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Along the Danube by Edward King

1878

SOMENDRIA.

SOMENDRIA.



Ada-Kalé is a Turkish fortress which seems to spring directly from the bosom of the Danube at a point where three curious and quarrelsome races come into contact, and where the Ottoman thought it necessary to have a foothold even in times of profound peace. To the traveller from Western Europe no spectacle on the way to Constantinople was so impressive as this ancient and picturesque fortification, suddenly affronting the vision with its odd walls, its minarets, its red-capped sentries, and the yellow sinister faces peering from balconies suspended above the current. It was the first glimpse of the Orient which one obtained; it appropriately introduced one to a domain which is governed by sword and gun; and it was a pretty spot of color in the midst of the severe and rather solemn scenery of the Danubian stream. Ada-Kalé is to be razed to the water's edge—so, at least, the treaty between Russia and Turkey has ordained—and the Servian mountaineers will no longer see the Crescent flag flying within rifle-shot of the crags from which, by their heroic devotion in unequal battle, they long ago banished it.

The Turks occupying this fortress during the recent war evidently relied upon Fate for their protection, for the walls of Ada-Kalé are within a stone's throw of the Roumanian shore, and every Mussulman in the place could have been captured in twenty minutes. I passed by there one morning on the road from Orsova, on the frontier of Hungary, to Bucharest, and was somewhat amused to see an elderly Turk seated in a small boat near the Roumanian bank fishing. Behind him were two soldiers, who served as oarsmen, and rowed him gently from point to point when he gave the signal. Scarcely six hundred feet from him stood a Wallachian sentry, watching his movements in lazy, indifferent fashion. And this was at the moment that the Turks were bombarding Kalafat in Roumania from Widdin on the Bulgarian side of the Danube! Such a spectacle could be witnessed nowhere save in this land, "where it is always afternoon," where people at times seem to suspend respiration because they are too idle to breathe, and where even a dog will protest if you ask him to move quickly out of your path. The old Turk doubtless fished in silence and calm until the end of the war, for I never heard of the removal of either himself or his companions.

The journeys by river and by rail from Lower Roumania to the romantic and broken country surrounding Orsova are extremely interesting. The Danube-stretches of shimmering water among the reedy lowlands—where the only sign of life is a quaint craft painted with gaudy colors becalmed in some nook, or a guardhouse built on piles driven into the mud—are perhaps a trifle monotonous, but one has only to turn from them to the people who come on board the steamer to have a rich fund of enjoyment. Nowhere are types so abundant and various as on the routes of travel between Bucharest and Rustchuk, or Pesth and Belgrade. Every complexion, an extraordinary piquancy and variety of costume, and a bewildering array of languages and dialects, are set before the careful observer. As for myself, I found a special enchantment in the scenery of the lower Danube—in the lonely inlets, the wildernesses of young shoots in the marshes, the flights of aquatic birds as the sound of the steamer was heard, the long tongues of land on which the water-buffaloes lay huddled in stupid content, the tiny hummocks where villages of wattled hovels were assembled. The Bulgarian shore stands out in bold relief: Sistova, from the river, is positively beautiful, but the now historical Simnitza seems only a mud-flat. At night the boats touch upon the Roumanian side for fuel—the Turks have always been too lazy and vicious to develop the splendid mineral resources of Bulgaria—and the stout peasants and their wives trundle thousands of barrows of coal along the swinging planks. Here is raw life, lusty, full of rude beauty, but utterly incult. The men and women appear to be merely animals gifted with speech. The women wear almost no clothing: their matted hair drops about their shapely shoulders as they toil at their burden, singing meanwhile some merry chorus. Little tenderness is bestowed on these creatures, and it was not without a slight twinge of the nerves that I saw the huge, burly master of the boat's crew now and then bestow a ringing slap with his open hand upon the neck or cheek of one of the poor women who stumbled with her load or who hesitated for a moment to indulge in abuse of a comrade. As the boat moved away these people, dancing about the heaps of coal in the torchlight, looked not unlike demons disporting in some gruesome nook of Enchanted Land. When they were gypsies they did not need the aid of the torches: they were sufficiently demoniacal without artificial aid.

Kalafat and Turnu-Severinu are small towns which would never have been much heard of had they not been in the region visited by the war. Turnu-Severinu is noted, however, as the point where Severinus once built a mighty tower; and not far from the little hamlet may still be seen the ruins of Trajan's immemorial bridge. Where the Danube is twelve hundred yards wide and nearly twenty feet deep, Apollodorus of Damascus did not hesitate, at Trajan's command, to undertake the construction of a bridge with twenty stone and wooden arches. He builded well, for one or two of the stone piers still remain perfect after a lapse of sixteen centuries, and eleven of them, more or less ruined, are yet visible at low water. Apollodorus was a man of genius, as his other work, the Trajan Column, proudly standing in Rome, amply testifies. No doubt he was richly rewarded by Trajan for constructing a work which, flanked as it was by noble fortifications, bound the newly-captured Dacian colony to the Roman empire. What mighty men were these Romans, who carved their way along the Danube banks, hewing roads and levelling mountains at the same time that they engaged the savages of the locality in daily battle! There were indeed giants in those days.

RUSTCHUK.

RUSTCHUK.



When Ada-Kalé is passed, and pretty Orsova, lying in slumbrous quiet at the foot of noble mountains, is reached, the last trace of Turkish domination is left behind. In future years, if the treaty of San Stefano holds, there will be little evidence of Ottoman lack of civilization anywhere on the Danube, for the forts of the Turks will gradually disappear, and the Mussulman cannot for an instant hold his own among Christians where he has no military advantage. But at Orsova, although the red fez and voluminous trousers are rarely seen, the influence of Turkey is keenly felt. It is in these remote regions of Hungary that the real rage against Russia and the burning enthusiasm and sympathy for the Turks is most openly expressed. Every cottage in the neighborhood is filled with crude pictures representing events of the Hungarian revolution; and the peasants, as they look upon those reminders of perturbed times, reflect that the Russians were instrumental in preventing the accomplishment of their dearest wishes. Here the Hungarian is eminently patriotic: he endeavors as much as possible to forget that he and his are bound to the empire of Austria, and he speaks of the German and the Slav who are his fellow-subjects with a sneer. The people whom one encounters in that corner of Hungary profess a dense ignorance of the German language, but if pressed can speak it glibly enough. I won an angry frown and an unpleasant remark from an innkeeper because I did not know that Austrian postage-stamps are not good in Hungary. Such melancholy ignorance of the simplest details of existence seemed to my host meet subject for reproach.

Orsova became an important point as soon as the Turks and Russians were at war. The peasants of the Banat stared as they saw long lines of travellers leaving the steamers which had come from Pesth and Bazros, and invading the two small inns, which are usually more than half empty. Englishmen, Russians, Austrian officers sent down to keep careful watch upon the land, French and Prussian, Swiss and Belgian military attachés and couriers, journalists, artists, amateur army-followers, crowded the two long streets and exhausted the market. Next came a hungry and thirsty mob of refugees from Widdin—Jews, Greeks and gypsies—and these promenaded their variegated misery on the river-banks from sunrise until sunset. Then out from Roumanian land poured thousands of wretched peasants, bare-footed, bareheaded, dying of starvation, fleeing from Turkish invasion, which, happily, never assumed large proportions. These poor people slept on the ground, content with the shelter of house-walls: they subsisted on unripe fruits and that unfailing fund of mild tobacco which every male being in all those countries invariably manages to secure. Walking abroad in Orsova was no easy task, for one was constantly compelled to step over these poor fugitives, who packed themselves into the sand at noonday, and managed for a few hours before the cool evening breezes came to forget their miseries. The vast fleet of river-steamers belonging to the Austrian company was laid up at Orsova, and dozens of captains, conversing in the liquid Slav or the graceful Italian or guttural German, were for ever seated about the doors of the little cafés smoking long cigars and quaffing beakers of the potent white wine produced in Austrian vineyards.

Opposite Orsova lie the Servian Mountains, bold, majestic, inspiring. Their noble forests and the deep ravines between them are exquisite in color when the sun flashes along their sides. A few miles below the point where the Hungarian and Roumanian territories meet the mountainous region declines into foot-hills, and then to an uninteresting plain. The Orsovan dell is the culminating point of all the beauty and grandeur of the Danubian hills. From one eminence richly laden with vineyards I looked out on a fresh April morning across a delicious valley filled with pretty farms and white cottages and ornamented by long rows of shapely poplars. Turning to the right, I saw Servia's barriers, shutting in from the cold winds the fat lands of the interior; vast hillsides dotted from point to point with peaceful villages, in the midst of which white churches with slender spires arose; and to the left the irregular line of the Roumanian peaks stood up, jagged and broken, against the horizon. Out from Orsova runs a rude highway into the rocky and savage back-country. The celebrated baths of Mehadia, the "hot springs" of the Austro-Hungarian empire, are yearly frequented by three or four thousand sufferers, who come from the European capitals to Temesvar, and are thence trundled in diligences to the water-cure. But the railway is penetrating even this far-off land, where once brigands delighted to wander, and Temesvar and Bucharest will be bound together by a daily "through-service" as regular as that between Pesth and Vienna.

SISTOVA.

SISTOVA.



I sat one evening on the balcony of the diminutive inn known as "The Hungarian Crown," watching the sunbeams on the broad current of the Danube and listening to the ripple, the plash and the gurgle of the swollen stream as it rushed impetuously against the banks. A group of Servians, in canoes light and swift as those of Indians, had made their way across the river, and were struggling vigorously to prevent the current from carrying them below a favorable landing-place. These tall, slender men, with bronzed faces and gleaming eyes, with their round skull-caps, their gaudy jackets and ornamental leggings, bore no small resemblance at a distance to certain of our North American red-skins. Each man had a long knife in his belt, and from experience I can say that a Servian knife is in itself a complete tool-chest. With its one tough and keen blade one may skin a sheep, file a saw, split wood, mend a wagon, defend one's self vigorously if need be, make a buttonhole and eat one's breakfast. No Servian who adheres to the ancient costume would consider himself dressed unless the crooked knife hung from his girdle. Although the country-side along the Danube is rough, and travellers are said to need protection among the Servian hills, I could not discover that the inhabitants wore other weapons than these useful articles of cutlery. Yet they are daring smugglers, and sometimes openly defy the Hungarian authorities when discovered. "Ah!" said Master Josef, the head-servant of the Hungarian Crown, "many a good fight have I seen in mid-stream, the boats grappled together, knives flashing, and our fellows drawing their pistols. All that, too, for a few flasks of Negotin, which is a musty red, thick wine that Heaven would forbid me to recommend to your honorable self and companions so long as I put in the cellar the pearl dew of yonder vineyards!" pointing to the vines of Orsova.

While the Servians were anxiously endeavoring to land, and seemed to be in imminent danger of upsetting, the roll of thunder was heard and a few drops of rain fell with heavy plash. Master Josef forthwith began making shutters fast and tying the curtains; "For now we shall have a wind!" quoth he. And it came. As by magic the Servian shore was blotted out, and before me I could see little save the river, which seemed transformed into a roaring and foaming ocean. The refugees, the gypsies, the Jews, the Greeks, scampered in all directions. Then tremendous echoes awoke among the hills. Peal after peal echoed and re-echoed, until it seemed as if the cliffs must crack and crumble. Sheets of rain were blown by the mischievous winds now full upon the unhappy fugitives, or now descended with seemingly crushing force on the Servians in their dancing canoes. Then came vivid lightning, brilliant and instant glances of electricity, disclosing the forests and hills for a moment, then seeming by their quick departure to render the obscurity more painful than before. The fiery darts were hurled by dozens upon the devoted trees, and the tall and graceful stems were bent like reeds before the rushing of the blast. Cold swept through the vale, and shadows seemed to follow it. Such contrast with the luminous, lovely semi-tropical afternoon, in the dreamy restfulness of which man and beast seemed settling into lethargy, was crushing. It pained and disturbed the spirit. Master Josef, who never lost an occasion to cross himself and to do a few turns on a little rosary of amber beads, came and went in a kind of dazed mood while the storm was at its height. Just as a blow was struck among the hills which seemed to make the earth quiver to its centre, the varlet approached and modestly inquired if the "honorable society"—myself and chance companions—would visit that very afternoon the famous chapel in which the crown of Hungary lies buried. I glanced curiously at him, thinking that possibly the thunder had addled his brain. "Oh, the honorable society may walk in sunshine all the way to the chapel at five o'clock," he said with an encouraging grin. "These Danube storms come and go as quickly as a Tsigane from a hen-roost. See! the thunder has stopped its howling, and there is not a wink of lightning. Even the raindrops are so few that one may almost walk between them."

NICOPOLIS.

NICOPOLIS.



I returned to the balcony from which the storm had driven me, and was gratified by the sight of the mountain-side studded with pearls, which a faint glow in the sky was gently touching. The Danube roared and foamed with malicious glee as the poor Servians were still whirled about on the water. But presently, through the deep gorges and along the sombre stream and over the vineyards, the rocks and the roofs of humble cottages, stole a warm breeze, followed by dazzling sunlight, which returned in mad haste to atone for the displeasure of the wind and rain. In a few moments the refugees were again afield, spreading their drenched garments on the wooden railings, and stalking about in a condition narrowly approaching nakedness. A gypsy four feet high, clad in a linen shirt and trousers so wide as to resemble petticoats, strolled thoughtlessly on the bank singing a plaintive melody, and now and then turning his brown face skyward as if to salute the sun. This child of mysterious ancestry, this wanderer from the East, this robber of roosts and cunning worker in metals, possessed nor hat nor shoes: his naked breast and his unprotected arms must suffer cold at night, yet he seemed wonderfully happy. The Jews and Greeks gave him scornful glances, which he returned with quizzical, provoking smiles. At last he threw himself down on a plank from which the generous sun was rapidly drying the rain, and, coiling up as a dog might have done, he was soon asleep.

With a marine glass I could see distinctly every movement on the Servian shore. Close to the water's edge nestled a small village of neat white cottages. Around a little wharf hovered fifty or sixty stout farmers, mounted on sturdy ponies, watching the arrival of the Mercur, the Servian steamer from Belgrade and the Sava River. The Mercur came puffing valiantly forward, as unconcerned as if no whirlwind had swept across her path, although she must have been in the narrow and dangerous cañon of the "Iron Gates" when the blast and the shower were most furious. On the roads leading down the mountain-sides I saw long processions of squealing and grunting swine, black, white and gray, all active and self-willed, fighting each other for the right of way. Before each procession marched a swineherd playing on a rustic pipe, the sounds from which primitive instrument seemed to exercise Circean enchantment upon the rude flocks. It was inexpressibly comical to watch the masses of swine after they had been enclosed in the "folds"—huge tracts fenced in and provided with shelters at the corners. Each herd knew its master, and as he passed to and fro would salute him with a delighted squeal, which died away into a series of disappointed and cynical groans as soon as the porkers had discovered that no evening repast was to be offered them. Good fare do these Servian swine find in the abundant provision of acorns in the vast forests. The men who spend their lives in restraining the vagabond instincts of these vulgar animals may perhaps be thought a collection of brutal hinds; but, on the contrary, they are fellows of shrewd common sense and much dignity of feeling. Kara-George, the terror of the Turk at the beginning of this century, the majestic character who won the admiration of Europe, whose genius as a soldier was praised by Napoleon the Great, and who freed his countrymen from bondage,—Kara-George was a swineherd in the woods of the Schaumadia until the wind of the spirit fanned his brow and called him from his simple toil to immortalize his homely name.

Master Josef and his fellows in Orsova did not hate the Servians with the bitterness manifested toward the Roumanians, yet they considered them as aliens and as dangerous conspirators against the public weal. "Who knows at what moment they may go over to the Russians?" was the constant cry. And in process of time they went, but although Master Josef had professed the utmost willingness to take up arms on such an occasion, it does not appear that he did it, doubtless preferring, on reflection, the quiet of his inn and his flask of white wine in the courtyard rather than an excursion among the trans-Danubian hills and the chances of an untoward fate at the point of a Servian knife. It is not astonishing that the two peoples do not understand each other, although only a strip of water separates their frontiers for a long stretch; for the difference in language and in its written form is a most effectual barrier to intercourse. The Servians learn something of the Hungarian dialects, since they come to till the rich lands of the Banat in the summer season. Bulgarians and Servians by thousands find employment in Hungary in summer, and return home when autumn sets in. But the dreams and ambitions of the two peoples have nothing in common. Servia looks longingly to Slavic unification, and is anxious to secure for herself a predominance in the new nation to be moulded out of the old scattered elements: Hungary believes that the consolidation of the Slavs would place her in a dangerous and humiliating position, and conspires day and night to compass exactly the reverse of Servian wishes. Thus the two countries are theoretically at peace and practically at war. While the conflict of 1877 was in progress collisions between Servian and Hungarian were of almost daily occurrence.

The Hungarian's intolerance of the Slav does not proceed from unworthy jealousy, but rather from an exaggerated idea of the importance of his own country, and of the evils which might befall it if the old Serb stock began to renew its ancient glory. In corners of Hungary, such as Orsova, the peasant imagines that his native land is the main world, and that the rest of Europe is an unnecessary and troublesome fringe around the edges of it. There is a story of a gentleman in Pesth who went to a dealer in maps and inquired for a globus of Hungary, showing that he imagined it to be the whole round earth.

THE DANUBE AT TRAJAN'S BRIDGE.

THE DANUBE AT TRAJAN'S BRIDGE.



So fair were the land and the stream after the storm that I lingered until sunset gazing out over river and on Servian hills, and did not accept Josef's invitation to visit the chapel of the Hungarian crown that evening. But next morning, before the sun was high, I wandered alone in the direction of the Roumanian frontier, and by accident came upon the chapel. It is a modest structure in a nook surrounded by tall poplars, and within is a simple chapel with Latin inscriptions. Here the historic crown reposes, now that there is no longer any use for it at Presburg, the ancient capital. Here it was brought by pious hands after the troubles between Austria and Hungary were settled. During the revolution the sacred bauble was hidden by the command of noblemen to whom it had been confided, and the servitors who concealed it at the behest of their masters were slain, lest in an indiscreet moment they might betray the secret. For thousands of enthusiasts this tiny chapel is the holiest of shrines, and should trouble come anew upon Hungary in the present perturbed times, the crown would perhaps journey once more.

It seems pitiful that the railway should ever invade this out-of-the-way corner of Europe. But it is already crawling through the mountains: hundreds of Italian laborers are putting down the shining rails in woods and glens where no sounds save the song of birds or the carol of the infrequent passer-by have heretofore been heard. For the present, however, the old-fashioned, comfortless diligence keeps the roads: the beribboned postilion winds his merry horn, and as the afternoon sun is getting low the dusty, antique vehicle rattles up to the court of the inn, the guard gets down, dusts the leather casing of the gun which now-a-days he is never compelled to use: then he touches his square hat, ornamented with a feather, to the maids and men of the hostelry. When the mails are claimed, the horses refreshed and the stage is covered with its leathern hood, postilion and guard sit down together in a cool corner under the gallery in the courtyard and crack various small flasks of wine. They smoke their porcelain pipes imported from Vienna with the air of men of the world who have travelled and who could tell you a thing or two if they liked. They are never tired of talking of Mehadia, which is one of their principal stations. The sad-faced nobleman, followed by the decorous old man-servant in fantastic Magyar livery, who arrived in the diligence, has been to the baths. The master is vainly seeking cure, comes every year, and always supplies postilion and guard with the money to buy flasks of wine. This the postilion tells me and my fellows, and suggests that the "honorable society" should follow the worthy nobleman's example. No sooner is it done than postilion and guard kiss our hands; which is likewise an evidence that they have travelled, are well met with every stranger and all customs, and know more than they say.

The Romans had extensive establishments at Mehadia, which they called the "Baths of Hercules," and it is in memory of this that a statue of the good giant stands in the square of the little town. Scattered through the hills, many inscriptions to Hercules, to Mercury and to Venus have been found during the ages. The villages on the road thither are few and far between, and are inhabited by peasants decidedly Dacian in type. It is estimated that a million and a half of Roumanians are settled in Hungary, and in this section they are exceedingly numerous. Men and women wear showy costumes, quite barbaric and uncomfortable. The women seem determined to wear as few garments as possible, and to compensate for lack of number by brightness of coloring. In many a pretty face traces of gypsy blood may be seen. This vagabond taint gives an inexpressible charm to a face for which the Hungarian strain has already done much. The coal-black hair and wild, mutinous eyes set off to perfection the pale face and exquisitely thin lips, the delicate nostrils and beautifully moulded chin. Angel or devil? queries the beholder. Sometimes he is constrained to think that the possessor of such a face has the mingled souls of saint and siren. The light undertone of melancholy which pervades gypsy beauty, gypsy music, gypsy manners, has an extremely remarkable fascination for all who perceive it. Even when it is almost buried beneath ignorance and animal craft, it is still to be found in the gypsy nature after diligent search. This strange race seems overshadowed by the sorrow of some haunting memory. Each individual belonging to the Tsiganes whom I saw impressed me as a fugitive from Fate. To look back was impossible; of the present he was careless; the future tempted him on. In their music one now and then hears hints of a desire to return to some far-off and half-forgotten land. But this is rare.

There are a large number of "civilized gypsies," so called, in the neighborhood of Orsova. I never saw one of them without a profound compassion for him, so utterly unhappy did he look in ordinary attire. The musicians who came nightly to play on the lawn in front of the Hungarian Crown inn belonged to these civilized Tsiganes. They had lost all the freedom of gesture, the proud, half-savage stateliness of those who remained nomadic and untrammelled by local law and custom. The old instinct was in their music, but sometimes there drifted into it the same mixture of saint and devil which I had seen in the "composite" faces.

BOATS ON THE DANUBE.

BOATS ON THE DANUBE.



As soon as supper was set forth, piping hot and flanked by flagons of beer and wine, on the lawn, and the guests had assembled to partake of the good cheer, while yet the afterglow lingered along the Danube, these dusky musicians appeared and installed themselves in a corner. The old stream's murmur could not drown the piercing and pathetic notes of the violin, the gentle wail of the guzla or the soft thrumming of the rude tambourine. Little poetry as a spectacled and frosty Austrian officer might have in his soul, that little must have been awakened by the songs and the orchestral performances of the Tsiganes as the sun sank low. The dusk began to creep athwart the lawn, and a cool breeze fanned the foreheads of the listeners. When the light was all gone, these men, as if inspired by the darkness, sometimes improvised most angelic melody. There was never any loud or boisterous note, never any direct appeal to the attention. I invariably forgot the singers and players, and the music seemed a part of the harmony of Nature. While the pleasant notes echoed in the twilight, troops of jaunty young Hungarian soldiers, dressed in red hose, dark-green doublets and small caps sometimes adorned with feathers, sauntered up and down the principal street; the refugees huddled in corners and listened with delight; the Austrian officials lumbered by, pouring clouds of smoke from their long, strong and inevitable cigars; and the dogs forgot their perennial quarrel for a few instants at a time.

The dogs of Orsova and of all the neighboring country have many of the characteristics of their fellow-creatures in Turkey. Orsova is divided into "beats," which are thoroughly and carefully patrolled night and day by bands of dogs who recognize the limits of their domain and severely resent intrusion. In front of the Hungarian Crown a large dog, aided by a small yellow cur and a black spaniel mainly made up of ears and tail, maintained order. The afternoon quiet was generally disturbed about four o'clock by the advent of a strange canine, who, with that expression of extreme innocence which always characterizes the animal that knows he is doing wrong, would venture on to the forbidden ground. A low growl in chorus from the three guardians was the inevitable preliminary warning. The new-comer usually seemed much surprised at this, and gave an astonished glance: then, wagging his tail merrily, as much as to say, "Nonsense! I must have been mistaken," he approached anew. One of the trio of guardians thereupon sallied forth to meet him, followed by the others a little distance behind. If the strange dog showed his teeth, assumed a defiant attitude and seemed inclined to make his way through any number of enemies, the trio held a consultation, which, I am bound to say, almost invariably resulted in a fight. The intruder would either fly yelping, or would work his way across the interdicted territory by means of a series of encounters, accompanied by the most terrific barking, snapping and shrieking, and by a very considerable effusion of blood. The person who should interfere to prevent a dog-fight in Orsova would be regarded as a lunatic. Sometimes a large white dog, accompanied by two shaggy animals resembling wolves so closely that it was almost impossible to believe them guardians of flocks of sheep, passed by the Hungarian Crown unchallenged, but these were probably tried warriors whose valor was so well known that they were no longer questioned anywhere.

The gypsies have in their wagons or following in their train small black dogs of temper unparalleled for ugliness. It is impossible to approach a Tsigane tent or wagon without encountering a swarm of these diminutive creatures, whose rage is not only amusing, but sometimes rather appalling to contemplate. Driving rapidly by a camp one morning in a farmer's cart drawn by two stout horses adorned with jingling bells, I was followed by a pack of these dark-skinned animals. The bells awoke such rage within them that they seemed insane under its influence. As they leaped and snapped around me, I felt like some traveller in a Russian forest pursued by hungry wolves. A dog scarcely six inches high, and but twice as long, would spring from the ground as if a pound of dynamite had exploded beneath him, and would make a desperate effort to throw himself into the wagon. Another, howling in impotent anger, would jump full at a horse's throat, would roll beneath the feet of the team, but in some miraculous fashion would escape unhurt, and would scramble upon a bank to try again. It was a real relief when the discouraged pack fell away. Had I shot one of the animals, the gypsies would have found a way to avenge the death of their enterprising though somewhat too zealous camp-follower. Animals everywhere on these border-lines of the Orient are treated with much more tenderness than men and women are. The grandee who would scowl furiously in this wild region of the Banat if the peasants did not stand by the roadside and doff their hats in token of respect and submission as he whirled by in his carriage, would not kick a dog out of his way, and would manifest the utmost tenderness for his horses.

ORSOVA.

ORSOVA.



Much as the Hungarian inhabitants of the Banat hate the Roumanians, they do not fail to appreciate the commercial advantages which will follow on the union of the two countries by rail. Pretty Orsova may in due time become a bustling town filled with grain- and coal-dépôts and with small manufactories. The railway from Verciorova on the frontier runs through the large towns Pitesti and Craiova on its way to Bucharest. It is a marvellous railroad: it climbs hills, descends into deep gullies, and has as little of the air-line about it as a great river has, for the contractors built it on the principle of "keeping near the surface," and they much preferred climbing ten high mountains to cutting one tunnel. Craiova takes its name, according to a somewhat misty legend, from John Assan, who was one of the Romano-Bulgarian kings, Craiova being a corruption of Crai Ivan ("King John"). This John was the same who drank his wine from a cup made out of the skull of the unlucky emperor Baldwin I. The old bans of Craiova gave their title to the Roumanian silver pieces now known as bañi. Slatina, farther down the line, on the river Altu (the Aluta of the ancients), is a pretty town, where a proud and brave community love to recite to the stranger the valorous deeds of their ancestors. It is the centre from which have spread out most of the modern revolutionary movements in Roumania. "Little Wallachia," in which Slatina stands, is rich in well-tilled fields and uplands covered with fat cattle: it is as fertile as Kansas, and its people seemed to me more agreeable and energetic than those in and around Bucharest.

He who clings to the steamers plying up and down the Danube sees much romantic scenery and many curious types, but he loses all the real charm of travel in these regions. The future tourist on his way to or from Bulgaria and the battle-fields of the "new crusade" will be wise if he journeys leisurely by farm-wagon—he will not be likely to find a carriage—along the Hungarian bank of the stream. I made the journey in April, when in that gentle southward climate the wayside was already radiant with flowers and the mellow sunshine was unbroken by cloud or rain. There were discomfort and dust, but there was a rare pleasure in the arrival at a quaint inn whose exterior front, boldly asserting itself in the bolder row of house-fronts in a long village street, was uninviting enough, but the interior of which was charming. In such a hostelry I always found the wharfmaster, in green coat and cap, asleep in an arm-chair, with the burgomaster and one or two idle landed proprietors sitting near him at a card-table, enveloped in such a cloud of smoke that one could scarcely see the long-necked flasks of white wine which they were rapidly emptying. The host was a massive man with bulbous nose and sleepy eyes: he responded to all questions with a stare and the statement that he did not know, and seemed anxious to leave everything in doubt until the latest moment possible. His daughter, who was brighter and less dubious in her responses than her father, was a slight girl with lustrous black eyes, wistful lips, a perfect form, and black hair covered with a linen cloth that the dust might not come near its glossy threads. When she made her appearance, flashing out of a huge dark room which was stone paved and arched overhead, and in which peasants sat drinking sour beer, she seemed like a ray of sunshine in the middle of night. But there was more dignity about her than is to be found in most sunbeams: she was modest and civil in answer, but understood no compliments. There was something of the princess-reduced-in-circumstances in her demeanor. A royal supper could she serve, and the linen which she spread on the small wooden table in the back courtyard smelled of lavender. I took my dinners, after the long days' rides, in inns which commanded delicious views of the Danube—points where willows overhung the rushing stream, or where crags towered above it, or where it flowed in smooth yet resistless might through plains in which hundreds of peasants were toiling, their red-and-white costumes contrasting sharply with the brilliant blue of the sky and the tender green of the foliage.

BELGRADE, FROM SEMLIN.

BELGRADE, FROM SEMLIN.



If the inns were uniformly cleanly and agreeable, as much could not be said for the villages, which were sometimes decidedly dirty. The cottages of the peasants—that is, of the agricultural laborers—were windowless to a degree which led me to look for a small- and dull-eyed race, but the eloquent orbs of youths and maidens in all this Banat land are rarely equalled in beauty. I found it in my heart to object to the omnipresent swine. These cheerful animals were sometimes so domesticated that they followed their masters and mistresses afield in the morning. In this section of Hungary, as indeed in most parts of Europe, the farm-houses are all huddled together in compact villages, and the lands tilled by the dwellers in these communities extend for miles around them. At dawn the procession of laborers goes forth, and at sunset it returns. Nothing can give a better idea of rural simplicity and peace than the return of the peasants of a hamlet at eventide from their vineyards and meadows. Just as the sun was deluging the broad Danube with glory before relinquishing the current to the twilight's shades I came, in the soft April evening, into the neighborhood of Drenkova. A tranquil afterglow was here and there visible near the hills, which warded off the sun's passionate farewell glances at the vines and flowers. Beside the way, on the green banks, sat groups of children, clad with paradisiacal simplicity, awaiting their fathers and mothers. At a vineyard's hedge a sweet girl, tall, stately and melancholy, was twining a garland in the cap of a stout young fellow who rested one broad hand lightly upon her shoulder. Old women, bent and wrinkled, hobbled out from the fields, getting help from their sons or grandsons. Sometimes I met a shaggy white horse drawing a cart in which a dozen sonsie lasses, their faces browned by wind and their tresses blown back from their brows in most bewitching manner by the libertine breeze, were jolting homeward, singing as they went. The young men in their loose linen garments, with their primitive hoes and spades on their shoulders, were as goodly specimens of manly strength and beauty as one could wish to look upon. It hurt me to see them stand humbly ranged in rows as I passed. But it was pleasant to note the fervor with which they knelt around the cross rearing its sainted form amid the waving grasses. They knew nothing of the outer world, save that from time to time the emperor claimed certain of their number for his service, and that perhaps their lot might lead them to the great city of Buda-Pesth. Everywhere as far as the eye could reach the land was cultivated with greatest care, and plenty seemed the lot of all. The peasant lived in an ugly and windowless house because his father and grandfather had done so before him, not because it was necessary. It was odd to see girls tall as Dian, and as fair, bending their pretty bodies to come out of the contemptible little apertures in the peasant-houses called "doors."

Drenkova is a long street of low cottages, with here and there a two-story mansion to denote that the proprietors of the land reside there. As I approached the entrance to this street I saw a most remarkable train coming to meet me. One glance told me that it was a large company of gypsies who had come up from Roumania, and were going northward in search of work or plunder. My driver drew rein, and we allowed the swart Bohemians to pass on—a courtesy which was gracefully acknowledged with a singularly sweet smile from the driver of the first cart. There were about two hundred men and women in this wagon-train, and I verily believe that there were twice as many children. Each cart, drawn by a small Roumanian pony, contained two or three families huddled together, and seemingly lost in contemplation of the beautiful sunset, for your real gypsy is a keen admirer of Nature and her charms. Some of the women were intensely hideous: age had made them as unattractive as in youth they had been pretty; others were graceful and well-formed. Many wore but a single garment. The men were wilder than any that I had ever before seen: their matted hair, their thick lips and their dark eyes gave them almost the appearance of negroes. One or two of them had been foraging, and bore sheeps' heads and hares which they had purchased or "taken" in the village. They halted as soon as they had passed me, and prepared to go into camp; so I waited a little to observe them. During the process of arranging the carts for the night one of the women became enraged at the father of her brood because he would not aid her in the preparation of the simple tent under which the family was to repose. The woman ran to him, clenching her fist and screaming forth invective which, I am convinced, had I understood it and had it been directed at me, I should have found extremely disagreeable. After thus lashing the culprit with language for some time, she broke forth into screams and danced frantically around him. He arose, visibly disturbed, and I fancied that his savage nature would come uppermost, and that he might be impelled to give her a brutal beating. But he, on the contrary, advanced leisurely toward her and spat upon the ground with an expression of extreme contempt. She seemed to feel this much more than she would have felt a blow, and her fury redoubled. She likewise spat; he again repeated the contemptuous act; and after both had gratified the anger which was consuming them, they walked off in different directions. The battle was over, and I was not sorry to notice a few minutes later that paterfamilias had thought better of his conduct, and was himself spreading the tent and setting forth his wandering Lares and Penates.

A few hundred yards from the point where these wanderers had settled for the night I found some rude huts in which other gypsies were residing permanently. These huts were mere shelters placed against steep banks or hedges, and within there was no furniture save one or two blankets, a camp-kettle and some wicker baskets. Young girls twelve or thirteen years of age crouched naked about a smouldering fire. They did not seem unhappy or hungry; and none of these strange people paid any attention to me as I drove on to the inn, which, oddly enough, was at some distance from the main village, hard by the Danube side, in a gully between the mountains, where coal-barges lay moored. The Servian Mountains, covered from base to summit with dense forests, cast a deep gloom over the vale. In a garden on a terrace behind the inn, by the light of a flickering candle, I ate a frugal dinner, and went to bed much impressed by the darkness, in such striking contrast to the delightful and picturesque scenes through which I had wandered all day.

THE IRON GATES.

THE IRON GATES.



But I speedily forgot this next morning, when the landlord informed me that, instead of toiling over the road along the crags to Orsova, whither I was returning, I could embark on a tug-boat bound for that cheerful spot, and could thus inspect the grand scenery of the Iron Gates from the river. The swift express-boats which in time of peace run from Vienna to Rustchuk whisk the traveller so rapidly through these famous defiles that he sees little else than a panorama of high rocky walls. But the slow-moving and clumsy tug, with its train of barges attached, offers better facilities to the lover of natural beauty. We had dropped down only a short distance below Drenkova before we found the river-path filled with eddies, miniature whirlpools, denoting the vicinity of the gorges into which the great current is compressed. These whirlpools all have names: one is called the "Buffalo;" a second, Kerdaps; a third is known as the "Devourer." The Turks have a healthy awe of this passage, which in old times was a terrible trial to these stupid and always inefficient navigators. For three or four hours we ran in the shade of mighty walls of porphyry and granite, on whose tops were forests of oaks and elms. High up on cliffs around which the eagles circle, and low in glens where one sometimes sees a bear swimming, the sun threw a flood of mellow glory. I could fancy that the veins of red porphyry running along the face of the granite were blood-stains, the tragic memorials of ancient battles. For, wild and inaccessible as this region seems, it has been fought over and through in sternest fashion. Perched on a little promontory on the Servian side is the tiny town of Poretch, where the brave shepherds and swineherds fought the Turk, against whose oppression they had risen, until they were overwhelmed by numbers, and their leader, Hadji Nikolos, lost his head. The Austrians point out with pride the cave on the tremendous flank of Mount Choukourou where, two centuries ago, an Austrian general at the head of seven hundred men, all that was left to him of a goodly army, sustained a three months' siege against large Turkish forces. This cave is perched high above the road at a point where it absolutely commands it, and the government of to-day, realizing its importance, has had it fortified and furnished with walls pierced by loopholes. Trajan fought his way through these defiles in the very infancy of the Christian era; and in memory of his first splendid campaign against the Dacians he carved in the solid rock the letters, some of which are still visible, and which, by their very grandiloquence, offer a mournful commentary on the fleeting nature of human greatness. Little did he think when his eyes rested lovingly on this inscription, beginning—

IMP. CÆS. D. NERVÆ FILIUS NERVA.
TRAJANUS. GERM. PONT. MAXIMUS.

—that Time with profane hand would wipe out the memory of many of his glories and would undo all the work that he had done.

On we drifted, through huge landlocked lakes, out of which there seemed no issue until we chanced upon a miraculous corner where there was an outlet frowned upon by angry rocks; on to the "Caldron," as the Turks called the most imposing portion of the gorge; on through an amphitheatre where densely-wooded mountains on either side were reflected in smooth water; on beneath masses that appeared about to topple, and over shallows where it looked as if we must be grounded; on round a bluff which had hidden the sudden opening of the valley into a broad sweep, and which had hindered us from seeing Orsova the Fair nestling closely to her beloved mountains.

Edward King.