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Fayal and the Portuguese - The Atlantic

Every man when he first crosses the ocean is a Columbus to himself, no matter how many voyages by other navigators he may have heard described or read recorded. Geographies convince only the brain, not the senses, that the globe is round; and when personal experience exhibits the fact, it is as wonderful as if never before suggested. You have dwelt for weeks within one unbroken loneliness of sea and sky, with nothing that seemed solid in the universe but the bit of painted wood on which you have floated. Suddenly one morning something looms high and cloudlike far away, and you are told that it is land. Then you feel, with all ignorant races, as if the ship were a god, thus to find its way over that trackless waste, or as if this must be some great and unprecedented success, and in no way the expected or usual result of such enterprises. A sea-captain of twenty-five years' experience told me that this sensation never wore off, and that he still felt as fresh a sense of something extraordinary, on making land, as upon his first voyage. To discover for one's self that there is really another side to the ocean, —that is the astonishing thing. And when it happens, as in our case, that the haven thus gained is not merely a part of a great continent which the stupidest ship could not miss, if it only sailed far enough, but is actually a small volcanic island, a mere dot among those wild waves, a thing which one might easily have passed in the night, unsuspecting, and which yet was not so passed,—it really seems like the maddest piece of good-luck, as if one should go to sea in a bowl, hoping somewhere or other to land on the edge of a tea-cup.

As next day we stumbled on deck in the foggy dawn, the dim island five miles off seemed only dawning too, a shapeless thing, half-formed out of chaos, as if the leagues of gray ocean had grown weary of their eternal loneliness, and bungled into something like land at last. The phrase "making land" at once became the simple and necessary expression; we had come upon the very process itself. Nearer still, the cliffs five hundred feet in height, and the bare conical hills of the interior, divided everywhere by cane-hedges into a regular checker-work of cultivation, prolonged the mystery; and the glimpses of white villages scarcely seemed to break the spell. Point after point we passed,—great shoulders of volcanic mountain thrust out to meet the sea, with steep green ravines furrowed in between them; and when at last we rounded the Espalamarca, and the white walls and the Moorish towers of Horta stood revealed before us, and a stray sunbeam pierced the clouds on the great mountain Pico across the bay, and the Spanish steamship in the harbor flung out her gorgeous ensign of gold and blood—then, indeed, we felt that all the glowing cup of the tropics was proffered to our lips, and the dream of our voyage stood fulfilled.

Not one of our immediate party, most happily, had ever been beyond Boston Harbor before, and so we all plunged without fear or apology into the delicious sense of foreignness; we moved as those in dreams. No one could ever precisely remember what we said or what we did, only that we were somehow boated ashore till we landed with difficulty amid high surf on a wave-worn quay, amid an enthusiastic throng of women in dark-blue hooded cloaks which we all took for priestly vestments, and of beggars in a combination of patches which no sane person could reasonably take for vestments of any sort, until one saw how scrupulously they were washed and how carefully put together.

The one overwhelming fact of the first day abroad is the simple sensation that one is abroad: a truth that can never be made anything but commonplace in the telling, or anything but wonderful in the fulfilling. What Emerson says of the landscape is true here: no particular foreign country is so remarkable as the necessity of being remarkable under which every foreign country lies. Horace Walpole found nothing in Europe so astonishing as Calais; and we felt that at every moment the first edge of novelty was being taken off for life, and that, if we were to continue our journey round the world, we never could have that first day's sensations again. Yet because no one can spare time to describe it at the moment, this first day has never yet been described; all books of travels begin on the second day; the daguerreotype-machine is not ready till the expression has begun to fade out. Months had been spent in questioning our travelled friends, sheets of old correspondence had been disinterred, sketches studied, Bullar's unsatisfactory book read, and now we were on the spot, and it seemed as if every line and letter must have been intended to describe some other place on the earth, and not this strange, picturesque, Portuguese, Semi-Moorish Fayal.

One general truth came over us instantly, and it was strange to think that no one had happened to speak of it before. The essence of the surprise was this. We had always been left to suppose that in a foreign country one would immediately begin to look about and observe the foreign things,—these novel details having of course that groundwork of ordinary human life, the same all the world over. To our amazement, we found that it was the groundwork itself that was foreign; we were shifted off our feet; not the details, but the basis itself was wholly new and bewildering; and, instead of noting down, like intelligent travellers, the objects which were new, we found ourselves stupidly staring about to find something which was old,—a square inch of surface anywhere which looked like anything ever seen before,—that we might take our departure from that, and then begin to improve our minds. Perhaps this is difficult for the first hours in any foreign country; certainly the untravelled American finds it utterly impossible in Fayal. Consider the incongruities. The beach beneath your feet, instead of being white or yellow, is black; the cliffs beside you are white or red, instead of black or gray. The houses are of white plaster on the outside, with wood-work, often painted in gay stripes, within. There are no chimneys to the buildings, but sometimes there is a building to the chimney; the latter being a picturesque tower with smoke coming from the top and a house appended to the base. One half the women go about bareheaded, save a handkerchief, and with a good deal of bareness at the other extremity,—while the other half wear hoops on their heads in the form of vast conical hoods attached to voluminous cloth cloaks which sweep the ground. The men cover their heads with all sorts of burdens, and their feet with nothing, or else with raw-hide slippers, hair outside. There is no roar or rumble in the streets, for there are no vehicles and no horses, but an endless stream of little donkeys, clicking the rough pavement beneath their sharp hoofs, and thumped solidly by screaming drivers. Who wears the new shoes on the island does not appear; but the hens limp about the houses, tethered to the old ones.

Further inspection reveals new marvels. The houses are roofed with red and black tiles, semi-cylindrical in shape and rusty in surface, and making the whole town look as if incrusted with barnacles. There is never a pane of glass on the lower story, even for the shops, but only barred windows and solid doors. Every house has a paved court-yard for the ground-floor, into which donkeys may be driven and where beggars or peasants may wait, and where one naturally expects to find Gil Blas in one corner and Sancho Panza in another. An English lady, on arriving, declared that our hotel was only a donkey-stable, and refused to enter it. In the intervals between the houses the streets are lined with solid stone walls from ten to twenty feet high, protecting the gardens behind; and there is another stone wall inclosing the town on the water side, as if to keep the people from being spilled out. One must go some miles into the country before getting beyond these walls, or seeing an inch, on either side. This would be intolerable, of course, were the country a level; but, as every rod of ground slopes up or down, it simply seems like walking through a series of roofless ropewalks or bowling-alleys, each being tilted up at an angle, so that one sees the landscape through the top, but never over the sides. Thus, walking or riding, one seldom sees the immediate foreground, but a changing background of soft valleys, an endless patchwork of varied green rising to the mountains in the interior of the island, or sinking to the blue sea, beyond which the mountain Pico rears its graceful outline across the bay.

From the street below comes up a constant hum of loud voices, often rising so high that one runs to see the fight commence, and by the time one has crossed the room it has all subsided and everybody is walking off in good-humor. Meanwhile the grave little donkeys are constantly pattering by, sometimes in pairs or in fours with a cask slung between; and mingled with these, in the middle of the street, there is an endless stream of picturesque figures, everybody bearing something on the head,—girls, with high water-jars, each with a green bough thrust in, to keep the water sweet,—boys, with baskets of fruit and vegetables, —men, with boxes, bales, bags, or trunks for the custom-house, or an enormous fagot of small sticks for firewood, or a long pole hung with wooden jars of milk, or with live chickens, head downward, or perhaps a basket of red and blue and golden fishes, fresh from the ocean and glistening in the sun. The strength of their necks seems wonderful, as does also their power of balancing. On a rainy day I have seen a tall man walk gravely along the middle of the street through the whole length of the town, bearing a large empty cask balanced upon his head, over which he held an umbrella.

Perhaps it is a procession-day, and all the saints of some church are taken out for an airing. They are figures composed of wood and wax, life-size, and in full costume, each having a complete separate wardrobe, but more tawdry and shabby, let us hope, than the originals ever indulged in. Here are Saint Francis and Saint Isabella, Saint Peter with a monk kneeling before him, and Saint Margaret with her dog, and the sceptred and ermined Saint Louis, and then Joseph and Mary sitting amicably upon the same platform, with an additional force of bearers to sustain them. For this is the procession of the Bem-casados or Well-married, in honor of the parents of Jesus. Then there are lofty crucifixes and waving flags; and when the great banner, bearing simply the letters S.P.Q.R., comes flapping round the windy corner, one starts in wonder at the permanent might of that vast superstition which has grasped the very central symbol of ancient empire, and brought it down, like a boulder on a glacier, into modern days. It makes all Christianity seem but a vast palimpsest, since the letters which once meant "Senatus Populusque Romanus" stand now only for the feebler modern formula, "Salve populum quem redemisti."

All these shabby splendors are interspersed among the rank and file of two hundred, or thereabouts, lay brethren of different orders, ranging in years from six to sixty. The Carmelites wear a sort of white bathing-dress, and the Brotherhood of Saint Francis are clothed in long brown robes, girded with coarse rope. The very old and the very young look rather picturesque in these disguises,—the latter especially, urchins with almost baby-faces, toddling along with lighted candle in hand; and one often feels astonished to recognize some familiar porter or shopkeeper in this ecclesiastical dress, as when discovering a pacific next-door neighbor beneath the bear-skin of an American military officer. A fit suggestion; for next follows a detachment of Portuguese troops-of-the-line,—twenty shambling men in short jackets, with hair shaved close, looking most like children's wooden monkeys, by no means live enough for the real ones. They straggle along, scarcely less irregular in aspect than the main body of the procession; they march to the tap of the drum. I never saw a Fourth-of-July procession in the remotest of our rural districts which was not beautiful, compared to this forlorn display; but the popular homage is duly given, the bells jangle incessantly, and, as the procession passes, all men uncover their heads or have their hats knocked off by official authority.

Still watching from our hotel-window, turn now from the sham picturesqueness of the Church to the real and unconscious picturesqueness of every day. It is the orange-season, and beneath us streams an endless procession of men, women, and children, each bearing on the head a great graceful basket of yellow treasures. Opposite our window there is a wall by which they rest themselves, after their three-mile walk from the gardens. There they lounge and there they chatter. Little boys come slyly to pilfer oranges, and are pelted away with other oranges; for a single orange has here no more appreciable value than a single apple in our farmers' orchards; and, indeed, windfall oranges are left to decay, like windfall apples. During this season one sees oranges everywhere, even displayed as a sort of thank-offering on the humble altars of country-churches; the children's lips and cheeks assume a chronic yellowness; and the narrow side-walks are strewn with bits of peel, punched through and through by the boys' pop-guns, as our boys punch slices of potato.

All this procession files down, the whole day long, to the orange-yards by the quay. There one finds another merry group, or a series of groups, receiving and sorting the fragrant loads, papering, packing, boxing. In the gardens there seems no end to the varieties of the golden fruit, although only one or two are here being packed. There are shaddocks, zamboas, limes, sour lemons, sweet lemons, oranges proper, and Tangerinas; these last being delicate, perfumed, thin-skinned, miniature-fruit from the land of the Moors. One may begin to eat oranges at Fayal in November; but no discriminating person eats a whole orange before March,—a few slices from the sunny side, and the rest is thrown upon the ground. One learns to reverse the ordinary principles of selection also, and choose the smaller and darker before the large and yellow: the very finest in appearance being thrown aside by the packers as worthless. Of these packers the Messrs. Dabney employ two hundred, and five hundred beside in the transportation. One knows at a glance whether the cargo is destined for America or England: the English boxes having the thin wooden top bent into a sort of dome, almost doubling the solid contents of the box. This is to evade the duty, the custom-house measurement being taken only at the corners. It also enables the London dealers to remove some two hundred oranges from every box, and still send it into the country as full.—When one thinks what a knowing race we came from, it is really wonderful where we Yankees picked up our honesty.

Let us take one more glance from the window; for there is a mighty jingling and rattling, the children are all running to see something, and the carriage is approaching. "The carriage": it is said advisedly; for there is but one street on the island passable to such an equipage, and but one such equipage to enjoy its privileges,—only one, that is, drawn by horses, and presentable in Broadway. There are three other vehicles, each the object of envy and admiration, but each drawn by oxen only. There is the Baroness, the only lady of title, who sports a sort of butcher's cart, with a white top; within lies a mattress, and on the mattress recline her ladyship and her daughter, as the cart rumbles and stumbles over the stones;—nor they alone, for, on emerging from an evening party, I have seen the oxen of the Baroness, unharnessed, quietly munching their hay at the foot of the stairs, while a pair of bare feet emerging from one end of the vehicle, and a hearty snore from the other, showed the mattress to be found a convenience by some one beside the nobility. Secondly, there is a stout gentleman near the Hotel, reputed to possess eleven daughters, and known to possess a pea-green omnibus mounted on an ox-cart; the windows are all closed with blinds, and the number of young ladies may be an approximation only. And, lastly, there sometimes rolls slowly by an expensive English curricle, lately imported; the springs are somehow deranged, so that it hangs entirely on one side; three ladies ride within, and the proprietor sits on the box, surveying in calm delight his two red oxen with their sky-blue yoke, and the tall peasant who drives them with a goad.

After a few days of gazing at objects like these, one is ready to recur to the maps, and become statistical. It would be needless to say (but that we all know far less of geography than we are supposed to know) that the Azores are about two-thirds of the way across the Atlantic, and about the latitude of Philadelphia; sharing, however, in the greater warmth of the European coast, and slightly affected, also, by the Gulf Stream. The islands are supposed to have been known to the Phoenicians, and Humboldt holds out a flattering possibility of Phoenician traces yet discoverable. This lent additional interest to a mysterious inscription which we hunted up in a church built in the time of Philip II., at the north end of the island; we had the satisfaction of sending a copy of it to Humboldt, though it turned out to be only a Latin inscription clothed in uncouth Greek characters, such as have long passed for Runic in the Belgian churches and elsewhere. The Phoenician traces yet remain to be discovered; so does a statue fabled to exist on the shore of one of the smaller islands, where Columbus landed in some of his earlier voyages, and, pacing the beach, looked eagerly towards the western sea: the statue is supposed still to portray him. In the fifteenth century, at any rate, the islands were re-discovered. They have always since then been under Portuguese control, including in that phrase the period when Philip II. united that crown with his own; and they are ruled now by Portuguese military and civil governors, with the aid of local legislatures.

Fayal stands, with Pico and San Jorge, rather isolated from the rest of the group, and out of their sight. It is the largest and most populous of the islands, except St. Michael and Terceira; it has the best harbor and by far the most of American commerce, St. Michael taking most of the English. Whalers put into Fayal for fresh vegetables and supplies, and to transship their oil; while distressed vessels often seek the harbor to repair damages. The island is twenty-five miles long, and shaped like a turtle; the cliffs along the sea range from five hundred to a thousand feet in height, and the mountainous interior rises to three thousand. The sea is far more restless than upon our coast, the surf habitually higher; and there is such a depth of water in many places around the shore, that, on one occasion, a whale-ship, drawn too near by the current, broke her mainyard against the cliff, without grazing her keel.

The population numbers about twenty-five thousand, one-half of these being found in the city of Horta, and the rest scattered in some forty little hamlets lying at irregular distances along the shores. There are very few English or French residents, and no Americans but the different branches of the Consul's family,—a race whose reputation for all generous virtues has spread too widely to leave any impropriety in mentioning them here. Their energy and character have made themselves felt in every part of the island; and in the villages farthest from their charming home, one has simply to speak of a familia, "the family," and the introduction is sufficient. Almost every good institution or enterprise on the island is the creation of Mr. Dabney. He transacts without charge the trade in vegetables between the peasants and the whale-ships, guarantying the price to the producers, giving them the profits, if any, and taking the risk himself; and the only provision for pauperism is found in his charities. Every Saturday, rain or shine, there flocks together from all parts of the island a singular collection of aged people, lame, halt, and blind, who receive, to the number of two hundred, a weekly donation of ten cents each, making a thousand dollars annually, which constitutes but a small part of the benefactions of this remarkable man, the true father of the island, with twenty-five thousand grown children to take care of.

Ten cents a week may not seem worth a whole day's journey on foot, but by the Fayal standard it is amply worth it. The usual rate of wages for an able-bodied man is sixteen cents a day; and an acquaintance of ours, who had just got a job on the roads at thirty cents a day, declined a good opportunity to emigrate to America, on the ground that it was best to "let well alone." Yet the price of provisions is by no means very low, and the difference is chiefly in abstinence. But fuel and clothing cost little, since little is needed,—except that no woman thinks herself really respectable until she has her great blue cloak, which requires an outlay of from fifteen to thirty dollars, though the whole remaining wardrobe may not be worth half that. The poorer classes pay about a dollar a month in rent; they eat fish several times a week and meat twice or thrice a year, living chiefly upon the coarsest corn-bread, with yams and beans. Still they contrive to have their luxuries. A soldier's wife, an elderly woman, said to me pathetically, "We have six vintems (twelve cents) a day,—my husband smokes and I take snuff,—and how are we to buy shoes and stockings?" But the most extreme case of economy which I discovered was that of a poor old woman, unable to tell her own age, who boarded with a poor family for four patacos (twenty cents) a month, or five cents a week. She had, she said, a little place in the chimney to sleep in, and when they had too large a fire, she went out of doors. Such being the standard of ordinary living, one can compute the terrors of the famine which has since occurred in Fayal, and which has only been relieved through the contributions levied in this country, and the energy of Mr. Dabney.

Steeped in this utter poverty,—dwelling in low, dark, smoky huts, with earthen floors,—it is yet wonderful to see how these people preserve not merely the decencies, but even the amenities of life. Their clothes are a chaos of patches, but one sees no rags; all their well-worn white garments are white in the superlative degree; and when their scanty supply of water is at the scantiest, every bare foot on the island is sure to be washed in warm water at night. Certainly there are fleas and there are filthinesses in some directions; and yet it is amazing, especially for one accustomed to the Irish, to see an extreme of poverty so much greater, with such an utter absence of squalidness. But when all this is said and done, the position of the people of Fayal is an abject one, that is, it is a European position; it teaches more of history in a day to an untravelled American than all his studies had told him besides,—and he returns home ready to acquiesce in a thousand dissatisfactions, in view of that most wondrous of all recorded social changes, the transformation of the European peasant into the American citizen.

Fayal is not an expensive place. One pays six dollars a week at an excellent hotel, and there is nothing else to spend money on, except beggars and donkeys. For a shilling an hour one can go to ride, or, as the Portuguese phrase perhaps circuitously expresses it, go to walk on horseback on a donkey,—dar um passeio a cavallo n'um burro. The beggars, indeed, are numerous; but one's expenditures are always happily limited by the great scarcity of small change. A half-cent, however, will buy you blessings enough for a lifetime, and you can find an investment in almost any direction. You visit some church or cemetery; you ask a question or two of a lounger in a black cloak, with an air like an exiled Stuart, and, as you part, he detains you, saying, "Sir, will you give me some little thing, (alguma cousinha,)—I am so poor?" Overwhelmed with a sense of personal humility, you pull out three half-cents and present them with a touch of your hat, he receives them with the same, and you go home with a feeling that a distinguished honor has been done you. The Spaniards say that the Portuguese are "mean even in their begging": they certainly make their benefactors mean; and I can remember returning home, after a donation of a whole pataco, (five cents,) with a debilitating sense of too profuse philanthropy.

It is inevitable that even the genteel life of Fayal should share this parsimony. As a general rule, the higher classes on the island, socially speaking, live on astonishingly narrow means. How they do it is a mystery; but families of eight contrive to spend only three or four hundred dollars a year, and yet keep several servants, and always appear rather stylishly dressed. The low rate of wages (two dollars a month at the very highest) makes servants a cheap form of elegance. I was told of a family employing two domestics upon an income of a hundred and twenty dollars. Persons come to beg, sometimes, and bring a servant to carry home what is given. I never saw a mechanic carry his tools; if it be only a hammer, the hired boy must come to fetch it.

Fortunately, there is not much to transport, the mechanic arts being in a very rudimentary condition. For instance, there are no saw-horses nor hand-saws, the smallest saw used being a miniature wood-saw, with the steel set at an angle, in a peculiar manner. It takes three men to saw a plank: one to hold the plank, another to saw, and a third to carry away the pieces.

Farming-tools have the same simplicity. It is one odd result of the universal bare feet that they never will use spades; everything is done with a hoe, most skilfully wielded. There are no wheelbarrows, but baskets are the universal substitutes. The plough is made entirely of wood, only pointed with iron, and is borne to and from the field on the shoulder. The carts are picturesque, but clumsy; they are made of wicker-work, and the iron-shod wheels are solidly attached to the axle, so that all revolves together, amid fearful creaking. The people could not be induced to use a cart with movable wheels which was imported from America, nor will they even grease their axles, because the noise is held to drive away witches. Some other arts are a little more advanced, as any visitor to Mr. Harper's pleasant Fayal shop in Boston may discover. They make homespun cloth upon a simple loom, and out of their smoky huts come beautiful embroideries and stockings whose fineness is almost unequalled. Their baskets are strong and graceful, and I have seen men sitting in village doorways, weaving the beautiful broom-plant, yellow flowers and all, until basket and bouquet seemed one.

The greater part of the surface of the island is cultivated like a kitchen-garden, even up to the top of volcanic cones eight hundred feet high, and accessible only by steps cut in the earth. All the land is divided into little rectangular patches of various verdure, —yellow-blossomed broom, blue-flowering flax, and the contrasting green of lupines, beans, Indian corn, and potatoes. There is not a spire of genuine grass on the island, except on the Consul's lawn, but wilds covered with red heather, low faya-bushes, (whence the name of the island,) and a great variety of mosses. The cattle are fed on beans and lupines. Firewood is obtained from the opposite island of Pico, five miles off, and from the Caldeira or Crater, a pit five miles round and fifteen hundred feet deep, at the summit of Fayal, whence great fagots are brought upon the heads of men and girls. It is an oversight in the "New American Cyclopaedia" to say of Fayal that "the chief object of agriculture is the vine," because there are not a half dozen vineyards on the island, the soil being unsuitable; but there are extensive vineyards on Pico, and these are owned almost wholly by proprietors resident in Fayal.

There is a succession of crops of vegetables throughout the year; peas are green in January, which is, indeed, said to be the most verdant month of the twelve, the fields in summer becoming parched and yellow. The mercury usually ranges from 50° to 80°, winter and summer; but we were there during an unusually cool season, and it went down to 45°. This was regarded as very severe by the thinly clad Fayalese, and I sometimes went into cottages and found the children lying in bed to keep warm. Yet roses, geraniums, and callas bloomed out of doors all the time, and great trees of red camellia, which they cut as we cut roses. Superb scarlet banana-flowers decked our Christmas-Tree. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter there, however, and exotic plants retain the habits they brought with them, with one singular exception. The Morus multicaulis was imported, and the silk-manufacture with it; suddenly the trees seemed to grow bewildered, they put forth earlier and earlier in the spring, until they got back to January; the leaves at last fell so early that the worms died before spinning cocoons, and the whole enterprise was in a few years abandoned because of this vegetable insanity.

In spite of the absence of snow and presence of verdure, this falling of the leaves gives some hint of winter; yet blackbirds and canaries sing without ceasing. The latter are a variety possessing rather inferior charms, compared with the domestic species; but they have a pretty habit of flying away to Pico every night: it was pleasant to sit at sunset on the high cliffs at the end of the island and watch the little brown creatures, like fragments of the rock itself, whirled away over the foaming ocean. The orange-orchards were rather a disappointment; they suggested quince-trees with more shining leaves; and, indeed, there was a hard, glossy, coriaceous look to the vegetation generally, which made us sometimes long for the soft, tender green of more temperate zones. The novel beauty of the Dabney gardens can scarcely be exaggerated; each step was a new incursion into the tropics,—a palm, a magnolia, a camphor-tree, a dragon-tree, suggesting Humboldt and Orotava, a clump of bamboos or cork-trees, or the startling strangeness of the great grass-like banana, itself a jungle. There are hedges of pittosporum, arbors veiled by passion-flowers, and two of that most beautiful of all living trees, the araucaria, or Norfolk Island pine,—one specimen being some eighty feet high, and said to be the tallest north of the equator. And when over all this luxuriant exotic beauty the soft clouds furled away and the sun showed us Pico, we had no more to ask, and the soft, beautiful blue cone became an altar for our gratitude, and the thin mist of hot volcanic air that flickered above it seemed the rising incense of the world.

In the midst of all these charming surprises, we found it hard to begin at once upon the study of the language, although the prospect of a six-months' stay made it desirable. We were pleased to experience the odd, stupid sensation of having people talk loud to us as being foreigners, and of seeing even the little children so much more at their ease than we were. And every step beyond this was a new enjoyment. We found the requisites for learning a language on its own soil to be a firm will, a quick ear, flexible lips, and a great deal of cool audacity. Plunge boldly in, expecting to make countless blunders; find out the shops where they speak English, and don't go there; make your first bargains at twenty-five per cent. disadvantage, and charge it as a lesson in the language; expect to be laughed at, and laugh yourself, because you win. The daily labor is its own reward. If it is a pleasure to look through a telescope in an observatory, gradually increasing its powers until a dim nebula is resolved into a whole galaxy of separate stars, how much more when the nebula is one of language around you, and the telescope is your own more educated ear!

We discovered further, what no one had ever told us, that the ability to speak French, however poorly, is rather a drawback in learning any less universal language, because the best company in any nation will usually have some knowledge of French, and this tempts one to remain on neutral ground and be lazy. But the best company in Fayal was so much less interesting than the peasantry, that some of us persevered in studying the vernacular. To be sure, one finds English spoken by more of the peasants than of the small aristocracy of the island, so many of the former have spent some years in American whale-ships, and come back to settle down with their savings in their native village. In visiting the smaller hamlets on the island, I usually found that the owners of the two or three most decent houses had learned to speak English in this way. But I was amused at the dismay of an American sea-captain who on a shooting excursion ventured on some free criticisms on the agriculture of a farm, and was soon answered in excellent English by the proprietor.

"Look at the foolish fellow," quoth the captain, "carrying his plough to the field on his shoulder!"

"Sir," said the Portuguese, coolly, "I have no other way to take it there."

The American reserved his fire, thereafter, for bipeds with wings.

These Americanized sailors form a sort of humbler aristocracy in Fayal, and are apt to pride themselves on their superior knowledge of the world, though their sober habits have commonly saved them from the demoralization of a sailor's life. But the untravelled Fayalese peasantry are a very gentle, affectionate, childlike people, pensive rather than gay, industrious, but not ingenious, with few amusements and those the simplest, incapable of great crimes or very heroic virtues, educated by their religion up to the point of reverent obedience, but no higher.

Their grace and beauty are like our impressions of the Italian peasantry, and probably superior to the reality in that case. Among the young men and boys, especially, one sees the true olive cheeks and magnificent black eyes of Southern races. The women of Fayal are not considered remarkable for beauty, but in the villages of Pico one sees in the doorways of hovels complexions like rose-petals, and faces such as one attributes to Evangeline, soft, shy, and innocent. But the figure is the chief wonder, the figure of woman as she was meant to be, beautiful in superb vigor,—not diseased and tottering, as with us, but erect and strong and stately; every muscle fresh and alive, from the crown of the steady head, to the sole of the emancipated foot,—and yet not heavy and clumsy, as one fancies barefooted women must be, but inheriting symmetry and grace from the Portuguese or Moorish blood. I have looked through the crowded halls of Saratoga in vain for one such figure as I have again and again seen descending those steep mountain-paths with a bundle of firewood on the head, or ascending them with a basket of farm-manure. No person who has never left America can appreciate the sensation of living among healthy women; often as I heard of this, I was utterly unprepared for the realization; I never lost the conscious enjoyment of it for a single day; and when I reached home and walked across Boston Common on a June Sunday, I felt as if I were in a hospital for consumptives.

This condition of health cannot be attributed to any mere advantage of climate. The higher classes of Fayal are feeble and sickly; their diet is bad, they take no exercise, and suffer the consequences; they have all the ills to which flesh is heir, including one specially Portuguese complaint, known by the odd name of dôr do cotovelo, elbow-disease, which corresponds to that known to Anglo-Saxons, by an equally bold symbol, as the green-eyed monster, Jealousy. So the physical superiority of the peasantry seems to come solely from their mode of life,—out-door labor, simple diet, and bare feet. Change these and their health goes; domestic service in foreign families on the island always makes them ill, and often destroys their health and bloom forever; and strange to say, that which most nauseates and deranges their whole physical condition, in such cases, is the necessity of wearing shoes and stockings.

The Pico peasants have also the advantage of the Fayalese in picturesqueness of costume. The men wear homespun blue jackets and blue or white trousers, with a high woollen cap of red or blue. The women wear a white waist with a gay kerchief crossed above the bosom, a full short skirt of blue, red, or white, and a man's jacket of blue, with tight sleeves. On the head there is the pretty round-topped straw hat with red and white cord, which is now so extensively imported from Fayal; and beneath this there is always another kerchief, tied under the chin, or hanging loosely. The costume is said to vary in every village, but in the villages opposite Horta this dress is worn by every woman from grandmother to smallest granddaughter; and when one sails across the harbor, in the lateen-sail packet-boat, and old and young come forth on the rocks to see the arrival, it seems like voyaging to some realm of butterflies.

This out-door life begins very early. As soon as the Fayalese baby is old enough to sit up alone, he is sent into the nursery. The nursery is the sunny side of the house-door. A large stone is selected, in a convenient position, and there the little dusky creature squats, hour after hour, clad in one garment at most, and looking at the universe through two black beads of eyes. Often the little dog comes and suns himself close by, and the little cat beside the dog, and the little pig beside the cat, and the little hen beside the pig,—a "Happy Family," a row of little traps to catch sunbeams, all down the lane. When older, the same child harnesses his little horse and wagon, he being the horse and a sheep's jawbone the wagon, and trots contentedly along, in almost the smallest amount of costume accessible to mortals. All this refers to the genuine, happy, plebeian baby. The genteel baby is probably as wretched in Fayal as elsewhere, but he is kept more out of sight.

These children are seldom noisy and never rude: the race is not hilarious, and their politeness is inborn. Not an urchin of three can be induced to accept a sugar-plum until he has shyly slid off his little cap, if he has one, and kissed his plump little hand. The society of princes can hardly surpass the natural courtesy of the peasant, who insists on climbing the orange-tree to select for you the choicest fruit. A shopkeeper never can sell you a handful of nuts without bringing the bundle near to his lips, first, with a graceful wave of salutation. A lady from Lisbon told us that this politeness surpassed that of the native Portuguese; and the wife of an English captain, who had sailed with her husband from port to port for fifteen years, said that she had never seen anything to equal it. It is not the slavishness of inferiors, for the poorest exhibit it towards each other. You see two very old women talking eagerly in the street, each in a cloak whose every square inch is a patch, and every patch a different shade,—and each alternate word you hear seems to be Senhora. Among laboring men, the most available medium of courtesy is the little paper cigar; it contains about four whiffs, and is smoked by about that number of separate persons.

But to fully appreciate this natural courtesy, one must visit the humbler Fayalese at home. You enter a low stone hut, thatched and windowless, and you find the mistress within, a robust, black-eyed, dark-skinned woman, engaged in grinding corn with a Scriptural handmill. She bars your way with apologies; you must not enter so poor a house; you are so beautiful, so perfect, and she is so poor, she has "nothing but the day and the night," or some equally poetic phrase. But you enter and talk with her a little, and she readily shows you all her little possessions,—her chest on the earthen floor, her one chair and stool, her tallow-candle stuck against the wall, her husk mattress rolled together, with the precious blue cloak inside of it. Behind a curtain of coarse straw-work is a sort of small boudoir, holding things more private, an old barrel with the winter's fuel in it, a few ears of corn hanging against the wall, a pair of shoes, and a shelf with a large pasteboard box. The box she opens triumphantly and exhibits her santinhos, or little images of saints. This is San Antonio, and this is Nossa Senhora do Conceiçao, Our Lady of the Conception. She prays to them every day for sunshine; but they do not seem to hear, this winter, and it rains all the time. Then, approaching the climax of her blessedness, with beaming face she opens a door in the wall, and shows you her pig.

The courtesy of the higher classes tends to formalism, and has stamped itself on the language in some very odd ways. The tendency common to all tongues, towards a disuse of the second person singular, as too blunt and familiar, is carried so far in Spanish and Portuguese as to disuse the second person plural also, except in the family circle, and to substitute the indirect phrases, vuestra Merced (in Spanish) and vossa Mercé (in Portuguese), both much contracted in speaking and familiar writing, and both signifying "your Grace." The joke of invariably applying this epithet to one's valet would seem sufficiently grotesque in either language, and here the Spanish stops; but Portuguese propriety has gone so far that even this phrase has become too hackneyed to be civil. In talking with your equals, it would be held an insult to call them simply "your Grace"; it must be some phrase still more courtly,—vossa Excellencia, or vossa Senhoria.—One may hear an elderly gentleman talking to a young girl of fourteen, or, better still, two such damsels talking together, and it is "your Excellency" at every sentence; and the prescribed address on an envelope is "Illustrissima Excellentissima Senhora Dona Maria." The lower classes have not quite reached the "Excellency," but have got beyond the "Grace," and hence the personal pronouns are in a state of colloquial chaos, and the only safe way is to hold to the third person and repeat the name of Manuel or Maria, or whatever it may be, as often as possible.

This leads naturally to the mention of another peculiar usage. On visiting the Fayal post-office, I was amazed to find the letters arranged alphabetically in the order of the baptismal, not the family names, of the persons concerned,—as if we should enumerate Adam, Benjamin, Charles, and so on. But I at once discovered this to be the universal usage. Merchants, for instance, thus file their business papers; or rather, since four-fifths of the male baptismal names in the language fall under the four letters, A, F, J, M, they arrange only five bundles, giving one respectively to Antonio, Francisco, José or João, and Manuel, adding a fifth for sundries. This all seemed inexplicable, till at last there proved to be an historical kernel to the nut. The Portuguese, and to some extent the Spaniards, have kept nearer to the primitive usage which made the personal name the important one and the patronymic quite secondary. John Smith is not known conversationally as Mr. Smith, but as Mr. John,—Senhor João. One may have an acquaintance in society named Senhor Francisco, and another named Senhora Dona Christina, and it may be long before it turns out that they are brother and sister, the family name being, we will suppose, Garcia da Rosa; and even then it will be doubtful whether to call them Garcia or da Rosa. This explains the great multiplication of names in Spain and Portugal. The first name being the important one, the others may be added, subtracted, multiplied, or divided, with perfect freedom. A wife may or may not add her husband's name to her own; the eldest son takes some of the father's family names, the second son some of the mother's, saints' names are sprinkled in to suit the taste, and no confusion is produced, because the first name is the only one in common use. Each may, if he pleases, carry all his ancestors on his visiting-card, without any inconvenience except the cost of pasteboard.

Fayal exhibits another point of courtesy to be studied. The gentleman of our party was early warned that it was very well to learn his way about the streets, but far more essential to know the way to the brim of his hat. Every gentleman touches his hat to every lady, acquaintance or stranger, in street or balcony. So readily does one grow used to this, that I was astonished, for a moment, at the rudeness of some French officers, just landed from a frigate, who passed some ladies, friends of mine, without raising the hat. "Are these," I asked, "the polite Frenchmen one reads about?"—not reflecting that I myself should not have ventured on bowing to strange ladies in the same position, without special instruction in Portuguese courtesies. These little refinements became, indeed, very agreeable, only alloyed by the spirit of caste in which they were performed,—elbowing the peasant-woman off the sidewalk for the sake of doffing the hat to the Baroness. I thought of the impartial courtesies shown towards woman as woman in my own country, and the spread eagle within me flapped his pinions. Then I asked myself, "What if the woman were black?" and the eagle immediately closed his wings, and flapped no more. But I may add, that afterwards, attending dances among the peasants, I was surprised to see my graceful swains in humble life smoking and spitting in the presence of white-robed belles, in a manner not to be witnessed on our farthest western borders.

The position of woman in Portuguese countries brings one nearer to that Oriental type from which modern society has been gradually diverging. Woman is secluded, so far as each family can afford it, which is the key to the Oriental system. Seclusion is aristocracy, and if it cannot be made complete, the household must do the best they can. Thus, in the lowest classes, one daughter is often decreed by the parents to be brought up like a lady, and for this every sacrifice is to be made. Her robust sisters go bare-footed to the wells for water, they go miles unprotected into the lonely mountains; no social ambition, no genteel helplessness for them. But Mariquinha is taught to read, write, and sew; she is as carefully looked after as if the world wished to steal her; she wears shoes and stockings and an embroidered kerchief and a hooded cloak; and she never steps outside the door alone. You meet her, pale and demure, plodding along to mass with her mother. The sisters will marry laborers and fishermen; Mariquinha will marry a small shop-keeper or the mate of a vessel, or else die single. It is not very pleasant for the poor girl in the mean time; she is neither healthy nor happy; but "let us be genteel or die."

On festa-days she and her mother draw their hoods so low and their muffling handkerchiefs so high that the costume is as good as a yashmak, and in passing through the streets these one-eyed women seem like an importation from the "Arabian Nights." Ladies of higher rank, also, wear the hooded cloak for disguise and greater freedom, and at a fashionable wedding in the cathedral I have seen the jewelled fingers of the uninvited acquaintances gleam from the blue folds of broadcloth. But very rarely does one see the aristocratic lady in the street in her own French apparel, and never alone. There must be a male relative, or a servant, or, at the very least, a female companion. Even the ladies of the American Consul's family very rarely go out singly,—not from any fear, for the people are as harmless as birds, but from etiquette. The first foreign lady who walked habitually alone in the streets was at once christened "The Crazy American." A lady must not be escorted home from an evening party by a gentleman, but by a servant with a lantern; and as the streets have no lamps, I never could see the breaking-up of any such entertainment without recalling Retzsch's quaint pictures of the little German towns, and the burghers plodding home with their lanterns,—unless, perchance, what a foreign friend of ours called a "sit-down chair" came rattling by, and transferred our associations to Cranford and Mr. Winkle.

We found or fancied other Orientalisms. A visitor claps his hands at the head of the court-yard stairs, to summon an attendant. The solid chimneys, with windows in them, are precisely those described by Urquhart in his delightful "Pillars of Hercules"; so are the gardens, divided into clean separate cells by tall hedges of cane; so is the game of ball played by the boys in the street, under the self-same Moorish name of arri; so is the mode of making butter, by tying up the cream in a goat-skin and kicking it till the butter comes. Even the architecture fused into one all our notions of Gothic and of Moorish, and gave great plausibility to Urquhart's ingenious argument for the latter as the true original. And it is a singular fact that the Mohammedan phrase Oxald, "Would to Allah," is still the most familiar ejaculation in the Portuguese language and the habitual equivalent in their religious books for "Would to God."

We were treated with great courtesy and hospitality by our Portuguese neighbors, and an evening party in Fayal is in some respects worth describing. As one enters, the anteroom is crowded with gentlemen, and the chief reception-room seems like a large omnibus, lighted, dressed with flowers, and having a row of ladies on each side. The personal beauty is perhaps less than one expects, though one sees some superb dark eyes and blue-black hair; they dress with a view to the latest French fashions, and sometimes rather a distant view. At last a lady takes her seat at the piano, then comes an eager rush of gentlemen into the room, and partners are taken for cotillons,—large, double, very double cotillons, here called contradanças. The gentlemen appear in scrupulous black broadcloth and satin and white kid; in summer alone they are permitted to wear white trousers to parties; and we heard of one anxious youth who, about the turn of the season, wore the black and carried the white in his pocket, peeping through the door, on arrival, to see which had the majority. It seemed a pity to waste such gifts of discretion on a monarchical country, when he might have emigrated to America and applied them to politics.

The company perform their dancing with the accustomed air of civilized festivity, "as if they were hired to do it, and were doubtful about being paid." Changes of figure are announced by a clapping of hands from one of the gentlemen, and a chorus of such applauses marks the end of the dance. Then they promenade slowly round the room, once or twice, in pairs; then the ladies take their seats, and instantly each gentleman walks hurriedly into the anteroom, and for ten minutes there is as absolute a separation of the sexes as in a Friends' Meeting. Nobody approves of this arrangement, in the abstract; it is all very well, they think, for gentlemen, if foreigners, to remain in the room, but it is not the Portuguese custom. Yet, with this exception, the manners are agreeably simple. Your admission to the house guaranties you as a proper acquaintance, there are no introductions, and you may address any one in any language you can coin into a sentence. Many speak French, and two or three English,—sometimes with an odd mingling of dialects, as when the Military Governor answered my inquiry, made in timid Portuguese, as to how long he had served in the army. "Vinte-cinco annos," he answered, in the same language; then, with an effort after an unexceptionable translation, "Vat you call, Twenty-cinq year"!

The great obstacle to the dialogue soon becomes, however, a deficit of subjects rather than of words. Most of these ladies never go out except to mass and to parties, they never read, and if one of them has some knowledge of geography, it is quite an extended education; so that, when you have asked them if they have ever been to St. Michael, and they have answered, Yes,—or to Lisbon, and they have answered, No,—then social intercourse rather flags. I gladly record, however, that there were some remarkable exceptions to this, and that we found in the family of the late eminent Portuguese statesman, Mousinho d'Albuquerque, accomplishments and knowledge which made their acquaintance an honor.

During the intervals of the dancing, little trays of tea and of cakes are repeatedly carried round,—astonishing cakes, in every gradation of insipidity, with the oddest names: white poison, nuns' kisses, angels' crops, cats' tails, heavenly bacon, royal eggs, coruscations, cocked hats, and esquecidos, or oblivion cakes, the butter being omitted. It seems an unexpected symbol of the plaintive melancholy of the Portuguese character that the small confections which we call kisses they call sighs, suspiros. As night advances, the cakes grow sweeter and the dances livelier, and the pretty national dances are at last introduced; though these are never seen to such advantage as when the peasants perform them on a Saturday or Sunday evening to the monotonous strain of a viola, the musician himself taking part in the complicated dance, and all the men chanting the refrain. Nevertheless they add to the gayety of our genteel entertainment, and you may stay at the party as long as you have patience,—if till four in the morning, so much the better for your popularity; for, though the gathering consist of but thirty people, they like to make the most of it.

Perhaps the next day one of these new friends kindly sends in a present for the ladies of the party: a bouquet of natural flowers with the petals carefully gilded; a folar or Easter cake, being a large loaf of sweetened bread, baked in a ring, and having whole eggs, shell and all, in the midst of it. One lady of our acquaintance received a pretty basket, which being opened revealed two little Portuguese pigs, about eight inches long, snow-white, wearing blue ribbons round their necks and scented with cologne.

Beyond these occasional parties, there seems very little society during the winter, the native ladies seldom either walking or riding, and there being no places of secular amusement. In summer, it is said, when the principal families resort to their vineyards at Pico, formalities are laid aside, and a simpler intercourse takes place. But I never saw any existence more thoroughly pitiable than that of the young men of the higher classes; they had literally nothing to do, except to dress themselves elegantly and lounge all day in an apothecary's shop. A very few went out shooting or fishing occasionally; but anything like employment, even mercantile, was entirely beneath their caste; and they only pardoned the constant industry of the American Consul and his family, as a sort of national eccentricity, for which they must not be severely condemned.

A good school-system is being introduced into all the Portuguese dominions, but there is no book-store in Fayal, though some dry-goods dealers sell a few religious books. We heard a rumor of a Portuguese "Uncle Tom" also, but I never could find the copy. The old Convent Libraries were sent to Lisbon, on the suppression of the monasteries, and never returned. There was once a printing-press on the island, but one of the Governors shipped it off to St. Michael. "There it goes," he said to the American Consul, "and the Devil take it!" The vessel was wrecked in the bay. "You see," he afterwards piously added, "the Devil has taken it." It is proper, however, to mention, that a press and a newspaper have been established since our visit, without further Satanic interference.

Books were scarce on the island. One official gentleman from Lisbon, quite an accomplished man, who spoke French fluently and English tolerably, had some five hundred books, chiefly in the former tongue, including seventy-two volumes of Balzac. His daughter, a young lady of fifteen, more accomplished than most of the belles of the island, showed me her little library of books in French and Portuguese, including three English volumes, an odd selection,—"The Vicar of Wakefield," Gregory's "Legacy to his Daughters," and Fielding's "Life of Jonathan Wild." But, indeed, her supply of modern Portuguese literature was almost as scanty, (there is so very little of it,) and we heard of a gentleman's studying French "in order to have something to read," which seemed the last stage in national decay.

Perhaps we were still more startled by the unexpected literary criticisms of a young lady from St. Michael, English on the father's side, but still Roman Catholic, who had just read the New Testament, and thus naïvely gave it her indorsement in a letter to an American friend:—"I dare say you have read the New Testament; but if you have not, I recommend it to you. I have just finished reading it, and find it a very moral and nice book." After this certificate, it will be safe for the Bible Society to continue its operations.

Nearly all the popular amusements in Fayal occur in connection with religion. After the simpler buildings and rites of the Romish Church in America, the Fayal churches impress one as vast baby-houses, and the services as acted charades. This perfect intermingling of the religious and the melodramatic was one of our most interesting experiences, and made the Miracle Plays of history a very simple and intelligible thing. In Fayal, holiday and holy-day have not yet undergone the slightest separation. A festival has to the people necessarily some religious association, and when the Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, Mr. Dabney's servants like to dress with flowers a wooden image in his garden, the fierce figure-head of some wrecked vessel, which they boldly personify as the American Saint. On the other hand, the properties of the Church are as freely used for merrymaking. On public days there are fireworks provided by the priests; they are kept in the church till the time comes, and then touched off in front of the building, with very limited success, by the sacristan. And strangest of all, at the final puff and bang of each remarkable piece of pyrotechny, the bells ring out just the same sudden clang which marks the agonizing moment of the Elevation of the Host.

On the same principle, the theatricals which occasionally enliven the island take place in chapels adjoining the churches. I shall never forget the example I saw, on one of these dramatic occasions, of that one cardinal virtue of Patience, which is to the Portuguese race the substitute for all more positive manly qualities. The performance was to be by amateurs, and a written programme had been sent from house to house during the day; and this had announced the curtain as sure to rise at eight. But as most of the spectators went at six to secure places,—literally, places, for each carried his or her own chair,—one might suppose the audience a little impatient before the appointed hour arrived. But one would then suppose very incorrectly. Eight o'clock came, and a quarter past eight, but no curtain rose. Half-past eight. No movement nor sign of any. The people sat still. A quarter to nine. The people sat still. Nine o'clock. The people sat perfectly still, nobody talking much, the gentlemen being all the while separated from the ladies, and all quiet. At last, at a quarter past nine, the orchestra came in! They sat down, laid aside their instruments, and looked about them. Suddenly a whistle was heard behind the scenes. Nothing came of it, however. After a time, another whistle. The people sat still. Then the orchestra began to tune their instruments, and at half-past nine the overture began. And during all that inexplicable delay of one hour and a half, after a preliminary waiting of two hours, there was not a single look of annoyance or impatience, nor the slightest indication, on any face, that this was viewed as a strange or extraordinary thing. Indeed, it was not.

We duly attended, not on this occasion only, but on all ecclesiastical festivals, grave or gay,—the only difficulty being to discover any person in town who had even approximate information as to when or where they were to occur. We saw many sights that are universal in Roman Catholic countries, and many that are peculiar to Fayal: we saw the "Procession of the Empress," when, for six successive Saturday evenings, young girls walk in order through the streets white-robed and crowned; saw the vessels in harbor decorated with dangling effigies of Judas, on the appointed day; saw the bands of men at Easter going about with flags and plates to beg money for the churches, and returning at night with feet suspiciously unsteady; saw the feet-washing, on Maundy-Thursday, of twelve old men, each having a square inch of the instep washed, wiped, and cautiously kissed by the Vicar-General, after which twelve lemons were solemnly distributed, each with a silver coin stuck into the peel; saw and felt the showers of water, beans, flour, oranges, eggs, from the balcony-windows during Carnival; saw weddings in churches, with groups of male companions holding tall candles round kneeling brides; saw the distribution to the poor of bread and meat and wine from long tables arranged down the principal street, on Whitsunday,—a memorial vow, made long since, to deprecate the recurrence of an earthquake. But it must be owned that these things, so unspeakably interesting at first, became a little threadbare before the end of the winter; we grew tired of the tawdriness and shabbiness which pervaded them all, of the coarse faces of the priests, and the rank odor of the incense.

We had left Protestantism in a state of vehement intolerance in America, but we soon found, that, to hear the hardest things said against the priesthood, one must visit a Roman Catholic country. There was no end to the anecdotes of avarice and sensuality in this direction, and there seemed everywhere the strangest combination of official reverence with personal contempt. The principal official, or Ouvidor, was known among his parishioners by the endearing appellation of "The Black Pig," to which his appearance certainly did no discredit. There was a great shipwreck at Pico during our stay, and two hundred thousand dollars' worth of rich goods was stranded on the bare rocks; there were no adequate means for its defence, and the peasants could hardly be expected to keep their hands off. But the foremost hands were those of the parish priest; for three weeks no mass was said in his church, and a funeral was left for days unperformed, that the representative of God might steal more silks and laces. When the next service occurred, the people remained quiet until the priest rose for the sermon; then they rose also tumultuously, and ran out of the church, crying, "Ladrão!" "Thief!" "But why this indignation?" said an intelligent Roman Catholic to us; "there is not a priest on either island who would not have done the same." A few days after I saw this same cool critic, candle in hand, heading a solemn ecclesiastical procession in the cathedral.

In the country-villages there naturally lingers more undisturbed the simple, picturesque life of Roman Catholic society. Every hamlet is clustered round its church, almost always magnificently situated, and each has its special festivals. Never shall I forget one lovely day when we went to witness the annual services at Praya, held to commemorate an ancient escape from an earthquake. It was the first day of February. After weeks of rain, there came at one burst all the luxury of June, winter seemed to pass into summer in a moment, and blackbirds sang on every spray. We walked or rode over a steep promontory, down into a green valley, scooped softly to the sea: the church was by the beach. As we passed along, the steep paths converging from all the hills were full of women and men in spotless blue and white, with bright kerchiefs; they were all walking barefooted over the rocky ways, only the women stopping, ere reaching the church, to don stockings and shoes. Many persons sat in sunny places by the roadsides to beg, with few to beg from,—blind old men, and groups of children clamorous for coppers, but propitiated by sugar-plums. Many others were bringing offerings, candles for the altar, poultry, which were piled, a living mass, legs tied, in the corner of the church, and small sums of money, which were recorded by an ancient man in a mighty book. The church was already so crowded that it was almost impossible to enter; the centre was one great flower-garden of headdresses of kneeling women, and in the aisles were penitents, toiling round the church upon their knees, each bearing a lighted candle. But the services had not yet begun, and we went down among the rocks to eat our luncheon of bread and oranges; the ocean rolled in languidly, a summer sea; we sat beside sheltered, transparent basins, among high and pointed rocks, and great, indolent waves sometimes reared their heads, looking in upon our retreat, or flooding our calm pools with a surface of creamy effervescence. Every square inch of the universe seemed crowded with particles of summer.

On our way past the church, we had caught a glimpse of unwonted black small-clothes, and, slyly peeping into a little chapel, had seen the august Senate of Horta apparently arraying themselves for the ceremony. Presently out came a man with a great Portuguese flag, and then the Senators, two and two, with short black cloaks, white bands, and gold-tipped staves, trod statelily towards the church. And as we approached the door, on our return, we saw these dignitaries sitting in their great arm-chairs, as one might fancy Venetian potentates, while a sonorous Portuguese sermon rolled over their heads as innocuously as a Thanksgiving discourse over any New-England congregation.

Do not imagine, by the way, that critical remarks on sermons are a monopoly of Protestantism. After one religious service in Fayal, my friend, the Professor of Languages, who sometimes gave lessons in English, remarked to me confidentially, in my own tongue,—"His sermon is good, but his exposition is bad; he does not expose well." Supposing him to refer to the elocution, I assented,—secretly thinking, however, that the divine in question had exposed himself exceedingly well.

Another very impressive ceremony was the Midnight Mass on New Year's Eve, when we climbed at midnight, through some close, dark passages in the vast church edifice, into a sort of concealed opera-box above the high altar, and suddenly opened windows looking down into the brilliantly lighted cathedral, crammed with kneeling people and throbbing with loud music. It seemed centuries away from all modern life,—a glimpse into some buried Pompeii of the Middle Ages. More impressive still was Holy Week, when there were some rites unknown to other Roman Catholic countries. For three days the great cathedral was closely veiled from without and darkened within,—every door closed, every window obscured. Before this there had been seventy candles lighting up the high altar and the eager faces; now these were all extinguished, and through the dark church came chanting a procession bearing feeble candles and making a strange clapping sound, with matracas, like watchmen's rattles; men carried the symbolical bier of Jesus in the midst, to its symbolical rest beneath the altar, where the three candles, representing the three Marys, blazed above it. During the time of darkness there were frequent masses and sermons, while terrible transparencies of the Crucifixion were suddenly unrolled from the lofty pulpit, and the throng below wept in sympathy, and clapped their cheeks in token of anguish, like the flutter of many doves. Then came the Hallelujah Saturday, when at noon the mourning ended. It was a breathless moment. The priests kneeled in gorgeous robes, chanting monotonously, with their foreheads upon the altar-steps; and the hushed multitude hung upon their lips, in concentrated ecstasy, waiting for the coming joy. Suddenly burst the words, Gloria in Excelsis. In an instant every door was flung open, every curtain withdrawn, the great church was bathed in meridian sunlight, the organ crashed out triumphant, the bells pealed, flowers were thrown from the galleries in profusion, friends embraced and kissed each other, laughed, talked, and cried, and all the sea of gay head-dresses below was tremulous beneath a mist of unaccustomed splendor. And yet (this thought smote me) all the beautiful transformation has come by simply letting in the common light of day. Then why not keep it always? Clear away, Humanity, these darkened windows, but clear away also these darkening walls, and show us that the simplest religion is the best!

I cannot dwell upon the narrative of our many walks:—to the Espalamarca, with its lonely telegraph-station;—to the Burnt Mountain, with its colored cliffs;—to visit the few aged nuns who still linger in what was once a convent;—to Porto Pim, with its curving Italian beach, its playing boys and picturesque fishermen beneath the arched gateway;—to the tufa-ledges near by, where the soft rocks are honeycombed with the cells hollowed by echini below the water's edge, a fact undescribed and almost unexampled, said Agassiz afterwards;—to the lofty, lonely Monte da Guia, with its solitary chapel on the peak, and its extinct crater, where the sea rolls in and out;—to the Dabney orange-gardens, on Sunday afternoons;—to the beautiful Mirante ravine, whenever a sudden rain filled the cascades and set the watermills and the washerwomen all astir, and the long brook ran down in whirls of white foam to the waiting sea;—or to the western shores of the island, where we turned to Ariadnes, as we watched departing home-bound vessels from those cliffs whose wave-worn fiords and innumerable sea-birds make a Norway of Fayal.

And I must also pass over still greater things:—the winter storms and ship-wrecks, whose annals were they not written to the "New York Tribune"?—and the spring Sunday at superb Castello Branco, with the whole rural population thronging to meet in enthusiastic affection the unwonted presence of the Consul himself, the feudalism of love;—and the ascent of the wild Caldeira, we climbing height after height, leaving the valleys below mottled with blue-robed women spreading their white garments to dry in the sun, and the great Pico peeping above the clouds across the bay, and seeming as if directly above our heads, and nodding to us ere it drew back again;—and, best of all, that wonderful ascension, by two of us, of Pico itself, seven thousand feet from the level of the sea, where we began to climb. We camped half-way up, and watched the sunset over the lower peaks of Fayal; we kindled fires of faya-bushes on the lonely mountain-sides, a beacon for the world; we slept in the loft of a little cattle-shed, with the calves below us, "the cows' sons," as our Portuguese attendant courteously called them; we waked next morning above the clouds, with one vast floor of white level vapor beneath us, such as Thoreau alone has described, with here and there an open glimpse of the sea far below, yet lifted up to an apparent level with the clouds, so as to seem like an Arctic scene, with patches of open water. Then we climbed through endless sheep-pastures and over great slabs of lava, growing steeper and steeper; we entered the crater at last, walled with snows of which portions might be of untold ages, for it is never, I believe, wholly empty; we climbed, in such a gale of wind that the guides would not follow us, the steeple-like central pinnacle, two hundred feet high; and there we reached, never to be forgotten, a small central crater at the very summit, where steam poured up between the stones,—and, oh, from what central earthy depths of wonder that steam came to us! There has been no eruption from any portion of Pico for many years, but it is a volcano still, and we knew that we were standing on the narrow and giddy summit of a chimney of the globe. That was a sensation indeed!

We saw many another wild volcanic cliff and fissure and cave on our two-days' tour round the island of Fayal; but it was most startling, when, on the first morning, as we passed from green valley to valley along the road, suddenly all verdure and life vanished, and we found ourselves riding through a belt of white, coarse moss stretching from mountain to sea, covering rock and wall and shed like snow or moonlight or mountain-laurel or any other pale and glimmering thing; and when, after miles of ignorant wonder, we rode out of it into greenness again, and were told that we had crossed what the Portuguese call a Misterio or Mystery,—the track of the last eruption. The moss was the first primeval coating of vegetation just clothing those lava-rocks again.

But the time was coming when we must bid good-bye to picturesque Fayal. We had been there from November to May; it had been a winter of incessant rains, and the first necessary of life had come to be a change of umbrellas; it had been colder than usual, making it a comfort to look at our stove, though we never lighted it; but our invalids had gained by even this degree of mildness, by the wholesome salt dampness, by the comforts of our hotel with its respectable Portuguese landlord and English landlady, and by the great kindness shown us by all others. At last we had begun to feel that we had squeezed the orange of the Azores a little dry, and we were ready to go. And when, after three weeks of rough sailing in the good bark Azor, we saw Cape Ann again, although it looked somewhat flat and prosaic after the headlands of Fayal, yet we knew that behind those low shores lay all that our hearts held dearest, and all the noblest hopes of the family of man.