be imagined. They are as
    transparent as plate glass, and their coloring would shame the richest
    sky that ever bent over Italy. No tint could be more ravishing, no
    lustre more superb. Throw a stone into the water, and the myriad of tiny
    bubbles that are created flash out a brilliant glare like blue theatrical
    fires. Dip an oar, and its blade turns to splendid frosted silver,
    tinted with blue. Let a man jump in, and instantly he is cased in an
    armor more gorgeous than ever kingly Crusader wore.

    Then we went to Ischia, but I had already been to that island and tired
    myself to death "resting" a couple of days and studying human villainy,
    with the landlord of the Grande Sentinelle for a model. So we went to
    Procida, and from thence to Pozzuoli, where St. Paul landed after he
    sailed from Samos. I landed at precisely the same spot where St. Paul
    landed, and so did Dan and the others. It was a remarkable coincidence.
    St. Paul preached to these people seven days before he started to Rome.

    Nero's Baths, the ruins of Baiae, the Temple of Serapis; Cumae, where the
    Cumaen Sybil interpreted the oracles, the Lake Agnano, with its ancient
    submerged city still visible far down in its depths--these and a hundred
    other points of interest we examined with critical imbecility, but the
    Grotto of the Dog claimed our chief attention, because we had heard and
    read so much about it. Every body has written about the Grotto del Cane
    and its poisonous vapors, from Pliny down to Smith, and every tourist has
    held a dog over its floor by the legs to test the capabilities of the
    place. The dog dies in a minute and a half--a chicken instantly. As a
    general thing, strangers who crawl in there to sleep do not get up until
    they are called. And then they don't either. The stranger that ventures
    to sleep there takes a permanent contract. I longed to see this grotto.
    I resolved to take a dog and hold him myself; suffocate him a little, and
    time him; suffocate him some more and then finish him. We reached the
    grotto at about three in the afternoon, and proceeded at once to make the
    experiments. But now, an important difficulty presented itself. We had
    no dog.

    ASCENT OF VESUVIUS--CONTINUED.

    At the Hermitage we were about fifteen or eighteen hundred feet above the
    sea, and thus far a portion of the ascent had been pretty abrupt. For
    the next two miles the road was a mixture--sometimes the ascent was
    abrupt and sometimes it was not: but one characteristic it possessed all
    the time, without failure--without modification--it was all
    uncompromisingly and unspeakably infamous. It was a rough, narrow trail,
    and led over an old lava flow--a black ocean which was tumbled into a
    thousand fantastic shapes--a wild chaos of ruin, desolation, and
    barrenness--a wilderness of billowy upheavals, of furious whirlpools, of
    miniature mountains rent asunder--of gnarled and knotted, wrinkled and
    twisted masses of blackness that mimicked branching roots, great vines,
    trunks of trees, all interlaced and mingled together: and all these weird
    shapes, all this turbulent panorama, all this stormy, far-stretching
    waste of blackness, with its thrilling suggestiveness of life, of action,
    of boiling, surging, furious motion, was petrified!--all stricken dead
    and cold in the instant of its maddest rioting!--fettered, paralyzed, and
    left to glower at heaven in impotent rage for evermore!

    Finally we stood in a level, narrow valley (a valley that had been
    created by the terrific march of some old time irruption) and on either
    hand towered the two steep peaks of Vesuvius. The one we had to climb
    --the one that contains the active volcano--seemed about eight hundred or
    one thousand feet high, and looked almost too straight-up-and-down for
    any man to climb, and certainly no mule could climb it with a man on his
    back. Four of these native pirates will carry you to the top in a sedan
    chair, if you wish it, but suppose they were to slip and let you fall,
    --is it likely that you would ever stop rolling? Not this side of
    eternity, perhaps. We left the mules, sharpened our finger-nails, and
    began the ascent I have been writing about so long, at twenty minutes to
    six in the morning. The path led straight up a rugged sweep of loose
    chunks of pumice-stone, and for about every two steps forward we took, we
    slid back one. It was so excessively steep that we had to stop, every
    fifty or sixty steps, and rest a moment. To see our comrades, we had to
    look very nearly straight up at those above us, and very nearly straight
    down at those below. We stood on the summit at last--it had taken an
    hour and fifteen minutes to make the trip.

    What we saw there was simply a circular crater--a circular ditch, if you
    please--about two hundred feet deep, and four or five hundred feet wide,
    whose inner wall was about half a mile in circumference. In the centre
    of the great circus ring thus formed, was a torn and ragged upheaval a
    hundred feet high, all snowed over with a sulphur crust of many and many
    a brilliant and beautiful color, and the ditch inclosed this like the
    moat of a castle, or surrounded it as a little river does a little
    island, if the simile is better. The sulphur coating of that island was
    gaudy in the extreme--all mingled together in the richest confusion were
    red, blue, brown, black, yellow, white--I do not know that there was a
    color, or shade of a color, or combination of colors, unrepresented--and
    when the sun burst through the morning mists and fired this tinted
    magnificence, it topped imperial Vesuvius like a jeweled crown!

    The crater itself--the ditch--was not so variegated in coloring, but yet,
    in its softness, richness, and unpretentious elegance, it was more
    charming, more fascinating to the eye. There was nothing "loud" about
    its well-bred and well-creased look. Beautiful? One could stand and
    look down upon it for a week without getting tired of it. It had the
    semblance of a pleasant meadow, whose slender grasses and whose velvety
    mosses were frosted with a shining dust, and tinted with palest green
    that deepened gradually to the darkest hue of the orange leaf, and
    deepened yet again into gravest brown, then faded into orange, then into
    brightest gold, and culminated in the delicate pink of a new-blown rose.
    Where portions of the meadow had sunk, and where other portions had been
    broken up like an ice-floe, the cavernous openings of the one, and the
    ragged upturned edges exposed by the other, were hung with a lace-work of
    soft-tinted crystals of sulphur that changed their deformities into
    quaint shapes and figures that were full of grace and beauty.

    The walls of the ditch were brilliant with yellow banks of sulphur and
    with lava and pumice-stone of many colors. No fire was visible any
    where, but gusts of sulphurous steam issued silently and invisibly from a
    thousand little cracks and fissures in the crater, and were wafted to our
    noses with every breeze. But so long as we kept our nostrils buried in
    our handkerchiefs, there was small danger of suffocation.

    Some of the boys thrust long slips of paper down into holes and set them
    on fire, and so achieved the glory of lighting their cigars by the flames
    of Vesuvius, and others cooked eggs over fissures in the rocks and were
    happy.

    The view from the summit would have been superb but for the fact that the
    sun could only pierce the mists at long intervals. Thus the glimpses we
    had of the grand panorama below were only fitful and unsatisfactory.

    THE DESCENT.

    The descent of the mountain was a labor of only four minutes. Instead of
    stalking down the rugged path we ascended, we chose one which was bedded
    knee-deep in loose ashes, and ploughed our way with prodigious strides
    that would almost have shamed the performance of him of the seven-league
    boots.

    The Vesuvius of today is a very poor affair compared to the mighty
    volcano of Kilauea, in the Sandwich Islands, but I am glad I visited it.
    It was well worth it.

    It is said that during one of the grand eruptions of Vesuvius it
    discharged massy rocks weighing many tons a thousand feet into the air,
    its vast jets of smoke and steam ascended thirty miles toward the
    firmament, and clouds of its ashes were wafted abroad and fell upon the
    decks of ships seven hundred and fifty miles at sea! I will take the
    ashes at a moderate discount, if any one will take the thirty miles of
    smoke, but I do not feel able to take a commanding interest in the whole
    story by myself.
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