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Title: The Underground World:
       A mirror of life below the surface

Author: Thos. W. Knox

Release Date: July 4, 2018 [EBook #57441]

Language: English

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Frontispiece

THE
Underground World:

A MIRROR OF

LIFE BELOW THE SURFACE,

WITH VIVID DESCRIPTIONS OF THE

HIDDEN WORKS OF NATURE AND ART.

COMPRISING

INCIDENTS AND ADVENTURES BEYOND THE LIGHT OF DAY.

INTERESTING SKETCHES

OF

MINES AND MINING IN ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD—CAVES AND THEIR
MYSTERIES—FAMOUS TUNNELS—DOWN IN THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA.
VOLCANOES AND THEIR ERUPTIONS—PETROLEUM—UNDERGROUND
LIFE OF MAN AND THE LOWER ANIMALS. SUBTERRANEAN WORKS
OF THE ANCIENTS. BURIED TREASURES, ETC., ETC.

PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED.

BY
THOS. W. KNOX,
Author of “Overland through Asia,” “Life and Adventures in the Orient,” “Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field,” “The Boy Exiles,” etc.

HARTFORD:
THE J. B. BURR PUBLISHING CO.
1877.


Copyrighted.

The J. B. Burr Publishing Co.

1877.


[Pg 3]

PREFACE.

The chief intent of this work is the plain, sufficient, and entertaining description of the marvelous lives not only of miners, but of all whose lot or choice it is to “delve and dare” underground. That its object is secured, the author is flatteringly assured by acknowledged critics,—travelers and book-men themselves, like the writer, most of them. The narratives of the book are not merely dry relations of scientific facts freighted with unnecessary technical terms, as might possibly be suspected from a cursory glance at the list of the topics treated, but statements of most important and curious deeds, and descriptions of hidden localities and lives, interspersed with lively anecdote and “incidents with souls in them,” it is believed, and the greater part herein for the first time given to the public. The table of contents will suffice to show how wide and varied has been the author’s scope of observation and comment, covering all the most important parts of the globe.

But he has not been satisfied with relying wholly upon his own observations and world-studies. No man, however active and industrious, can collate and digest all the interesting information which may cluster about any important subject. The average life is too short for the performance of such exhaustive study. The author has therefore consulted many works upon mining and kindred subjects, adding their funds of knowledge to his own researches, in order, so far forth as possible, to perfect his work. Besides, he is specially indebted to Professor Simonin, author of [Pg 4] La Vie Souterraine, and has relied upon him for many facts and figures, particularly in regard to the coal mines of France and other countries. Many individuals, professionally conversant with the subjects discoursed of, have also been personally consulted in various countries; while several literary gentlemen of eminence have kindly lent the author their aid. Among the latter it is permissible to mention Mr. Junius Henri Browne, of New York, and the late Col. Albert S. Evans, of San Francisco.

In preparing the matter for the press, it has been found convenient to make use of words borrowed from the French and other languages, and also of terms more or less technical in their character. They are not numerous, and are so well understood either by context or by popular use that a glossary is not considered necessary.

The author takes this opportunity to thank the newspaper press and the public for the generous reception accorded to his previous publications, hoping, in the language of the business card of the times, to merit a continuance of the same.

T. W. K.


[Pg 5]

CONTENTS.

I.
BELOW THE SURFACE.
DIFFUSION OF KNOWLEDGE.—WHAT THE WORLD BELIEVES.—MUNGO PARK IN AFRICA.—WHY THE NATIVES PITIED HIM.—EXTENT OF UNDERGROUND LIFE.—DISTRIBUTION OF THE EARTH’S WEALTH.—VALUE OF MINES.—THEIR EXTENT AND IMPORTANCE.—COAL AND IRON.—MYSTERIES OF MINES.—EXPERIENCE WITH A NOVICE.—CHANGES OF SEASONS TO A MINER.—DANGERS IN MINES.—LIFE IN CAVERNS.—UNDERGROUND IN METAPHOR.—SOCIAL MINING.—OBJECT OF THIS VOLUME. Page 27
II.
DISCOVERY OF COAL.
SAVAGE THEORIES ABOUT COAL.—EXPERIENCE OF A SIBERIAN EXPLORING PARTY.—BURNING BLACK STONES.—MINERAL FUEL AMONG THE ANCIENTS.—THEIR MOTIVE POWER.—CHINESE TRADITIONS.—CHINESE GAS WELLS.—HISTORY OF COAL IN ENGLAND.—A ROYAL EDICT.—CURIOUS STORY OF THE MINER OF PLENEVAUX.—EXTENT OF COAL FIELDS THROUGHOUT THE GLOBE.—THE QUAKER AND THE YANKEE PEDLER.—THE FIRST ANTHRACITE.—BELLINGHAM BAY AND THE CHINOOKS.—HOW COAL WAS FORMED.—INTERVIEWING A REPTILE.—THEORIES OF THE ANCIENTS.—RIVERS OF OIL OF VITRIOL.—ANCIENT AND MODERN FIRE WORSHIPPERS. 37
III.
BORINGS AND SHAFTS.
HOW COAL MINES ARE DISCOVERED.—OUTCROPPINGS.—SCIENTIFIC RESEARCHES.—HOW A MARBLE QUARRY WAS FOUND.—BORING A WELL, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.—A LOCAL DEBATING SOCIETY.—INTIMATE RELATIONS OF COAL MINES AND THE STEAM ENGINE.—STRIKING OIL.—“DAD’S STRUCK ILE.”—THE UNHAPPY MAIDEN’S FATE.—COAL INSTEAD OF WATER.—THE TOOLS TO BE USED.—A DEEP HOLE.—TERRIBLE ACCIDENT, AND A MINER’S COOLNESS.—SINKING SHAFTS.—AN INGENIOUS APPARATUS.—ACCIDENTS IN SHAFTS.—REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW. 53
IV. [Pg 6]
ACCIDENTS IN SHAFTS.
ADVENTURE OF THE AUTHOR DESCENDING A SHAFT.—A MINUTE OF PERIL.—LIFTED THROUGH A SHAFT BY ONE LEG.—A COLLISION IN MID-AIR.—SENSATIONS OF THE DESCENT.—A MINER’S VIEWS OF DANGER.—PICTURESQUE SCENE AT A DESCENT.—OFFERING PRAYERS.—SCENE AT A RUSSIAN MINE.—SAFETY CAGES.—THEIR CONSTRUCTION.—A LUDICROUS INCIDENT.—HOW A MAN FAILED TO KEEP AN ENGAGEMENT.—DOWN IN THE SALT MINES OF POLAND.—A PERILOUS DESCENT.—“PLENTY MORE MEN.”—ACCIDENT NEAR SCRANTON.—“PUTTERS.”—HOW GIRLS WERE USED IN SCOTLAND.—MAN ENGINES.—THE LEVELS.—AN ACCIDENT CAUSED BY RATS.—THRILLING AND FATAL ADVENTURE OF TWO PENNSYLVANIA MINERS.—A FEARFUL FALL OF ROOF.—CARRYING A DYING COMRADE TOWARD THE LIGHT OF DAY.—EIGHT HOURS OF MORTAL AGONY. 65
V.
SILVER MINES AND MINING.
ANTIQUITY OF SILVER.—REAL ESTATE AND SLAVE PURCHASES IN BIBLICAL TIMES.—SOLOMON AND HIS SILVER SPECULATIONS.—ABUNDANCE OF SILVER AMONG THE ANCIENTS.—THE EARLIEST MINES.—ORIENTAL EXAGGERATION.—SPANISH MINES AND THEIR HISTORY.—MEXICAN MINES.—A NONDESCRIPT ANIMAL.—NOVEL WAY OF OBTAINING A PIGSKIN.—PERU AND ITS SILVER.—A HIGH-TONED CITY.—ARIZONA.—BEAUTIES OF ARIZONA CIVILIZATION.—MINES OF UTAH AND NEVADA.—SAD RESULTS OF A SPECULATION. 82
VI.
SILVER MINING IN NEVADA.
HOW GOLD WAS DISCOVERED IN NEVADA.—A PECULIAR “BLACK SAND,” AND WHAT CAME OF IT.—SILVER CURSED AND THROWN AWAY.—ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY OF THE VALUE OF THE ORE.—H. T. P. COMSTOCK.—THE COMSTOCK LODE.—HOW MINING RECORDS WERE KEPT.—YIELD OF THE NEVADA MINES.—BONANZA AND BORRASCA.—THE BIG BONANZA.—THE GRAVE OF THE FORESTS.—“WASHOE ZEPHYRS.”—PAY ROLLS OF THE MINING COMPANIES.—INTERESTING DETAILS. 97
VII.
SPECULATIONS IN NEVADA MINES.
MINING SPECULATIONS.—SWINDLERS IN NEW YORK AND BOSTON.—THE AUTHOR’S EXPERIENCE.—HOW HE WAS CAUGHT.—THE HOOK AND THE WAY [Pg 7] TO BAIT IT.—LIMITED INVESTMENT.—THE ADVENTURER’S STORY.—FACTS AND FIGURES.—THE ROMANCE, AND THE SUBSEQUENT REALITY.—ONE HUNDRED PER CENT. A MONTH.—IRISH DIVIDENDS.—EXPLOSION OF THE BUBBLE.—THE VICTIMS AND THEIR FATE.—NANKEEN TROUSERS IN WINTER.—AN ADVENTURER’S EXPERIENCE IN LONDON.—HOW HE CAUGHT A CAPITALIST.—HELD BY THE GLITTERING EYE. 108
VIII.
MINES AND MINING ENTERPRISES OF NORTH AFRICA.
MINING AMONG THE MOORS, BERBERS, AND ARABS.—THE FRENCH CONQUEST.—GEOLOGICAL SURVEYS.—MINERAL WEALTH OF ALGERIA.—A WONDERFUL IRON MINE.—MOKTER-EL HADID.—HOW THE MINE IS WORKED.—VISIT TO A MOUNTAIN OF SALT.—A REMARKABLE FORMATION.—ARTESIAN WELLS IN THE DESERT.—SCENE AT THE OPENING OF ONE.—EFFECTS ON THE PALM-TREE.—A PROPOSED INLAND SEA.—THE SUEZ CANAL AND ITS HISTORY.—HOW IT WAS MADE.—ADVANTAGES TO THE WORLD’S COMMERCE. 118
IX.
ADVENTURES OF DIVERS.
GOING UNDER WATER.—PEARL DIVING.—COSTUME OF THE DIVERS.—HOW THEY DESCEND.—OBTAINING THE PEARL OYSTERS.—DIVING-BELLS.—HOW THEY ARE MADE.—ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES.—ADVENTURES IN DIVING-BELLS.—SUBMARINE ARMOR.—ITS CONSTRUCTION AND USE.—A DIVER’S ADVENTURE.—A HORRIBLE SIGHT.—THE DIVER’S STORY.—A PEARL DIVER AND A SHARK.—A NARROW ESCAPE.—STRATEGY IN THE WATER.—PEARL DIVING.—PREPARATORY STEPS TO BE TAKEN.—PREPARING FOR THE SEVERE TASK.—TRAINING THE PAPOOSES IN MEXICO.—HOW TO AVOID SHARKS AND DOG-FISH.—THE WAYS THAT ARE DARK, AND THE TRICKS THAT ARE VAIN 129
X.
RUSSIAN MINES AND MINING.
EXTENT OF THE EMPIRE.—ITS MINERAL RESOURCES.—PETER THE GREAT, AND WHAT HE DID.—NIKITE DEMIDOFF.—THE DEMIDOFF ESTATES.—IRON MINES AND A VISIT TO THEM.—WHERE RUSSIA SHEET-IRON IS MADE.—COPPER AND MALACHITE.—A WONDERFUL SIGHT.—STRANGE STORY OF AN EMERALD NECKLACE.—GOLD MINING IN SIBERIA.—HARDSHIPS OF THE MINER.—HOW THEY ARE TREATED.—MODE OF MINING. 145
XI. [Pg 8]
A DAY IN POMPEII.
A VISIT TO POMPEII.—NEAPOLITAN HACKMEN.—AN INTERESTING ADVENTURE.—HOW TO AVOID A QUARREL.—BEGGARS.—BEGGARY AS A FINE ART.—A PICTURESQUE SCENE.—MAKING MACARONI.—TRICKS OF AN OLD ROOSTER.—POMPEII.—ITS HISTORY.—DISCOVERY OF THE BURIED CITY.—A SCENE IN THE STREETS.—AN ANCIENT BAKERY.—HOW THE MILLS WERE TURNED.—INVESTIGATING AN OVEN.—A WONDERFUL DISCOVERY.—PRESENT CONDITION OF THE HOUSES.—ADVERTISING IN OLD TIMES.—POMPEIIAN PERSONALS.—A PICTURE OF THE DESTRUCTION.—OBSCENE OBJECTS IN THE CITY. 157
XII.
VESUVIUS AND ITS ERUPTIONS.
THE GREAT ERUPTION OF VESUVIUS.—WHAT IT DID.—THREE CITIES WIPED OUT.—LAVA AND ITS CHARACTER.—GOING TO THE MOUNTAIN.—SKIRMISHING WITH GUIDES AND BEGGARS.—ARCHITECTURAL STEEDS.—A HORSE WITH A HAND RAIL AROUND HIM.—COAT-HOOKS TO LET.—A MOTLEY CROWD.—HOW AN AMERICAN WAS MOUNTED.—A NEW MODE OF SPURRING.—THE ROAD FROM RESINA.—BURNING LAVA.—CROSSING THE LAVA BEDS.—CLIMBING ON FOOT.—HAPS AND MISHAPS.—AN ENGLISHMAN’S ACCIDENT.—LIGHTING A CIGAR AT THE CRATER.—SUFFOCATED BY SULPHUR FUMES.—DOWN AMONG THE ASHES.—A LONG FALL AND SLIDE.—IN HERCULANEUM.—UNDERGROUND BENEATH THE CITY.—“LOOK HERE.”—HOW THE CITY WAS DISCOVERED.—THE ERUPTION OF 1872.—HORRIBLE SCENES.—EXTENT OF THE DESTRUCTION. 178
XIII.
THE CAVERNS OF NAPLES.
EXCAVATIONS NEAR NAPLES.—POZZUOLI.—VISIT TO THE CAVE OF THE
CUMEAN SIBYL.—ACCIDENT TO AN ENGLISH TRAVELLER.—HUMAN
PACK-HORSES.—DARKNESS AND TORCHES.—THE LAKE OF AVERNUS.—DROWNED
IN BOILING WATER.—A DANGEROUS WALK.—IN NERO’S PRISON.—INSTRUMENTS
OF TORTURE.—USE OF THE RACK.—THE IRON BEDSTEAD.—BROILING
A MAN ALIVE.—TREATMENT OF PRISONERS.—AN
ANCIENT FUNERAL.—VIRGIL’S TOMB.—CONSTRUCTING WINE CELLARS.—NOVEL
PLAN OF ROBBERY.
205
XIV. [Pg 9]
THE EXCAVATIONS OF DR. SCHLIEMANN, AT MYCENÆ (GREECE).
HIS EARLY LIFE AND IDEAL.—THE TREASURES OF PRIAMUS.—DESCRIPTION OF THE SPOT.—EARLY HISTORY OF MYCENÆ.—PAUSANIAS, THE ANCIENT ARCHÆOLOGIST.—WHERE THE EXCAVATIONS WERE COMMENCED.—THE TOMB OF AGAMEMNON AND HIS FAITHFUL WARRIORS.—DESCRIPTION OF THE TREASURES FOUND.—PROOFS OF THE IMMENSE ANTIQUITY OF THE TOMBS.—RECENT PORTRAITS TAKEN OF HEROES OF ANCIENT GREECE.—HOW IT WAS DONE.—THE VALUE OF THE DISCOVERIES REGARDING ART MATTERS.—HERACLES STRUGGLING WITH THE LION.—DR. SCHLIEMANN’S HEROIC WIFE.—DISCOVERY OF THE TEMPLE OF ÆSCULAPIUS.—A BYZANTINE CAVE UNDER THE ROCK.—A DISCOVERY WHICH FILLS ATHENS WITH JOY.—THE STATUE OF VICTORY FOUND IN ALMOST PERFECT CONDITION. 221
XV.
MEXICO AND ITS MINES.
THE USES OF SILVER.—COIN AND ITS ABUNDANCE.—PUZZLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMISTS.—WONDERFUL SKILL OF THE SILVER-WORKERS.—THE SILVER PRODUCT.—THE MINES OF MEXICO.—THEIR EXTENT AND RICHNESS.—GUANAJUATO AND ITS MINES.—THE VETA MADRE.—VISIT TO THE SERRANO MINE.—UNDERGROUND PYROTECHNICS.—THE VETA GRANDE.—THE PACHUCA MINE.—AN OFFER TO THE KING.—THE GROUND PAVED WITH SILVER.—SULPHUR MINERS.—ASCENT OF A MEXICAN MOUNTAIN. 236
XVI.
CORAL REEFS AND CAVES IN THE PACIFIC.
THE ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC.—HOW THEY HAVE BEEN FORMED.—WHAT THE CORAL IS.—THE WONDROUS ARCHITECTS OF THE SEA.—WHAT A UNITED STATES STEAMER SAW.—HOW THE CORAL IS FISHED FOR.—ROMANTIC STORY OF A CAVERN.—HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED.—AN ELOPEMENT AND EXERCISE IN DIVING.—LOVE AND TURTLES.—A BATTLE IN THE WATER.—KILLED BY SHARKS.—A MAIDEN’S GRIEF.—THE PERIL OF A LOVER.—SURPRISING A FATHER-IN-LAW.—END OF A SUBMARINE COURTSHIP. 248
XVII. [Pg 10]
BURGLARS AND BURGLARIES.
REMARKABLE BURGLARIES.—UNDER GROUND FOR DISHONEST PURPOSES.—WONDERFUL ADROITNESS OF BURGLARS.—A REMARKABLE ROBBERY.—OCCUPATION OF A LAWYER’S OFFICE.—LABOR UNDER DIFFICULTIES.—A TROUBLESOME POLICEMAN.—STRANGE SCENE IN COURT.—THE CULPRIT’S REPLY.—ROBBERY BY COUNTERFEIT POLICEMEN.—THE OCEAN BANK ROBBERY.—RAPID AND THOROUGH WORK.—AN ASTONISHED WATCHMAN.—BAFFLING THE POLICE. 264
XVIII.
THE EARLIEST EXCAVATIONS.
GRAVES AND THEIR CONSTRUCTION.—DIFFERENT MODES OF BURIAL.—TOMBS.—THE MOST EXTENSIVE TOMBS.—OBJECT OF THE PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT.—A VISIT TO THE GREAT PYRAMID, AND ITS DESCRIPTION.—DIFFICULTIES OF CLIMBING.—THE TOMBS OF THEBES.—A FAT AMERICAN’S ADVENTURE.—ENTERING THE TOMB OF ASSASSEEF.—RECITING POETRY UNDER DISADVANTAGES.—SWALLOWING A BAT.—JACK’S DISGUST.—FATE OF A FAT MAN.—STUCK IN A PASSAGE-WAY.—HOW THE ARABS REMOVED HIM. 277
XIX.
EXPERIENCES IN WILD LIFE.
NECESSITIES OF TRAVELLERS IN WILD COUNTRIES.—CONCEALING DOG FOOD.—DEFENCES AGAINST WILD ANIMALS.—HONESTY OF CERTAIN NATIVES.—THE AUTHOR’S EXPERIENCE WITH SIBERIAN KORAKS.—CONCEALING FOOD IN ICEBERGS.—BARON WRANGELL AND DR. KANE.—STORY OF BLANKETS AND BLANKET STRAPS.—A CACHE.—WHAT IT IS.—AUTHOR’S FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH ONE.—A FRAUDULENT GRAVE.—CACHE OF A WHISKEY KEG, AND HOW IT WAS MADE.—“TWO-BOTTLE CAMP.”—CONSOLATION OF A HARD DRINKER.—AN EXTENSIVE CACHE.—HOW THE INDIANS FOUND IT, AND WHAT BECAME OF THEM.—JIM FOSTER AND HIS TENDER HEART. 292
XX.
THE GREEN VAULTS OF DRESDEN.
THE RICHEST TREASURY IN THE WORLD.—HOW THE SAXON PRINCES ACQUIRED IT.—THE DIFFERENT CABINETS, AND WHAT THEY CONTAIN.—WONDERFUL CARVINGS, MOSAICS, AND CURIOSITIES.—SPLENDID GOLD AND SILVER PLATE.—MAGNIFICENT ROYAL REGALIA.—A LUXURIOUS AND GALLANT MONARCH.—ROMANTIC ADVENTURES.—A MARVELLOUS TOY.—DAZZLING EMERALDS, PEARLS, RUBIES, AND DIAMONDS.—THE LARGEST AND MOST PRECIOUS GEMS ON THE GLOBE.—INGENIOUS AND DESPERATE [Pg 11] ATTEMPTS TO ROB THE VAULTS.—A THIEF WALLED UP ALIVE.—EFFECT OF EXPOSING HIS SKELETON.—ARE THE PRICELESS JEWELS FALSE?—WHAT AN ENTERPRISING SCOUNDREL MIGHT ACCOMPLISH. 302
XXI.
THE CATACOMBS OF PARIS.
THE FAIR CAPITAL UNDERMINED.—HISTORY OF THE VAST GRAVEYARD.—SIX MILLIONS OF SKELETONS.—A JOURNEY THROUGH THE CITY OF THE DEAD.—HORRIBLE SENSATIONS OF BEING LOST THERE.—GHASTLY DISPLAY OF SKULLS AND BONES.—TRAGIC AND COMIC INCIDENTS.—TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE IN THE MIGHTY CHARNEL-HOUSE.—SCENES NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN. 314
XXII.
PETROLEUM.
OIL SPRINGS.—THE FIRE FIELD OF THE CASPIAN.—THE FIRE WORSHIPPERS.—THE RANGOON DISTRICT.—FIRE WELLS OF THE EAST.—PETROLEUM IN AMERICA.—ITS DISCOVERY AND HISTORY.—OIL FEVER.—ANECDOTES OF SPECULATION.—FORTUNES WON AND LOST.—EXTRAVAGANCES OF THE NOUVEAU RICHE.—THE STORY OF JOHN.—HOW TO GET UP A PARTY. 331
XXIII.
WINE AND BEER CELLARS.
WINE CELLARS.—HOW THEY ARE MADE.—PLACES FOR STORING BEER.—THEIR EXTENT.—THE GREATEST WINE CASK IN THE WORLD.—ITS CAPACITY.—PECULIARITIES OF WINE AND BEER VAULTS.—VISITING A CELLAR IN POLAND.—CURIOUS SIGHTS.—THE ANTIQUITY OF THE BOTTLES.—WHAT A VISITOR DID.—THE RESULT OF TOO MUCH WINE.—A DANGEROUS BRIDGE. 346
XXIV.
THE BASTILLE.
ITS HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION.—THREE AMERICANS SEARCHING FOR IT.—A FRENCH JOKE AT THEIR EXPENSE.—HOW PRISONERS WERE RECEIVED AND TREATED.—HORRIBLE DUNGEONS.—THE OUBLIETTES.—CRUELTIES OF THE BASTILLE.—THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK.—HIS ROMANTIC STORY.—DESTRUCTION OF THE BASTILLE. 356
XXV. [Pg 12]
DIAMONDS AND DIAMOND MINES.
HOW DIAMONDS ARE OBTAINED.—THE COUNTRIES THAT PRODUCE THEM.—MODES OF SEEKING THEM IN BRAZIL.—CURIOUS PRECAUTIONS AGAINST THEFT.—HOW A SLAVE IN BORNEO ROBBED HIS EMPLOYER.—FAMOUS DIAMONDS AND THEIR HISTORY.—THE REGENT, THE ORLOFF, AND THE KOHINOOR.—FIDELITY OF A SERVANT.—THE STAR OF THE SOUTH.—A SHARP TRICK OF AN AMATEUR GAMBLER. 372
XXVI.
THE DIAMOND FIELDS OF SOUTH AFRICA.
MODE OF REACHING THEM.—THEIR EXTENT AND RICHNESS.—THE YIELD OF THE MINES.—CHARACTER OF THE AFRICAN DIAMONDS.—MODE OF WORKING.—THE NEGROES AND THEIR PECULIARITIES.—DU TOIT’S PAN.—KIMBERLEY.—COLESBERG KOPJE.—LIFE IN THE FIELDS.—DUST STORMS AND HEAVY RAINS.—A WHIRLWIND AND ITS EFFECTS.—CAUGHT IN A STORM.—INDIVIDUAL INSTANCES OF GOOD LUCK.—A DIAMOND ON A BURST. 391
XXVII.
THE UNDER-WORLD OF PARIS.
THE IMMORALITY AND LICENTIOUSNESS OF THE CAPITAL.—COMPARISON WITH OTHER CITIES.—FRENCH ETHICS AND LITERATURE.—DIFFERENT GRADES OF THE DEMI-MONDE.—THE TRUE STORY OF CAMILLE.—THE GARDENS ON THE SEINE.—THE DANCES AND THE DANCERS.—THE PETITS SOUPERS OF THE COCOTTES.—AFTER-MIDNIGHT SCENES.—ACTRESSES AND CHAMPAGNE.—ADVENTURESSES AND CHÂTEAU MARGAUX.—INTERIOR OF A THIEF’S DEN AND MURDERER’S CELLAR.—BLOODTHIRSTY VIRAGOES AND DESPERATE CUTTHROATS. 403
XXVIII.
THE EAST RIVER BRIDGE.
LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS UNDER WATER.—HOW THE WORK WAS PERFORMED.—THE CAISSON.—HOW IT IS MADE.—ITS MODE OF OPERATION.—WORKING UNDER WATER.—EXPLORING THE BED OF THE RIVER.—DESCENDING INTO THE BOX.—EFFECTS OF A GREAT PRESSURE OF AIR.—AN UNPLEASANT SENSATION.—A STRANGE SIGHT.—ACCIDENTS.—HOW A MAN’S ARM WAS CAUGHT. 426
XXIX. [Pg 13]
INUNDATION AT LALLE.
INUNDATION OF A MINE ON THE LOIRE.—HOW THE MEN WERE SAVED.—SONG OF THE PUPILS OF THE MINING SCHOOL AT ST. ETIENNE.—TERRIBLE FLOOD OF A MINE AT LALLE.—BREAKING IN OF A RIVER.—COURAGE OF AUBERTO, A WORKMAN.—SAVING SIX LIVES.—PLAN FOR RESCUE.—DISCOVERING THE WHEREABOUTS OF THE PRISONERS.—ONE MONTH’S WORK IN THREE DAYS.—OPENING THE DRIFT-WAYS.—SIXTY FEET OF TUNNELLING.—IN THE DARKNESS WITH A CORPSE.—STORY OF THE RESCUED.—THIRTEEN DAYS OF PERIL.—FINDING THE BODIES OF THE DEAD.—ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE MEN DROWNED.—SAVING A CHILD.—EATING WOOD AND LEATHER TO SAVE LIFE.—A HORRIBLE SIGHT. 435
XXX.
PERILS OF THE MINER.
NARROW ESCAPE OF THE AUTHOR.—CAUGHT IN A LEVEL.—SETTLING OF THE ROOF.—BREAKING TIMBERS.—A PERILOUS PASSAGE.—FALLING OF A ROOF.—THREATENING DANGERS.—ADVENTURE OF GIRAUD, THE WELL-DIGGER.—CAUGHT IN A FALL OF EARTH.—THREE WEEKS WITH A CORPSE.—ONE MONTH WITHOUT FOOD.—HOW HE WAS RESCUED.—A MINER COVERED WITH COAL.—HIS RESCUE.—AN IRISHMAN’S JOKE.—INUNDATION.—CURIOUS THEORIES OF THE MINERS.—EFFECT OF STRIKING A VEIN OF WATER.—DRAWING THE MEN IN A MINE.—THE SEA BREAKING IN.—CLOSING THE SHAFT.—A TERRIBLE STORY.—EXPERIENCE OF A FRENCH ENGINEER.—CASUALTIES AND THEIR NUMBER.—SUFFOCATION OF THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-ONE MEN IN ONE MINE. 447
XXXI.
THE MAMMOTH CAVE.
ROMANCE AND MYSTERY OF CAVES.—THE FAMOUS CAVES OF THE WORLD.—THE GREATEST CAVERN ON THE GLOBE.—ITS IMMENSE FAME.—AMERICANS’ NEGLECT OF IT.—CAUSE OF THEIR INDIFFERENCE.—SITUATION OF THE MAMMOTH CAVE.—ITS MISERABLE MANAGEMENT.—ANNOYANCES AND IMPOSITIONS PRACTISED UPON TOURISTS.—JOURNEY THROUGH THE VAST TUNNEL.—WHAT ONE SEES, FEELS, AND DOES.—CONSUMPTIVE GHOSTS.—WONDERS OF THE STAR-CHAMBER.—DESCENT INTO THE BOTTOMLESS PIT.—CROSSING THE STYX AND THE LETHE.—MARVELLOUS ECHOES.—STARTLING ACCIDENTS.—WOMEN IN AWKWARD SITUATIONS. 456
XXXII.
INSURANCE AND ITS MYSTERIES.
HISTORY OF FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE.—LIFE INSURANCE.—OBJECTIONS OF A CALIFORNIAN.—HOW HE ANSWERED AN AGENT.—FRAUDS UPON COMPANIES.—A DEEP-LAID SCHEME.—JOHNSON AND HIS THIRTY [Pg 14] THOUSAND DOLLARS.—OPENING A GRAVE.—A FICTITIOUS CORPSE.—PURSUIT BY DETECTIVES AND CAPTURE OF THE SWINDLER.—LITIGATIONS ABOUT INSURANCE.—CHINESE TRICKS ON AGENTS.—SUBSTITUTES FOR EXECUTION. 479
XXXIII.
RAILWAY TUNNELS.
TUNNELS AMONG THE ANCIENTS.—HOW THEY WERE MADE.—MODERN TUNNELS AND THEIR LENGTH.—LAUGHABLE INCIDENTS IN RAILWAY TUNNELS.—THE TWO LOVERS.—THE ANXIOUS FRENCHMAN.—ROBBERS.—HOOSAC TUNNEL.—ITS HISTORY.—THE AUTHOR’S VISIT.—NATURE AND PROGRESS OF THE WORK.—AN EXPLOSION.—ACCIDENT FROM NITRO-GLYCERINE.—THE CENTRAL SHAFT.—THE TERRIBLE CALAMITY OF 1867. 492
XXXIV.
THE MONT CENIS TUNNEL.
MOUNTAIN CHAINS BETWEEN NATIONS.—MONT CENIS.—CROSSING THE ALPS.—THE GREAT ALPINE TUNNEL.—LAYING OUT THE WORK.—THE ARC AND DORA.—DIFFICULTIES.—THE SURVEYS.—PENETRATING THE MOUNTAIN.—COMPLETION OF THE WORK.—THE CHANNEL TUNNEL.—ITS COST.—COST OF TUNNELS IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES. 510
XXXV.
THE PARISIAN SEWERS.
THE SEWERS OF PARIS.—THEIR EXTENT.—A JOURNEY THROUGH THEM.—THE START AND THE MODE OF TRAVEL.—DESCRIPTION OF THE GREAT SEWER.—ACCIDENTS OF SEWER TRAVEL.—HISTORY OF THE SEWERS.—THEIR FIRST GREAT INSPECTION.—BRUNESEAU.—INUNDATION FROM THE SEWERS.—A MAN LOST.—HORRIBLE DEATH IN THE SEWERS.—THE OLD AND THE NEW.—THE EXCAVATIONS.—NATURE OF THE WORK.—BREAKAGE OF THE CANAL.—JEAN VALJEAN IN THE SEWERS OF PARIS.—HIS FIRST SENSATION.—CAUGHT IN A LABYRINTH.—THE SEWERS OF ST. DENIS, AND THE MARKETS.—CAUGHT IN THE WATER.—THE POLICE IN PURSUIT.—FRIGHT OF THE FUGITIVE.—THE QUICKSAND ON THE COAST OF BRITTANY.—A HORRIBLE DEATH.—QUICKSAND IN THE SEWERS.—HOW IT WAS FORMED.—JEAN VALJEAN IN THE QUICKSAND.—HIS SUFFERINGS AND ESCAPE. 524
XXXVI.
MERCURY.
PROPERTIES AND PECULIARITIES OF MERCURY, OR QUICKSILVER.—AMALGAMATION.—CINNABAR.—WHERE IT IS FOUND.—ALMADEN AND OTHER [Pg 15] MINES.—CURIOUS CUSTOMS AT IDRIA.—MODES OF WORKING.—HUANCA VELICA.—QUICKSILVER MINES IN CALIFORNIA.—CALIFORNIA LAWSUITS.—WONDERFUL PROPERTIES OF SPANISH TITLES.—AN UNHAPPY ACCIDENT.—PRACTICAL VALUE OF AN EARTHQUAKE.—AN UNDERGROUND CHAPEL. 551
XXXVII.
GUANO AND THE COOLIE TRADE.
GUANO AND ITS CHARACTER.—WHERE IT IS FOUND.—THE CHINCHA ISLANDS AND THEIR WEALTH.—NOVEL PLANS OF THE PERUVIANS.—HOW THEY DIG AND LOAD GUANO.—EFFECT OF GUANO ON A STRANGER.—JARVIS’S AND HOWLAND’S ISLANDS.—THE COOLIES AND THEIR LABOR.—STORIES OF HORRIBLE CRUELTIES.—HOW THE ASIATIC SLAVE TRADE IS CONDUCTED.—MUTINY ON SHIPBOARD.—MURDER OF THE CREW.—HUMAN MINCE MEAT.—TREATMENT OF COOLIES AT WORK.—EXTENT OF THE COOLIE TRAFFIC.—PROBABLE FATE OF MISSING SHIPS. 561
XXXVIII.
AVONDALE.
THE GREAT CALAMITY IN PENNSYLVANIA.—ITS CAUSE.—DISCOVERY OF THE FIRE.—SCENES AT THE MOUTH OF THE MINE.—BURNING OF THE BREAKER.—DESCRIPTION OF THE FIRE.—EFFORTS FOR RESCUE.—THE DOG AND LAMP.—DESCENT OF THE SHAFT.—WHAT THE EXPLORERS SAW.—DISCOVERY OF THE BODIES.—AFFLICTION OF FATHER AND SON.—BRINGING OUT BODIES.—BURIAL OF THE DEAD. 578
XXXIX.
IRON AND IRON MINES.
IRON AND ITS VALUE.—ITS ABUNDANCE, AND WHERE IT IS FOUND.—A MOUNTAIN OF IRON.—IRON MOUNTAIN AND PILOT KNOB.—THE AUTHOR’S VISIT.—CHASED BY GUERRILLAS.—A NARROW ESCAPE.—THE ANTIQUITY OF IRON.—ITS VALUE IN MANIPULATION.—IRON AS MONEY.—INCONVENIENCE OF USING IT.—FIRST IRON WORKS IN AMERICA.—DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IRON AND OTHER MINES.—DIRECT AND REVERSE WORKINGS.—A PICTURESQUE SCENE. 590
XL.
EXILES IN SIBERIA.
TOILING IN A SIBERIAN MINE.—A DARING ESCAPE.—HOW IT WAS PLANNED.—TUNNELLING TO LIBERTY.—DISARMING GUARDS.—WORKING IN THE DARK AND WITHOUT FRESH AIR.—A MURDEROUS ATTEMPT.—CUSTOMS OF THE SIBERIAN PEASANTRY.—CARE FOR THE EXILE.—A SURPRISE.—A [Pg 16] NARROW ESCAPE FROM DEATH.—LIVING IN A MOUNTAIN GLEN.—HUNTING IN THE ALTAI MOUNTAINS.—KILLED BY AN ARGAL.—SEPARATION AND DEPARTURE.—HOW TO OBTAIN PASSPORTS.—SAFE ARRIVAL AT HOME. 599
XLI.
LEAD MINES OF IOWA.
BLUFFS AT DUBUQUE, IOWA.—THE LEAD MINES.—HOW LEAD IS FOUND THERE.—INDIAN DISCOVERIES.—HOW THE SECRET BECAME KNOWN.—STORY OF THE SIX INDIANS.—FOLLOWING THEIR TRACKS.—AN INDIAN TRAITOR.—AN EXPLORER’S ADVENTURE.—THE INDIAN GUIDE AND THE GREAT SPIRIT.—MURDER OF TWO EXPLORERS.—USES OF ABANDONED SHAFTS AND CAVES.—AN EDITOR’S DISCOVERY.—AN UNDERGROUND BANQUET.—UPS AND DOWNS OF A LEAD MINER.—DEATH OR A FORTUNE.—A DANGEROUS BLOW.—A MINUTE OF GREAT PERIL. 613
XLII.
MINING IN THE BLACK HILLS. THE WONDERFUL MINE UNDER LAKE SUPERIOR.
FIRST REPORTS OF GOLD IN THE BLACK HILLS.—DISCOVERY OF PLACER DEPOSITS.—THEIR EXTENT AND RICHNESS.—DEADWOOD AND RAPID CREEK.—SAD FATE OF AN EARLY EXPLORING PARTY.—VALUABLE QUARTZ VEINS.—MODE OF REACHING THE COUNTRY.—OTHER RESOURCES OF THE BLACK HILLS REGION.—BRILLIANT PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE.—A REMARKABLE MINE UNDER LAKE SUPERIOR.—CURIOSITIES OF SILVER ISLET.—WORKING UNDER DIFFICULTIES.—ORES OF UNEXAMPLED RICHNESS.—MINING ADVENTURES UNDER THE LAKE.—NEW ROUTE TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. 622
XLIII.
CALIFORNIA AND HER TERRESTRIAL TREASURES.
WONDERS OF THE PACIFIC COAST.—CALIFORNIA IN 1835.—CAUSE OF HER RAPID PROGRESS.—THE HONEST MINER OF THE OLDEN TIME.—FATE OF THE FORTY NINERS.—EFFORTS OF A NOVICE.—RUSHES TO NEW PLACERS.—CHANGE FROM PLACER TO QUARTZ MINING.—GRASS VALLEY.—EXTENT OF THE GOLD-BEARING RIDGE.—AMALGAMATING PROCESSES.—SPECULATIONS IN MINING STOCKS.—HOW A SHARP NEW YORKER WAS SOLD.—A LUCKY HIT.—COPPER MINES IN CALIFORNIA AND ARIZONA.—NEW ALMADEN AND ITS QUICKSILVER.—BENEFITS OF AN EARTHQUAKE. 633
XLIV. [Pg 17]
RAPID TRANSIT.
RAPID TRANSIT IN NEW YORK.—THE UNDERGROUND RAILWAY SCHEMES.—ELEVATED RAILWAY LINES.—THE WEST SIDE RAILWAY.—TRAVELLING ON LAMP POSTS.—ADVANTAGES OF A SECOND STORY ROAD.—ADVENTURES WITH THIEVES.—PERILS OF THE MODERN STREET CAR.—ARTISTIC PACKING OF PASSENGERS.—THE PNEUMATIC RAILWAY.—VANDERBILT’S SCHEME.—AN UNCOMFORTABLE JOURNEY.—SHOT FROM A GUN. 644
XLV.
THE TUNNELS, AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN LONDON.
DESCRIPTION OF THE LONDON HARBORS.—THE CATHARINE DOCK.—ENORMOUS STORE-HOUSES.—HOW THE TUNNEL WAS BUILT.—PLAN OF THE FRENCH ENGINEER, ISAMBERT BRUNEL.—HOW THE WORK WAS CHECKED BY A BREAK IN THE BED OF THE THAMES.—SIX LIVES LOST.—REMARKABLE RESCUE OF THE SON OF MR. BRUNEL.—ENORMOUS LABOR AND STRUGGLE AGAINST THE ELEMENTS.—TRIUMPH AT LAST.—THE MOST REMARKABLE RAILROAD IN THE WORLD.—LONDON CROSSED UNDERGROUND BY A SERIES OF TUNNELS.—HOW LIGHT AND AIR IS PRODUCED.—THE NEWEST IMPROVEMENTS OF THE ROAD.—THE CARS PASSING UNDER THE DWELLING OF THE DEAD. 662
XLVI.
DUNGEONS.
LIFE IN THEM.—ANCIENT DUNGEONS.—THE PRISON OF ST. PAUL.—THE DUCAL PALACE.—“SOTTO PIOMBI.”—THE POZZI.—SHUT UP IN THE DARK CELLS.—A NIGHT OF HORROR.—A GUIDE’S BLUNDER.—DUNGEONS OF ST. PETERSBURG.—PETER THE GREAT TORTURING HIS SON.—A PRINCESS DROWNED IN PRISON. 675
XLVII.
ANIMALS UNDER GROUND.
HORSES IN MINES.—EFFECT OF AN EVEN TEMPERATURE ON HORSES AND MULES.—EFFECT OF DEPRIVATION OF LIGHT.—WALKING IN DARKNESS.—RATS IN MINES.—A MONKEY IN A SILVER MINE.—THE CONSTERNATION HE CREATED.—WHAT HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE.—HIS UNHAPPY FATE.—A MONKEY AT SEA.—HIS PRANKS.—DEMOCRATIC HABITS.—HOW HE LOST HIS LIFE.—HIS LAST PERFORMANCE.—DOGS IN MINES, AND THE EFFECT OF UNDERGROUND CONFINEMENT.—JOY AT REACHING DAYLIGHT AGAIN.—TWO DOGS AT SEA, AND WHAT THEY DID.—A DOG SAILOR, AND WHAT HE DID.—HIS UNHAPPY END. 686
XLVIII. [Pg 18]
OUT OF PRISON.
WONDERFUL ESCAPE FROM A FRENCH PRISON.—PLANS OF ESCAPE.—A LONG LABOR.—TUNNELLING THROUGH A WALL.—INGENUITY OF A SAILOR.—LUCKY ACCIDENTS.—DISCOURAGING EVENTS.—HOW SUCCESS WAS ATTAINED.—ELUDING THE GUARDS.—REACHING A PLACE OF SAFETY. 695
XLIX.
THE GAMBLING HELLS OF GERMANY.
THE FOUR GREAT SPAS.—DESCRIPTION OF BADEN, HOMBURG, WIESBADEN, AND EMS.—ROULETTE AND ROUGE-ET-NOIR.—SPLENDOR OF THE SALOONS.—THE PERSONS WHO FREQUENT THEM.—PROFITS AND PECULIARITIES OF THE DIRECTION.—THE PHILOSOPHY OF GAMBLING.—WHY PLAYERS LOSE.—STRANGE SUPERSTITIONS OF BETTORS.—THE INVALIDS.—DROLL SCENES AT THE PUMP-ROOM.—THE MAN WITH A SNAKE IN HIS STOMACH.—THE ROBUST HYPOCHONDRIAC. 705
L.
GAMING AND GAMESTERS ABROAD.
FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC SUMMER RESORTS.—THE ADVANTAGE OF THE FORMER.—MYSTERIOUS CHARACTERS.—A TRIO OF CELEBRATED GAMESTERS.—THEIR EXTRAORDINARY HISTORY.—TRAGIC FATE OF A YOUNG RUSSIAN OFFICER.—TEMPTATION, DESPAIR, AND SUICIDE OF A BEAUTIFUL ENGLISH GIRL.—A LUCKY BANKER’S CLERK.—A HUNGARIAN HANGING HIMSELF FOR A WARNING.—ECCENTRICITIES OF CROUPIERS.—A CALM-BLOODED HOLLANDER.—THE SKELETON IN THE CLOSET.—ROSE-STREWN ROADS TO RUIN. 721
LI.
SUBTERRANEAN DWELLINGS.
THE EARLIEST HABITATIONS.—UNDERGROUND HOUSES.—A DWELLING ON THE AMERICAN PLAINS.—HOW AN EARTH HOUSE IS MADE.—RESULT OF A NIGHT IN IT.—ARCTIC DWELLINGS.—A MANSION IN KAMCHATKA.—ITS ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES.—A CHIMNEY AND DOORWAY IN COMMON.—THE AUTHOR’S EXPERIENCE.—A LIVE DOG IN A STEW-KETTLE.—THE STORY OF GAMOOT.—HOW HE ENTERTAINED HIS FRIENDS.—FISH OIL PUNCH AND A CANDLE BREAKFAST.—HOW HE LEARNED ENGLISH.—NEW MODE OF BOXING THE COMPASS.—GAMOOT’S MELANCHOLY FATE. 736
LII. [Pg 19]
BRIGANDAGE AS A FINE ART.
HIGHWAY ROBBERY IN MODERN TIMES.—THE OLD WORLD AND THE NEW CONTRASTED.—HABITS OF RUSSIAN ROBBERS.—PIOUS THIEVES.—PRAYERS FOR SUCCESS.—ROAD AGENTS.—CRUELTIES OF ITALIAN BRIGANDS.—TORTURE AND RANSOM OF PRISONERS.—SPANISH BRIGANDS.—ADVENTURE ON A SPANISH ROAD.—AN AMERICAN PRINCE AND AN ENGLISH DUCHESS.—AN EXCITING RACE.—A DUCHESS IN UNDRESS. 746
LIII.
MINERAL RESOURCES OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND.
COLONIAL EXHIBITS AT THE PHILADELPHIA CENTENNIAL.—WONDERFUL MINERAL WEALTH OF THE ANTIPODES.—CURIOUS FEATURES OF THE GOLD FIELDS.—HOW A PARTY OF CALIFORNIANS WERE DECEIVED.—DISCOVERIES OF GOLD AND HOW THEY WERE MADE.—TROUBLES WITH THE MINERS.—AN INSURRECTION AND ITS RESULT.—FIELD OF THE AUSTRALIAN MINES.—COAL, IRON, AND OTHER MINERALS.—THE RESOURCES OF NEW ZEALAND.—ITS GOLD YIELD.—GEOLOGICAL PECULIARITIES.—AGRICULTURAL AND OTHER WEALTH.—VICISSITUDES OF MINING LIFE.—PLANS FOR ENCOURAGING IMMIGRATION. 755
LIV.
UNDERGROUND IN SAN FRANCISCO.
CHINESE OPIUM DENS.—PISCO.—EXPERIMENTS IN LIQUORS.—SATURDAY NIGHT AMONG THE CHINESE.—COCOMONGO.—MURDERER’S ALLEY.—CHINESE MUSIC.—THE THEATRE.—BETEL AND ITS USE.—THE BARBARY COAST.—CHEAP LODGING-HOUSES.—A DYING VICTIM.—A DEN OF THIEVES.—“THE SHRIMP.”—UNDER THE STREET.—A REPULSIVE SPECTACLE.—OPIUM SMOKING.—ITS EFFECTS.—SAMSHOO.—ITS PREPARATION AND QUALITIES.—INTRODUCTION TO AN OPIUM DEN.—THE OCCUPANTS.—EXPERIMENT ON A SMOKER.—HOW TO SMOKE.—TRYING THE DRUG.—MESCAL.—GOING HOME.—TRYING A SEWER.—A COUNTRYMAN’S DRINK. 768
LV.
GOLD AND ITS USES.
ITS ANTIQUITY.—WORSHIP OF GOLD.—ANCIENT GOLD MINES.—KING SOLOMON.—GOLD IN AMERICA.—STORY OF A HUNTER.—THE SHEPHERD AND THE CHILD.—HOW PIZARRO EUCHRED THE PERUVIAN KING.—SUTTER’S FORT AND SAW-MILL.—MARSHALL’S DISCOVERY IN THE MILL RACE.—ROMANCE AND REALITY.—SPREADING THE NEWS.—NAVIGATION UNDER DISADVANTAGES.—THE GOLD EXCITEMENT.—THE PAN AND ROCKER.—THE AUTHOR AS A GOLD MINER.—HOW HE WORKED THE ROCKER.—HARRY AND HIS TIN DIPPER.—DISAPPOINTMENT AND DINNER.—VICISSITUDES OF GOLD MINING. 785
LVI. [Pg 20]
GOLD MINING.
VARIOUS WAYS OF MINING GOLD.—SLUICING AND HYDRAULIC MINING.—ACCIDENT TO A MINER.—A NARROW ESCAPE.—POWER OF WATER IN HYDRAULIC MINING.—EFFECT ON RIVERS AND BAYS.—A SCENE OF DESOLATION.—QUARTZ MINING.—QUICKSILVER AND ITS AMALGAM.—STOCK OPERATIONS.—THE MARIPOSA MINES.—THE AUTHOR’S VISIT.—HAYWARD’S MINE.—MANIPULATION OF MARIPOSA.—FUNNY STORY OF A SEA CAPTAIN.—HOW HE SUPERINTENDED A MINE.—HIS MANAGEMENT OF A MILL.—ACCIDENTS ON PURPOSE, AND HASTY FLIGHT. 802
LVII.
COPPER AND COPPER MINES.
ANTIQUITY OF COPPER.—USE OF IT AMONG THE ANCIENTS.—OLDEST COINS.—THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES.—COPPER MINES OF ENGLAND AND OTHER COUNTRIES.—NATIVE COPPER.—HOW IT IS WORKED.—OVERTHROWING A MASS.—A LUMP WEIGHING EIGHT HUNDRED TONS.—MALACHITE. 817
LVIII.
THE CATACOMBS OF ROME.
THEIR AGE AND EXTENT.—THE SEVEN HILLS HONEYCOMBED.—HOW THE CATACOMBS WERE MADE.—THEIR USES.—THE CHRISTIAN MARTYRS.—IMMENSE BURIAL VAULTS.— MILLIONS OF PERSONS BURIED.—RESORTS OF ROBBERS.—STRANGE ADVENTURES.—VISITING THE CHURCH OF THE CAPUCHINS.—FANCY OF AN IRREVERENT AMERICAN.—DOWN THE CATACOMBS.—STORY OF THE GUIDE.—STRANGE EXPERIENCE OF TWO AMERICANS. 829
LIX.
THE PARISIAN RAG-PICKERS.
THEIR NUMBER AND EQUIPMENT.—THEIR KEEN-SIGHTEDNESS AND SKILL.—THE PLEASURE OF THE BOTTLE.—SEEKING COMFORT UNDER DIFFICULTIES.—UNWHOLESOME MAGAZINES.—WHERE AND HOW THE CHIFFONNIERS LIVE.—DISMAL AND NOISOME ABODES.—A SOUP LOTTERY.—QUAINT SCENES IN CHEAP BOOK-SHOPS.—TASTING ROAST CAT AND STEWED PUPPY.—ROMANCE IN DIRT-HEAPS.—A HIDEOUS HAG ONCE A FAMOUS BEAUTY.—PENITENCE AND REFORMATION THROUGH FIRE. 844
LX. [Pg 21]
BRIGANDAGE AND PIRACY.
RELATIONS OF THE STEAM ENGINE TO HONESTY.—PIRACY AND STEAMSHIPS.—HOW THE SLAVE TRADE WAS BROKEN UP.—STORIES OF BRIGANDS.—EXPLOITS OF SPANISH ROBBERS.—“ROAD AGENTS” IN CALIFORNIA.—AN ADVENTURE WITH HIGHWAYMEN.—AN ARMED STAGE COACH.—THE HAUNTS OF THE ROBBERS.—STORY OF A PLUNDERED PASSENGER.—“PUT UP YOUR HANDS.”—AN EXCITING INCIDENT.—BROAD-HORNS AND KEEL BOATS.—MIKE FINK AND THE CLERGYMAN.—PIRACY ON THE MISSISSIPPI.—A FIGHT WITH RIVER PIRATES.—A CAPTAIN AND CREW MURDERED.—VISIT TO A ROBBER’S CAVE. 853
LXI.
BURIED TREASURES.
CAPTAIN KIDD.—HIS HISTORY.—HOW HE MADE HIS FORTUNE.—HIS MELANCHOLY FATE.—JOINT STOCK IN THE ADVENTURE GALLEY.—SEARCHING FOR TREASURES.—STORIES OF THE SEA-COAST.—TRADITIONS.—ADVENTURES OF A TREASURE-HUNTER.—BILL SANBORN, AND WHAT HE DID.—JIM FOLLETT’S DOG.—A PRACTICAL JOKER.—A MESSAGE FROM THE SANDS OF THE SEA.—BILL SANBORN’S DREAM.—FINDING THE CHEST.—A SUPERNATURAL VISITOR. 866
LXII.
OPERATIONS AT HELLGATE.
HELLGATE AND SANDY HOOK.—ENTRANCES TO NEW YORK HARBOR.—THE HELLEGAT AND ITS MEANING.—STORIES OF THE OLD VOYAGERS.—EDITORIAL JOKES.—MAILLEFERT’S OPERATIONS.—DEEPENING THE CHANNEL.—GENERAL NEWTON.—THE AUTHOR ON AN EXCURSION.—BLOWING UP COENTIES’ REEF.—HOW IT IS DONE.—AN ACCIDENT WITH NITRO-GLYCERINE.—THE AUTHOR’S NARROW ESCAPE.—DIVER’S EXPERIENCE.—ASTONISHING THE FISHES.—RECEPTION AT HALLETT’S POINT.—GOING UNDER THE REEF.—THE MEN AT WORK.—AN INUNDATION.—HOW THE REEF IS TO BE REMOVED.—SURVEYING IN THE WATER.—A GRAND EXPLOSION. 882
LXIII.
THE EARLY HISTORY OF MANKIND.
THE STONE AGE.—PICTURE OF ADAM AND EVE.—HOW EVE CUT THE APPLE.—MINERS OF ANCIENT TIMES.—DISCOVERY OF STONE IMPLEMENTS.—THE INVENTION OF FIRE.—HOW GOLD WAS FOUND.—COPPER AND BRONZE.—THE BRONZE AGE.—IRON AND ITS USES.—MINERAL PRODUCTIONS OF DIFFERENT COUNTRIES.—QUICKSILVER IN SPAIN AND CALIFORNIA.—THE WEALTH OF NEVADA.—ROMANTIC STORY OF THE COMSTOCK LODE.—MINERAL FUTURE OF AMERICA. 898
LXIV. [Pg 22]
DIAMOND AND OTHER SWINDLES.
THE GREAT DIAMOND SWINDLE OF 1872.—HOW IT WAS ORGANIZED.—MAGNIFICENT PLANS OF THE SWINDLERS.—PLANTING A DIAMOND FIELD.—HOW THE FRAUD WAS EXPOSED.—A NEAT SWINDLE ATTEMPTED IN SAPPHIRES.—HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED.—A MYTHICAL COPPER MINE.—FATE OF THE SWINDLER. 905
LXV.
PERQUISITES.
CURIOSITIES OF COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS.—PAYING COMMISSIONS IN EUROPE.—FUNNY EXPERIENCES.—SPREAD OF THE CUSTOM IN AMERICA.—HOW CONTRACTS ARE OBTAINED AND PAID FOR.—COMMISSIONS TO TRADESMEN AND OTHERS.—CURIOUS FEATURES OF THE PIANO TRADE. 917
LXVI.
THE WIELICZKA SALT MINES.
THE GREAT WIELICZKA SALT MINES, THE LARGEST IN THE WORLD.—THEIR HISTORY.—EXTENT AND PRODUCT.—DESCENT INTO AND EXPLORATION OF THEM.—WHAT IS TO BE SEEN.—MINERS AT WORK BLINDFOLDED.—WONDERFUL CHAMBERS.—GLOOM CONVERTED INTO SPLENDOR.—BANQUETS IN THE BOWELS OF THE EARTH.—THE INFERNAL LAKE.—HUMAN DEMONS.—AWFUL APPARITIONS.—EXTRAORDINARY NARRATIVES. 930
LXVII.
EXPLOSIONS IN MINES.
THICKNESS OF COAL SEAMS.—STUPIDITY OF A TURKISH MINING SUPERINTENDENT.—THE RESULT.—BLASTING IN MINES.—HOW IT IS DONE.—TERRIBLE ACCIDENTS.—MINES ON FIRE.—SCENES OF DEVASTATION.—EFFECT OF SUBTERRANEAN FIRE.—EXPLOSIONS OF FIRE-DAMP.—HORRIBLE ACCIDENTS.—STORIES OF SURVIVORS.—LOSS OF LIFE.—SCENE IN A WELSH MINE.—EXPLOSIONS IN ENGLISH AND AMERICAN MINES.—MODES OF RELIEF.—STORY OF TWO BROTHERS.—HOW THEY WERE SAVED.—THE SAFETY-LAMP.—ITS CONSTRUCTION.—THE FIRE-WALLS OF CHINA.—THE PENITENT AND CANNONEER. 948
LXVIII. [Pg 23]
MYSTERIES OF THE GRAND JURY.
SITTING ON A GRAND JURY.—HOW IT IS COMPOSED.—PECULIARITIES OF MODERN JUSTICE.—HOW TO SELECT BLOCKHEADS.—A DISHONEST BAGGAGE-MAN.—CHARITY AND MERCY.—AN AFFECTING INCIDENT.—SAVING A YOUTHFUL OFFENDER.—A GENEROUS WOMAN.—CURIOUS PHASES OF HUMAN NATURE.—CELT AND AFRICAN.—STORIES OF THE DETECTIVES.—A GARRULOUS IRISH WOMAN.—FAMILY TROUBLES.—THE HORSE AND CART STORY.—HOW A PRETTY WOMAN CAPTURED THE JURY. 960
LXIX.
BORROWING AND BORROWERS.
HOW THE BUSINESS IS PROSECUTED IN NEW YORK.—THE NUMBER OF BORROWERS.—THEIR DIVISIONS AND SUBDIVISIONS.—HOW THEY OPERATE.—THE STORIES THEY TELL.—THEIR ENERGY.—ABILITY TO READ CHARACTER.—SUFFERINGS OF THEIR VICTIMS.—FRAUDS UPON HORACE GREELEY.—DEVICES TO AVOID THESE SWINDLERS.—ANNUAL AMOUNT OF THEIR SWINDLES.—HOW A MAN CUTS HIS EYE TEETH. 979
LXX.
AMONG THE DETECTIVES.
DETECTIVE LIFE.—CURIOSITIES OF LIFE IN A GREAT CITY.—NOT KNOWING YOUR NEIGHBORS.—PECULIAR ACQUAINTANCES.—ROBBERY OF A DRY GOODS STORE.—INGENIOUS DETECTION OF THE CRIME.—LOVE AND JUSTICE.—A SURPRISING DENOUEMENT. 991
LXXI.
WAR AND PRISON ADVENTURES.
EXPERIENCES OF AN ARMY CORRESPONDENT.—RUNNING THE BATTERIES OF VICKSBURG.—EXCITING SCENES.—PERILOUS SITUATION AND HAIR-BREADTH ESCAPE.—SHOT, SHELL, STEAM, FIRE, AND WATER.—TWO YEARS AS A CAPTIVE.—TUNNELLING.—ITS MODE, MANAGEMENT, AND MISHAPS.—TOILING FOR FREEDOM UNDER GROUND.—BOLD AND PROSPEROUS EFFORTS FOR LIBERTY.—LIFE IN A DUNGEON.—PERISHING BY INCHES.—DEATH ON EVERY HAND.—SUBTERRANEAN SEEKING FOR THE LIGHT.—SELF-DELIVERANCE AT LAST. 999

[Pg 24]

ILLUSTRATIONS.

Underline
1. Phases of Underground Life, Frontispiece
2. Austin, Nevada; A Western Mining Town, 34
3. Impressions of Plants found in Coal, 40
4. Discovery of Anthracite Coal in Pennsylvania, 40
5. Wire Railway at the Harewood Coal Mine, British Columbia, 51
6. Entrance to a Coal Mine, 54
7. Interior of a Coal Mine, 54
8. Descending a Shaft, 68
9. Sections of an English Coal Mine, 74
10. Discovery of Silver in Peru, 82
11. Interior of a Silver Mine, 82
12. Entrance to a Silver Mine of Central America, 88
13. Indian Silver Miners at Work, 88
14. One Method of Washing for Silver, 95
15. Another Method of Washing for Silver, 95
16. New York Speculators at the Mines, 108
17. Demonstrating the Value of a Silver Mine, 108
18. Pearl Diving in the East Indies, 130
19. Discovery of Loaves of Bread Baked 1800 Years Ago, 167
20. Bodies of Pompeians Cast in the Ashes, 173
21. Railroad from Naples to the Summit of Mt. Vesuvius, 187
22. Descent of Vesuvius, 188
23. Searching for Relics, 193
24. The Gate of Herculaneum and Street of Tombs, 197
25. The Crater of Vesuvius, 198
26. Bay of Naples, 206
27. Naples Wagon, 206
28. Nero’s Gymnasium, 214
29. Dr. and Mrs. Schliemann the Excavators at Mycenæ (Greece), 221
30. The Explorations at Mycenæ—the Treasury of Atreus (entrance), 224
31. Battle of the Warriors, 263
32. The Philadelphia Bank Robbery, 268
33. Australian Natives Burning their Dead, 278
34. An Indian Burial Place, 278
35. The Tombs of the Kings at Thebes, 289
36. Hall in the Tombs of Assasseef, 289 [Pg 25]
37. Pumping Well on Oil Creek, 334
38. The Grand Hotel, 356
39. Place De La Bastille, 362
40. The Bastille, 362
41. Destruction of the Bastille, 371
42. Working a Diamond Claim, 376
43. River Washing—Cradling for Diamonds, 376
44. Celebrated Diamonds of the World, 382
45. The Orloff Diamond, 382
46. Star of the South, 382
47. The Nassac, 382
48. The Cumberland, 382
49. The Sancy, 382
50. Star of the South—rough, 382
51. The Dresden, 382
52. The Regent Diamond, 382
53. The Kohinoor—recut, 382
54. Australian Brilliant, 382
55. The Eugenie, 382
56. Regent—side view, 382
57. The Hope, 382
58. The Florentine, 382
59. The Shah, 382
60. The Diamond Fields of South Africa, 391
61. Grand Avenue of the Champs Elysées, 407
62. Ball at Mabille, 415
63. East River Bridge, 426
64. Inundation of a Mine, 439
65. Falling in of a Mine, 444
66. View of Mammoth Cave, 474
67. Stalagmites in the Cave, 474
68. Execution of a Chinese Criminal, 488
69. Eastern Entrance to Hoosac Tunnel, 500
70. Western Entrance to Hoosac Tunnel, 500
71. Work at the Heading, 506
72. Boring machine used in Mount Cenis Tunnel, 518
73. Side View of Boring Machine, 518
74. Place De La Concorde, 527
75. The Madeleine Church, 530
76. Subterranean Paris, 536
77. The Great Sewer, 536
78. Quicksilver Mines of New Almaden, 554
79. Blasting in the Quicksilver Mines, 554
80. Burning of a Coolie Ship, 568
81. Coolies Planning a Mutiny, 577
82. Mutiny on the Lower Deck, 577 [Pg 26]
83. The Avondale Disaster—Removing Bodies from the Mine, 586
84. Interior of an Iron Mine, 594
85. Section of the Broadway Underground Railway, 644
86. Tunneling Broadway for the Underground Railway, 652
87. Interior of Pneumatic Passenger Car, 655
88. Portal of the Broadway Tunnel, 655
89. The Bomb Ferry—Travel in the 30th Century, 661
90. The Public Highway—Travel in the 30th Century, 661
91. Underground Rail Road Station, Aldgate London, 671
92. Conversationshaus at Baden, 708
93. Concert in the Gardens at Baden, 708
94. Gambling Saloon at Baden, 722
95. Esquimaux Dwellings, 739
96. Robbery of the Diligence, 750
97. Drinking Pisco in a San Francisco Saloon, 769
98. Jas. W. Marshall, the Discoverer of Gold in California, 790
99. Sutter’s Mills where Gold was Discovered, 790
100. Emigrant Train of Gold Hunters in 1849, 794
101. Chinese Gold Mining in California, 794
102. Gold Washing in the California Mines, 798
103. Miners Prospecting, 804
104. Miners Around their Camp-fire, 810
105. Ground Sluicing, 814
106. Hydraulic Mining, 814
107. A Copper Mine of the Lake Superior Region, 824
108. Interior of a Copper Mine, 821
109. Drilling in a Copper Mine, 824
110. Catacombs of Rome—The Three Brothers, 832
111. Vaulted Chapel in the Catacombs, 840
112. Lost in the Catacombs, 840
113. Pirates of the Mississippi, 862
114. View of Hellgate from Negro Point, 885
115. General View of Works at Hallett’s Point, 885
116. View of Shaft from the Dam, 892
117. The Shaft, Showing Headings, 892
118. Dream of a Diamond Swindler, 911
119. Descending the Shaft—Wieliczka Salt Mines, 932
120. Chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mines, 932
121. Getting out Salt, 936
122. Illustration of the Infernal Lake, 936
123. Explosion of Fire Damp, 952
124. Our Quarters in Libby Prison, 1008
125. Tail Piece, 1016

[Pg 27]

UNDERGROUND.


I.

BELOW THE SURFACE.

DIFFUSION OF KNOWLEDGE.—WHAT THE WORLD BELIEVES.—MUNGO PARK IN AFRICA.—WHY THE NATIVES PITIED HIM.—EXTENT OF UNDERGROUND LIFE.—DISTRIBUTION OF THE EARTH’S WEALTH.—VALUE OF MINES.—THEIR EXTENT AND IMPORTANCE.—COAL AND IRON.—MYSTERIES OF MINES.—EXPERIENCE WITH A NOVICE.—CHANGES OF SEASONS TO A MINER.—DANGERS IN MINES.—LIFE IN CAVERNS.—UNDERGROUND IN METAPHOR.—SOCIAL MINING.—OBJECT OF THIS VOLUME.

In these days of fast presses, cheap books and newspapers, lightning telegraphs, and other disseminators of intelligence, there may be those who doubt the correctness of the adage which says, “One half the world does not know how the other half lives.” Human nature is inquisitive. We are constantly seeking information regarding the affairs of others, and we generally manage in some way to obtain what we seek. We store our minds with useful and useless knowledge of the manners and customs of people in other lands, and of the private lives and histories of our near neighbors. Very often the material we thus lay aside in our mental store-houses does not particularly concern us, but, like Mrs. Toodles, in her purchase of a door-plate bearing the name of Thompson with a p, we think it will be handy to have at some future day, and so we keep it. With a fair devotion to inquiries, and a well-cultivated memory, a life of threescore and ten years ought, at this day, to acquaint its possessor with a general knowledge of the how and why of the existence of at least half the inhabitants of the globe.

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VARIED TASTES

But it may be set down as an axiom, that one half the world does not live as the other half does. People’s tastes differ, and there are very few who would wish to live exactly like others, especially if those to whom the choice is offered are richer than the others. There are many who would not change places with their wealthy neighbors, and it is more than probable that their wealthy neighbors would not change places with them. The majority of sailors are not happy when on shore, but are constantly sighing for a wet sheet and a flowing sea, while the majority of landsmen have no desire for such hydropathic experience. When Mungo Park travelled in Africa, the natives expressed great pity for him because he had lost his color; they constantly mourned over the unhappy lot of the white man, and would have been quite unwilling to change complexions with him. Mungo received their sympathy with a countenance becomingly solemn, but the chances are more than even that what they regarded as a misfortune was by him considered a blessing. “Give me a bed of ice and a pillow of snow,” said a moribund Laplander in Italy, “and I shall die happy.” A refrigerating couch of this kind would be comfortless in the extreme to a countryman of Pauline Borghese.

A comparatively small portion of the human race lives, or would wish to live, beneath the surface of the globe. Most of us rarely go there voluntarily, and our first visits of any important duration are made after we have shuffled off this mortal coil and invoked the aid of the sexton. Then we are carried there without protest, and the earth is filled above us in sufficient depth to guard us against ordinary intrusions. We may be certain that none of our friends will come in living flesh to join us, and when death brings them to our side their slumbers will be as long and peaceful as our own. The earth, beneath its surface, is regarded by many, as the dwelling-place of Death, to be contemplated with a shudder, and to be visited only when life has left us.

But have they ever considered how much of life there is which the light of day does not reveal? The plants in our [Pg 29] gardens have their roots in the rich soil prepared for their sustenance; remove those roots, and the plants fall and die. The trees of the forest spread their branches and unfold their leaves to sun and storm, but there are other branches spread below which sometimes extend more widely than those above. Through these lower limbs, hidden from the light of the sun and sheltered from the peltings of the pitiless storm, life comes to the trunk and to the upper branches. Lay bare these lower branches, and tear them from the earth, and the tree soon withers and perishes. The grass carpets the meadow, the flowers adorn the hill-sides, wheat and corn grow in the fields, the trees spread their shading limbs and drop their fruits in their season, and without these the world would be desolate. But all have their existence underground, and they cling as tenaciously to the bosom of Mother Earth as the men who walk among or upon them cling to that mysterious element which we call life.

WEALTH UNDERGROUND.

A great portion of the wealth of the globe lies beneath its surface. Gold and silver form the circulating medium of all civilized and many savage people. Their possession is wealth, as the lack of them is poverty; their coming brings happiness, and their departure leaves misery. From the earth they are taken, and in their pursuit men undergo many privations and suffer many hardships. The diamond that sparkles on delicate fingers has been washed from the accumulations which many centuries had piled above it. Iron, copper, tin, and other metals are sought by the light of the miner’s lamp, far away from the rays of the sun, and sometimes in long tunnels pushed beneath the ever-restless ocean. Ages and ages ago the hand of Nature deposited beds of coal in every quarter of the globe, and to-day they afford light and heat to millions of the human race. Down, down, hundreds and thousands of feet below the surface of the earth these coal-beds are spread, sometimes over areas many miles in extent, and promising a supply of fuel for many centuries to come. Thousands of men find profitable employment in these mines; and but for their labors, those of us who live above the surface would often suffer the pangs of cold.

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VALUE OF COAL AND IRON.

As the coal burns brightly in our grates and fills our rooms with heat, do we think of the many centuries it has been awaiting our use, and of the toil that has placed it in our control? As we look at the great network of railways, spreading over our continent, bringing north and south, east and west, nearer together, annihilating time and space (and sometimes annihilating people), do we think that but for the mines of coal and iron our country to-day would be little better than it was half a century ago, and much of its area, now rich in commercial and agricultural prosperity, would be little else than a wilderness? To coal and iron the world owes much of its present advancement, and both these substances come from beneath the surface of the earth.

The most valuable minerals, and those which employ the greatest amount of capital, are of comparatively recent exploitation. Iron has done more good to the world than gold, and is many times more valuable; but gold was known and used long before iron was discovered. Coal is more valuable than copper, and gold, and diamonds; the world could go on without these last, as other minerals could take their places, but nothing now known could take the place of coal. From many parts of the globe the forest primeval has been removed, and countries that a few hundred years ago were thickly wooded are now almost denuded of timber. Should the working of coal mines cease to-day, there would speedily ensue a scarcity of fuel, and, if prolonged, this scarcity would result in much suffering and death. The exploitation of coal is one of the great interests of the British Isles, and is of no inconsiderable importance in the United States. More than two thirds of the mining enterprise of the world is devoted to it; yet this substance, possessing no beauty, and to a casual observer devoid of all merit, is included among the most recently discovered minerals. “Time’s noblest offspring is its last.”

FUNNY EXPERIENCE OF A NOVICE.

To most people the underground life of the miner is a mystery. Comparatively few of those who walk the earth to-day have ever been farther within it than to the bottom of a cellar; and in many localities even this experience has been denied to [Pg 31] the inhabitants, for the reason that no cellars are found there. If an enumeration were made to-day of all persons in the United States who have ever been underground more than fifty feet from the surface, and more than one hour at a time, the number would be found surprisingly small. I once accompanied a gentleman from Boston in a descent into a mine a hundred feet in depth, and having a single gallery about eighty feet long, leading from the foot of the shaft. It was an old story to me, but a new one to my Boston friend, who clung to the rope of our bucket as convulsively as a drowning man would clutch a life buoy. When we reached the bottom, and crept along the low gallery, his heart beat violently, and he several times wished himself safe above ground. When we finished our exploration, and returned to the upper air, I asked him what he thought of the mine.

“Most wonderful thing I ever saw,” he replied. “I never knew much about mines, and didn’t suppose they were so deep. Wonderful, certainly.”

“What would you think,” I asked, “if I should take you into a mine twenty times as deep as this, and having miles of galleries underground, where you could walk a whole day without going through all of them?”

His face assumed the most puzzled expression I ever saw on a human being, and he was speechless for a full minute. When he regained his voice, he said,—

“You might tell me of such a mine, and I should be obliged to believe you, though I can hardly conceive one could be made so large. But as for taking me into such a place, you could never do it without tying me and carrying me there. Catch me in such a place as that, never.”

I told him the story of the boy who went from home for the first time in his life to accompany his father to a grist-mill, about three miles away. When the boy returned, he was thoughtful for a long time, and finally remarked that he never supposed the world was so large.

The miner’s life is one of vicissitudes and dangers. He is shut out from the light of day, and depends upon his lamp or [Pg 32] candle, instead of the sun and moon. Shut up in the earth, all is night to him; and whether the sun shines or is obscured by clouds, whether the moon is in the heavens, surrounded by twinkling stars, or the whole dome above is wrapped in darkness, makes little difference to him. All is night, and without his artificial light, all is blackest darkness. The changes that follow the earth’s daily revolutions are unknown to the miner as he performs his work, and if he remained continually below, the seasons might come and go without his knowledge. Summer’s heat and winter’s frost do not reach him; there is for him but one season—the season that has endured for millions of years, and may endure for millions of years to come. The temperature of the surrounding earth, unless varied by that of the air driven to him by the machinery of his mine, or by the heat of his lamp, is the temperature in which he performs his labors. Day and night, spring and autumn, new moon and full moon, may come and go, but they extend not their influence to the depths of the mine.

DANGERS UNDERGROUND.

There are dangers from falls of rock and earth, which may cause immediate death, or enclose their victims in a living tomb. There are dangers from water, which may enter suddenly, flood the mine, and drown all who cannot reach the opening in time to escape. There are dangers from the atmosphere, which may become foul, and leave him who breathes it lying dead, far away from those who would gladly assist him, but would lose their lives should they go to his rescue. His light grows dim, and warns him of his peril; as he starts for a place of safety the light goes out, and in blackest darkness he falls and dies, unless speedily rescued. There are dangers from fire, where the atmosphere becomes charged with inflammable gas; it is lighted by an accident, and an explosion follows, in which dozens and sometimes hundreds of men are killed. There are dangers from fire outside the mine, as in the horrible affair of Avondale. There are dangers from the breaking of ropes, and the derangement of machinery, from the carelessness of those whose duty it is to exercise the utmost caution, and from other causes to be hereafter enumerated. [Pg 33] And yet with all these perils there is no lack of men ready to meet them, as there is no lack of men ready to meet the perils and dangers of all branches of industry. Laborers can always be found for any honest employment, and too often for employment quite outside the bounds of honesty.

EARLY LIFE UNDERGROUND.

The earliest life underground was in caves of natural formation. All over the globe there are caverns where men have lived, sometimes under concealment, sometimes for sanitary reasons, and sometimes because they saved the labor of constructing houses. Some of these caverns are of great dimensions, and could furnish shelter for thousands of men, while others are adapted to the wants of only a few persons. Many caverns and caves are not available as dwelling-places, but are visited only from motives of curiosity on the part of travellers, or from a desire for gain on the part of those who seek whatever may be valuable. Many caves have histories romantic or tragic, and some of them combine romance and tragedy in about equal proportions. Tales of love and war, of fidelity and treachery, and of all the contending passions and experiences of human nature, can be found in the histories of these excavations which have been made by no mortal hands.

Metaphorically, there is a great deal of underground life above the surface of the earth. Men devote time, and patience, and study to the acquisition of wealth by measures that are as far removed from the light of honesty as the tunnel the miner drives beneath the mountain is removed from the light of the sun. One builds a reputation which another burrows beneath and destroys, as the engineers at Hell Gate undertook to destroy the rocky reef which sunk the ships of many a navigator, from the days of Hendrick Hudson to Gen. Newton. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, but it is not always hope for better things.

MINING IN METAPHOR.

Dishonest men hope for wealth, they care not how obtained, and in its pursuit they frequently imitate the labors of the miner. Shafts are sunk and tunnels are driven; the pick, the drill, and the powder-blast perform their work; operations are [Pg 34] silently and secretly conducted, and all unknown to the outer world; dangers of falls of earth, of floods of water, of choke-damp, and fire-damp, are unheeded, and by and by the prize may be obtained. A great city, in its moral or immoral life, is cut and seamed with subterranean excavations more extensive than those of the richest coal-fields of England or Belgium. Wall Street is a mining centre greater than the whole of Pennsylvania, and to one who knows it intimately it reveals daily more shafts and tunnels than can be found in Nevada or Colorado. The career of a politician is not unlike that of the miner, though it is frequently much more difficult to follow. The miner may be tracked and found, but there is many a politician whose devious windings would baffle the keenest detective that ever lived.


To describe underground life in its many phases is the object of this volume. The experience of the miner is full of adventures of an exciting character; so exciting, indeed, that there is no occasion to use fiction in place of fact. The hardships, the difficulties, and the dangers that surround him who labors beneath the earth’s surface might form the basis of a story more interesting than the most skilfully constructed romance ever printed. It is an old adage, that Truth is stranger than Fiction: the experience of the miner affords better illustrations of the correctness of this adage than does that of any other laborer. Especially is this the case if we consider Underground Life in its metaphoric as well as in its literal sense, and note the devious and hidden ways in which many of our fellow-men pass the greater part of their existence.

AUSTIN, NEVADA, SIX THOUSAND FEET ABOVE THE SEA. THE METROPOLIS OF THE REESE RIVER DISTRICT. SILVER FIRST DISCOVERED AT THIS POINT IN JULY, 1862.

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II.

DISCOVERY OF COAL.

SAVAGE THEORIES ABOUT COAL.—EXPERIENCE OF A SIBERIAN EXPLORING PARTY.—BURNING BLACK STONES.—MINERAL FUEL AMONG THE ANCIENTS.—THEIR MOTIVE POWER.—CHINESE TRADITIONS.—CHINESE GAS WELLS.—HISTORY OF COAL IN ENGLAND.—A ROYAL EDICT.—CURIOUS STORY OF THE MINER OF PLENEVAUX.—EXTENT OF COAL FIELDS THROUGHOUT THE GLOBE.—THE QUAKER AND THE YANKEE PEDLER.—THE FIRST ANTHRACITE.—BELLINGHAM BAY AND THE CHINOOKS.—HOW COAL WAS FORMED.—INTERVIEWING A REPTILE.—THEORIES OF THE ANCIENTS.—RIVERS OF OIL OF VITRIOL.—ANCIENT AND MODERN FIRE WORSHIPPERS.

In the autumn of 1865, a small party connected with the survey of a telegraph route through North-eastern Asia, was landed at the mouth of the Anadyr River, near Behring’s Straits. Another party was landed in Kamchatka, and proceeded over land towards the north. They made constant inquiries about the Anadyr party, and at last learned from a band of wandering aboriginals that some white men had been left by a fire ship (steamer) near the mouth of the river, and were living in a small house which they had constructed partly of boards, partly of bushes, and partly of earth. The savages described them as the most wonderful white men they had ever seen. “They have,” said one of the savages, “an iron box, and they burn black stones in it to make a fire.” These savages had never seen a stove, and they had never seen coal. To their untutored minds the work of the white men was something wonderful.

It is probable that the comparatively recent discovery of mineral coal is due in a great measure to its close resemblance to stone. A savage or civilized man knows that an ordinary stone, whether white, red, blue, green, or gray, will not burn; then why should he suppose that a black stone [Pg 38] will burn? Until a comparatively recent date there has been no great demand for coal as fuel. Many parts of the world at the present day are covered with immense forests, and for a hundred and perhaps thousands of years there will be no occasion in these localities to make use of the mineral fuel.

COAL AMONG THE ANCIENTS.

It is supposed that the Greeks and Romans had some knowledge of fossil fuel, but they made very little use of it, partly for the reason that they did not know the proper way to burn it, and partly because the forests in those days furnished all the fuel needed for industrial purposes. There were no manufactories and smelting establishments, and the working of metals was carried on in a very primitive way. Wood and charcoal were the only fuel, and most of the countries inhabited at that early day were favored with a warm climate, that for the most part of the year was comfortable enough by day, while blankets and other bed-clothing gave sufficient warmth by night. The laws of heat were not known; the pressure of vapor was not even thought of, or suspected; and mechanical force was derived from wind, from water, and from animated beings.

When the winds did not blow the galleys were rowed by convicts, and in the absence of a stream of water, animals, and sometimes men, turned the mill.

Occasionally in building aqueducts, large beds of coal were laid bare, but no attention was paid to them. In making one aqueduct, a branch of a canal was cut through a bed of rock, and at the bottom of that bed a valuable seam of coal was found, but nobody appears to have troubled his head about it. It is supposed by most writers that the discovery of coal occurred in the East. The Chinese have been credited with the discovery and invention of nearly everything in the world except the discovery of America and the invention of the electric telegraph. It is pretty certain that they were acquainted with mineral fuel from a very remote antiquity. They knew how to work it, and apply it to industrial uses, such as baking porcelain, drying tea, and the like. The Chinese, for hundreds of years, used to bake porcelain with [Pg 39] mineral coal. It is only recently that mineral coal has been substituted for charcoal for this very same purpose in France, and it has been found to be quite economical.

CHINESE FIRE WELLS.

The Chinese knew how to collect the gases which came from coal, and they used them for illuminating. The accounts of the early missionaries state that from time immemorial the Chinese used to bore into the earth in search of gas, and when they found it they conveyed it in pipes to the places where it was wanted. Gas was not used for illuminating in Europe until quite recently.

Historians also say that for many centuries mines of coal have been worked in the Celestial Empire, but that the working was in a very barbarous fashion. Many of their coal mines consist of open cuttings; when they went underground they took but little care to construct drains or support the subterranean ways, and they took no precaution whatever against explosions of fire-damp, which often proved fatal. Their working of mines to-day is in the same barbarous fashion of centuries ago, and one might be pardoned for thinking, like the boy who was trying to learn the alphabet, that it was hardly worth while to go through so much to accomplish so little.

In England there are evidences to show that coal was known to the Romans, and possibly to the Britons before the Roman invasion; but it was only worked at the outcrops of the coal seams. No mention is made of coal until the time of Henry II. In 1259 a charter was granted to the Freemen of Newcastle, giving them the liberty “to dig for cole,” and a few years later coal was carried to London.

In 1306 Parliament petitioned the king to prevent the importation of coal, and Edward I. issued a proclamation forbidding the use of mineral fuel. Coal was worked to some extent in the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, and by the beginning of the seventeenth century the English coal mines were in full operation. In 1615 four thousand English ships were employed in the coal trade. The coal mines of Belgium were opened about the [Pg 40] same time as those of England. The Belgian coal miners tell a curious story of the discovery of coal, in the twelfth century, at the village of Plenevaux, near Liège. One of the old chroniclers gives the account as follows:—

THE MINER OF PLENEVAUX.

“Houillos, a farrier, at Plenevaux, was so poor as not to be able to earn enough for his wants, not having sometimes bread enough to give to his wife and children. One day, being without work, he almost made up his mind to put an end to his life, when an old man, with a white beard, entered his shop. They entered into conversation. Houillos told him his troubles; that, being a disciple of St. Eloi, he worked in iron, blowing the bellows himself to save the expense of an assistant. He could easily realize some advantages if charcoal was not so dear, as it was that which ruined him.

“The good old man was moved even to tears. ‘My friend,’ said he to the farrier, ‘go to the neighboring mountain, dig up the ground, and you will find a black earth suitable for the forge.’

“No sooner said than done. Houillos went to the spot pointed out, found the earth as predicted, and having thrown it into the fire, proceeded to forge a horseshoe at one heating. Transported with joy, he would not keep the precious discovery to himself, but communicated it to his neighbors, and even to his brother farriers. A grateful posterity has bestowed his name to coal, which is called, in French, Houille.

“His memory is still cherished by all the miners of Liège, who frequently tell the story of the honest collier, or of the old coal miner, as they delight in calling him. The miners say it was an angel who showed him the spot where the coal was.”

It is not positively known when the first discovery of coal was made in the United States. Some historians say that it was before the Revolutionary war, while others say it was since that time. It is certain that coal mining has not been extensively prosecuted on the American continent until within the past fifty years.

IMPRESSIONS OF PLANTS FOUND IN COAL.
DISCOVERY OF ANTHRACITE COAL IN PENNSYLVANIA, IN 1768.—INTRODUCED AS FUEL FOR RAILWAY LOCOMOTIVES IN 1836.

There is an old story told somewhere of a discovery of coal in [Pg 43] Pennsylvania by one of the Quaker settlers in the mountains, not far from where Scranton now stands. According to the story-teller,—but I cannot vouch for his correctness,—the Quaker settler, who was familiar with coal in England, discovered a peculiar stone, which seemed to him almost identical with the substance which he had used in England for fuel. He carried some of it home, and threw it in the fire. He found that it became red, and was consumed, but that it would only ignite when there was a very hot fire of wood around it. The coal with which he had been familiar would burn quite readily, and gave off a thick black smoke; but the substance which he had discovered gave neither smoke nor flame. He wondered at this, and concluded that the substance which he found was worthless.

THE QUAKER AND THE YANKEE.

One day a traveller, whom the story-teller converts into a Yankee pedler, came along. As they sat by the evening fire, the Quaker told him of the peculiar region they were in, and of the remarkable stones which he had discovered. He threw a few fragments upon the fire, and in a little while they became red and were consumed.

The traveller insisted that the substance was valuable; that it was probably good coal, but the great difficulty was to make it burn. After gossiping a while about the matter, the traveller went to bed.

During the night he pondered over the matter, and in the morning asked his Quaker friend to take him to the spot where he had found the black stone. The spot was shown him; he examined the substance carefully. The Quaker carried to the house a considerable quantity of the substance, and then the Yankee said,—

“I think we can make this stuff burn if we can only draw a fire through it. Now, what we want to do is to fix up something so as to make the fire go where we want it to.”

The Quaker assented to the proposition, and asked if it were possible.

The Yankee said, “Yes. I know how it can be done; but before I tell you I want to buy half of the land where you found that stone.”

[Pg 44]

A bargain was struck very speedily, and the Yankee hunted around the establishment, and found a piece of sheet iron, which he fashioned into a blower. He then built up a small, narrow fire-place, and fitted his blower to the front. “The next thing,” said he, “is to make something like a grate;” and they took some rods of iron and fashioned them into a rude grate.

“Now,” said the Yankee to the Quaker, “build a good fire of wood, so that it will fill the bottom of that grate.”

The Quaker followed the directions, and when the fire was well started, the Yankee threw a peck or so of the coal on the top and put up the blower. The fire was drawn directly among the fragments of coal; in a little while the blower was removed, and the coal was found to be a red, burning mass, which threw off an intense heat.

Both were delighted with the discovery; and thus was opened the first anthracite coal mine in America.

DISCOVERY AT BELLINGHAM BAY.

A story was once told to me, on the Pacific coast, concerning the discovery of coal at Bellingham Bay, in British Columbia. The narrator said that a party of men connected with the Hudson Bay Company’s service, was at one time in the camp of a family of Chinook Indians. The Indians told them that a few days before, in a locality which they had visited, they had attempted to build a fire. The wind was blowing, and in order to shield their fire they piled some stones around it. Among these were two or three large black stones, which they had picked up on the surface. Great was their astonishment, when the fire was under way, to see these black stones ignite and burn. They thought it something mysterious, and immediately ascribed it to the work of the devil, just as a great many savage and civilized people are inclined to attribute anything they do not understand to His Satanic Majesty. Next day they guided the white men to the spot. It was found that a vein of coal outcropped upon the surface, and gave sure indications of a rich deposit below.

ANNUAL COAL PRODUCT.

The annual production of coal throughout the entire world [Pg 45] is roughly estimated at about two hundred millions of tons. More than half of this coal is produced in Great Britain. About twenty millions of tons are mined in North America, and the rest mainly in Belgium, France, and Prussia. The production of other countries is comparatively insignificant. Coal is the most valuable mineral substance known. The amount of coal taken from the earth every year is double the value of all the gold, silver, and diamonds annually produced. In the great World’s Fair of London in 1851, when the famous Kohinoor diamond attracted thousands of curious spectators, there was one day a lump of coal placed near the case containing the Kohinoor. The lump bore this brief label: “This is the real Kohinoor diamond.”

America to-day is of far less importance as a coal producer than Great Britain, but she is destined to become eventually the great coal producer of the world. At the present time there is much anxiety in England about the exhaustion in a few hundred years of the coal fields in the British Isles. The United Kingdom contains nine thousand square miles of coal fields; France, Belgium, Spain, Prussia, and other German states, together, about two thousand seven hundred square miles of coal fields; other countries, not including America, contain about twenty-nine thousand, while North America, including the British colonies, contains about one hundred and eighty thousand square miles of coal fields. It will thus be seen that the area of the North American coal fields is four times as great as all those of the other countries of the globe. Of this immense extent of coal deposits, a very small portion has yet been touched, and consequently for thousands of years to come our country can supply the world.

HOW COAL WAS FORMED.

Coal was formed at a very remote geological period. Scientific men differ as to the exact age of this substance. Their differences are trivial, however, being only a few millions of years; but they all agree that at the time coal was formed there were wide jungles and swamps that covered a large portion of the earth’s surface. The atmosphere was very moist, and probably contained a much larger proportion of [Pg 46] carbonic acid than at the present time. This gas is one which especially promotes the growth of plants. It is, and was, probably unfavorable to the existence of animal life; and it has been suggested that the gradual withdrawal of the carbonic acid by the growth of vegetation of that period slowly purified the atmosphere, and brought it to the condition in which we now find it. The earth at that time was not fitted for the habitation of man. If man had existed at that period, he would have needed fins in the place of hands and feet, and would have required lungs like those of fishes, instead of those which he now possesses. There was an abundant population of reptiles and of insects, and there was a liberal supply of fishes.

Many of these fishes, reptiles, and insects are unknown at the present day. They performed their work, if work they had to do, and disappeared. Their remains are found in the coal seams and in the rocks which lie above or beneath the coal, and form an interesting subject of study.

Some of the reptiles were enormously large. Remains have been found of a lizard more than one hundred feet long, with an open countenance, that could have taken in an ordinary man about as easily as a chicken swallows a fly. The skeletons of these reptiles are found, and I think that most people who examine these skeletons are inclined to give a sigh of relief when they remember that such creatures are now extinct. They would be very disagreeable travelling companions, and one might be very much disinclined to meet them in a narrow lane on a dark night.

Some years ago I examined the skeleton of a reptile discovered in the Mississippi Valley, and though the bones were cold and motionless, I had the wish to keep at a respectful distance from them. He had a mouth that reminded one of the extension top of a patent carriage; and when his jaw was pushed back, it seemed to me that he could have walked down his own throat without the slightest difficulty.

CONVERSION OF PEAT TO COAL.

The most plausible and reasonable theory of the formation of coal seems to be that it is for the most part the remains of vegetable matter which had become decomposed and changed [Pg 47] to mineral on the spot where it remained and is now found. The fibrous tissues of the aquatic vegetation flourished like a thick carpet on the moist surface. It became mingled and matted together, as we now find turf and peat in peat bogs, and in swamps and marshes. On the borders of great lakes, which in time were built up and became swamps, these plains extended, and underwent slow depression. Layers of sand and other substances were carried down below the level of the sea, which we now find among and alternating with the coal seams in the shape of beds of shales and sandstones. Then another system of lagoons formed above them, and allowed new jungles to spring up and new marshes to be formed. These were in turn depressed and covered by the waters. In this way, step by step, the coal beds were built up. According to geologists, each coal seam represents a depressed swamp, while the intervening strata of sandstone, and shale, and clay, mark the various sediments which were brought together by the action of the waters.

The coal beds contain many impressions of plants and portions of plants, so that geologists have been able to determine the nature of the vegetation of that period. There are a great many mosses and ferns, some of the latter having thick, broad stems, and long and heavy leaves. One geologist says there are one hundred and seventy-seven specimens of plants found in single coal beds. He says there are no palms, nor grasses, nor flowering plants; and for this reason he considers that the coal beds were formed from plants of a marshy growth.

The layers of peat, after being covered by shales, sandstone, and limestone, were compressed beneath the enormous weight of the over-lying strata, and while undergoing this compression, there was a sort of distillation and purifying process going on. In this way the plants and peat, originally loosely matted together, became more and more compressed, and by means of the heat and pressure were entirely decomposed. Ultimately the substance was turned into what we now find it, and the coal was stored up for future ages.

The ancients had curious theories in regard to the formation [Pg 48] of coal. They regarded it as streams of bitumen, which had become petrified, or had impregnated certain very porous kinds of rock. Another theory which they entertained was, that forests had been carbonized on the spot where they grew, or had been transformed by streams of sulphurous acid, which possesses the property of hardening and carbonizing wood. It is easy to attribute the origin of coal to the agency of rivers of bitumen, and oil of vitriol; but it is not easy to say where those rivers came from.

SACRED FIRE WELLS.

The Chinese have a theory that coal is a species of plant of which the seed was deposited in the earth ages and ages ago, and that it grew and spread in different parts of the empire where it is now found, in order that the Chinese of to-day might have a sufficient supply of fuel. They attribute the streams of inflammable gas, which they collect and utilize, to the breathings of an immense monster below the surface of the earth, and in some localities they call him the first cousin of the God of Fire. The God of Fire is one of the Chinese deities. He occupies a prominent place in the temples, and is worshipped with great solemnity. In other parts of the world these streams of gas are worshipped, and in localities along the coast of the Caspian Sea, streams of burning gas are constantly rising, and their sources are known as sacred wells. They are visited by thousands of devotees every year, and are regarded with the greatest reverence.

Wells of similar character exist in the United States, but they are mostly of artificial origin. They are found in the vicinity of Oil Creek, and that region of Western Pennsylvania which has been baptized as Petrolia. Thousands of devotees have worshipped in the vicinity of these wells, and many of them owe their fortunes to the modern God of Fire; but it is doubtful if many of them worship the wells with that religious devotion and reverence which are found among the fire worshippers of the far east.

A WIRE TRAMWAY.

A novelty in the way of carrying coal may be seen at the Harewood coal mine, at Nanaimo, British Columbia. The mines are situated at a considerable elevation above the sea-level, and [Pg 51] the intermediate ground is covered with trees and rocks, while several deep ravines intercept the grounds. Under such circumstances, the construction of a railway would be costly and require much time, as several viaducts would be required, and the road at some places would have to make considerable curves. The proprietor of the mines therefore decided to avoid all these difficulties, on putting up a wire tramway in a direct line from the mine to the port, by means of which the ravines could be spanned without expense, and the timber on the ground could be converted into the necessary posts.

There are in all ninety-seven posts, put up to such a height that the wire spanned over them forms a softly inclining plane. The distance between them is from 150 to 250 feet. The wire rope is of the best crucible steel, specially made for the purpose, and is 6-1/2 miles in length; each post having a pair of groove-pulleys two feet in diameter, over which the wire moves. The rope is driven at the lower end by an engine of 20 horse-power, which is sufficient to drive the line when carrying 12 tons per hour.

The driving machinery is fitted with drums 10 feet in diameter; at the mine the rope simply passes round a 10-foot drum. Two hundred and fifty iron buckets, each with a capacity of 2 cwt. of coal, are fitted with a patent hanger and box-head, by means of which all jolting, when passing over the supports, is avoided. This tramway has been transporting, during eight months, about 120 tons of coal per day, and no accident or stoppage has occurred.

WIRE RAILWAY AT THE HARWOOD COAL MINES, BRITISH COLUMBIA.

Many other tramways of the same nature have been recently put in operation in various parts of the world, as, for instance, in Mauritius, where they have been successfully applied to the carriage of sugar-cane; also in New Zealand, where they are used for carrying manganese ore.

ESTIMATE OF COAL.

This means of conveyance is certainly a very practical and inexpensive one; it does away with railroad material, engines, engineers, the consumption of coal, etc., and may be applied over the deepest ravines, where it would almost be an impossibility to build a railroad, unless a bridge were built, at enormous [Pg 52] expense and labor. Let us conclude this article by giving the following estimate, in round numbers, of the world’s present annual production of coal. It is taken from various sources, and may be considered approximately correct.

Tons. Per cent.
Great Britain, 127,016,747 46.4
United States, 50,512,000 18.4
Germany, 45,335,741 16.5
France, 17,400,000 6.4
Belgium, 17,000,000 6.2
Austria and Hungary, 11,000,000 4.0
Russia, 1,200,000 0.5
Spain, 570,000 0.2
Portugal, 18,000 ——
Nova Scotia, 1,051,567 0.4
Australia, 1,000,000 0.4
India, 500,000 0.2
Other countries, 1,000,000 0.4
————— ——
273,704,055 100.0

[Pg 53]

III.

BORINGS AND SHAFTS.

HOW COAL MINES ARE DISCOVERED.—OUTCROPPINGS.—SCIENTIFIC RESEARCHES.—HOW A MARBLE QUARRY WAS FOUND.—BORING A WELL, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.—A LOCAL DEBATING SOCIETY.—INTIMATE RELATIONS OF COAL MINES AND THE STEAM ENGINE.—STRIKING OIL.—“DAD’S STRUCK ILE.”—THE UNHAPPY MAIDEN’S FATE.—COAL INSTEAD OF WATER.—THE TOOLS TO BE USED.—A DEEP HOLE.—TERRIBLE ACCIDENT, AND A MINER’S COOLNESS.—SINKING SHAFTS.—AN INGENIOUS APPARATUS.—ACCIDENTS IN SHAFTS.—REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW.

Until the beginning of the present century coal mines were discovered more by accident than in any other way. The coal seams make their appearance at the surface, that is, they “crop out,” or “come to grass,” as the miners say. Coal on the surface is generally of a poor character, for the reason that it has been for many hundreds of years subject to the action of the elements; but on digging down a few feet, or a few dozen feet, the quality is found to be greatly improved. When coal is thus found at the surface, a preliminary examination is conducted by cutting trenches, galleries, and pits, and if the conditions are favorable, the actual working of the mine can begin. Sometimes the mine is operated by a few cuttings, like the works of an ordinary stone quarry.

DISCOVERING COAL MINES.

Most coal mines have been discovered and opened in this way; but when the coal is concealed beneath the soil, and nothing is observed on the surface, it is discovered by chance, or by geological indications. At the present day many coal mines are discovered by means of railway cuttings, or in sinking wells. Other mines are discovered in this way. Some twenty years ago, while a railway was constructing in Vermont, the workmen came upon a bed of marble, and it was found to be quite extensive. Speculators bought the land in [Pg 54] the vicinity, and thus the Vermont marble quarry came into existence.

In 1813 a well was sunk at La Sarthe, in France. Amongst the rubbish a black earth was noticed, which was sent to a provincial debating society at Le Mans. An extraordinary meeting of the society was called, and somebody suggested that this black earth might be coal. It was immediately tried in the stove in the room where the meeting was held, and it was found that the earth burned readily. An investigation followed. Careful examinations were made, and valuable coal mines were opened in the vicinity.

Some of the mines in the United States have been discovered in places where burrowing animals had thrown up the earth. Decomposed coal retains its original blackness; in several instances where it was found in the earth thus thrown up, careful observations were made, and work was immediately begun in search of coal. Some valuable mines have been opened in this way.

Many of the coal mines in France and Belgium, and also in other countries, have been found in consequence of the explorations of geologists. In the year 1716 a very skilful coal miner in Belgium made a series of explorations, and discovered very valuable mines. Under his direction they were explored for several years, but the works were at length abandoned, in consequence of the accumulation of water. In all parts of the world miners have always found great difficulty in proceeding in consequence of the interruptions caused by water, and until the steam engine was invented there was an absence of sufficient power for its removal.

ENTRANCE TO A COAL MINE.
DOWN IN A COAL MINE.
INVENTING THE STEAM ENGINE.

In the eighteenth century deep pits in the Newcastle coal fields were filled with water, and it was necessary to drain these pits before the coal could be taken out. The ordinary pump was not sufficient for the purpose, and a more powerful engine became necessary. Inventions seem to come at a time when they are most needed. When the necessity for a powerful pump was greatest, the steam engine was invented. Savery, Newcomen, and Watt succeeded each other. Captain [Pg 57] Savery constructed one of his “fire engines” to lift water from one of the Cornish mines; but the power of the engine was not great, and the quantity of water raised was exceedingly small.

Newcomen invented the atmospheric steam engine, in which the piston was lifted by steam, and when this was condensed the piston was forced to the bottom of the cylinder by the pressure of the atmosphere. Afterwards Watt improved upon the engine, and overcame the difficulty of removing the vast accumulations of water in the deep mines, about the middle of the eighteenth century.

There is a curious relation between coal mines and the steam engine. The latter was invented among the former, and without its application to pumping purposes the invention would have been to a great extent worthless, for by means of the very substance raised from the mines the engine is kept in motion. The mines thus furnished the material with which the engine is operated, and only with the aid of the engine can the coal mines be properly worked.

In the petroleum regions of America the borings and pumpings are frequently conducted by means of the gas which rises from the earth. Very often a steam engine is run without any other fuel than a stream of natural gas, conveyed beneath the boiler, and fed through a proper distributing apparatus.

To the coal mine we are also indebted for that great boon of modern civilization, the railway.

Coal is a heavy, bulky article, selling at a low price. Not only must it be removed from the earth, but it must be carried at a cheap rate, and often for long distances. Where there is no water communication the roads are the only mode of conveyance. Originally common earth roads were used, and the coal was carried in ordinary carts. These, roads were improved, and, after a time, were in the condition of stone causeways, or macadamized tracks. Afterwards wooden tracks were used, over which the wheels would roll more easily than upon ordinary roads. These wooden tracks were at first placed in the underground ways of the mines, and afterwards extended to the ways above ground.

[Pg 58]

INVENTION OF THE RAILWAY.

But wood is not durable; it soon rots and wears away. The wooden tracks were subsequently replaced by others of cast iron; originally these were grooved, but subsequently they were furnished with a lateral flange. Afterwards wrought iron was substituted for cast iron. In the first instance strips of cast iron were placed upon wooden rails, forming the old-fashioned strap rail. Afterwards was invented the ordinary rail as we now find it. The flange was removed from the rail, and placed upon the wheel, and thus, step by step, the modern railway came into existence.

Something more was wanted. Cars were propelled by means of horse or man power. It was necessary to apply the steam engine to the work of transportation. Trefethick, a Cornish miner, constructed a locomotive with a simple boiler, like that of a stationary engine; but the heating surface and the motive power were too small. It was not then supposed that the wheels would turn upon a smooth rail and move forward, and so the driving wheel was toothed and worked in a rack. The speed was less than that of a carriage drawn by horses. George Stephenson, an old coal miner, completed the locomotive.

Seguin, in France, about the same time, invented the tubes which run through the locomotive boiler, and afford a passage to the flames. They greatly increased the evaporating surface, and consequently the production of steam. Stephenson discharged into the chimney the steam which had acted upon the piston, and thus gave a great draft to the furnaces. The locomotive was then complete, and since that day it has only been improved in its details.

We have wandered a little from the search for coal to speak of the steam engine, the locomotive, and the railway.

BORING FOR COAL.

Many coal mines have been discovered by borings in search of artesian springs. About thirty years ago, in one of the French provinces, a well was being bored, and, quite unexpectedly, the boring tools revealed the presence of coal. As soon as this became known, everybody went to work searching, not for water, but for coal. In a region sixty miles long [Pg 59] by twelve or fifteen wide, the ground was perforated like a sieve, by a series of borings which were laid down on a plan that seemed to resemble a constellation of stars on a celestial map. Everywhere coal was found, and altogether one hundred thousand acres of coal fields were added to the wealth of France. Nearly thirty companies were organized to work the new mines. Since the discovery about fifty pits have been sunk, some of them to a depth of five hundred yards. In 1851 the mines produced five thousand tons of coal. At the present day their product is not far from twenty millions of tons. All this originated in a search for water.

The process of boring for coal is very much like, in fact almost identical with, boring for petroleum. The boring rods are of wood, or iron, and are screwed together as the work proceeds. The primitive instrument is a steel chisel, or bit, which strikes the rock and wears it away, precisely as an ordinary drill makes a hole in a stone ledge. Boring machinery may be operated by steam power or by hand. In the primitive way, a triangle, or pair of shears, supports the rods, and has an ordinary windlass, by which they may be raised or lowered.

One of the inconveniences attending the ordinary process of boring is, that the rock is pulverized, and nothing but little fragments of dust and mud are brought to the surface. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the stones through which the borer has passed are the proper ones to indicate the existence of coal, or whether the black matter comes from coal or shales. All these disadvantages have been overcome by means of a new instrument, which is in general use. A gouge in the form of a hollow cylinder is employed, furnished at the base with a row of teeth, or with several cutting blades of cast steel, and sometimes with a row of diamonds. It is worked like an ordinary borer or auger, and cuts a solid column or cylinder out of the rock as regular in shape as if it had been turned in a lathe.

When this cylinder has been cut to a sufficient length, it is [Pg 60] broken off by means of the gouge bit, or grapnel, which seizes it and brings it to the surface. The boring tool will cut a hole eight inches in diameter, leaving a pillar of rock in the centre which can be broken off at any desired length and brought to daylight. By means of this rock, the fossils in the stone may be studied, together with the structure of the strata, and all its peculiarities. Beautiful specimens of rock are frequently obtained in this way from great depths. Some borings have been made to a depth of nearly two thousand feet, with a diameter varying from eight to twenty inches.

As the boring tool reaches the depth at which the workmen expect to find coal, the operations are conducted with the greatest interest. Every motion of the rod is carefully watched, and when the fragments of rock or earth are brought to the surface, they are examined with great care. When the coal is discovered there is much rejoicing, as it is then certain that the prize has been gained. It is the same in boring for coal as for oil. When a man in Western Pennsylvania has “struck oil,” and, according to the local expression, “struck it rich,” he feels that his fortune is made. More than one man has thus raised himself above his fellows when his search for coal was rewarded with success. An old story, which has been told many times, and will bear telling a good many times more, is not inapplicable here.

“DAD’S STRUCK ILE.”

During the period of the first oil excitement in Pennsylvania, a young man, whom the story represents to have been poor but honest, was paying his attentions to a maiden of his neighborhood. The maiden received his addresses, and the pair were engaged to be married. The father of the damsel was an oil seeker, and one day his search for oil was successful. That evening the young man visited his lady love. She received him coldly. He asked the meaning of the coolness, and she curtly replied, “I can’t marry you.”

“Why?” asked the young man, eagerly.

“Well,” said the girl, “I can’t marry you; dad has struck ile.”

[Pg 61]

The young man went away sorrowing, for he had not great possessions. As the story goes, the damsel, who had been thus suddenly lifted from poverty to wealth in consequence of her father’s oil discovery, remained unmarried for several months, but finally gave her hand to an engaging stranger from New York, who dissipated the family fortune as rapidly as it had been obtained.

ACCIDENT AT CREUZOT.

In 1853 some wealthy gentlemen sought for coal near Creuzot, in France. The spot was carefully selected, and for four years the work went on. The tools penetrated to a depth of more than three thousand feet. This is probably one of the deepest borings ever made. An unforeseen accident stopped the work at that point.

The bore-hole was less than an inch in diameter, and was made by means of a steel chisel fastened into wooden rods, which were screwed together. The boring tool one day became broken at the bottom of the hole. All kinds of grappling implements were lowered to take hold of it, but none of them succeeded. The chisel seemed to be firmly lodged at the bottom, and resisted every attempt to withdraw it. After six months of effort the work was abandoned. One of the parties interested offered to subscribe half a million francs to be given to any one who would invent an instrument that could withdraw the chisel.

Several days after the abandonment of the enterprise, the foreman of the work mounted the staging and made another effort to raise the broken tool. The whole power of the steam engine was exerted in pulling the ends of the rods, when suddenly the rope gave way. The man’s hand was caught and crushed between the rod and one of the planks through which it passed. He stood there and shouted to the man to saw off the rod in order to release him. Then holding the remains of the ruined hand in the uninjured one, he walked to Creuzot, three miles away, and without uttering a word of complaint, underwent amputation at the wrist.

TUBBING A SHAFT.

After the coal is discovered, whether through surface indications or by borings, the preliminary working begins by [Pg 62] means of a shaft and levels. Generally the first step is to sink a shaft or pit. When the ground is soft, the pit must be walled with brick, stone, or timber, as fast as the descent is made. When the pit is sunk through limestone and sandstone, the progress is slow, but the walls sustain themselves, and do not require either masonry or timbering. A great inconvenience in sinking a shaft arises from springs and small streams of water. In many places where this inconvenience occurs, the shaft is fitted with a wooden lining, or tubbing, as it is called, which is made of thick staves somewhat resembling those of casks, the joints being carefully fitted, in order to keep out all water, and to withstand great pressure. Sometimes this tubbing is made of iron, wrought or cast. Where the ground is loose, or composed of sand and water, the tubbing is forced down from the top, or sinks by its own weight. When this tubbing consists of masonry, it is built in a circle at the surface, and as fast as the earth is removed the masonry sinks. A fresh circle is added at the surface, and thus the work goes on. It was in this way that Brunel constructed the shafts which formed the descent into the Thames Tunnel. Sometimes shafts are sunk under water, and in such case they are lowered in a perpendicular position until the ends strike the bottom, and then the water is pumped out. An ingenious apparatus raises the mud from the bottom, and a pump is kept at work to remove the water.

Sometimes, in sinking a shaft through quicksand, the water runs in faster than any ordinary mode of drainage will remove it. M. Triger, an ingenious Frenchman, invented a machine by which the water could be pumped out. The cylinders of iron were five or six feet in diameter, and he divided them into three compartments, as nearly air-tight as possible. He forced compressed air into the lower one, and enclosed the workman inside. The man was thus in a sort of diving-bell. The compressed air, being forced against the bottom of the shaft, prevented the great mass of water from filtering through the sand. The small quantity which filtered in was, by the force of the compressed air, driven through the sand pipe [Pg 63] communicating with the surface. “Imagine an army of mice,” the inventor graphically said to M. Simonin, “and a cat suddenly to make her appearance, and you would have the picture of water reaching the bottom of our shafts through a thousand holes in the ground, if the presence of the air is lowered, and returning suddenly to the surface as soon as the air recovers its tension.”

The rubbish and running sands are removed in buckets by hand, or by means of a rope passing through a pulley. Trapdoors communicate from one stage to the other, by means of which the buckets are removed without any serious loss of the compressed air. Shafts may be sunk through quicksands in this way to a depth of eighty or one hundred feet without difficulty. The laborers who pass their time in the compressed air work as easily as in the open atmosphere. Some of them, however, cannot remain there long, especially if they have the drum of the ear very delicate, or are in the habit of drinking to excess. The pressure of air in the chambers rarely exceeds three or four atmospheres.

AN INGENIOUS APPARATUS.

This apparatus is frequently used for laying the foundation of bridges in the beds of rivers, where there are deep quicksands. The famous bridge of Kehl, near Strasbourg, was constructed in this way, and the engineers say that without some such apparatus the construction of the bridge would have been impossible.

If a shaft has been sunk and properly supported,—that is to say, timbered or walled,—it is generally divided into compartments. The shafts are generally from fifteen to twenty feet in diameter, and consequently there is plenty of space for dividing them. One of the compartments will serve for the tubs, cages, or buckets, in which the coal is raised. Another is for pumps to draw off the water, and sometimes where the miners go up and down by ladders a compartment is made especially for them.

LEGAL NECESSITIES.

In all cases one compartment in the shaft serves as an air-way or chimney, whether the draft is free or not. In some countries the law requires that there shall be more than one [Pg 64] shaft, or opening, to every mine, while in other countries no such law exists. Many of the owners of mines are abandoning the single shaft system, and gradually supplying their mines with more than one entrance. Many terrible accidents, accompanied by a great loss of life, might have been avoided had the mines been constructed with more than one entrance or shaft. A striking example of this is in the terrible calamity at Avondale, a few years ago. The most approved arrangement of shafts for a large mine where there is explosive gas, and where water is to be pumped, is to sink one shaft for the pumps, another for raising coals, and a third for ventilation. At the bottom of the third one a large furnace is always kept burning.

In some of the mines there may be half a dozen shafts. Those through which the coal is drawn are called the winding pits, those where the pumps are fitted are called pumping pits, those where the men go up and down, are called labor shafts, and those for the passage of air are known as air shafts.

In many mining regions there is a class of pits that have been abandoned in consequence of the coal beneath being worked out. Sometimes these pits are made use of for purposes of ventilation. Proper care is not always taken of these abandoned holes, and they form dangerous precipices, through which a careless person may easily fall and be killed. Strangers strolling in the vicinity of mines occasionally step into these shafts and disappear, to be seen no more alive.


[Pg 65]

IV.

ACCIDENTS IN SHAFTS.

ADVENTURE OF THE AUTHOR DESCENDING A SHAFT.—A MINUTE OF PERIL.—LIFTED THROUGH A SHAFT BY ONE LEG.—A COLLISION IN MID-AIR.—SENSATIONS OF THE DESCENT.—A MINER’S VIEWS OF DANGER.—PICTURESQUE SCENE AT A DESCENT.—OFFERING PRAYERS.—SCENE AT A RUSSIAN MINE.—SAFETY CAGES.—THEIR CONSTRUCTION.—A LUDICROUS INCIDENT.—HOW A MAN FAILED TO KEEP AN ENGAGEMENT.—DOWN IN THE SALT MINES OF POLAND.—A PERILOUS DESCENT.—“PLENTY MORE MEN.”—ACCIDENT NEAR SCRANTON.—“PUTTERS.”—HOW GIRLS WERE USED IN SCOTLAND.—MAN ENGINES.—THE LEVELS.—AN ACCIDENT CAUSED BY RATS.—THRILLING AND FATAL ADVENTURE OF TWO PENNSYLVANIA MINERS.—A FEARFUL FALL OF ROOF.—CARRYING A DYING COMRADE TOWARD THE LIGHT OF DAY.—EIGHT HOURS OF MORTAL AGONY.

My first journey down the shaft of a mine had of course a novelty about it, and also partook of the sensational.

It was not a coal mine into which I descended, but a copper mine. We stepped into a basket suspended by a hempen rope, and our conductor gave the signal to start. The engineer slacked away the rope somehow, and we descended rapidly. It seemed to me very much like falling out of a balloon.

I never have fallen out of a balloon, and therefore cannot say positively whether the sensation was like it or not. I have been up in a balloon, and the sensation of going rapidly upward through the air is very much like that of going rapidly downward into the earth.

Down, down, down we went; and though the time was short, it seemed to me pretty long. I had heard that there was generally at the bottom of the shaft of a mine a pool of water, which is called, in technical language, a “sump.”

I had a suspicion that we might be plunged into it, and asked our conductor if there was any danger.

“O, no danger at all!” he replied. “All that can happen to [Pg 66] you is, that if you get into the sump you will get drenched; and then, if you do not like it, you can be drawn to the surface so rapidly, that every thread on you will be dried out again.”

This proposed process of wetting and drying did not please me, and I intimated an emphatic hope that the engineer knew his business, and would stop at the proper time.

The descent was not quite eight hundred feet, but it seemed to me at least eight thousand. Every little while we passed a hole, through which the light glimmered, and we could see, though only for the instant, into the various portions of the mine. In one place, a miner was standing at the end of a level, and standing, too, very carelessly on the edge, and we narrowly escaped brushing him off. Had we brushed against him, and thrown him from his perch to the bottom, he would not have been worth three cents a pound after being picked up.

When we reached the bottom, the basket was in a sort of basin, with a flooring of plank just even with its edge. Miners were standing there with lanterns in their hands, or with candles stuck into their hats, and they assisted us to scramble off.

HOISTED BY A LEG.

We had sufficient time to get out—or seemed to have; but one of the party, who had crouched to the bottom of the basket, was a long time gathering his limbs together, and picking himself up. He did not pick up fast enough. The engineer waited what he thought was a proper time for us to get out, and then the basket began to move upward just as the dilatory man was putting a leg over its side. As the basket moved up, he was partly in and partly outside, and there was a prospect of witnessing a very pretty accident on his account.

He was a distinguished stranger, and it would never do to have a person of his prominence killed there. Our conductor seized the signal-rope and gave it a violent pull, which caused the engineer to send the basket back again, and wait until everything was ready. The dilatory visitor scrambled out of [Pg 67] the basket, and gave a sigh of relief when he stood upon the planking.

IN THE SHAFT OF A MINE.

The shaft of a mine is a very good place for accidents. Many of these occur from the carelessness of the miner, or the engineers, and sometimes from their incompetency. By the old system, baskets or buckets were raised or lowered by the winding or unwinding of a rope. Of late years, a cage, travelling in guides, is used, which is much safer than the old system. The miners are careless in consequence of their long acquaintance with the mines. Familiarity breeds contempt, with dangers as with everything else.

The first descent into a mine generally raises the pulse, and very often seriously alarms the visitor. The miners will stand carelessly on the edge of a bucket; but the strangers generally seat themselves at the bottom, and it is sometimes necessary to turn the bucket upside down on reaching the floor of the mine before they can be induced to come out.

The shaft always appears smaller than it really is on account of the darkness. It is never well lighted, and very often the glimmer of the lamps is just sufficient to make darkness visible.

Visitors are always subjects of merriment to the miners. They show more or less fear in all their movements, especially in ascending and descending; but the miners go up and down the shaft laughing and talking, just as the soldier goes under fire and faces the storms of bullets.

The sight of the miners going down is a curious one. The men stand ready around the mouth of the shaft, and at the sound of the bell they crowd into the tubs or cages, or go down the ladders. Their voices can be heard a moment, and then they gradually become fainter and fainter, till lost in the distance. In some mines on the continent of Europe, prayers are offered by the miners before going down; in most mines, however, this is neglected, but many of the men cross themselves on leaving the upper air, and breathe a short prayer to St. Barbe, the great patron saint of the miners.

It is interesting to note the sudden pause in the conversation, to see the hands making the sign of the cross, the lips of [Pg 68] the hardy miners moving, and then, a moment after, to hear them break forth again, and talking as merrily as ever.

I remember, on one occasion, visiting a mine in Russia, where the men gathered at the mouth of the pit seemed engaged in some sort of a dispute. Their voices were loud, and many of the tones were angry. Suddenly a bell was sounded, and in an instant every cap was removed, and every man went through the Russian ceremonial of crossing himself. This ceremony over, caps were restored to the heads of the owners, and the conversation was resumed as loudly and excitedly as ever.

I have seen a soldier standing at his post, as a sentry, when the bell sounded, or the gun was fired, telling the hour of sunset. As the flag descended from the staff, the soldier supported his musket with his left arm, while with his right hand he performed the ceremonial which had been taught him by the church.

The shaft is frequently called the miners’ tomb; and it is said that the Belgians have intentionally named it The Grave La Fosse).

In some mines, so many accidents have occurred in the shaft, that the men never enter it without fear. Great improvements have been made in the mode of ascending or descending, and at the present day the apparatus is considered nearly perfect.

The first improvement for the protection of men ascending and descending, was to cover the tubs with a roof, or bonnet, so that falling materials would injure nobody. Besides this, the heads of the men are shielded by hats made of sheet iron or stout leather. An indicator is kept in front of the engine man, so that he knows precisely the position of the tub; and if there are two tubs in the shaft, one ascending and the other descending, he may know when they pass on their way. In some coal mines the tubs or cages are double-decked, and some of them have four tiers or decks.

MINERS DESCENDING A SHAFT.
SAFETY CAGES.

The greatest improvement is in the use of safety cages. These consist literally of cages with a strong top to protect [Pg 71] the persons inside against the stone or other falling substances, and with wooden guides at the side with which the roller wheels of the cages come in contact.

If anything falls, the top of the cage protects the men. If the rope breaks, a spring above the cage is set free, and catches in the guide, bringing the cage to a stand-still suddenly. A great many accidents have been prevented by this contrivance.

Some of the safety cages, instead of wooden guides at the sides, are provided with long, stout strips of cast or wrought iron. If the rope breaks, a spring at the top is suddenly thrown out, and catches in one of these notches. Safety cages of an improved pattern are in use in many of the principal hotels of America, as well as in mines. They have been manufactured comparatively but a few years. Soon after the Gould and Curry mine, in Nevada, was opened, one of these cages was placed in the principal shaft. The owners of the mine were doubtful of its powers, and the owner of the machine set about convincing them. When everything was ready, he loaded the cage with a ton of stone, then stepped on its top, and standing there suspended several hundred feet above the bottom, he deliberately cut the rope. A shudder ran through the crowd of spectators who were standing around; but their terror was of short duration. The stout springs were thrown out, and the cage did not descend six inches, after the severance of the rope, before it came to a stop.

Ludicrous incidents sometimes occur in these hoisting machines. In one of the hotels in New York, not many months ago, the machinery one day became deranged while the elevator was in use. It was full of passengers, and was between two floors in such a way that nobody could get in or out. It required an hour and a half to arrange the machinery, and in this hour and a half a dozen persons were closely confined in the cage. Such a combination of growls was never before heard in so small a space at one time in that hotel.

It was about half past two o’clock in the afternoon when the elevator stopped. One man had a note to pay before three o’clock. He did not pay it. One lady in the elevator had [Pg 72] left a friend in the parlor, and promised to be down again in five minutes, “as soon as she could arrange her bonnet.” She did not keep her promise with her friend. Another man was very thirsty, and was on his way to his room to order up a drink. His thirst continued. And so through all the dozen persons who were detained in the elevator. Every one had an important engagement, or a special reason for being in a hurry, when hurrying was of no earthly use.

In some of the mines of Europe there are neither safety cages, tubs, nor baskets. At the salt mines of Wieliczka,in Austrian Poland, the miners go down at the end of a long rope, to which several loops are fastened. Each loop has a band across it to support the back. The miner seats himself in one of these loops, leans against the band to support his back, clings to the rope with one hand, and holds his candle in the other. Half a dozen men form a bunch in this way, and sometimes there is another bunch above them. At a little distance the groups very much resemble a living chandelier. Not only miners, but visitors, are lowered in this way, and the descent is very trying to a nervous person.

“PLENTY OF MEN.”

A traveller who went into the Wieliczka mines in this way says he asked if men did not sometimes fall out of the loops. “O, yes,” replied the person addressed; “but this is of no consequence. Men are abundant about here, and when one is killed there is always somebody ready to take his place.”

FALLING DOWN A SHAFT.

Until quite recently,—that is, until the introduction of the safety cages,—accidents from collisions were quite common. Sometimes two tubs of coal are fastened to a rope, not one above the other, but side by side. One day, at a Belgian mine, where they were accustomed to send up the coal in this way, as two men were going down the shaft in a bucket, they came in collision with the ascending coal. Both men were standing, one of them holding the lamp and the other clinging to the chains. The shock of the collision unhooked their tub, and they were left, three hundred feet from the bottom, holding on to the rope. This shock caused the ascending coal buckets to tilt, and large blocks of coal were [Pg 73] thrown out and fell down the shaft. They clung convulsively to the rope, and by a marvellous piece of good fortune, neither of them was injured. They reached the termination of their journey, and the instant that they touched the bottom of the shaft both of them fainted.

Just as one of the same men, at another time, was getting ready to go up the shaft, the engineer started the rope too suddenly. The tub was partly overturned, and the man, with one leg hanging in the tub and with his head downwards, was hoisted nearly a hundred feet up the shaft. By this time an alarm was raised, and they managed to stop the engine and bring the miner back again.

In mines where there are several shafts, there is generally a positive rule against the miners ascending through the pits where the coal is raised. The rule, however, is frequently disregarded, and sometimes the disobedience of the men leads to their death. Occasionally, when the miner is ascending in this way, a lump of coal falls upon and seriously injures or kills him.

At one of the mines near Scranton, not long ago, two miners were ascending in this way, and a block of stone fell from the wall, killing one of them, and injuring the other so that he lived but a few days. In some of the English mines they used to have a system of descent something like the Polish one. Two men were side by side, each of them passing a leg through an iron chain, which was fastened to a rope, and formed a seat. Accidents in this mode of descent frequently occurred, sometimes from carelessness, and sometimes from a man coming in contact with some unexpected obstacle. This mode is never used at the present day, excepting in very shallow pits. Frequently the man would be thrown to the bottom of the shaft and dashed to pieces, full in the sight of his terrified companions, who could not render the least assistance.

In old times coal was taken out of the mines, not by means of hoisting apparatus, but by bearers. Carrying a staff, and with their feet bare, they were obliged every day to carry a [Pg 74] certain number of loads up the inclined road leading to the surface, supporting their burdens on the staff while stopping to rest. The roads were slippery and rough, and the employment was very dangerous.

In some English and Scotch mines, and also in some of the French mines, where the seams of coal are thin, boys, who are called “putters,” are employed to draw small carts along a railway. They fasten themselves to the cart with belts around their waists, and draw it along, going sometimes on their hands and feet where the road is wet and rough. Sometimes one of them pulls the cart while the other pushes it. In some of the Scotch mines girls formerly performed this work; but of late the laws do not allow women to work under ground.

GIRLS IN SCOTCH MINES.

Girls used to carry on their backs a basket fastened to a leather strap which passed around their foreheads. A lamp was attached to the strap, and in this way they carried their loads up the long ladders and through the inclines, sometimes a distance of several hundred feet. If a strap broke, a block of coal fell, or a bearer missed her footing, those below were seriously hurt, and many fatal accidents occurred. This primitive mode of raising coal was abolished by law. The owners of the mines had become so careless in regard to the management of their laborers that the government was obliged to interfere.

COAL SEAMS A CREEP AND THURST
WOMAN DRAGGING COAL THE TRAPPER BOY
OLD WOMEN AT WORK CHILDREN PICKING UP
MINER AT WORK MINER AT WORK
THE STABLE PUTTERS AT WORK
SECTIONS OF AN ENGLISH COAL MINE.

For the past forty or fifty years movable ladders have been used in many mines both in Europe and America, though less extensively in this country than in the former. In England they are called “man-engines,” and are constructed on a principle of reciprocal motion of two parallel rods. The rods are placed about fifteen inches apart, and steps and handles are so arranged as to be at about the ordinary height of a man. By the action of the steam engine one of the rods is raised to a certain height, while the other is lowered for the same distance. During the movement of the crank over its turning point, the miner goes from the step on which he stands to the opposite step. Another stroke of the engine is made, and the [Pg 77] rod moves in the opposite direction, and is followed by a fresh movement of the miner. Whether he goes up or down, the man rises or descends without any fatigue, and the journey is made in a very short time.

Many of these engines have been abandoned for the safety cage. The rate at which the men were lifted by them was seventy-two feet a minute, or a little less time than would be required for ascending by the rope. Another machine in use in Belgium and France is a single rod, and in place of the steps there are fixed platforms holding two men each. The length of stroke of the machine is about nine feet, and it will make twelve or fifteen strokes a minute.

MOVABLE LADDER.

The man travelling by it must be very watchful. He must pass from the movable ladder to the landing stage or platform, and watch for a new stroke or step upon the ladder. To avoid accidents he must use great caution, and no hesitation. The slightest embarrassment may cause a very serious accident, and the sudden return motion may kill the traveller on the spot.

From the bottom of the shaft of a mine the men scatter in various directions to their work, or are distributed among the different levels. A shaft is perpendicular, while the level is horizontal. The dangers in the shaft have already been described. Strictly speaking, no dangers of the same sort are liable to occur in the levels. True, there may be falls of rock or coal, or whatever other substance forms the roof of the mine; but they generally occur in consequence of the carelessness of some person on the same level, and not above or below.

Levels are described by their names, though they are not always in a strictly horizontal position. Sometimes they dip at considerable angles, owing to the formation of the rock, or the position of the substances to be mined. They are made of various heights, though generally of not more than six feet. The materials used for lining the shaft—that is, brick, timber, or stone—are likewise employed in the levels, and the modes of strengthening in both cases are very nearly the [Pg 78] same. Where the work is intended to last more than six or eight years, it is generally set up with stone, and not timbered. Where it is intended to last a long time, and especially if the rock through which it runs is of a yielding nature, it is strongly arched with masonry.

Sometimes it is necessary to make an arch below as well as above, for the reason that the flooring of the mine is apt to swell up in consequence of the pressure from below. Masonry used in levels is very much like ordinary masonry, and requires no especial description.

TIMBERING LEVELS.

For timbering levels there are three timbers-two uprights and a head-piece. Sometimes there is a fourth piece, placed at the bottom, known as the sleeper, or sill. This is used, however, only when the flooring is soft, or consists of a substance that is apt to bulge up.

The pressure from above, as well as the lateral pressure, frequently bends and breaks the timbers. This bending and breaking of the timbers, occasioned by the settling of the earth, are rarely sudden in their occurrence. At first there will be observed a slight bending of the timbers; the next day the bending will be seen to be greater; and sometimes a month, or even six months, may pass before the timbers are sufficiently curved to break. Frequently levels that have been made five or six feet in height will, in the course of a few months, be reduced to a height of not more than three feet. The timbers will be bent around in all directions, and it requires considerable nerve to pass between them.

Where the mines are moist, the timbers soon become covered with fungus, and a vegetable peculiar to the interior of the mine makes its appearance. Sometimes it is not unlike light cottony material; occasionally it is snow-white, and again like tanned leather, or of a bright yellow color. The timber, when rotting, has an odor like that of creosote, and is familiar to everybody who has passed any time in deep mines.

Rats abound in mines, and are frequently very numerous. They make themselves at home, and are as comfortable as possible. While the miners are at their dinners, they frequently [Pg 79] play around them, and appear on friendly relations with them. Occasionally, they become so hungry that whenever a candle is placed in the wall, and the miners back is turned, the rats will rush forward and seize the prize at the risk of being burned.

ACCIDENT CAUSED BY RATS.

Sometimes rats are the cause of accidents. Some years ago an explosion occurred at a mine in Wales, when several men lost their lives. There was one pit which was known to be full of explosive gas, and the men were warned to be very careful of their movements with their lamps. A lamp, in which the glass was surrounded with iron netting, was placed on a shelf in the part of the mine where the men were at work. The miners were a few yards away, when they noticed half a dozen rats clambering about the lamp, and saw them tip it over. It fell from the shelf and struck a lump of coal. A hole was made through the wire gauze, the lamp was broken, and a terrible explosion of gas followed.

To the here-related accidents, we feel obliged to add a thrilling and fatal adventure of two Pennsylvania miners, which occurred in the vicinity of Scranton, Pa., on the 23d of April, 1877:—

In calculating the cost of coal, there is one important item which is never taken into consideration by capitalist or consumer, and that is the loss of life and limb incurred in the work of digging “dusky diamonds” and preparing them for market. A glance at the list of deaths and accidents published monthly in the local papers, is sufficient to send a thrill of horror through the stoutest heart; but familiarity soon makes us partially indifferent to such matters, and it is only when some thrilling calamity occurs, such as the Avondale or West Pittston disaster, that we are fairly aroused to the perils incident to the work of mining.

We know but little of these things, unless we see an occasional account of it in the newspapers, and even then we can but faintly realize the mishaps that befal, from day to day, in the way of fire-damp explosions, falling roofs, and the innumerable other death-dealing agencies that lurk in the depths of the coal mine.

[Pg 80]

FEARFUL FALL OF A ROOF.

One of the most heart-rending accidents of this character which has been recorded for some time, has just occurred at the Empire mine, in this vicinity. Two men, named John Mooney and Patrick Quinn, were employed in No. 4 slope, laying track, a distance of about two miles from the opening, and a mile from the other workmen. When they least dreamed of danger there was a sudden convulsion overhead, and an instant later they were overwhelmed by a fearful fall of roof. The terrible accident put out their lights, and they were in utter darkness. Mooney, after considerable difficulty, succeeded in extricating himself from among the massive bowlders which fell about him, in such a way as to form a sort of cave, and, upon freeing himself, his first thought was for his companion. He called aloud for Quinn, but received no answer, only the echo of his own voice, beaten back by the rocks. He felt himself growing faint, and realized that he was very seriously injured, but was determined to ascertain the condition of his fellow miner. After calling aloud in vain for some time, he groped about in the dismal place among the rocks, hoping to find Quinn, and fearing that he was dead. At length he touched him, but the poor fellow was pinned fast by a big bowlder, which lay upon one of his mangled legs. The other leg had been completely severed from the body by the fall. To release him was a hard task, but Mooney, forgetting his own injuries, set about the work with a will, and succeeded in setting Quinn free.

How to carry him to the light of day was the next trial, but he was determined to do it; and taking him upon his back, he began groping his way through the pitchy darkness, in the direction of what he considered was the foot of the slope. For two hours he wandered about that living tomb, with his dying comrade on his back, moaning in the most piteous manner. The situation was awful, and, after roaming thus for a long time, poor Mooney was disheartened to find that he had come back to the very point from which he had set out, and where the accident occurred. He summoned up his fast-fading strength and made another effort, still taking Quinn on his [Pg 81] back; but, after proceeding a short distance, he grew faint, and was unable to go farther with his precious burden. Then, laying the dying man down in as comfortable a position as he could, Mooney crawled on his hands and knees toward what he thought was the slope. At half-past six o’clock a party of miners, while proceeding down No. 5 slope, were startled by the apparition which their lamps revealed. It was Mooney, crawling slowly up the slope on his hands and knees, his face black and bloody, and his whole body sore from contact with the jagged pieces of coal and rock. His eyes were at first dazzled by the light, he had been in darkness so long, and trying to see, and he was speechless with joy for some seconds to find relief at last.

HEROISM AND MORTAL AGONY.

This was eight hours after the accident had happened, and they were eight hours of awful mortal agony. As soon as Mooney found words to speak, he related the story in brief, and begged the party to hasten to the assistance of Quinn, who might yet be saved.

They hurried to the spot indicated, and found the unfortunate fellow in the condition already described, with one leg severed from his body, and the other crushed to pieces. He was still alive, and they took him up in their arms to carry him to the slope, but he never reached it alive. He died in the arms of his comrades. Mooney, who is severely wounded, is expected to recover. He played the part of a hero in the unselfish manner in which he risked his own life trying to save his comrade. But such acts are not of rare occurrence among the miners. They are a most unselfish, brave lot of fellows, and will face death in the mine at any time to save one another. The men who met Mooney crawling up the slope were moved to tears, by his haggard, woe-begone, and saddened looks, and say they never saw such a pitiful sight before.


[Pg 82]

V.

SILVER MINES AND MINING.

ANTIQUITY OF SILVER.—REAL ESTATE AND SLAVE PURCHASES IN BIBLICAL TIMES.—SOLOMON AND HIS SILVER SPECULATIONS.—ABUNDANCE OF SILVER AMONG THE ANCIENTS.—THE EARLIEST MINES.—ORIENTAL EXAGGERATION.—SPANISH MINES AND THEIR HISTORY.—MEXICAN MINES.—A NONDESCRIPT ANIMAL.—NOVEL WAY OF OBTAINING A PIGSKIN.—PERU AND ITS SILVER.—A HIGH-TONED CITY.—ARIZONA.—BEAUTIES OF ARIZONA CIVILIZATION.—MINES OF UTAH AND NEVADA.—SAD RESULTS OF A SPECULATION.

One of the most important of the precious metals is that known as silver. The ancients were familiar with it, and from very early periods it has been a common medium of exchange, and is used as such among all nations who recognize a metallic currency. It is one of the metals mentioned in the Old Testament, reference being made to it as constituting, among other things, the riches of Abraham. Abraham made a real estate transaction by purchasing the field of Ephron for four hundred shekels of silver. Twenty-nine pieces of silver were paid for Joseph at the time his brothers disposed of him and gave a bill of sale; and throughout the Scriptures there are many other references made to the same metal.

DISCOVERY OF SILVER IN PERU, BY DIEGO HUALCA, IN 1545.
INTERIOR OF A SILVER MINE IN MEXICO.

Those who have given attention to the subject think that gold was first known and used as money, partly for the reason that it is more frequently mentioned in the earlier histories, and also from the fact that gold is obtained in a metallic state, while silver must generally be separated from ores in which the metal is concealed. The Egyptians and Hebrews were familiar with gold and silver, and employed them both as a circulating medium, and for the manufacture of jewels, vases, rings, and other articles for household or [Pg 85] personal use. The oldest known coins are of silver, though there are gold coins of nearly as great antiquity.

It is a little curious that the ancients possessed silver in greater abundance than people of the present day. It is possible that the old historians drew the long bow a little in describing it, and due allowance may be made for their statement. In the time of King Solomon, silver is said to have been so abundant as to be considered of very little account, and the king had made it to be as stones in Jerusalem. Polybius says that it was largely employed, together with gold, in the form of plates for covering the beams and pillars of the temples, and the tiles upon the roofs were of solid silver. Other historians, both sacred and profane, speak of its great abundance, and some of them are so liberal in the use of adjectives, as to lead to the suspicion that they were in no wise trammelled by existing facts. Oriental exaggeration has no doubt something to do with their stories.

ORIENTAL EXAGGERATIONS.

At the present day, in certain parts of the East, a statement is rarely made exactly as it should be, according to Western notions. Thus a man, describing a fine house, would not convey a proper idea of its character if he described it exactly as it is. If he should say that the house covered a square mile in area, was half a mile high, contained two thousand rooms, each of them so full of furniture that nobody could get inside the door, and that the household consisted of nine hundred servants, he would merely convey to his hearers the impression that the house was somewhat above the common order of houses, and nothing more.

Bayard Taylor, in one of his books, describes an interview with a certain prince or titled individual from one of the interior kingdoms of Africa. The prince, in describing the wealth and resources of the kingdom of Dahomey, said that the king never walked out unless accompanied by at least ten thousand attendants, and that when he chose to ride, forty thousand horses were led to the door of his palace, from which he could make his selection. He continued in the same strain, and when he had finished his story, he asked [Pg 86] a question in regard to Mr. Taylor’s country. Mr. Taylor replied, that the United States were so large that it took two years to travel from one end of the country to the other; that it required six weeks of rapid riding to go round the walls of the capital; and that our Sultan, who was called the President, had a wardrobe of sixty thousand coats, from which he made his selection to dress himself for breakfast. In this manner each person conveyed to the other the proper idea of the country, and nothing more. The prince substantially informed the American that Dahomey was a rich country, and the king powerful; while the American, on the other hand, informed the prince that America was a very large country, and that the president’s wealth was personal, rather than national.

But we are getting away from silver, a substance which it is not desirable at any time to see far from us.

ANCIENT SILVER MINES.

The locality of the ancient silver mines is buried in obscurity; but it is known that silver was obtained, together with gold, from various parts of Africa, and also from Asia. The Spanish silver mines were developed at a very early period, and were the basis of the extensive commerce which Spain conducted for a long time with other countries. Hannibal is said to have opened a mine which furnished three hundred pounds of silver daily, and was worked by horizontal tunnels extending a mile and a half into a mountain. During the middle ages the production of silver fell off very greatly, and until the fifteenth century comparatively little silver mining was carried on. The production of Spanish mines was greatly decreased, and the wealth of Spain fell off in a proportionate degree.

GREAT MINES OF MEXICO.

Rich mines of silver existed in the new world, particularly in Mexico and Peru. The conquest of Mexico by Cortes in 1519 was speedily followed by the development of the rich silver mines of that country. From a very early period the Aztecs had been familiar with silver, and wrought it into many ornamental and useful articles. The mines were opened and extensively worked by the Peruvians in Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and other districts, and their production was greatly [Pg 87] increased by the abundance of quicksilver, and its employment in the reduction of ores. Quicksilver is used for this purpose to a greater extent in Mexico and Peru than in other countries.

At the time of the visit of Humboldt in the early part of this century, it was estimated that three thousand distinct mines were in operation. The greatest of all the mines of Mexico are those of Guanajuato and Zacatecas. They were opened in 1558, upon the great vein known as Veta Madra. The great vein is chiefly in clay slate. It is of wonderful thickness, sometimes more than one hundred and fifty feet across, and is said to have been traced for about twelve miles.

The vein is made up of half a dozen substances, the most important of which are native silver, sulphuret of silver, and red silver. Near the surface they are partly decomposed, but in their unchanged condition, farther down, they are known as “black ores.” The vein has been penetrated downward more than two thousand feet, and is found to be very rich at that depth. The mine of Valenciana, upon a rich portion of this vein, has averaged at times a product of two million dollars, or about one fifteenth part of the total product of all the mines of Mexico. At the present time no work is carried on in these mines. Operations were suspended some years ago by floods of water, and the unsettled state of the country, added to other disadvantages, prevented a renewal of work. Before any productive operations could be prosecuted, it would be necessary to erect powerful machinery; and to set it up and put it in operation would cost enormously; so great, in fact, would be the cost, as to deter any body of men, or any association of capitalists, from entering upon the enterprise.

Until the present century the ores of the silver mines of Mexico have been worked by rude processes, very little in advance of those of the native Indians. Little or no mining machinery was used. The ores had to be transported out of the mines upon the backs of Indians, climbing up a series of long steps over slippery rocks, and working in a nude state. [Pg 88] When the mines were troubled with water, rude pumps were set up, and in many cases there were no pumps, but the water was carried out on the backs of men.

HOW TO SECURE A PIG SKIN.

A traveller who visited one of these mines, where operations on a small scale were going on, says the sight of the men carrying their burdens, some laden with ore, and some with water, formed a curious picture. The ore was carried in sacks or baskets slung across the shoulders of the men, while the water was carried in pig-skins. These skins were in the natural shape of the animal, and were supposed to have been removed without cutting. When slung over the shoulders of the men in the dim light of the mine, the man and the pig clinging to his back appeared to form a single animal. An unsophisticated traveller, who accompanied the narrator, was curious to ascertain how the skins were obtained in that condition, as the ordinary mode of skinning pigs, oxen, or any other beasts requires a liberal use of the knife. He was informed that the animal was starved for several days, so that his skin became quite loose. Then a stout cord was tied to his tail, and by this mode he was securely fastened to a tree. A potato or an ear of corn was then held a few feet in front of his nose, and the pig was finally coaxed out of his skin, and induced to walk away from it. The man seemed to have his doubts as to the truth of the statement, but finally concluded to accept it as correct.

ENTRANCE TO A SILVER MINE OF CENTRAL AMERICA.
INDIAN SILVER MINERS AT WORK.

In 1821 the Mexican government offered facilities for foreigners to become interested with the natives in the mines. Several English companies were formed, and operations were undertaken upon a new system, in order to work the mines with powerful machinery, and with all the advantages of capital and mining skill. In nearly every instance these operations were unsuccessful, partly owing to the enormous expenses attending the management of a silver mine in Mexico, and partly owing to the dishonesty of the natives in official and private capacities. Whenever a mine yielded handsomely, the government surrounded it with absurd restrictions, or old titles were discovered to it, that made the claims of the new occupant valueless.

[Pg 91]

The English capitalists and gentlemen who went to Mexico were worried and wearied out in a few years, and returned with unpleasant recollections.

INSECURITY OF PROPERTY IN MEXICO.

At the present day nearly every foreigner who visits Mexico to engage in a business enterprise has very nearly the same story to tell. The instability of the government naturally leads to insecurity, both to life and property; and where the property is that of a foreigner, it is not very likely to be regarded with great respect.

From the opening of the Mexican mines, in the sixteenth century, their production of silver has exceeded that of all other countries. From the annual yield of two or three millions of dollars, it rose, in the eighteenth century, to twenty millions, and continued so for about ten years of the present century, when it was changed by the war of independence. It remained at a low rate until 1850, when it again increased, and in 1856 it was not far from forty millions.

Latterly, as already stated, the product has been greatly diminished, and accurate statistics are very difficult to be obtained in regard to it.

The total product of the Mexican mines from the time of the conquest by Cortes up to the expulsion of the Spanish in 1827, is said, according to official records, to have been considerably more than two thousand millions of dollars. The silver mines of Northern Mexico, near the boundary of the United States, are supposed to be very rich; but the disturbed state of the country prevented their successful exploitation.

Mining operations to some extent have been carried on in some of these districts, and in Arizona, but under many disadvantages.

Arizona is a delightful country in every respect, except in climate, soil, production, and inhabitants. The natives have a pleasant way of slaughtering every stranger who attempts to stay there; and sometimes, when they refrain from their amusement for a few months, the strangers fall to killing each other.

Until very recently it was said that no white man had ever [Pg 92] died in Arizona with his boots off,—meaning that he had never died in bed. The cemeteries at two or three settlements in Arizona are said to contain no graves except those of persons who had died violent deaths at the hands of either white men or Indians. The Indians make travelling very insecure; and the Peons, or native Mexican laborers, in the mines vary the monotony of their employment by an occasional massacre of the superintendent and every other white man about the place. I was at one time acquainted with a superintendent who had twice escaped assassination by reason of accidental absence. He did not take warning by his luck on these occasions, but continued on in his usual way till on the occurrence of another conspiracy he was killed.

Closely rivalling the mines of Mexico are those of Peru. They are scattered in various parts of the country, but the richest and most famous are in Potosi, formerly belonging to Peru, but now a part of Bolivia. The story is, that these mines were discovered in 1545, by an Indian hunter, who accidentally exposed lumps of the precious metal in the roots of a bush which he pulled from the ground. His discovery led to careful and extensive explorations, and in a short time the city of Potosi sprung up in a barren and almost inaccessible district.

Potosi is among mountains generally of volcanic formation, and more than five thousand mines have been opened in its vicinity. The country is barren, and much of it is more than ten thousand feet above the level of the sea.

THE HIGHEST CITY IN THE WORLD.

The city of Potosi is more than two miles up in the air; that is to say, more than two miles above the sea level. It has a population at the present day of less than fifty thousand, though it contained at one period more than three times that number. It has been repeatedly shaken by earthquakes, and in some of these earthquakes a great many people have lost their lives. All supplies must be brought from a distance, as the country in the immediate neighborhood produces absolutely nothing.

It is not a beautiful place of residence, and those who [Pg 93] dwell there are almost entirely devoted to the production and preparation of silver.

An idea of the richness of the mines may be formed, when it is known that between 1556 and 1800 the mines of Potosi alone yielded nine hundred and twenty-five million dollars’ worth of silver.

PROCESS OF AMALGAMATION.

Silver mines are pretty much alike in all parts of the world. They are also not much unlike mines of other metals. They are opened by shafts, tunnels, and the like, the same as other mines, though each locality has some processes of operations peculiar to itself. The ordinary methods of separating silver from its ores are based either upon forming an amalgam of the metal with the mercury, or in bringing it into combination with lead, and afterwards separating it. The ores of Mexico and Peru are treated by both processes. Some of the richest ores are picked out and thrown into the furnace. The amalgamating process, which was long used in the silver mines of Mexico and Peru, and is still generally practised there, was invented more than three hundred years ago. The ores are crushed by stamping machines, and then ground with water, in machines called arastras, a sort of circular mill, run by mule power. It is ground to as fine a condition as possible, and, after being allowed several days to dry, is spread out in circular heaps, about fifty feet in diameter and a foot in depth. To every ton of this substance three bushels of salt are added, and the whole is then carefully mixed. A chemical substance, of a coppery character, is then added, and a sort of fermentation takes place, in which great heat is thrown out. Quicksilver is then added, in small quantities at a time, and crudely mixed in, until the whole mass forms an amalgam. The whole process occupies from four to six weeks. The amalgam is then separated from the mass of ore by a system of washing similar to that practised in collecting gold. The mercury is then separated from the amalgam by the ordinary process of evaporation, and in the same manner as if removing it from gold.

Sometimes silver is found in masses which are nearly pure; [Pg 94] but this is very rarely the case. The largest quantities have been discovered in the copper mines of Lake Superior, and in some of the mines of Norway and Saxony. Some of these masses exceed five hundred pounds in weight, but ordinarily they weigh but a few ounces or pounds.

Specimens of native silver are frequently found in the beds of rivers, very far from any other deposits of this metal. The richest mines of this metal, at the present day, are in the United States, particularly in Nevada and Utah. The great Comstock lode has already been referred to. In November, 1859, the discovery of silver mines at Lake Washoe became known, and in the following year the products of the mines were sent out in such large quantities as to lead many people to suppose that the commercial value of silver would be greatly cheapened.

SILVER MINES OF NEVADA.

Mines have been opened in various localities throughout Nevada, but the richest of them, and, in fact, almost the only ones, of any great value, are on the Comstock lode. Its ores are very rich. The vein is of unusual width, and it has made fortunes for a great many men, and, on the other hand, has taken fortunes from a great many others. Some of the most extensive mining speculations ever known in California have been in these mines. Their value has greatly fluctuated; in some years the product has exceeded twenty millions of dollars, and the price of shares in the mines increased accordingly; then the product would suddenly fall off, and down would go the stock. Sometimes dividends would be made every month, and suddenly they would be followed by left-handed dividends, or assessments. In San Francisco a single day has witnessed the reduction to beggary of men who at sunrise could boast of considerable wealth; the following day might witness their return to wealth, or the return of others to poverty. Nearly all the men who made money in Nevada a few years ago, and did not kill themselves by riotous living, are now poor, and have a brilliant prospect of remaining so.

[Pg 95]

ONE METHOD OF WASHING FOR SILVER.
ANOTHER METHOD OF WASHING FOR SILVER.

[Pg 97]

VI.

SILVER MINING IN NEVADA.

HOW GOLD WAS DISCOVERED IN NEVADA.—A PECULIAR “BLACK SAND,” AND WHAT CAME OF IT.—SILVER CURSED AND THROWN AWAY.—ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY OF THE VALUE OF THE ORE.—H. T. P. COMSTOCK.—THE COMSTOCK LODE.—HOW MINING RECORDS WERE KEPT.—YIELD OF THE NEVADA MINES.—BONANZA AND BORRASCA.—THE BIG BONANZA.—THE GRAVE OF THE FORESTS.—“WASHOE ZEPHYRS.”—PAY-ROLLS OF THE MINING COMPANIES.—INTERESTING DETAILS.

Probably the most remarkable silver mines of the world are those of Nevada. It is difficult to estimate, with absolute accuracy, the amount which has been taken from them. They were only recently discovered, and the story of their discovery is quite romantic.

Very naturally, the gold miners of California drifted over the Sierra Nevadas, into the great Utah basin, in search of gold. During 1850, and the following years, gold discoveries were made on the eastern slopes of the Sierras. The first discovery was made by some Mormon emigrants, who were on their way to California; the snows had not melted upon the mountains, and they were compelled to camp, for some time, on the Carson River. They had no expectation of gold, but simply went to prospecting by way of killing time. They did not work very long at the business, but continued their journey to California as soon as the season permitted. Other emigrants coming along from time to time, continued the work, and by 1852 there was quite a mining population along the Carson River and its tributaries. None of them made large fortunes, but most of them did well.

None of them had any thought of silver, and they knew so little about silver ore that when they found it, they were ignorant [Pg 98] of its character, and cursed it as a nuisance. They found a heavy, worthless sand, looking like pulverized iron, that settled upon the quicksilver in their rockers, and prevented the amalgamation of the gold. The gold was not of a fine quality, as it was mixed with a considerable quantity of silver. For a considerable time, the miners worked on, and it is said that some of them had regular hours, which were devoted to swearing at this black sand, which was continually in their way. The gold in the placer mines of California was worth from sixteen to nineteen dollars an ounce, while the gold taken along the Carson River was worth not more than eleven or twelve dollars.

THE FAMOUS COMSTOCK LODE.

In the spring of 1859, quite a party of miners was at work in what was known as Six Mile Cañon. They lived at Gold Hill, where a small village had grown up, not far from their working place. There was a scant supply of water, and they concluded to made a sort of reservoir by digging a hole, and turning the small stream into it. They located this reservoir a little way above the place where they were working, and after digging about four feet, they found what afterward proved to be the decomposed silver ore of the now famous Comstock lode. They did not find silver, at least, they did not know that what they found was a deposit of black sulphuret of silver, which was nothing more than the pure metal in a decomposed state.

They concluded to try some of this curious looking dirt in their rockers. It yielded well. They found that they were digging out gold very rapidly, but they were puzzled as to the character of the dirt containing it. They pushed on further and further into the vein, and taking the lumps that were left on the screens of the rockers, pounded them up with hammers and in mortars. So rich was this substance, that one man was able to take out one hundred dollars a day.

The party consisted of four men, one of whom was H. T. P. Comstock, an adventurer who had wandered about the Pacific coast for years, and had never accomplished anything of importance. There was some dispute as to the title to the [Pg 99] location, but it was finally agreed that there should be an equal division of the land in the lode. Very soon it became noised about that the miners had “struck it rich,” and there was great excitement in regard to the new digging. A notice was recorded, claiming the ground on the lode, and the land around it.

The names which were recorded in this notice were Peter O’Reilly, H. T. P. Comstock, Patrick McLaughlin, J. H. Osborne, and E. Penrod. This location was the famous Comstock lode, which has since yielded so many millions.

SILVER AS A NUISANCE.

Gold mining was carried on there for some weeks after the location of this claim. A gentleman familiar with the history of the discovery, says that as soon as Comstock obtained a position in the party, he elected himself superintendent, and did all the heavy talking. He was conspicuous on all occasions, and very soon was considered not only the discoverer, but the originator of the lode. Work was diligently pushed, and for weeks the miners dug the rich decomposed silver ore, washed the gold out of it, and let it go to waste, throwing it anywhere to get it out of the way. It was an intolerable nuisance, and it is safe to say that those miners swore about it to an extent greater than is recorded of “our army in Flanders.” It gave a certain unpopularity to the diggings, on account of the inconvenience it caused. It was worse than the black sand that everywhere abounds in gold mines, because that does not interfere with the amalgamation.

Comstock was a free-handed, generous fellow, having very little regard for his own money, or that of anybody else. It was the custom, in those days, when a lady visited the mines, to offer her a pan of dust, and to take it from the richest part of the lode. On one occasion, several ladies visited the mine, and the usual courtesy was offered. It was so arranged that they obtained one hundred and fifty dollars or more for each pan. The last of the ladies was young and pretty; Comstock wished to be polite, and so, while her pan was being passed out, he slyly dropped a handful of gold in it. The result was that her prize amounted to more than five hundred dollars. [Pg 100] Many tons of the black sulphuret of silver were washed away, until, in the month of July, 1859, a man named Harrison visited the new diggings, and took a piece of the ore away with him, as a curiosity. Being in California, shortly afterwards, he gave this curiosity to a gentleman in Grass Valley, Nevada County. This gentleman carried it to be assayed, and it was found to yield at the rate of several thousand dollars per ton.

Harrison said that there were tons and tons of the stuff lying around in the mine where this was taken out, and so it was determined to keep the matter a secret, to go as speedily as possible and obtain possession of the place. Everybody was sworn to secrecy, and of course everybody told his intimate friend. The result of the assay was known late one night, and by the next morning, everybody in Grass Valley knew all about it. Two of the men were off before daylight, and in a few days hundreds of people were en route for Washoe.

EXCITEMENT IN WASHOE.

The discovery created great excitement. The news spread rapidly throughout California, and all sorts of people, who could get away, and many who could not, proceeded immediately to Washoe. Washoe was the sensation of the day. The population increased with magical rapidity. The whole country around was visited by prospectors, who laid out claim after claim, staking out the whole region, and the most extravagant stories were told concerning its wealth. The mining recorder had a busy time of it, and took in a great many fees for his work. The book of records was kept at a drinking saloon, and lay upon the shelf behind the bar. Anybody could consult it who wished to, and if a man made a location, and was not satisfied with it, he would proceed to alter the record to suit himself. The result was that dates and places in the book were very much altered, and it is difficult to understand many of the claims.

Curious stories are told of the sharp practices of the miners and the lawyers they engaged. It is said that during a mining suit in those times, there was a controversy about a stump which was understood to mark the boundary of a certain claim. [Pg 101] The lawyer on one side one afternoon produced several witnesses, who said they could swear to the stump and its location. Next morning, the jury proceeded to the spot. It was found that the stump had been removed during the night, and the whole ground around was so carefully leveled and covered with loose rock, that its former position could not be ascertained.

Gold mining was carried on as before, after the value of this blue stuff had become known. It was no longer thrown away, but was carefully gathered up and put in sacks and barrels for transport to San Francisco. Comstock never made a fortune out of the discovery. He sold out his interest for ten thousand dollars, most of which he never received, and wandered off in another direction. He had numerous infelicities of varied character, and finally died, in 1870, in Montana.

SCARCITY OF FOOD.

Prices were high, for some time, at Washoe, owing to the immense immigration, and scanty supply of provisions. It is said that in the early part of 1860, hay was worth fifty cents a pound, and barley forty cents. As it was too expensive to keep horses, many of the miners shot them, or let them wander off in the hills and die of their own accord. Flour was worth seventy-five cents a pound, coffee fifty cents, and bacon forty cents. Lumber was worth two hundred dollars a thousand, and other things were held at proportionate prices.

The community was not the most orderly in the world, and fights were of frequent occurrence, so frequent that they became monotonous. The weather was not altogether tropical in its character. There were frequent sand and rain storms, in the spring, and settlers became acquainted with what is known as the Washoe “Zephyr.”

This “Zephyr” is a wind that blows down from the mountains, at irregular and unexpected intervals, and, as one of the residents expressed it, “has no nonsense about it.” A man from that region once described it to me as follows: “You may think you have seen wind some times, but you haven’t until you go to Washoe. It takes the roof off of houses; it will blow a donkey five miles over a mountain; and it will shave [Pg 102] the hair off the back of a bull-dog, if it happens to take him tail-ways. That ‘zephyr’ is the reason so many men in Nevada have lost their hair. A bald man has a good chance with it. A fellow with a good thick crop has no show at all. When the ‘zephyr’ comes, the air is full of sand, tin roofs, cats, old boxes, furniture, wagons, anything and everything. It makes no difference. The only way to save yourself from being blown off is to lie down on the ground and take hold of something, and hold on there until the ‘zephyr’ is gone.”

FIRST MINE UPON THE COMSTOCK LODE.

The first mine upon the Comstock lode was known as the Ophir. The first shafts that were sunk were merely round holes of no great depth, and not constructed upon scientific principles; but as the value of the mine became known, shafts were built in a scientific manner, and lined with timber. The first hoisting apparatus was the common hand windlass. That gave place to the horse-whim, and that, again, to steam machinery. The first of the latter which was put in was during the year 1860, and was a common fifteen horse-power engine. By the end of 1860, the mine had reached a depth of nearly two hundred feet. The vein of rich ore was found to be forty-five feet wide. Nobody had ever seen such a width before, and the miners were at a loss for means to support the roof above. They sent to California for an experienced engineer, and after his arrival, it took him several weeks to arrange a suitable plan.

He arranged a system of “timbering in square sets,” which is still used in all the mines of that region. Timbers were framed and kept together in the shape of cribs, which can be carried up to any desired height. If the vein is wide, the cribs are filled with waste rock, which forms pillars of stone, and thus supports the mines. In 1861, an engine of forty-five horse-power was put in, with an eight inch pump and some improved machinery for hoisting purposes. This was thought to be frightfully extravagant at the time, but, compared with the present machinery, it is a most insignificant affair.

It may be well to explain, here, the meaning of the word which has now become incorporated into our language, “bonanza.” [Pg 103] It is a Spanish word, meaning, practically, “in good luck,” or rich bodies of ore. Opposed to it is the term “Borrasca,” meaning “in bad luck,” or in barren rock. There are always, in the Nevada mines, some companies which are working in Borrasca, while others are working in Bonanza, and the great advance and decline in the values of the mining stock is due to this fact. When a company is in Borrasca, its stock is low; in Bonanza, there is a very rapid advance. In the latter part of 1870, an immense bonanza was found in one of the mines. A few months before this discovery, the stock of the mine sold at three dollars per share. A few months afterward, it sold for $1,825 per share. Another mine, whose stock had sold, previous to the discovery of the bonanza, at a dollar and a half a share, rose to $1,525. During the excitement growing out of the discovery of this “big bonanza,” the increase in the mining stock on the Comstock lode was nearly fifty millions of dollars.

The mines on the Comstock lode have swallowed millions of feet of lumber. It is estimated that not less than eighty million feet are annually lowered in the mines, never to be returned to the open air. In a single mine, six million feet are consumed annually, and at the same time, about two hundred and fifty thousand cords of wood. For miles around, the mountains have been stripped of their forests, and the country presents a wild and barren appearance. Nearly all the mountains within fifty miles of Virginia City have been thus denuded. Fuel has become so scarce and dear that search has been made for coal, and it is now extensively used as fuel, though, at present, it costs nearly as much as wood.

EXTENT OF THE MINES.

An idea of the extent of the mines may be formed by a glance at the pay rolls. On the first of every month, over half a million dollars are paid out to the employés. Of the principal companies, the Consolidated Virginia pays $90,000, Crown Point $90,000, Belcher $65,000. There are several whose pay rolls average from $20,000 to $30,000 per month, and many companies whose figures exceed $10,000. Then, in addition to this, are the wages of the men employed in the [Pg 104] mountains, cutting timber, and bringing it to the mine, and for other kinds of work.

YIELD OF THE COMSTOCK VEIN.

The yield of the Comstock vein, in ten years, is estimated at two hundred and twenty millions of dollars, or an average yield, annually, of thirteen millions, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. In 1874, the yield exceeded twenty-two millions, and in subsequent years it was larger.

The mines have been subject to the usual accidents of similar works in all parts of the world. Many men have lost their lives there, from falls through the shafts, from the breaking of cables, from falls of rock, and various other causes. The mines have been on fire several times, the gases generated from the earth assisting the burning of the immense masses of timber. The heat in the mines is, at all times, very great, and consequently the wood becomes exceedingly dry, and liable to ignite at the slightest opportunity. Some of the fires are attributed to spontaneous combustion, but it seems more probable that they are the result of carelessness. Virginia City, which stands above the mines, has also suffered very greatly from the same cause, and on one occasion, almost the entire settlement was swept away, involving a loss of millions of dollars.

But in spite of accidents, calamities, the rise and fall of stocks, Washoe “zephyrs,” and other things, the work goes steadily on, and the mines of Nevada, year after year, continue to hold their place as the greatest and most remarkable silver mines in the world.

WORKING A MINE.

During the month of April, 1877, the shipments of the California mine have been $1,600,000. If we read the brief announcement, every month, on a certain day, that a certain mine has paid a dividend of $1,080,000, we have not the slightest idea of what is necessary to be done in order to make such an announcement possible. Every one who ever owed a note in a bank, knows that thirty days is a very brief period of time. To cause a mine to produce $60,000 in a single day, is a tremendous feat; to continue this product daily, through weeks and months, almost without variation, is [Pg 105] a marvel. It takes forethought, endurance, judgment, and nice calculation, such as very few men possess in this world. The ore from which this mighty yield is extracted, lies hid away almost a third of a mile below the earth’s surface. It lies where consuming heat and baffling waters join their forces to try and drive away the invading miner. While the ore is being hoisted, every month, 1,250,000 feet of lumber has to be lowered and put in position, to keep safe the weakening caused by the mighty excavations. While one level is being worked, another has to be explored, for a drain of 500 tons of ore per day would soon level a mountain down. Then the Comstock is an uneasy fissure. In a single week, sometimes the swell of the ground shivers into splinters fourteen-inch square timbers. Shafts and drifts and inclines and tracks have to be watched incessantly, for a mine, like a glacier, seems ever to be working. This is all below ground. Above the surface is a world of machinery, always to be kept in order—steam engines, air engines, cables, cages, air pipes, pumps, and all the multiplied devices intended to expedite the work and lessen the dangers of mining. Five hundred men have to be lowered into and hoisted from the depths daily. Three hundred cords of wood have to be provided daily for fuel. And there must be no delays, no serious accidents. The needed repairs must be anticipated and provided for; the accidents must be anticipated and guarded against; the explorations must be carried on months in advance; the supplies must never fail. A vast space of forest land, thirty miles away, has to be denuded of its timber, yearly, to fill the insatiate maw of this one mine. It requires 15,000,000 feet of timber, and 100,000 cords of wood, annually, to supply the mine, and to furnish fuel to hoist and reduce the ores. How many can appreciate the ability necessary to carry on this work without any mistakes? Many a man of mind sufficient to accomplish the feat, would fail through sheer lack of physical strength. The work means being up at five o’clock in the morning; means two or three daily journeys into the depths, and when anything unusual happens, it means standing guard [Pg 106] day and night, like a ship’s captain in a storm, until the trouble is over. It means a mind large enough to take in the immense work going on at a glance, yet careful enough to include its smallest details, and exact enough to anticipate the wants of the enterprise months in advance. For ten months, the California mine has monthly given up this tremendous yield.

LIST OF BONANZAS.

The following list of the bonanzas of the Comstock will be interesting to all who are watching the marvelous history of that mammoth vein:

1. Ophir and Mexican.—Discovered on the surface, and extended 500 feet in depth. Average width of ore, 15 feet; cubical contents, 112,000 tons; approximate value of ore, $22,000,000.

2. Gould & Curry.—Extended from the surface to the depth of 500 feet. Average width of ore, 15 feet; length along the vein, 500 feet; cubical contents, 190,000 tons; value of ore, $37,500,000.

3. Savage.—This was a continuation of the Curry bonanza, but not so rich. The ore continued down in the Savage claim to the very bottom of that mine, which is now 2,300 feet below the outcroppings.

4. Hale & Norcross bonanza.—This body was struck at a depth of 450 feet. It averaged 10 feet in width, was about 200 feet long, and stretched down to the 1,200 foot level. Cubical contents, 75,000 tons; value, $5,500,000.

5. Chollar Potosi bonanza.—struck at a depth of 500 feet; width of the vein worked, 100 feet; has extended with but few interruptions down to the present bottom of the mine, which is over 1,700 feet. Cubical contents, 1,500,000 tons; value, $24,000,000.

6. Gold Hill bonanza.—This body extended from the surface to a depth of 500 feet, and for 300 feet on the vein. Contents, 300,000 tons; value, $10,000,000.

7. Yellow Jacket bonanza.—Discovered on the surface, and extended downward for over 700 feet. The ore on this body was quite poor, and never yielded much profit. Its total production was about $5,000,000.

8. Kentucky bonanza.—300 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 400 feet deep. This ore was very rich. Contents, 100,000 tons; value, $10,000,000.

[Pg 107]

LIST OF BONANZAS.

9. Crown Point and Belcher bonanza.—Discovered on the 1,400 foot level, and extended downward for 600 feet. Is still producing in the Belcher. Contents, 1,500,000 tons; value, $50,000,000.

10. Consolidated Virginia and California bonanza.—This last and greatest ore body which the lode has yet developed, was found by drifting eastward from the 1,500 foot level into what was supposed to be the last country rock. The bonanza lies above and below this, and is believed to contain $140,000,000. It extends for about 700 feet along the vein, is 600 feet in height, and nearly 100 feet in width. Up to the present date, it has yielded over $30,000,000, though discovered less than two years ago, and is now producing at the rate of $120,000 per day.

The Comstock now furnishes employment for over 2,000 miners. Its daily output of ore is nearly 2,000 tons, and its yield, for the year 1877, will approach $50,000,000. One-half of this (or, more correctly, about forty-two per cent.) is gold, and the balance silver. When the amount of ore now in sight is taken out, the lode will have produced in all something over $300,000,000 in precious metals.


[Pg 108]

VII.

SPECULATIONS IN NEVADA MINES.

MINING SPECULATIONS.—SWINDLERS IN NEW YORK AND BOSTON.—THE AUTHOR’S EXPERIENCE.—HOW HE WAS CAUGHT.—THE HOOK AND THE WAY TO BAIT IT.—LIMITED INVESTMENT.—THE ADVENTURER’S STORY.—FACTS AND FIGURES.—THE ROMANCE, AND THE SUBSEQUENT REALITY.—ONE HUNDRED PER CENT. A MONTH.—IRISH DIVIDENDS.—EXPLOSION OF THE BUBBLE.—THE VICTIMS AND THEIR FATE.—NANKEEN TROUSERS IN WINTER.—AN ADVENTURER’S EXPERIENCE IN LONDON.—HOW HE CAUGHT A CAPITALIST.—HELD BY THE GLITTERING EYE.

Among the various mining operations, there are many in which there are tunnels, and levels, and shafts of a metaphoric as well as of a literal character. This is peculiarly the case in our great cities: copper mines on Lake Superior, gold mines in Colorado and California, silver mines in Nevada and Utah, iron mines in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, have been exploited, in many instances, much more successfully in New York and Boston than at the places where they are located, or supposed to be located. In many instances, the mines which are sold have no existence whatever; millions of dollars have been paid in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities, for mines which had no existence, or next to none.

SPECULATORS AT THE MINES.
DEMONSTRATING THE VALUE OF A SILVER MINE.
MINES AND MINING ON PAPER. FAMILIAR SCENES.
SELLING A SILVER MINE.

Some years ago, it was my fortune to become infected with the silver mining fever. It was at a time when speculators from the far West and the Pacific coast were abundant, and their operations upon the credulous and unsophisticated natives of Manhattan Island were wonderful to behold, and became disagreeable to remember. What poor innocents we were! I had had some experience with gold mines, and other mines, and I knew, or ought to have known, that honesty did not abound among their manipulators to any alarming extent. [Pg 111] Most of those who came to New York with mines for sale were men of pleasing, though rough exterior, and their tongues were as flexible as the hair-spring of a watch. They could talk the ears from a donkey without moving a muscle; and the strangest part of it was, that the donkey would, generally, lose his aural appendages without knowing it: he would listen, and would deliberate, and, like the woman who deliberates, he would be lost. His hand (on the supposition that a donkey possesses hands) would go down to his pockets, and he would place the money—whether honestly or dishonestly acquired nobody knew—into the hands of the beguiling speculator; and the speculator thereupon would retire to the fastnesses of his hotel, and waste the substance of the verdant New Yorker in riotous living.

I was introduced to one of these adventurers, who owned a silver mine of wonderful richness. Figures were exhibited, and a plan of the mine was spread before us: it was a gorgeous parchment. The mine, with its dips, and spurs, and angles, was carefully delineated.

There was a picture of a crushing mill in full operation, and there was all the machinery portrayed on that parchment for running a first-class mine. A dozen of us were invited to meet the speculator the next day in a cosy little office where we could see specimens from the mines.

The speculator was there at the appointed hour. We came, we saw, and he conquered: there was a fortune before us.

“Gentlemen,” said the speculator, “this is the finest mine within forty miles of Frogtown.” Frogtown was the name of the city nearest to the great mine; I believe he called it the Revenue mine—good name, that, to enterprising men who wanted to increase their revenue.

A GLITTERING BAIT.

“Gentlemen,” he continued, “before this mine was discovered a good many people around Frogtown talked of moving away, but as soon as it was opened nobody wanted to leave. The population has increased a thousand per cent. in three months, and it will continue to increase quite as fast; in a year from now we will have a population of fifty thousand, [Pg 112] and we can employ three thousand men at least in and around the Revenue. I won’t sell the whole of it, gentlemen; you have not money enough in New York to buy the whole of this mine; but what I want is to raise money to develop it. There is a mine there worth a hundred millions of dollars, at the very least; but you see it may be worth millions of dollars, and at the same time it will want money to develop it.”

“I don’t exactly understand,” said I, “why you came all the way to New York to get money if the mine is so rich.”

“Why, the thing is very plain,” said he; “the people that came there have a use for all their money. Money is readily worth twenty-five per cent. a month at Frogtown, and it is hard to get it at that; men can do so much better there.

“I have in mind, now, a man who came there over six months ago with two thousand dollars; he has invested it in such a way that it is returning him four thousand dollars a month. Any man who knows anything about the business there, will readily put in his money where it will make him a fortune: it is the best place in the world for investing money.”

“That does not answer the question,” said another: “why can’t you get the money in some place near Frogtown, from people who know about your mine, and know how rich it is? and, any way, if you have so valuable a mine, why do you want to raise money?”

The Frogtown adventurer smiled a sarcastic smile, as if amused at the ignorance of the questioner. The smile was brief, but convincing, and gave full weight to the statement which followed it.

“Suppose now,” said he, “that you are in a house where you had a clear title to anything you discover. Going through the cellar of the house, you find an iron chest: you strike that chest, and you are sure you hear money rattle inside of it. You attempt to lift it, but find it too heavy: now what do you want to do? Plainly you want to open the chest; but it is firmly locked and is very solid. You look around for some implement with which you can break it open, but nothing of the sort can be found. There may be other men standing around, [Pg 113] but nobody among them has any tools that will help you. You look all through the house, but not a tool can be discovered: plainly you must go out of that house to find something that will help you to get at your money.

“Now, that is exactly the fix that we are in: our mine is the money chest, Frogtown is the cellar, and Nevada is the house. To open that mine, to make the shafts and to get the machinery, we must have money. The silver is there, plenty of it; but before we can put it into the market we must dig it out and refine it, and that is exactly the position. Your money chest will be of no use to you until it is opened, neither is the mine of any use until it is at work. You might have a property worth a million of dollars and not have a shilling to buy your breakfast with.”

PLAUSIBILITY OF A SWINDLER.

He repeated that winning smile, and we were convinced. He continued, “I will not sell the whole mine for all the money in New York, but I am ready to put it into a stock company, and sell half of it for sixty thousand dollars; and as soon as the money is paid in, we can go to work and develop the mine. It will return you, gentlemen, a hundred per cent. a month on your investment, and it will begin to pay dividends within three months, and the dividends, gentlemen, will be paid in coin, dollar for dollar.”

This was better still; gold was then at a high premium, or, what amounted to the same thing, greenbacks were at a heavy discount. Twelve hundred per cent. a year in coin was something not to be despised. We thought we ought to get more for our investment, but were willing to begin at that rate.

We made up the company, and were only allowed to put in one thousand dollars each. The speculator was a philanthropist: he wished to benefit as many as possible of his fellow-men; he would not consent that so great a blessing should be enjoyed by a few. “I want,” said he, “as many men as possible to have an interest is this matter. I want to show everybody that I am dealing fairly and honorably; and to satisfy you that everything is correct, I have plenty of references.” He mentioned several gentlemen more or less well known.

[Pg 114]

IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR.

Among them was one who, by a lucky circumstance, was in the very building where we were assembled. He was sent for, and came to our meeting.

He confirmed all that had been said by the rosy-lipped speculator; in fact, he confirmed a great deal more than had been said by the latter. Our thoughts, as we listened to him, were like those of the Queen of Sheba when she looked at the bank account of King Solomon.

We hastened to pay our money and secure our shares of the greatest silver mine of this or any other age. In a few days we obtained the certificates of our stock. They were beautiful specimens of the lithographer’s art, and nearly as large as a first-class morning newspaper. Of course there could be no doubt of the genuineness of an undertaking that was set forth on certificates like these.

Time passed on; that is to say, a few weeks passed on. We visited the office of the company every day or two, and heard nothing but the most glowing accounts. We heard daily of unfortunate and grief-stricken individuals who had been left out in the cold, who were seeking frantically to obtain some of the Revenue stock, but found, to their sorrow, that none was to be had. Each of us had invested his one thousand dollars, and was not allowed to invest more. Those miserable beings who had not been in on the ground floor, and were anxious to buy, were offering,—so we were told,—a hundred per cent. advance for shares, but none of us would sell. We scorned to double our money when we should soon begin to receive every month an amount equal to our investment. Never did a bull-dog cling with more tenacity to the under jaw of another bull-dog than we clung to the stock of the Revenue.

MORE MONEY.

But soon our picture of coming wealth began to lose its brightness. Our first dividend was an Irish one. As soon as the sixty thousand dollars were paid in, we were told that the sixty thousand dollars had gone for the purchase of the mine; that is to say, our half interest in it. Thirty thousand dollars were now needed for the purchase of a mill. Of what use would be a mine without a mill?

[Pg 115]

We admitted the force of this reasoning, and, not without much grumbling, we raised the money to purchase the mill. With the innocence of toothless and milk-imbibing infants we supposed that the purchase of a mill would put our mine in a paying condition.

The mill was bought, and then we were told that money was required for transporting it from San Francisco to Frogtown. About that time I began to see a hole through the ladder, and concluded there was a large-sized cat in that beautiful meal tub. I determined to send no more good money after bad money, and refused to pay any more assessments.

Some of my friends, however, who had gone into the enterprise, determined to stick to it. They paid the money on their share, or as much as was required for the transportation of the mill. When this was done, there was a call for more money to purchase a steam engine. Then the confounded engine had to be transported from San Francisco to Frogtown. More money. Then a mill site had to be purchased. More money. Then the mill site must be prepared for setting up the mill and machinery. More money. Next, the mill must be set up. More money. Next, a wood ranche must be bought; you could not run a mill without fuel. More money. Next, a shaft must be opened. More money. Next, a road must be built from the mine to the mill. More money. Next, chemicals must be bought for extracting the silver from the crushed ore. More money. And so it went on.

One after another my friends dropped out of the enterprise, and if they had not dropped out, I believe that every month would have brought forth some new device for tapping their pockets. Every one of them who stuck to the speculation longer than I did, became as financially dry as the middle of the Desert of Sahara.

“I’ll tell you what it is,” said one of them; “I have speculated in this silver mine all summer, and now I must wear nankeen pants and gaiter shoes all winter. A sitting of draw poker with one of those Mississippi fellows, who ‘does not know anything about the game,’ but somehow cleans you out before [Pg 116] you leave the table, is nothing compared to speculating in a silver mine.”

I fancy that a great many men could tell a story very much like this. The game was cautiously and carefully played. We were baited with that very gaudy fly which only allowed us to put in a thousand dollars each. We did not see the point at first, but we saw it afterwards.

When a man has invested a small sum of money he is more likely to let the swindler go unprosecuted that if his investment is a large one. Had we invested five, ten, or twenty thousand each in the enterprise, according to our financial condition, we should have devoted time, and trouble, and money to the prosecution of the speculator and his fellow-conspirators; but as our investment was comparatively small, we allowed the matter to drop. And then we were more readily deluded than if a larger sum had been demanded.

Swindling in mining speculations has become an exact science, and to carry on a swindle successfully requires a good knowledge of human nature, and of the expense of lawsuits.

COLLAPSE OF THE REVENUE.

The Revenue silver mine never paid a dollar to anybody, except to the man who sold it. A small quantity of machinery, and a steam engine, of about four dog power, were transported to Frogtown and set up; but they were seized afterwards, and held for a claim of the San Francisco iron merchant.

A shaft was sunk—that is, a hole was dug—about six feet deep, where there was no more prospect of finding silver than in the back yard of a Fourth Ward boarding-house. The deepest and most profitable shaft of the Revenue silver mine was sunk in the pockets of those who bought it.

As for the speculator, I believe he subsequently died in Nevada. As John Phœnix would say, “He was one day addressing a large audience, and when his speech was concluded, he dropped from the end of the wagon where he was standing, and the rope which fastened him to the tree being too short, he fell, and broke his neck.” At any rate, I saw his name one day in a paragraph from a territorial newspaper, which read about as follows:—

[Pg 117]

A NECK-TIE SOCIABLE.

“John Smith, equine abductor, was treated to a neck-tie sociable yesterday morning at sunrise, under the largest tree that could be found in the vicinity. The boys got up a nice surprise party for him.”

The day of mining speculation of this sort has not passed away, but the capitalists of New York and other eastern cities have had their eyes opened, and are not so easily taken in as they were of old.

Some of the enterprising speculators have transferred the scene of their operations to Europe, and are making very profitable shafts and tunnels in the money bags of the capitalists of the old world. I know some of them who have gone there with mining claims, which they have represented to be worth millions of dollars, though not really worth ten cents, and they have returned to America with a goodly amount of capital.

I once heard one of these gentlemen tell his experience with a heavy capitalist in London. “The old fellow,” said he, “was very cautious. I had a talk with him two or three times, and finally brought him some magnificent specimens. He looked at them very quietly, and then asked,—

“‘How much of this stuff is there?’

“‘O,’ said I, carelessly, “any quantity of it. There are five or six thousand tons of it in sight—right on the surface of the ground. The vein is ten feet wide. We have a claim five hundred yards long, and we think it is at least two thousand feet deep, and the farther down you go, the richer it gets.’

“The old fellow took the specimens once more, and I saw his eyes glisten. I knew then that I had him. The next day I sold him the mine, and got the money. Once I had got it, you bet I took a train for Paris; and I have not been in London since.”


[Pg 118]

VIII.

MINES AND MINING ENTERPRISES OF NORTH AFRICA.

MINING AMONG THE MOORS, BERBERS, AND ARABS—THE FRENCH CONQUEST—GEOLOGICAL SURVEYS—MINERAL WEALTH OF ALGERIA—A WONDERFUL IRON MINE—MOKTU-EL-HADID— HOW THE MINE IS WORKED—VISIT TO A MOUNTAIN OF SALT—A REMARKABLE FORMATION—ARTESIAN WELLS IN THE DESERT—SCENE AT THE OPENING OF ONE—EFFECTS ON THE PALM TREE—A PROPOSED INLAND SEA—THE SUEZ CANAL AND ITS HISTORY—HOW IT WAS MADE—ADVANTAGES TO THE WORLD’S COMMERCE.

Northern Africa is a country of great mineral wealth, but it has been only slightly developed. The Moors, Berbers, Arabs, and other inhabitants of that region have never been famous for their mining industry. They have very little knowledge of geology, and understand the working of only a few metals. Most of the gold and silver which they make into filigree and other jewelry comes from Europe; in fact, they have no mines of these metals that are worth mentioning, and when their supply from Europe has been cut off by war or for other reasons, they were obliged to bring it by a long journey from Timbuctoo and other points to the South. The Moors that occupied Spain took back with them, at the time of their expulsion, a knowledge of mining, but they seem to have lost it almost completely in the course of two or three generations.

Among the native people of Northern Africa, the Kabyles, in Algeria, seem to possess more mining knowledge than any other tribe. They have been quite industrious in working the iron mines which abound in their country, and many of their processes display considerable ingenuity. They are excellent workers in iron and steel, and some of their knives, sword-blades, and other tools and weapons, are of a fine quality, and admit of a high polish and finish. Their gun-barrels have long been famous throughout Africa, and the terrible execution [Pg 119] of which they are capable has been practically demonstrated on many battle-fields.

Down to 1830, with the exception of an occasional brief period, no part of Northern Africa had been occupied by any European power. Spain had several times occupied small portions of Morocco and Algeria, and the English and French had shown their force by descents upon the coast, but none of these changes had more than a few years’ duration. But in 1830, a new state of affairs began.

FRENCH ARMIES INVADE EGYPT.

France was exasperated by the depredations of Algerine pirates and the perfidy of the Bey of Algiers. She sent an expedition, which landed a few miles from Algiers, and in less than a fortnight the Bey was a prisoner on his way into exile, and his city, with an immense accumulation of treasure, fell into the hands of the invaders.

The French went to Algeria to stay, and they have carried out their intention. They sent their armies to overrun and occupy the country, and for years kept up an energetic warfare, until the Arabs were conquered. There have been occasional insurrections, some of them of considerable magnitude, but all have been unsuccessful, and there is at present no power in Algeria which can drive out the French. They have created harbors, have opened railways, have made hundreds of miles of wagon-roads, have introduced new modes of agriculture, planted forests, and taken many other means necessary to a permanent occupation. The country is progressing rapidly, and at present few of the wealthy and prosperous Arabs would be willing to exchange the new state of affairs for the old. There are many natives who would like to see the French expelled, but they are not among the most influential classes.

One of the first things which attracted the attention of the French, was the question of mining. In the very first year of their occupation, a geological survey of the country was ordered, and a corps of engineers was sent from France for that purpose.

Their report was of the most favorable character. They found copper, lead, silver, zinc, mercury—bath cinnabar, and [Pg 120] sulphide—and in several places they discovered gold, but not in paying quantities. Many concessions for working these mines have been granted; some of them have been profitable, while others have been the reverse, owing chiefly to the lack of means of transportation. The steady increase in the number of railways and wagon-roads is doing much toward the development of these mines, and rendering profitable the working of those which have thus far been managed at a loss.

EXPLORATIONS OF THE IRON MINES.

But the greatest mineral wealth of Algeria is in its iron mines, which abound all along the coast, and so near to it that the matter of transportation is of no great consequence. The ore is of a remarkably good quality, as it contains very little sulphur, arsenic, and phosphorus, which frequently render otherwise valuable material almost worthless. Much of it contains a great deal of manganese, which is very useful in smelting and reducing the metal, and renders it unnecessary to supply that article in making the flux. The ore is so rich that it pays to transport it to England, even though it comes in competition with the iron ores of that country.

The principal use of this Algerian iron is for manufacture into Bessemer steel, and it is said to be vastly superior to all other iron for this purpose. The advance in iron and steel in the past few years has been greatly to the advantage of the iron miners in Algeria, and the most of them are making their fortunes with great rapidity.

One of the richest mines in the country is near Bone, in the Province of Constantine. During a journey through Algeria, I paid a visit to that place, and embraced the opportunity to investigate the iron question.

The mine is nothing more or less than a mountain of iron. It is known in Arabic as Moktu-el-Hadid, and was worked very slightly by the Kabyles, previous to the French occupation. The place is nineteen miles from Bone, and a railway connects the mine with the harbor. It is so arranged that the ore, which is piled into the cars at the mine, can be dumped into the holds of the ships in the harbor.

At first glance, you would not suppose this mountain to be of [Pg 121] any special value. It looks not unlike the famous Iron Mountain of Missouri, but is more irregular, and is not covered in the same way with trees and bushes. But as you examine closer, you see that the mountain is no common affair.

DESCRIPTION OF THE VALUE OF THE MINES.

In some places, the mineral crops up above the surface of the ground, and all that is necessary is to blast it away and cart it off. In other places, it appears in veins which are always very thick, and in a slanting position; they rest upon beds of mica-schist, and are covered with a layer of indurated clay, mingled with nodules of iron ore. The ore contains sixty-four per cent. of pure iron; the annual exportation is about half a million tons, and sometimes exceeds that amount. The profit, clear and clean after deducting every thing, is about half a million dollars, or one dollar on each ton of ore taken out. The owners of the mine have a valuable property, and are not inclined to sell it, or to take in partners.

There are other iron mines in Algeria, but none of them are so large or so profitable as the one I have just described. The labor is performed partly by Arab workmen, and partly by Frenchmen. The Arabs are very largely employed, and are quite industrious and reliable. The Kabyles are considered the best and can generally command a trifle more wages than the men of the other tribes for the same work. They come to the cities in search of employment, and after accumulating a certain sum of money, return home contented. Their wants are few, and they live very cheaply.

While I was in Algeria, I made a journey south to the Desert of Sahara. In the desert proper no mines of iron, gold, or silver are to be found, but there are some curious mines of salt, which have been known to the Arabs for thousands of years.

One day the guide called the attention of my companion and myself to a mountain of a peculiar bluish appearance, unlike those that surrounded it. Like all the other mountains in the desert, it had not a particle of vegetation upon it, and we could see no difference between that and the rest, except in its color. I asked what it was.

“It is the famous mountain of salt,” said the guide.

[Pg 122]

HOW THE ARABS OBTAIN THEIR SALT.

This information caused us to look again, and more intently. Herodotus, the Greek historian, who flourished more than two thousand years ago, traveled through this country, and describes five mountains of salt. This which was before us was one of the five.

As we came nearer, we could see that it presented a rough and broken surface, and had evidently been thrown up by some violent convulsion of the earth. That it is the result of an upheaval, is shown by the presence, at the top, of certain layers of sand and marine shells which are found lower down in the plain.

The salt stands in pillars and columns, and in great masses many tons in weight. Salt enough to pickle all the beef in the world could be obtained from this mountain, and then there would be enough left for the preservation of the mutton, pork, and other meats that need the aid of strong brine to keep them properly, and even then there would be a great deal of salt to spare.

During the winter, the rain loosens the blocks and causes crevices to form in the mass of salt rock. The Arabs go there in the spring and break away these blocks by the aid of iron bars; then they knock them to pieces with large hammers, and thus get them into proper shape for transportation. For thousands of years, they have thus been at work on this mountain, taking all they want, but the supply is not by any means exhausted. The quarries are not constantly worked, as the demand for the salt is not very great. The mountain is so far from the coast that it does not pay to carry the salt there, and consequently the demand is purely local.

There is a similar mountain, though much smaller, some distance away to the west. It is more curious in some respects, there being a stream of water which passes it, and has worn a great many pits, caverns, and cavities in the mass of salt. Before reaching the rock, the stream is perfectly fresh, but very soon it becomes impregnated with salt. The stalactites and pillars are very curious in their formation, and when the sun shines upon them they sparkle like great masses [Pg 123] of diamonds. In some places, the crystals of salt jut over the edge of the little stream, and occasionally they fall just a little short of forming an arch.

THE FRENCH SUPPLY THE DESERT WITH WATER.

In the desert proper, the French have done something to advance growth by boring Artesian wells. The great need of the desert is water, and many thousands of square miles of land, on which there is not a blade of grass or plant, might be rendered fertile if any means could be devised to supply them with water. The French have given a great deal of study to this subject, but as none of them are possessed of the power of Moses to bring water from a rock where apparently none existed, they have not yet covered the desert with palm trees and wheat fields.

The palm tree must have water to keep it alive. The Arabs say it lives with its head in the fire and its foot in the water; it seems to be happy with the burning sun of the desert, and not even the hottest rays which the heavens can pour down can disturb it in the least so long as its foot is properly bathed. Take away its supply of water, and it dies in a short time. It must be watered twice a week; there is generally a ditch around the foot of the tree, and this ditch is filled either from a canal or with water carried in buckets or skins. About a barrel full of the liquid is needed for each tree.

It will thus be seen that the limit of a palm oasis in the desert may be sometimes determined by the water supply. I have seen thousands of acres of desert land, possessing no value whatever, which would have been far different had there been a running and reliable stream or spring in their vicinity.

The French determined to improve the supply of water, and in this way increase the value of the country both to themselves and the Arabs. The first attempt was made at the oasis of Tuggurt, in 1856. The apparatus was taken there on camels’ backs, with a great deal of trouble, and finally set at work.

After five weeks of labor the drill struck a water course under the gypsum, at a depth of about two hundred feet. An immense spring gushed out with such force that very little [Pg 124] strength was required for removing the tools. It flowed about a thousand gallons a minute, and has been flowing at that rate ever since.

The natives were wild with delight. They danced and sung, and made a great many manifestations of joy, not only on the occasion of opening the well, but for days and weeks afterwards. Ever since then, similar scenes have been enacted in other parts of the desert occupied by the French, whenever a well is opened. The culture of dates has been enormously extended by the planting of new groves wherever the wells are made, and both the natives and their conquerors have found the enterprise of mutual advantage. Sometimes the wells are salt or brackish, but the date palm does not mind any little trifle like that. Whether the water which is supplied to it is fresh or salt, hot or cold, does not seem to make any difference to the tree. It prospers and grows and produces fruit all the same.

INLAND LAKE IN THE DESERT.

A part of the desert is below the level of the Mediterranean, and some of the scientific men and others interested in the development of Algeria, have proposed to dig a canal from the sea, and allow this empty space to be filled. They would thus create an inland lake on which steamers could run, and which could furnish a vast supply of water to groves of palm trees along its shores. But the enterprise is not likely to be undertaken, for a variety of reasons.

In the first place, the cost would be something enormous, and quite out of proportion to the result proposed. The cutting or canal would be more than a hundred miles long, and for quite a distance, forty or fifty feet deep.

The distance which could be flooded is variously estimated from twenty to forty thousand square miles. Of course the land covered by the water would be of no use, and it includes many prosperous oases of date palms, which would have far more water than they need in order to bear fruits. To start with, there would thus be a heavy loss.

The effect upon the climate of Europe of the proposed inland sea has been much discussed. The whole of France owes its [Pg 125] warm, genial climate to the hot winds which blow from Africa across the Mediterranean, and do not lose their soothing temperature till they reach the North Sea and the Baltic. Africa thus becomes a vast furnace to supply Europe with hot air. It is feared by many of the scientific men who have studied the matter, that the inland sea would partially or completely change the climate. The winds would absorb the moisture, and thus form vast rain clouds; instead of conveying warmth and dry air to southern Europe, they would be cool and laden with rain. The grapes would decay upon the vines without ripening; sunny France would be no longer so, and Paris would become as cold as Berlin, and as dreary as London. Doubtless this is an overstatement of the case, but the risk that any of these events might happen outweighs the probable good which the inland sea might accomplish.

THE SUEZ CANAL.

Not altogether distinct from mining matters, as it certainly required a vast deal of excavating, is the Suez Canal—a French enterprise of the greatest magnitude. The plan for making a canal between the Mediterranean and Red seas is very old, and has received a great deal of attention from ancient times to the present. One important difference between the canal of to-day and those of the olden time is in its direct course from sea to sea, which makes it altogether a salt-water canal. The old plans were in favor of tapping the Nile and connecting the river with the Red Sea, so that a portion of the route would be a fresh-water one. The size of modern ships rendered it necessary to abandon the Nile scheme altogether, as the shallowness of the river would not permit the passage of the ordinary sea-going vessel, even if we leave unconsidered those vast specimens of the naval architect’s skill which are the pride and boast of all maritime nations.

According to Herodotus and other writers, “the first to attempt the construction of the canal to the Red Sea,” was Pharaoh Necho II, one of the Egyptian kings, who reigned about six hundred and ten years before Christ. His canal left the Nile at Bubastis, near Zagazig, and followed along a valley leading toward the Red Sea, which then extended much farther [Pg 126] inland than it does at present. Pliny estimates the length of this canal at sixty-two Roman miles, or fifty-seven English ones, and modern measurements show that these figures were very nearly correct. Herodotus estimates the distance from the Red Sea to the mouth of the Nile at one hundred and fourteen miles, and he says that 120,000 men perished while cutting it. This is probably an exaggeration or a slip of the pen, as he doubtless meant to say that that number of men was engaged in the work.

The canal was not finished during the reign of Necho II. The work was continued by his successors, and finally completed, but it was neglected, and the drifting sands soon filled the canal and made it useless. It remained so for centuries, though several attempts were made to clear it out. It is said to have been re-opened about the year 1000 of our era, by one of the Arab sultans, but it was again neglected, with the same result as before.

PLAN OF NAPOLEON FOR DIGGING A CANAL.

In modern times, the first to take up the subject and give it careful attention, was the emperor Napoleon, at the time of his conquest of Egypt in 1798. He personally examined the traces of the canal made by Necho and his successors, and ordered one of his engineers to make a careful survey of the route, to ascertain what difference there might be between the levels of the two seas.

This engineer reported a difference of thirty feet, and as this would render it impossible to make a direct canal without locks, a scheme was projected for making use of a portion of the Nile, as in the olden time, and having a system of locks where the salt-water canal joined the river. But the chances of war interfered, as the French were compelled to evacuate Egypt before the plan had been reported.

Nothing more was done until 1846, when a mixed commission was appointed to investigate the matter. They exploded the old error of a difference of level, and showed that the height of the water on each side was so nearly the same as to make no appreciable difference. Further than to establish this fact, the commission did not go, except to draw up some elaborate plans, which never amounted to anything.

[Pg 127]

HOW THE CANAL WAS PLANNED AND DUG.

In 1855, a project was completed by M. de Lesseps, for a canal without locks, and this is the scheme which has been successfully carried out by the Suez Canal Company. Some of the details were changed, but none of them are of any serious consequence.

It would require too much space to record all the diplomatic and other negotiations that attended the inception of the scheme, and the various means adopted to secure the funds necessary for conducting the work. The financial part of it was quite as difficult as the labor of the engineers, and several times it looked as though the enterprise must be abandoned altogether. The whole capital required by the canal, from commencement to completion, was about seventeen million pounds sterling, or eighty-five millions of dollars!

The work of excavating was begun on the 25th of April, 1859, by a few laborers who dug a small ditch in the presence of M. de Lesseps and four directors of the company, on the spot selected for the Mediterranean mouth of the canal. Immediately after this working, encampments were established all along the line, and the enterprise was earnestly pushed. At first, the work was performed without any machinery. Men and donkeys were the active force, the former armed with shovels, and the latter having a couple of baskets hung across their backs.

A native would fill the baskets with sand and drive the donkey on. They proceeded to where the burden was to be deposited, and when they arrived there, the baskets were emptied, and the donkey was driven back for a fresh load.

But it was found that the removal from agriculture and their other usual employments of the men necessary for digging the canal, was a serious interference with the affairs of the country. Twenty thousand men were required every month, and the drain was found to be so great that, in 1863, the Khedive refused to furnish them.

Matters then came to a stand still, and the company set about replacing manual labor with machinery. Various machines were devised before success was reached, and the magnificent dredges were made, by which the canal was finished. [Pg 128] What was at first thought to be a misfortune proved an advantage, as the dredges were far more economical than manual labor, and enabled the company to finish the work much sooner than would have been possible under the old plan.

THE FINISHING OF THE CANAL.

The canal was finished in the latter part of 1869, and opened for traffic on the 17th of November of that year. Forty-eight ships went from Port Said to Suez, on that day and the next, carrying guests who had been invited to the ceremonies. All nations of the world may be said to have taken part in the affair, which was on a magnificent scale, and cost many thousands of dollars to the Khedive of Egypt and the canal company. When the ceremonies were over, the canal was formally opened for business, and has been open ever since.

The canal is a hundred miles long from Suez to Port Said. The following figures of its dimensions will be found interesting:

FEET
Width at water line, where banks are low, 328
Width at water line, where banks are high, 190
Width at bottom, 72
Depth, 26
Slope of bank near water line, one foot in five.

At frequent intervals there are wide spaces where ships may pass, and there are three lakes which were formed by the filling of depressions in the desert. These lakes are pretty sheets of water, and one of them—Lake Timsah—has become a pleasure resort where the people of Cairo go to enjoy salt-water bathing.

The advantages of the canal to the commerce of the world are very great. The old routes have been partially abandoned for the new one, and at present the movement of steamers through the canal averages more than a hundred a month each way, not to speak of sailing ships and smaller craft. The saving of distance by the canal may be shown by the following table.

Via Cape of
Good Hope.
Via
Suez Canal.
Distance
Saved.
England to Bombay (nautical miles), 10,860 6,020 4,840
New York to Bombay, 11,520 7,920 3,600
St. Petersburg to Bombay, 11,610 6,770 4,840
Marseilles to Bombay, 10,560 4,620 5,940

[Pg 129]

IX.

ADVENTURES OF DIVERS.

GOING UNDER WATER.—PEARL DIVING.—COSTUME OF THE DIVERS.—HOW THEY DESCEND.—OBTAINING THE PEARL OYSTERS.—DIVING-BELLS.—HOW THEY ARE MADE.—ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES.—ADVENTURES IN DIVING-BELLS.—SUBMARINE ARMOR.—ITS CONSTRUCTION AND USE.—A DIVER’S ADVENTURE.—A HORRIBLE SIGHT.—THE DIVER’S STORY.—A PEARL DIVER AND A SHARK.—A NARROW ESCAPE.—STRATEGY IN THE WATER.—PEARL DIVING.—PREPARATORY STEPS TO BE TAKEN.—PREPARING FOR THE SEVERE TASK.—TRAINING THE PAPOOSES IN MEXICO.—HOW TO AVOID SHARKS AND DOG-FISH.—THE WAYS THAT ARE DARK, AND THE TRICKS THAT ARE VAIN.

To go under the water is pretty nearly as difficult as to go under the earth. Man is not made to live in the water, although he has been known to pass many hours there without touching land. A great many persons seem to have a dread of water in any shape. They rarely bathe, and never drink the liquid when they can obtain anything stronger. It frequently becomes necessary for men to go beneath the surface of the water, exploring the wrecks of ships, and searching for valuable things that are to be found with a varying quantity of fathoms above them. In the East Indies, and in South America, and other parts of the world, the primitive form of diving without any apparatus whatever has been popular for many hundreds of years. The pearl divers of the East are dressed in a costume somewhat resembling that of the famous Greek Slave, minus her fetters. The diver, when preparing to go below, arms himself with a pick, with which to break away the pearl oysters. He is provided with a stone weighing forty or fifty pounds, and attached to a rope several feet in length. Filling his lungs with air, he grasps the rope in his hand, and then jumps from the side of the boat into the water. The weight of the stone carries him down. When he reaches the bottom, he detaches the oysters from the rocks, places them in a bag at his side, and then rises with [Pg 130] his prize to the surface. Ordinarily he does not remain more than a minute, or a minute and a half, below the surface, though instances have been known of pearl divers who would remain as long as four or five minutes under the water. Of course he can only remain as long as the air which has been taken into his lungs will last him, and every one who tries to hold his breath knows that this cannot be for a long time.

The diver generally closes his nostrils with a split stick, or something of the sort, to prevent the entrance of the water, and he is very careful to keep his mouth tightly shut. Water and air do not mix well in one’s lungs, and no man has ever yet invented a system of breathing water instead of air. At the depth to which the pearl diver descends, the pressure of the water causes a very unpleasant sensation in the ears, and before he has made many subaqueous journeys the drum of the ear is generally broken. The breakage of the ear-drum causes no serious injury beyond rendering the person who has undergone it hard of hearing, and instances have been known of divers becoming entirely deaf in consequence of the injury to their ears.

PEARL DIVING IN THE EAST INDIES.
IMPROVEMENTS IN DIVING.
DIVING-BELLS.

As an improvement upon the primitive form of diving, the Diving-Bell was invented. It is called a bell on account of its shape, and not in consequence of any sonorous quality. It is constructed in the general shape of a bell, or an inverted tumbler; it is lowered, mouth downwards, into the water by means of ropes attached to a ship, a boat, or the arm of a derrick projecting over the water. Generally, however, it is let down from a ship’s side. The earliest diving-bells had no arrangement for supplying them with air. After the quantity within the bell was exhausted, the diver gave a signal by means of a rope, and the bell was drawn to the surface. At present the diving-bell has a flexible rubber tube attached to it, by which it is constantly supplied with fresh air, so that a diver may remain several hours under water without suffering for want of a pure atmosphere. The foul air is let out through a valve in the top of the bell, and is constantly rising in the shape of little bubbles. The pure air is forced down by [Pg 133] means of a pump, which must be kept in steady operation. As long as this pump is at work, and the bubbles are rising from the bell, those above can be assured that everything is satisfactory; but let the bubbles cease to rise, and it is instantly known that something is going wrong.

As the bell descends below the surface, the pressure of the air becomes very great, being equal to the pressure of the water. A dense atmosphere of this sort has many peculiarities. It is easy enough to breathe, but the pressure on the drum of the ear is frequently inconvenient. An ordinary whisper will sound as loud as the customary tones of the voice, and if there are two persons in the bell, and one of them speaks as he would naturally speak in the open air, he will seem to the other to be shouting with the full power of his lungs. A slight blow upon any metallic substance within the bell will sound like a very heavy one, and any noise that would cause no inconvenience in the open air may become absolutely painful in the dense atmosphere in the inside of a diving-bell.

A diving-bell must be made very heavy to carry it downward, and large weights are generally placed around its mouth. A shelf inside serves as a seat for the occupant, and when it is lowered to the bottom, the ground can be leisurely surveyed or examined for whatever object the diver has in view. Sometimes, when two persons descend in a bell, one of them may leave the bell by diving into the water, and then returning, but he cannot go very far. Submarine armor, however, enables him to go quite a distance away from the bell, and return at his leisure. Submarine armor possesses many advantages over the ordinary diving-bell. A man encased in a submarine suit can remain under water for a long time, and move about pretty much as he likes.

SUBMARINE ARMOR.

Submarine armor consists of a water-proof suit, completely encasing the body of the wearer. It is put on in two sections; the trousers have shoes attached to them, with heavy leaden soles, and at the waist they are firmly fastened to a metallic ring. The upper part of the suit covers the arms, the head, [Pg 134] and the chest, and the lower part of it is fastened to a ring which exactly meets the other. The upper part of the suit is put on, and after it the second, or lower part. The two rings are then fastened together by means of screws, and a thin band of rubber upon them excludes both air and water. The head of the diver is enclosed in a helmet made of brass or other metal, and having a thick plate of glass in front. Air is conveyed inside this helmet by means of a rubber tube, and an air pump must be kept in constant operation, to supply the man in armor with the necessary amount of air. The foul air escapes through a valve in the top, just as it escapes from the top of the diving-bell. A suit of clothing of this sort does not add to the beauty of its wearer; it is very cumbersome, and I greatly doubt if it ever becomes fashionable for an afternoon promenade on Broadway. The helmet might answer very well as a disguise, for the reason that the face of the wearer is almost, and generally quite, invisible.

When a diver is properly encased in his armor, he is swung off from the side of the boat or ship, and sinks into the water. The leaden soles upon his shoes carry him straight down, and serve to keep his feet in the proper place and position. The tube supplies him with air, and he can walk about and use his hands freely. He can handle the pick and shovel, and can enter the cabin of a sunken ship; in fact, he can go in any place where the flexible tube can be made to follow; but all the time he is below, the pump must maintain a steady motion, and the valve in the top of his helmet must work freely. A slight accident may cause his death: should any of the machinery of the pump give way, or some careless person on the ship step upon the tube as it lies along the deck, the diver might lose his life. It sometimes happens that on being drawn to the surface the diver is found dead. Some slight accident has cut off his supply of air, and cutting off the air has deprived him of life.

Sunken ships have been explored by means of this diving armor, and sometimes large amounts of treasure are recovered through its use. In some cases miners have prosecuted their [Pg 135] operations under water by means of this apparatus. A few years since an expedition was fitted out to examine a wreck of a ship which was sunk more than half a century ago on the coast of South America. She was known to have a great deal of treasure on board. Operations had been undertaken frequently by means of common divers and diving-bells to recover this treasure, but none of the enterprises had been rewarded with success. With their submarine armor to aid them, the new explorers were successful, and were handsomely rewarded for their efforts.

Thrilling stories are told by men who have thus gone below the surface of the water. Some time ago a diver was sent down to examine a steamer that had been sunk in about sixty feet of water, and had carried down many of its passengers. The man went down, and made two or three efforts without success to enter the cabin of the vessel. On the fourth visit he accomplished his object, and reached the cabin. Soon he made a signal to be drawn up. When he was on the deck of the ship, and the armor was removed, he fainted. When he recovered, he was asked the cause of his faintness, and replied,—

A HORRIBLE SIGHT.

“It’s enough to make any man faint to see what I have seen. I went into the cabin of that ship; it was full of water, of course; but that wasn’t all. It was full of the bodies of those passengers that went down when the ship was lost. There was a slight motion of the water, caused by the ground swell; and, as I entered the cabin, the water slowly swayed backward and forward, and swung these bodies with it. At the very door one of them brushed against me, or rather rolled against me, and its dead, glassy eyes stared directly in the face of my helmet, not six inches away. I knew it was dead, but there seemed to be a life-like expression in that cold and stony face. I passed by it, and had gone but a few feet before I encountered another body; and as I looked along the cabin, the vessel, being slightly careened, received a dim light through its windows. Those bodies swinging with the motion of the water seemed more like living than like dead [Pg 136] forms. There was a combination of life and death in their paleness which was absolutely horrible; and not for all the treasure this ship contains will I go down again.”

The diver positively refused to repeat his descent, at least in that part of the ship; but others, less sensitive than himself, were found to go down and complete the exploration. None of them, however, appeared anxious to continue on that sort of work, and all were heartily glad when the exploration in the cabin was completed.

SEEKING FOR PEARLS.

The life of a pearl diver is full of adventures. The pearl oyster is found only in warm countries, or, at all events, very rarely in cold countries. The parts of the sea where these oysters are found are generally frequented by sharks. The sharks have a great fondness for divers, but it can be readily understood that the divers do not reciprocate the fondness of this finny tribe. Nothing is more pleasing to the shark—that is to say, an old and well-educated shark—than to make a breakfast off a pearl diver. The diver objects to this little arrangement, and remonstrates with the shark; but the latter doesn’t heed his remonstrances, unless they are of the most positive character.

Before going below, the diver generally scans the water very carefully, to see whether any of his man-eating friends are around and ready to welcome him. When he has reached the bottom, finished his labor, filled his bag with oysters, and is ready to ascend, he always takes a good look aloft, to see that no shark is waiting for him. The shark does not pick up the diver at the bottom; he makes no attack as long as the man is beneath him, but watches his chance, and as the man goes upward he makes a sudden dash, and considering the diver a stranger, takes him in. It is not unusual in the pearl diving regions to hear of men who have suddenly disappeared while below; and the inference always is, that these men have been quietly and calmly eaten. A pearl seeker whom I met some years ago while on a sea voyage told me an exciting story of an adventure with a shark in the pearl regions not far from Panama.

[Pg 137]

“I had in my employ,” said he, “about a dozen divers, very active, athletic fellows, who did their duty faithfully, stole all the pearls they could when my back was turned, and sometimes, unless I was very watchful, they reduced my returns very materially. I had a curiosity to learn the peculiarities of pearl diving for myself, and so engaged one of the professional divers to teach me. Well, he taught me.

“My first duty was to strip off all my clothes, swing a bag over my shoulder, take an iron rod about two feet long and sharpened at one end with which to detach the oysters, seize a stone, and after fastening my nose so as not to take in any water that way, I jumped overboard and followed the diver below.

“The water was about thirty feet deep, and the first time I went down I could do nothing but come back again. I didn’t bring any oysters that time. The next time I went down, I managed to get half a dozen oysters, and then I came up. Well, after a while I got so that I could get my bag half filled on each descent, and began to think that I was a very fair diver. I did not do much of it, though. Half a dozen times a day were all that I was willing to try. My ears stood it very well the first day, but the second day I went down deeper and staid rather longer than at any previous time, and when I came up my ears were bleeding, and I felt as if there was at least a barrel of water in my head. That was enough for that day; but the next morning I felt all right, and tried it again.

ADVENTURE WITH A SHARK.

“Always before I went down they cautioned me to look out for sharks. ‘Never stir from the bottom,’ said one of the men, ‘until you have looked up to the top, and find everything is clear above you.’ I remembered his advice, and it was well that I did so. About ten days after I had begun to learn the business, I went down as usual, picked up some oysters, put them in my bag, and was starting to go up. I gave my usual look above, and there I saw a big shovel-nosed shark watching me. He was evidently calculating that he had me sure, and considered me as good a breakfast as he wanted. I did not [Pg 138] like his looks, and what to do I did not exactly know. I would have much rather been in the cabin of my schooner than in the stomach of that fellow. My first impulse was to dart up beneath him, and follow the custom of the natives. Generally when one sees a shark, and can’t get off in any other way, he rises as rapidly as possible beneath the fish, and sticks the iron rod into his belly. This is a treatment for which the shark is not prepared, and unless he is over-hungry he will generally go away. Sometimes, though, he shows fight; and when it comes to a struggle it is very fierce. The shark is in his natural element, but the man is not in the element to which he is most accustomed, and if the shark is large and persistent he generally wins.

“I did not consider myself up to the emergency of stabbing that fellow with my rod, and thought I would take the chance of going by him. But that was of no use; he would have taken me in as I reached the surface, just as a trout takes in a fly. In an emergency like mine, men think, and they must think very rapidly. I do not believe that I ever thought with more rapidity in all my life. The place where I had been gathering oysters was at the side of a large rock, and I had not left it when I saw the shark. I moved quietly to the other side, thinking to dodge him.

A FIGHT UNDER WATER.

“He saw my movement, and immediately swam over the rock, and placed himself above me. Well, what was to be done next, and what do you suppose I did? You know there is a little fish called the cuttle-fish. It is not much of a fish; it is not handsome; it cannot swim fast, and is not heavy on the fight. When pursued it throws out a sort of inky substance, which blackens the water and makes it sufficiently cloudy to enable the cuttle-fish to escape. It carries this ink in a bag, and keeps it laid up ready for use. Perhaps you might call him a marine editor; that is, the sort of editor that does not fight, but defends himself by slinging ink in the face of his adversaries.

“I was not in a condition to fight, and so I quickly thought I would play cuttle-fish. On one side of the rock the bottom [Pg 139] was a sandy mud, and I immediately conceived the idea of stirring up this mud, thickening the water, and so making a cloud, behind which I could escape. With my pick I stirred the mud, and in less than ten seconds I had the water all around me very thick and cloudy.

“Then I slipped back to the other side of the rock, and went above. I reached the side of the boat with just strength enough to lay hold of it. The men saw that something was wrong, and they instantly seized me, and pulled me on board. They had become alarmed at my long absence, as I was under water nearly twice the time I had been at any previous descent.

A NARROW ESCAPE.

“Well, this is not the whole of the story. If I should take off my boot—the right one—you would see some very ugly scars on my foot. That shark watched the water where I was, and just as I reached the surface, and was being pulled into the boat, he discovered me. He darted for me, whirled on his back,—sharks always have to turn on their backs to seize their prey,—and tried to take in my foot.

“The men saw him coming, and they pulled me in about as fast as any man was ever pulled into a boat. That shark did not get me, as, of course, you believe, but he did get hold of the end of my foot. Two toes are gone, and the others are pretty well scarred. If he had made his dive at me one second earlier, I do not believe I should have had any foot on this leg to boast of. Confound these sharks, any how. They do not respect a white man at all, or half as much as they do a brown-skinned native.

“Take a lot of sharks when they are not particularly hungry, and a lot of niggers may swim around them, and they will be as sociable as if they belonged to the same family; but just let them see a white man in the water, and they will take him in as readily as a bull-dog would take in a beefsteak.

“I have been some time telling this story to you, but the whole occurrence did not consume more than two or three minutes.”

PREPARATORY ARRANGEMENTS.

In Mexico, a peculiar way of pearl-fishing is going on. [Pg 140] Preparatory to entering on pearl-fishing in that country, a contractor must obtain a concession, and take care to be provided with such articles as the Indians most desire—eatables, tools, coarse articles of dress, and toys. The concession is obtained by securing a fifth of the produce of the fishery to the authorities of La Paz, and then, at an expense of five dollars, a right to fish in a certain spot is acquired.

A picturesque scene is presented by the encampment of the Indians with their families, who are mainly supported through the year by the fishery. They impatiently await the coming of their employers, and their approach is the signal for a joyful tumult. All join in the shout of welcome, and many plunge into the sea, to show, by their various performances in the water, their superior fitness for the labors they are anxious to undertake.

Loud cries are heard, of “Engage me, master,” “I will make your fortune,” “You employed me last year,” “I am not only the best of divers, but I am always lucky.”

A selection is made, and the contractor takes with him those he deems the ablest hands, pursued by the reproaches and taunts of those who consider they are unfairly neglected. The conditions of the engagement secure the divers’ maintenance during the fishery, and a share of the unopened oysters. These requirements granted, shaking hands seals or completes the arrangement.

It is from the 15th of May to the 15th of August that the Mexican fishing is prosecuted. Then it is that calm weather and cloudless sky may be expected, which are indispensable to success. Early in the afternoon a breeze frequently comes from the northeast. Should it rain, the work is partly suspended. The evening is occupied in opening the oysters collected in the early part of the day.

The day after the arrival of the divers, the places most likely to prove favorable are sought by experienced eyes, and a sort of rehearsal is gone through by the Indians. They plunge in to a moderate depth, and remain but a short time under water. Then they prepare themselves for the severer task. Their [Pg 141] children, almost amphibious, remain on the bank, and are thus prepared to take up the calling of a diver at some future day.

The Indians dive fearlessly, being accustomed to such exercises from their infancy, plunging to a depth of from five to ten fathoms by two cords, a diving-stone and a net, which are connected with the boat, which always accompanies them. The diver, putting the toes of his right foot on the rope of the diving-stone, and his left on the net, seizes the two cords with one hand, and, closing his nostrils with the other, goes to the bottom of the water, where he brings the net around his neck, and collects and puts into it as many shells as he can reach while he remains below, which is generally about two minutes. On emerging from the sea, he discharges water from his mouth and nose, and sometimes blood, which, however, does not deter him from presently resuming his labors. Some men will frequently make fifty trips in one forenoon.

Divers soon find themselves able to remain under water two minutes; some occasionally stay three minutes, but never longer. Young divers at first are curiously affected; blood rushes from the nose, eyes, and ears, when they come up, caused by the compression of the lungs. It is a painful sight, but rest and cold water are the only remedies applied, and, after a short time, the bleeding is not renewed on diving.

THE OPENING OF THE SEASON.

The opening of the season is marked by a ceremony, intended to be very solemn. A sorcerer is brought with the divers, to exorcise the sea, and protect them. In the performance of his important duty, this highly-gifted personage addresses awful language to the dog-fish, setting forth his past atrocities and admonishing him to act a better part in future.

A single plunge enables a diver to secure five or six oysters, sometimes seven or eight, but rarely more. The boats which attend them are managed by rowers, or are secured by an anchor, or a stone, fastened to a rope. Some of the divers have a rope around them, attached to the boat. The most prudent course is to be as little encumbered as possible, that they may avoid the sharks and dog-fish. They are, however, generally armed with a short stick, made of hard wood, and [Pg 142] pointed. A lookout or watcher is in each boat, to give a signal to those under water when danger is apparent.

THE WAYS THAT ARE DARK.

The gangs of younger divers divide into three parties, and rest for longer periods. They go to their labor fasting. When below, they of course snatch the oysters up as quickly as possible, using the short stick they carry, when necessary to separate them from any other substance. Finding an oyster likely to contain a pearl, the stick is sometimes used to open it, and the diver will reappear with a shell or two, and tell that during three minutes immersion he could discover nothing but shells. The fraud is often discovered, and the stick freely used on the head or back of the cheat.

Jules Verne,in his Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, gives the account of an adventure of a pearl-diver, which is of the most thrilling nature; Prof. Aronnax has gone down to the bottom of the sea, in a peculiar diving apparel, which allowed him to remain under water for a considerable time, with Captain Nemo of the Nautilus, and two or three other men. The professor tells his story thus:

“About five yards from me a shadow appeared, and sank to the ground. The disquieting idea of sharks shot through my mind, but I was mistaken; and once again it was not a monster of the ocean that we had anything to do with.

“It was a man, a living man, an Indian, a fisherman, a poor devil, who, I suppose, had come to glean before the harvest. I could see the bottom of his canoe anchored some feet above his head. He dived and went up successively. A stone held between his feet, cut in the shape of a sugar-loaf, whilst a rope fastened him to his boat, helped him to descend more rapidly. This was all his apparatus. Reaching the bottom, about five yards deep, he went on his knees and filled his bag with oysters picked up at random. Then he went up, emptied it, pulled up his stone, and began the operation once more, which lasted thirty seconds.

“The diver did not see us. The shadow of the rock hid us from sight. And how should this poor Indian ever dream that men, beings like himself, should be there under the water [Pg 143] watching his movements, and losing no detail of the fishing. Several times he went up in this way, and dived again. He did not carry away more than ten at each plunge, for he was obliged to pull them from the bank to which they adhered by means of their strong byssus. And how many of those oysters for which he risked his life had no pearl in them! I watched him closely; his manœuvres were regular, and, for the space of half an hour, no danger appeared to threaten him.

“I was beginning to accustom myself to the sight of this interesting fishing, when suddenly, as the Indian was on the ground, I saw him make a gesture of terror, rise, and make a spring to return to the surface of the sea.

“I understood his dread. A gigantic shadow appeared just above the unfortunate diver. It was a shark of enormous size, advancing diagonally, his eyes on fire, and his jaws open. I was mute with horror, and unable to move.

FIGHTING A SHARK.

“The voracious creature shot towards the Indian, who threw himself on one side in order to avoid the shark’s fins: but not its tail, for it struck his chest, and stretched him on the ground.

“This scene lasted but a few seconds; the shark returned, and, turning on his back, prepared himself for cutting the Indian in two; when I saw Captain Nemo rise suddenly, and then, dagger in hand, walk straight to the monster, ready to fight face to face with him. The very moment the shark was going to snap the unhappy fisherman in two, he perceived his new adversary, and, turning over, made straight towards him.

“I can still see Captain Nemo’s position. Holding himself well together, he waited for the shark with admirable coolness; and, when it rushed at him, threw himself on one side with wonderful quickness, avoiding the shock, and burying his dagger deep into its side. But it was not all over. A terrible combat ensued.

“The shark had seemed to roar, if I might say so. The blood rushed in torrents from its wound. The sea was dyed red, and through the opaque liquid I could distinguish nothing more. Nothing more, until the moment when, like lightning, [Pg 144] I saw the undaunted captain hanging on to one of the creature’s fins, struggling, as it were, hand to hand with the monster, and dealing successive blows at his enemy, yet still unable to give a decisive one.

“The shark’s struggles agitated the water with such fury that the rocking threatened to upset me.

“I wanted to go to the captain’s assistance, but, nailed to the spot with horror, I could not stir.

“I saw the haggard eye; I saw the different phases of the fight. The captain fell to the earth, upset by the enormous mass which leant upon him. The shark’s jaws opened wide, like a pair of factory shears, and it would have been all over with the captain; but, quick as thought, harpoon in hand, Ned Land rushed towards the shark and struck it with its sharp point.

“The waves were impregnated with a mass of blood. They rocked under the shark’s movements, which beat them with indescribable fury. Ned Land had not missed his aim. It was the monster’s death-rattle. Struck to the heart, it struggled in dreadful convulsions, the shock of which overthrew Conseil.

“But Ned Land had disentangled the captain, who, getting up without any wound, went straight to the Indian, quickly cut the cord which held him to his stone, took him in his arms, and, with a sharp blow of his heel, mounted to the surface.”


[Pg 145]

X.

RUSSIAN MINES AND MINING.

EXTENT OF THE EMPIRE—ITS MINERAL RESOURCES—PETER THE GREAT, AND WHAT HE DID—NIKITE DEMIDOFF—THE DEMIDOFF ESTATES—IRON MINES AND A VISIT TO THEM—WHERE RUSSIAN SHEET IRON IS MADE—COPPER AND MALACHITE—A WONDERFUL SIGHT—STRANGE STORY OF AN EMERALD NECKLACE—GOLD MINING IN SIBERIA—HARDSHIPS OF THE MINERS—HOW THEY ARE TREATED—MODE OF MINING.

The empire of Russia covers nearly an eighth of the land surface of the globe. Her northern limit is the Arctic Ocean, and the regions of eternal ice and snow; on the south, she rests upon the Black Sea, in a region of almost tropical warmth. Tropical fruits grow in her Crimean possessions, while polar bears and reindeer wander over the frozen and barren lands of her extreme north. She has every variety of climate, and every variety of soil. Here are long ranges of lofty mountains enclosing countless treasures of wealth in their rocky bosoms; beyond them you find wide stretches of treeless steppes, fertile as our western prairies, and boundless, apparently, as the sea. Wide and deep rivers wind through her territory, and facilitate the communications which commerce demands; broad lakes spread their shiny surfaces at frequent intervals, and reflect the primeval forests that line their shores. In a word, Russia is a little world in herself. The races of men included in her inhabitants are as varied as her climate; it is said that more than a hundred distinct and different languages are spoken by the subjects of His Imperial Majesty, the Autocrat of all the Russians.

With such a vast territory, and such a variety of mountain and plain, hill and valley, within her borders, Russia may be expected to hold a prominent place as a land of mines.

[Pg 146]

Such an expectation would be well founded, as the land of the Czar is in the very front rank of mining countries. The intelligence and enterprise of Peter the Great led to the development of her mining interests, and the work thus begun has been steadily followed to the present day.

Probably the best mining school in the world is at St. Petersburg. It has constantly nearly three hundred pupils, all supported at the expense of the government. The establishment is the geological mirror of the entire empire. The mountains of Lapland and the Caucasus, Finland and the Valdai, the vast Ourals, the Altai range and the peaks of Nerchinsk and the Baikal, Siberia and Kamchatka, in fact every part of Russia, have been drawn upon to fill its museum. Not only have they contributed, but they steadily continue to do so, year after year, as fast as new discoveries are made; and the government spares no pains or expense to make the collection the most perfect in the world.

THE PRODUCE IN RUSSIA.

Gold, silver, lead, iron, tin, copper, and other metallic ores are there in abundance, and afford the student the most ample opportunity for study. In the collection of semi-precious or valuable stones there is a bewildering array. We find the topaz of all shades; we find rubies, emeralds, beryls, amethysts, agates, turquoise, onyx, garnets, aqua-marines, malachites, marbles, lapis lazuli, porphyries, and other stones in endless variety. As an illustration of the great variety of the mineral products of Russia, let me mention a little circumstance. On my desk, and lying before me as I write, is a paper weight I brought home from Siberia. It is a small mosaic, perhaps three inches by five, and contains no less than twenty-one kinds of variegated marbles from the Altai mountains. One piece is white, and another is nearly black, and there is great variety between the two extremes.

Almost the only mineral products not known to exist in Russia is diamonds. They have been found in a few instances, but in very small numbers, and under circumstances that led to a strong suspicion that the places of discovery had been “salted.”

[Pg 147]

MINING SCHOOL AT ST. PETERSBURG.

In order to facilitate the study of the pupils in this school of mines, and make it as practical as possible, all the machinery and apparatus used in a mine has been arranged in an immense museum—some in the form of models, and others of their full size. Great mechanical skill has been displayed in the preparation of this machinery; whether in the shape of models or of full size, the working is perfect, and a student can easily understand from them the labor of the miner, and its result.

Underneath the immense building there is a reproduction of one of the mines at Perm, one of the cities of the Oural mountains. The utmost care has been taken to make the reproduction perfect. You visit the place exactly as you would visit a real mine, and you are shown through it by the light of torches. You have the same temperature that you would have in the mine of which this is a copy, and the same kind of atmosphere.

The character of the earth, the changes of color, the succession of layers of earth, rock, and ore, the machinery, the tools of the workmen, all lead a visitor to suppose he is really in a mine, and that the actual work has only been suspended a few hours while the laborers have been allowed a half holiday.

The great mining centers of Russia are in the Oural and Altai mountains, especially the former. The wealth of the Ourals in minerals was almost unknown until the time of Peter the Great, when he sent some engineers to make an examination. Previous to that time some gold had been found, and brought to Moscow; and it was known that the former rulers of the kingdom of Kazan derived much of their wealth from the gold mines.

But hardly anything was known of the other mineral riches of the mountain range. It did not take a long time for sharp-eyed engineers to discover the existence of iron and copper, and further research showed that they were to be found in large quantities. As soon as the facts were known, the government determined to work the mines on its own responsibility, until their riches could be demonstrated, and [Pg 148] private parties induced to operate on their own account and risk.

THE FIRST MINERAL EXPLORATION.

The first mineral exploration of this region was made by Nikite Demidoff, in 1701 or 1702. Peter the Great sent him there from Tula, a place which has since become of considerable importance as a manufacturing center. He had a very clear head for his business, and went at it in earnest, and the result is seen to-day in the immense prosperity of the mines. As a reward for his industry, the emperor gave him a grant of territory amounting to nearly five thousand square miles, with whatever mineral or other wealth might be found there.

This princely estate has remained ever since in the possession of the Demidoff family, and has made it the richest family of all Russia, with the exception of the Romanoffs (the Imperial House). It has been admirably controlled, and the owners have spared no pains or expense to secure the most intelligent direction and management. They have conducted everything on a liberal scale; the towns and villages which they have built up are among the prettiest, neatest, and most comfortable in all Russia.

In this last particular they are worthy of imitation everywhere, and many great establishments in Europe and America would be, to-day, more prosperous if they followed the example of the Demidoffs. There are some prominent instances of manufacturing or mining prosperity growing in part from an attention to the wants of the workman, the education of his children, and a general regard for his welfare. The most notable one now occurring to me is that of the Fairbanks Scale Works in Vermont, whose products have obtained a world-wide fame. They have built up upon what was the wilderness, a prosperous town, with schools, libraries, lecture and reading rooms, and they have given inducements for their workmen to be industrious and economical, and become house-owners in their own right. The Fairbanks Brothers never heard, perhaps, of the Demidoffs, but they have followed almost the same course, and with the same result.

Every year the Demidoffs select several of the brightest [Pg 149] youths in each village, and send them to the mining schools of St. Petersburg, and also to France, England, and other countries. These spend several years away from the Ourals, and when they return they bring a stock of very valuable knowledge which is of great practical use.

In my journey through Russia, I visited the mining regions of the Oural, and also of the Altai Mountains, and was greatly interested in what I saw.

THE CASTLE OF THE DEMIDOFFS.

The castle of the Demidoffs, as it is called, stands on the bank of a small river in the Ourals, at the town of Neviansk. Part of it was built by the elder Demidoff; it has since been enlarged, so that it is now a goodly sized palace. In it is a large saloon with fresco paintings by an Italian artist who was specially engaged for the work, and it has several rooms which would make large halls anywhere else. The furniture was made expressly for the house, and is renewed from time to time, whenever it becomes antiquated or faded. Several rooms are kept for the use of travelers, and everything, including the table, is furnished free of charge.

You may arrive there at any hour of the day or night, and find a warm welcome, and a room ready for you. You are fed with a most liberal hand, and may have the best wines known to the European market—champagne, port, sherry, anything and everything you choose. Stay as long as you please, go where you wish to, and you have no bill to pay. Let us hope for a speedy adoption of this Demidoff custom everywhere, with the assurance that it will be highly popular with the majority of visitors, and tend to a large increase in their number.

The principal mining town of the Demidoffs is on the river Tagil, and is known as Nijne Tagilsk. It has a population of about twenty-five thousand, and contains many fine buildings, including churches, hospitals for the workmen, schools, academies, dwellings for the directors and sub-directors, and an immense pile in which are the offices of the administration.

The smelting furnaces, forges, rolling mills, machine shops, and the like, are on an enormous scale, and are surpassed by [Pg 150] very few establishments anywhere in the world. Much of the machinery is made on the spot, and the facilities are such as to astonish any visitor, even when he knows beforehand that he will see something colossal.

All the smelting is done with charcoal, and consequently the charcoal burners are an important element of the population. The forests of the estate cover many hundreds of square miles, and are managed with great care. Not a tree is cut without the order of an officer, and the work is so arranged that the young trees are protected until they are of suitable size. When a piece of ground has been cleared, it is replanted, and in eighty years it can be cleared again.

THE METALS FOUND.

The iron ore is about a mile from the town, and near the top of a hill, so that it can be rolled directly into the works with very little labor. It is of the kind known as magnetic ore, and the supply is simply inexhaustible. It is worked in an open quarry, no tunneling or shafting being needed, and as the vein is four hundred feet wide, eighty feet thick, and a mile or more in length, there is no danger that the supply will be exhausted for some thousands of years. And if it should be, there are other and larger deposits not far away.

Copper is also found in this vicinity, and not more than two miles from the iron mine. It was first discovered about the beginning of the present century, and has since been worked to great advantage.

The most remarkable product of copper is the substance known as malachite. It is found in various parts of the world wherever there are mines of copper, but nowhere else in such quantities as in the Oural mountains. Malachite is nothing more nor less than an oxide of copper. The chemists know exactly how it is formed, but they cannot make it any more than they can make the diamond, though they understand perfectly well the composition of that highly-prized stone. Certain salts in the earth mingle with the copper ore and the water that finds its way through the earth, and these ingredients, soaking slowly downward into crevices and hollows in the rock, form the substance of which the Russians make so much use.

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HOW MALACHITE WAS FOUND.

In 1885 the largest mass of malachite ever known was found on the Demidoff estate. The miners, who were working a vein of copper, found some shreds or strips of copper extending downward, and the superintendent of the mine ordered them to follow these shreds, in hopes of striking another vein. The work was pushed forward, or rather downward, and the stray threads of ore were traced in all their windings. Two hundred and eighty feet below the mine, the shreds disappeared, and the superintendent was about to give up the enterprise in disgust and despair, when the men suddenly came upon a huge mass of malachite. It was broken up and taken to the surface, and the aggregate weight of the mass was estimated at seventy tons! It was this lot that supplied the most of the malachite in the Church of St. Isaac, and from it, also, was made the enormous vase which the Emperor of Russia sent to His Holiness the Pope.

We use malachite for jewelry, and think it very good; those of us who have been in St. Petersburg will recall the Church of St. Isaac, where there are whole columns apparently of solid malachite. I say apparently, for those columns are of granite, with a malachite veneering an inch or two in thickness, for the reason that the material does not come in sufficiently solid shape to be used for making columns. It is a good deal honey-combed, and there are numerous vacant places in a large block of it. There was a block of malachite in the Paris Exposition which measured something like seven feet in length by four in width, and there was a nicely-polished spot on one side, a couple of feet in length, and a foot and a half in width. This was said to be one of the largest solid blocks of the material in Russia, and it was regarded as a great curiosity by many thousands of visitors. At the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876, there was much interest manifested in the Russian department, in consequence of the fine display of this article. There was a fire-place whose mantel and side-pieces were solid slabs of malachite. Then there were two or three large vases and other ornamental pieces, all of the same material; and very rich they were. People were never weary of gazing upon these things and commenting on their beauty.

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RUSSIAN SHEET-IRON.

There are several other mining estates besides this in the Oural mountains, and some of them are nearly as extensive. There the government has establishments of its own, where it makes its machinery for ships of war and other purposes, and manufactures cannon and cannon shot, and many other things which are constructed of iron or steel. One of the private works which I visited was that of Issetskoi, where they make iron of peculiar toughness and polish. Nearly all the “Russia sheet-iron” which is so popular in America, for the manufacture of stove pipes and parlor stoves, comes from this establishment. It is capable of being rolled to the thinness of letter-paper, and will stand a vast amount of bending before it breaks.

At one of the mining and manufacturing works in this region, there is an establishment for the production of cutlery, and a vast amount is annually turned out. Its sword-blades, knives, and other things are of great fineness, but generally they are not as nicely finished as the products of Birmingham and Sheffield. About 1848, a process of making Damascus steel was invented by General Anossoff, who was then in charge of the works, and since then, blades that could be bent double, without danger of breaking, have been turned out in great numbers. Some of these have found their way abroad, but the government does not facilitate their sale outside the country.

EKATERINENBERG.

In the Oural mountains, on the great road from Russia to Siberia, is the town or city of Ekaterinenberg, which was founded by the Empress Catherine II, the imperial lady who became famous, among other things, for her peculiar and rather summary ways of making love. Catherine was stately and not ill-looking; the town which perpetuates her name, perpetuates also her characteristics. I drove into it one Christmas morning, after a long ride over the dreary steppes of Siberia, and as I first looked upon its broad streets and the lake around which its principal edifices are built, I thought I had not seen anything lovelier in the line of Russian towns.

It has a population exceeding twenty thousand. Five-sixths [Pg 153] of the inhabitants are connected in some way with the mining interests of the surrounding region, and possibly the occupations of the remaining sixth are not far removed from them. All the copper money circulated in Russia is coined here, and the place does a large business in lapidary work. Amethysts, beryls, rubies, emeralds, and other gems are cut here, and so extensive is the business that the servants at the hotels, and itinerant merchants on the street pester you to purchase these stones, and dozens of others. Seals in countless variety can be had here, and wonderfully cheap when compared with the prices of the same articles in Moscow or St. Petersburg. The government has here a large lapidary establishment, and all its products go, or are supposed to go, to the Imperial palace at St. Petersburg. From this place come the great majority of the semi-precious stones which are given away by the emperor. And hereby hangs a tale.

During the reign of the Emperor Nicholas, some children who were playing in the dry bed of a brook several miles from Ekaterinenberg, found some curious stones which they carried home. These lay around the cottage for some time, and were not thought to be of any value, but one day an officer happened to see them and recognized their character. They were sent to the government establishment, and there disappeared.

They were emerald crystals of unusually fine character, and by law and custom were the property of the emperor. Instead of going to St. Petersburg, they were sent to Germany, and sold, and in course of time were bought by one of the princes of the reigning family, as a present for his wife.

Some years later, she was at St. Petersburg, on some grand occasion, and wore these emeralds. The empress admired them, and asked where they came from.

“They are from Siberia,” was the reply.

The empress was astonished, and communicated the fact to the emperor.

There was a great row at once. An officer was sent to Ekaterinenberg to search the house of the director, and all other persons connected with the imperial factory. He found [Pg 154] several stones of great value in the house of the director, and as the latter could not explain, he was arrested and sent to prison, where he died a few years later. Many people believed, and still believe, that he was innocent, and that the theft was committed at St. Petersburg, by some member of the imperial family.

Strange to say, very few emeralds have ever been discovered in that region, and none since that time of equal value with those that had such a curious history.

GOLD MINING IN RUSSIA.

The principal gold mining of Russia is carried on in the Asiatic portion of the empire. Some deposits have been found of enormous richness, and many fortunes have been made by mining for this precious ore. Formerly, the business was entirely in the hands of the government, but in the last twenty years it has been given up to private enterprise, the government exacting a tax of fifteen per cent. on all gold taken out. In some districts the government continues to manage the business, but it only does this where it cannot let it out to advantage.

The processes employed are various. In some of the mines the earth is washed by means of machinery, much like that used in California, but with a greater expenditure of labor in proportion to the amount handled. In the valleys of the streams which flow into the Yenesei and other rivers, there are many mining establishments; there are others near Lake Baikal, and others again on some of the rivers flowing into the Amoor.

The government mines are worked by convicts, who receive no pay. Only their board, clothes, and lodging are supplied to them, and these are not always of the best quality. The private miners employ their workmen in the villages and towns; they begin operations as early as possible in the spring, and close in the latter part of September. To obtain a concession for working a mine, the applicant must either be a hereditary nobleman, or a merchant of the second guild or class. He obtains a concession five miles long, and about six hundred feet wide, on the borders of and including a stream, so as to give him as much water privilege as possible.

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HOW THE MINING IS DONE.

When a claimant has an allotment, he must work it at least one year out of every three, under pain of forfeiture, and there are other requirements with which he must comply.

There is generally a heavy outlay for buildings and machinery before the mining begins. To get at the pay-dirt, as it is called in California, the surface earth must be stripped off, and sometimes this stripping is twenty or thirty feet deep. Holes or shafts are sunk to ascertain the depth of the stripping and pay-earth, and from the amount of gold in the latter it is very easy to form an estimate of the probabilities of profit.

Some of the concerns employ two or three thousand workmen, and half as many horses. The cost of horses is the heaviest item of expense, as the loss is very great, and to this must be added the cost of keeping the animals. It often happens that the hay, provisions, and everything else must be carried two or three hundred miles, and consequently the capitalist who goes into the mining business in Siberia, must have a long and deep and well-filled purse to start with.

In these mining establishments, the work is very severe. The bell is rung at half past two in the morning, and a man must be at his post by three. He gets half an hour each for breakfast and tea, and an hour for dinner; he works until nine o’clock at night, and takes his supper when he gets through. If he is in debt to his employer, and the latter generally manages to have him so, he works every day—Sundays, Saints’ days, and all—through the season.

The task set is for five men and two horses to break up and cart away two cubic fathoms of earth per day, and they may quit work whenever they have done it. Or they may work “extra,” and get pretty high wages for it, and altogether a man can earn not far from thirty dollars a month by making long and late hours.

HOW THE MINERS ARE PROVIDED FOR.

It is absolutely necessary, for the interest of the employer, that he should give his men good and abundant food, provide them with comfortable lodgings, and have a hospital for those who become ill. Sometimes two or more establishments unite to hire a surgeon, and in this case he makes a daily round to [Pg 156] see if any one needs his services. The proprietors also maintain stores where they supply their workmen, and it is not considered respectable to charge any profit on the goods beyond enough to pay the cost of transportation and handling.

The workmen are a thriftless lot, generally, and rarely save anything. When their season is over, they proceed to the large towns, and there waste their substance in riotous living. The spring comes and finds them without a copeck, and possibly in debt, from which their only exit is by hiring out to a gold miner, and getting the advance of a month’s pay which custom has established.


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XI.

A DAY IN POMPEII.

A VISIT TO POMPEII.—NEAPOLITAN HACKMEN.—AN INTERESTING ADVENTURE.—HOW TO AVOID A QUARREL.—BEGGARS.—BEGGARY AS A FINE ART.—A PICTURESQUE SCENE.—MAKING MACARONI.—TRICKS OF AN OLD ROOSTER.—POMPEII.—ITS HISTORY.—DISCOVERY OF THE BURIED CITY.—A SCENE IN THE STREETS.—AN ANCIENT BAKERY.—HOW THE MILLS WERE TURNED.—INVESTIGATING AN OVEN.—A WONDERFUL DISCOVERY.—PRESENT CONDITION OF THE HOUSES.—ADVERTISING IN OLD TIMES.—POMPEIIAN PERSONALS.—A PICTURE OF THE DESTRUCTION.—OBSCENE OBJECTS IN THE CITY.

On a pleasant spring morning several years ago, I started from Naples to pay a visit to the ruins of Pompeii. Our party consisted of four persons; and our first work was to engage a carriage, as we thought the carriage road would be preferable to the railway. Engaging a carriage in Naples is a tax upon the patience equal to some of the trials which were visited upon Job. I am not quite certain that Job would have remained patient after a contest with Neapolitan hackmen. Boils would be nothing compared to it.

One of the school-books that I studied in my younger days made the assertion, “A horse is a noble animal.” I do not question the nobility of the horse, and his possession of blue blood; but of one thing I am certain, and that is, a great majority of those who associate with him are the reverse of noble. Hackmen, all the world over, are proverbial for dishonesty. Horse-jockeys are never mentioned as types of human perfection; and the history of the race-track is the history of a great deal of fraud. If the horse is a noble beast, it must be that his nobility and excellence of character develop the opposite qualities among his human intimates.

A PICTURESQUE HACKMAN.

Hackmen are bad enough everywhere; but I think the perfection [Pg 158] of badness is to be found among the hackmen of Naples. They will lie with the most unblushing impudence; and if they receive any future punishment for telling untruths, their roasting will be perpetual. The day before our journey to Pompeii, we had chartered a carriage to take us to the Sibyl’s Cave, and the other curiosities in the neighborhood of Pozzuoli. We made a positive bargain with the driver, including the amount which he was to receive as drink money. I believe we were to pay twenty francs for the carriage, and two francs for drink money. When we returned and were settling the bill, he swore by all the saints in the calendar,—and he named every one of them,—that we agreed to pay thirty francs for the carriage, and ten francs for drink money. He took his hat from his head in his rage, and threw it upon the ground, pulled his hair, and made things in general very unpleasant. He called several unwashed Neapolitans to witness that no carriage was ever hired at a lower rate than the one which he insisted was our contract price.

We found that we could not reason with him; and so we lighted our cigars, and waited for his paroxysm of rage to come to an end. We finally compromised the matter by paying twenty-five francs for the whole business; that is, we compromised by handing him the money, and walking away. He followed us two or three blocks; in fact, he stuck to us until we entered our hotel, and there we lost sight of him.

The hackman who was to take us to the buried city might have been useful, but certainly he was not ornamental. He was covered with dust, so that he resembled a walking ash-heap; and as for washing, I do not think he had ever experienced its terrors. Judging by the odor which arose from his skin, he had been put through some embalming process, in which garlic was the preservative substance. He resembled a sponge which has been dipped in garlic water, and kept without squeezing. His clothing was of all sizes except his own. His trousers were made for a man twice as large as he; and his coat for one of about half his dimensions. His face was as prepossessing as a basket of old bottles; and as for his manners, he did not appear to have any to boast of.

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I spoke to him in French, which he pretended to understand, but could not comprehend. He answered in a mingled patoisof French and Italian, in which there was no French to speak of, and very little Italian. I forget the exact sum we agreed to pay, but think it was altogether about twenty-five francs.

I may as well explain here, that on our way back we invented a new plan for paying him, and at the same time avoiding trouble. When we neared the hotel on our return, I counted out the money in francs and half francs, and threw in a few copper coins by way of adding to the confusion. With the proper amount in my hand, I stepped from the carriage, and waited until my three companions were a dozen yards away; then I dropped the money into the hands of the driver, and started at a rapid walk to overtake my friends. Before he had finished counting the money we were inside of the hotel. As we walked up stairs, I heard a volley of Neapolitan and French oaths following us into the building, and rolling through the hall like a small cloud of smoke.

We started from Naples in the direction of Vesuvius, passing through several villages on our road to Pompeii. The road was excellent, being paved or macadamized the entire distance, and ornamented with houses and beggars in about equal proportions.

PERTINACIOUS BEGGARS.

The beggars deserve great credit for the study they have devoted to the perfection of their art. Sores are cultivated as a handsome man would cultivate his mustache; and as for a withered leg, it is worth a fortune to its possessor. Every time our carriage halted, the beggars surrounded it, as flies in July surround a lump of sugar, and pretty nearly for the same reason, as they wanted something on which to exist. They accosted us in two or three languages, Italian of course predominating. We told them, in French, in English, and in German, to go away, and that we would give them nothing; but they stuck to us with the most unruffled pertinacity. They had heard all that before, and knew that if they were adhesive, they had a good prospect of extracting something. I tried a new plan on them, and found that it worked well.

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Assuming an air of great indignation, and with as much severity in my face as I could command, I addressed them very loudly, with my hands extended, in Russian and Chinese. Those languages were new to them, and fearing that it was some horrid imprecation, several of them dropped away. I afterwards found the plan quite successful, not only with Italian beggars, but with beggars of every nation. Tell them in any language to which they are accustomed, that you will give them nothing, and, if you are so minded, consign them to the infernal regions, and they do not mind it; but if you assume a priestly attitude, and utter something very solemnly in a language they do not understand, you have a fair prospect of getting rid of them.

BEGGING AS A SCIENCE.

At one place, on the road to Pompeii, there is a small hill. From the foot to the summit the distance is not more than one to two hundred feet; but the slope is so steep, that horses, in ascending it, do not travel faster than a walk. At the foot of this hill, four beggars—middle-aged women—were located; and they evidently had purchased a monopoly, or possibly a grant from government for the possession of the spot. In front of a small wine shop they had erected a pavilion, and each of them had a comfortable chair. They watched the place, and attended closely to business during the entire day. When they saw a carriage approaching, they left their chairs, and proceeded to the road, adhering closely to the vehicle until it reached the top of the hill. They begged persistently until they received what they demanded, or the top of the hill was reached. Then they returned leisurely to their chairs, and waited for the next customer.

If there was but a single carriage at a time, all of them worked it. If there were two carriages, the beggars divided into couples; and if by any chance there were four carriages together, the professionals scattered, and each of them took a vehicle. I drove out on this road several times, and always found it begged by the same persons. I proposed one day to my friends to engage five carriages, and drive them out there together. I thought that we might kill the beggars by causing [Pg 161] them to die of grief and rage at seeing a carriage pass without being able to annoy its occupants.

MAKING MACARONI.

Another object of interest along the road, and closely associated with the beggars, is the manufacture of macaroni. I did not enter the houses to see how the stuff was made; but I saw great quantities of it drying on frames in front of the places of its manufacture. One of my companions, who had witnessed the process, said they made macaroni by putting some dough around a long hole, and letting it dry.

He said the holes did not cost anything, and the dough was not expensive. “And that is the reason,” said he, “why the confounded stuff is so cheap.”

I was rather fond of macaroni as an article of diet; and my friend advised me, if I wished to continue so, to remain in blissful ignorance of the manner of its preparation, and not to ask any questions.

I took his advice, and to this day do not know much about the process.

One thing in connection with macaroni, which amused me much, was the dexterity of the chickens in eating it.

A string of macaroni in its soft state, four or five feet long, is hung across a horizontal bar in such a way that the ends are a foot or so from the ground. The frames look like candle-moulds, with freshly moulded candles hanging from them. The macaroni, as it hangs, is pretty thick, there being just space enough between the sticks to allow them to dry. When the stuff is soft, chickens can easily eat it. As it hangs from the frames, these birds would get beneath them, and bite off the ends of the perpendicular sticks.

The young chickens were rather awkward; but the old hens and roosters were very successful. I watched one venerable old cock under a frame, and studied his performance. He elevated his head as if he were peering through a gun barrel up to the sky. He took careful aim, and then jumped upwards, with his mouth open. The soft macaroni went down his throat a couple of inches or so, as a sausage might go down the throat of a terrier; and at the exact [Pg 162] instant when his head was highest, he closed his bill, and nipped off the morsel. I saw him take half a dozen bites in that way, and he did not miss his mark a single time in the whole performance.

We had pleasant glimpses of the Bay of Naples, though not as many as we could have wished on account of the height of the fences. After a drive of something more than an hour, we reached the gate of Pompeii. Dismounting from our carriage, and paying two francs to the custodian, we entered the ancient city.

DESTRUCTION OF POMPEII.

Pompeii was violently shaken by an earthquake in the year 63. Several temples tumbled down along with the colonnade of the Forum. The theatres and many tombs and houses were also overthrown. Nearly every family went from the place; and it was some time before they returned. The senate hesitated for some time whether to rebuild the city or not, and finally decided to do so. The work of rebuilding was going on quite vigorously, when all at once came the terrible eruption of 79. It buried Pompeii under a deluge of stones and ashes, and buried Herculaneum under lava and liquid mud.

These cities and many villages were wiped out in a single day, and a large region of country was depopulated. After the catastrophe, some of the inhabitants returned, and made excavations for recovering their valuables. Some robbers also crept into the city. The Emperor Titus entertained the idea of cleaning and restoring the city, and sent two senators to examine the ground; but the magnitude of the work frightened the government, and the restoration was never undertaken. In time Pompeii became almost forgotten, and its site was lost. For more than a dozen centuries the locality where Pompeii had stood was unknown.

In 1748, under the reign of Charles III., when the discovery of Herculaneum had attracted the attention of the world to that locality, some vine-dressers struck upon some old walls, and unearthed a few statues. The king ordered some excavations to be made in the vicinity; but it was not until eight [Pg 163] years later that any one supposed that they were exhuming Pompeii. Since that time the work of excavation has gone on with a great many intervals of inactivity. Whenever the government makes an appropriation, or some crowned head or other wealthy personage makes an addition to the Pompeian fund, the work is prosecuted; but as soon as the money is expended the work stops.

It is now more than a hundred years since the excavation began, and the third part of the city is not yet uncovered.

Since 1860, the whole system of work and management has been reformed, and moralized, as it were. All the guides and door-keepers are under the control of the government.

The visitor pays two francs at the gate, and is guided about the city by a man clad in uniform. Notices are posted in all the modern languages, telling visitors not to give money to the guides under any pretence whatever, and forbidding the guides to receive the money. This is all very well as far as it goes; but human ingenuity is able to get around the rule.

DODGING A REGULATION.

We had a guide who spoke French fluently, and was a very polite and agreeable fellow. He took pains to call our attention to one of the signs, and assured us that he could not receive a penny under any circumstances. But at almost every step he had photographs to sell. Whenever we found anything particularly interesting, out from his pocket came a package of photographs, and of course we purchased. By the time we had finished our journey, we had bought photographs enough to stock a small store; and the profit on the transaction was probably six times as much as the guide would have wrung from us had the old system been in vogue. It is very evident that the government winks at this transaction; otherwise the guides would not be allowed to sell photographs or anything else.

We walked through streets silent and deserted, except by groups of visitors like ourselves, and the occasional patrolmen or guides. We walked on the pavement where, two thousand years ago, chariots rolled along, and we saw on those pavements the marks of the chariot wheels as plainly as if they [Pg 164] had been worn during the past month. At the drinking fountains on the street corners, we could see where the Pompeian stopped when he was thirsty. The stone at the orifice, whence the water poured out, was worn away by the many applications of Pompeian lips.

SCENES IN THE STREET.

We looked into the ovens as they were on the day of the eruption. The bakers were preparing their store of bread, and we were shown the loaves which had been drawn from those ovens after resting there eighteen hundred years. We saw the shops of the wine merchants, the butchers, the bakers, and the men of other occupations.

We saw the names that had been painted on the door-posts, a little faded and dull, yet still legible. We sat down on benches which were unoccupied for seventeen hundred years; and we entered the dwelling-houses where, two thousand years ago, the members of the family passed their daily life. It was a picture of the past, and not of the present.

Pompeii was preserved, and not destroyed. To its inhabitant, on the day of the eruption it was destroyed; but for us who now look upon it, and study its history, it has been preserved.

The most complete bakery in Pompeii was in Herculaneum Street, and occupied an entire house.

The inner court-yard of the house contains four mills of curious construction. At a little distance they resemble hour-glasses. Imagine two large blocks of stone in the shape of cones, the upper one overset upon the lower, and you have their construction.

The lower one remained motionless, and the other was turned either by a man or a donkey. The grain was crushed between the two stones. Sometimes the servants of the establishment turned the mill. At other times slaves, for some misdemeanor, had their eyes put out, and then they were sent to work at grinding.

The story goes that, sometimes, when the millers were short of hands, they established bathing-houses around their mills, and the passers by who were caught in the trap had to [Pg 167] work the mill. In the establishment now referred to, the machinery was turned, not by men, but by a mule, whose bones were found lying near. In the stable of the mule the racks and troughs were standing. Near the bake-ovens were the troughs where the dough was kneaded.

There was one oven which remained uninjured. It had two openings; the loaves went into one of these, in the shape of dough, and were taken out at the other opening baked. Everything seemed to be in a fine state of preservation, and the oven could be made use of again for a repetition of its work of eighteen centuries ago.

DISCOVERY OF LOAVES OF BREAD BAKED 1800 YEARS AGO, AT POMPEII.
STALE BREAD.

The oven when found was full of bread. Some of the loaves were stamped to indicate that they were of wheat flour, and others to indicate that they were of bran flour. The oven had been carefully sealed, and there were no ashes in it. Eighty-one loaves were found in it, a little stale, to be sure, and very hard and black, but lying in the same order in which they were placed on the 23d of November in the year 79. The loaves weighed about a pound each. They are round, depressed in the centre, raised on the edges, and divided into eight lobes. Imagine an American pie which has been marked with the knife as if for cutting before it is placed in the oven, and you have an almost exact picture of a Pompeian loaf of bread. I did not try to eat it, partly because I prefer my bread fresh, and partly because the loaves are considered too precious to be given or sold to visitors.

Whoever goes to Pompeii thinking to find a perfect city will be very much disappointed.

The ruins of Pompeii, as the old lady said about the ruins of the Coliseum, are very much out of repair. The walls of the buildings are mostly standing, but the roofs and doors, which were constructed of wood, are gone, having rotted away in their long exposure to the moisture. Everything whatever, of wood, planks, or beams, was turned to ashes: all is uncovered, and there are no roofs to be seen.

Almost everywhere you walk under the open sky; everything is open, and if a shower were to come on, you would [Pg 168] hardly find shelter. Imagine yourself in a city in process of building with only the first stories completed, and with no floorings for the second.

ART IN POMPEII.

Many of the statues and works of art have been carried to the Museum at Naples, so that in the old city itself, there are, comparatively, few curiosities of a portable character. The sky, the landscape, the sea-shore, the walls and the pavements are antique, and it is only the visitors and their guides that are modern. The streets are not repaired, the sidewalks are not changed, and we walk upon the same stones that were formerly trodden by the feet of the Pompeian merchant and his slave.

As we enter these narrow streets we can almost think we are quitting the century we live in, and going back to the century that witnessed the birth of Christ.

When first uncovered, the paintings of the walls were as fresh as though they were made but a week ago, the ashes having preserved them perfectly. In a few weeks or months their coloring fades, and they become dingy and hardly visible.

The Pompeians were great lovers of art; every wall is frescoed, and the mosaics on the floors are an interesting study. Statues adorn the interior of the dwellings, and abound in the public places: even the ordinary utensils of the kitchen were fashioned in a remarkable manner, and far more artistic than those of the present day. The most ordinary utensils of the household are specimens of art that evoke the admiration of every beholder.

As one walks through Pompeii he sees much to tell him that advertising is not altogether an invention of the present age. Placards and posters enlivened the streets; the walls were covered with them; and in many places there were whitewashed patches of wall, serving for the announcements which the writers wished to make public. These panels were dedicated entirely to the public business, and anybody had the right to paint upon them, in delicate and slender letters, the advertisements which we now find in the columns of the newspapers.

[Pg 169]

ADVERTISING IN THE OLDEN TIME.

Many of these announcements were of a political character, such as proclamations of candidates for public office. Pompeii was evidently swallowed up just before an election. In reading the posters you will find that sometimes it was a noble, sometimes a group of citizens, and sometimes a corporation of tradesmen, who recommended some one to the office of ædile or duumvir. Thus Paratus nominates Pansa; Philippus nominates Caius; Felix, and Valentinus, and his associates prefer Sabinus. Sometimes the elector was in a hurry, and asked to have his candidate chosen quickly. Sometimes a dozen guilds, such as the fruiterers, the porters, the mule drivers, the salt makers, carpenters, and others, united to urge the election of somebody.

Rather curiously, we found on some of these placards that the sleepers declared their preference for somebody, and it puzzled us to know who were these friends of sleep. Perhaps they may have been gentlemen who did not like noise, or perhaps they were an association of tumultuous fellows who thus disguised themselves under an ironical title. They may have been a type of the class who are described in the present slang of New York as roosters.

There were advertisements of lost property, hotels announcing rooms to let, stolen horses, performances at the theatres, and various other things, such as we see in the advertising papers, and in posters on the walls at the present day.

There were some of these posters devoted to what we call personals. Of course they were obscurely worded, so as to be understood only by those for whom they were intended. One of my companions asserted that one advertisement read, “Julia, same place, six P. M., Tuesday;” and another said, “Scipio, come back; all will be forgiven;” and another was, “Marcus has gone west, will return next week.”

I did not see these advertisements, and make the statement only on his authority. I might have been inclined to believe it had he not declared, with the most solemn visage, that he read an advertisement thus: “Secure me a suit of rooms on the Boston steamer to-morrow.” This was too much; and I told him that business was played out.

[Pg 170]

There were inscriptions in reference to the cleanliness of the city; and some of them recalled, in terms too precise and definite for modern times, the announcement of the present day, “Commit no Nuisance.”

Pompeii was not a large city; it contained only about thirty thousand inhabitants, and was rather a suburb than a great national dwelling-place. The Rome of that day was many times larger; and when we are considering the buried city, we must remember that we are considering a small hamlet rather than a large capital.

PICTURE OF THE DESTRUCTION.

A volume might be filled with descriptions of Pompeii and its contents; the forum, the theatres, the dwellings, the tombs, the baths, the shops, the stables, the gardens, are all interesting. According to the histories, it was during a festival that the eruption took place. We may imagine the picture, that while the amphitheatre was crowded and gladiatorial combats were in progress, the earth shook, and the sky was dark with the clouds of smoke and ashes rising from the great volcano. The Pompeians rushed from the amphitheatre, and were overtaken by the shower of stones, and the deluge of ashes falling like a burning snow upon the streets; the dust fills the streets. Heaps of the burning ashes break through the houses, crushing the tiles and burning the rafters; the fire falls from story to story, and accumulates like earth thrown in to fill a trench. The amphitheatre is speedily ingulfed, and no one remains in it but the dead gladiators, and the prisoners enclosed in their cages, from which there is no escape. Those who have sheltered themselves under the shops, and in the arcade, were buried beneath the ashes and stones.

Skeletons are found everywhere, indicating how people were overtaken in their flight. Here is a fallen woman grasping a bag of jewels; near by is the skeleton of a man with a bunch of keys in one hand, and the remains of a bag of coins in the other. A woman holding a child in her arms took shelter in an oven, and was enclosed there. A soldier, faithful to his duty, remains at his post before the gate of the city, one hand upon his mouth, and the other on his spear, and in [Pg 173] this brave attitude he died. The family of Diomed assembled in his cellar, where seventeen victims, women and children, were buried alive, clinging closely to each other. The last agony of these poor wretches is terrible to imagine.

BODIES OF POMPEIANS CAST IN THE ASHES.

A priest of Isis, enveloped in flames, and unable to escape into the street, cut through two walls with an axe, and fell at the foot of the third, still clutching his weapon. A goat was found crouched in an oven with its bell still attached to its neck. Prisoners were found with their ankles riveted to iron bars. Everywhere skeletons have been discovered, and they all picture the anguish and terror the sufferers endured on the day of the eruption.

OBSCENITY OF THE POMPEIANS.

Many moralists, those who consider that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed as a punishment for their crimes, are of opinion that Pompeii was also destroyed because of its wickedness. The discoveries in that city are, many of them, of a character not to be described in public prints, especially by the aid of the engraver’s art, at the present day. Some of the eardrops worn by the women were curious to behold. Lamps were fashioned in forms quite as obscene as they are fantastic; and the same may be said of the chandeliers, and of many of the utensils used in ordinary life. Curiously engraved seals are found that would hardly be suitable to impress to-day on the back of a letter, and there were paintings on many of the walls that should be covered from fastidious eyes.

Certain houses which in American cities are visited by stealth, and whose locality is, to a certain extent, shrouded in obscurity, were boldly designated by various symbols cut upon the stones of the sidewalks and upon the lintels of the doors. Many of these objects have been preserved, and are now in the Museum at Naples; they have been placed in apartments by themselves, where any curious visitor may examine them; and those who are curious in such matters I respectfully refer to the Museum. The impressions on the sidewalks and over the doors remain as they were, and may be examined by any tourist who is interested in their study.

[Pg 174]

NEW EXCAVATIONS.

In the autumn of 1876, new excavations have been commenced in Pompeii, and judge of the astonishment of the excavators, when, while digging for unknown treasures, they come to a second city beneath the one known to the reader. It has been buried there perhaps centuries before New Pompeii was built, under lava and sulphurous matter, and the architects, probably not knowing of the fact, erected their houses on top of those of their forefathers. It almost seems that Art, in the first-buried city, was far more advanced than in the latter. Marvels of art and architecture have been found, and when we enter one of those splendid edifices, and admire its paintings and statuary, we are struck with admiration for the great accomplishments of men who lived centuries before the birth of Christ.

Let us enter one of these houses, and see how they are built, and at the same time admire the freschi, paintings, and statuary which adorn the graceful abode of the ancients.

We enter the house by the vestibulum, or hall, and come into the atrium, a large square, paved with marble, inlaid with the richest mosaic of various colors. A row of pillars, adorned with the most beautiful freschi, border it on the right and left, and between them doors may be seen, which lead into bedrooms. The two last rooms on the sides of this open space leave two small recesses, which are furnished in the richest manner, and probably served as small reception-rooms. In the center of this atrium is an impluvium, or small reservoir, generally provided with a fountain. Over this impluvium the roof is open, and the sky may be seen. Going onward, right opposite the entrance, we enter into the tablinum, which is not provided with a door, and allows a free view over the atrium. This room probably served for a large reception-room, as the most costly paintings and the richest furniture are found here. On the right-hand side of this room we find the triclinium, or dining-room, and on the other side a cabinet of curiosities and gems is found. Between this last apartment and the reception-room, a small passage is seen, which probably served for the slaves, as they were not allowed to go through the reception-room [Pg 175] of their master. These rooms all open on the peristyle, another oblong square, which has on either side a row of sleeping-rooms, which probably were destined for the afternoon nap of the old Romans. No beds are to be seen in them, only large, commodious lounges.

DESCRIPTION OF A HOUSE.

At the end of this peristyle, which also is adorned with pillars and statuary, and we may readily except flowers and plants of the richest fragrance, we enter into a second eating-room, for the Romans had one dining-hall for the winter, and one for the summer, or one for ordinary, and another for festive occasions. A cabinet, dignified with the name of library, is, in most cases, on the right-hand side of this room, and in these apartments have been found many rolls of papyrus (the reader will remember that the art of printing was not invented before the fifteenth century after Christ), containing manuscripts. On the other side was generally the kitchen. From this last eating-room we enter into the viridarium, or garden. Modern imagination can scarcely imagine the beauty and luxury of this cool place of resort. Fountains of fragrant waters here filled the air with sweet perfume, and we do not wonder that this place was devoted to a rest after dinner, and the abode of love. The wall, which terminates the garden and the house, is screened by the most beautiful plants, which overshadow superb statuary, and we may imagine the beautiful view which may be had from the atrium, through the different rooms (as no doors interfere) to the green background, variegated by the colors of flowers and the rich curtains, whose folds partly conceal the tablinum and the second dining-room.

The houses consist generally of one single floor, unless they are very large, and we may easily see, from the plan here described, that there is space enough for the comfort of all the inhabitants, and the enjoyment of the numerous guests.

ANCIENT PAINTINGS.

If we wished to give a description of all the treasures found in those ancient abodes, we might fill volumes, and therefore we will only mention some of the most remarkable features of the recent excavations. One picture has been exhumed at Pompeii, representing the Three Graces, which Raphael, of [Pg 176] course, could not possibly have seen, yet the two compositions, although of different dimensions, are precisely the same—in grouping, in form, in expression, and even in charm. Now, not even a sketch of the picture was known until long after the middle of the eighteenth century, while the actual picture is a modern revelation altogether. Another fact was discovered: Raphael, copying a statue, applied the very same process to his painting which had been employed by his predecessors fifteen centuries previously. Within the last few years, forty figures have been redeemed from out these artistic tombs, which were evidently details of an immense composition, intended for the adornment of a theater or banqueting-hall, besides those, pictures of lightly-clad figures, floating through the air, relieved against brown, black, and crimson skies, with masses of carnation-cloud beneath their feet, and gems hanging, so to speak, around them, enveloped in robes of hyacinth, blue, green, and so on, the colors appearing to be laid thickly on vitrified surfaces. It is a wonder to all artists how those colors were laid on, not only as far as the magnificent coloring goes, but even in what way it was done. We find painting in relief on the smoothest surface of white marble; statuary even has been painted in the most masterly way, and we see auburn and blonde hair painted in a way which deceives even the sharpest observer; if we did not know better, we would think that the statue had natural hair,—all the gloss and the true tinge glowing through it is illustrated to absolute perfection.

The Neapolitan chemists, of course, are very eager to unravel this secret of their forefathers. Many a piece of painting has been analyzed; many a fragment of painted beauty has been destroyed by acids. However, till now, they did not succeed, and perhaps the art will be for ever a mystery to us.

Upon the whole, as this antique city is thrown more and more open to modern light, it proves to be the richest memorial extant of Grecian genius, as represented by an art so different from, and still at the same time so kindred to, sculpture. In most other classic centers, while the form and the [Pg 177] purity have survived, the color and the splendor have faded; but here, as chamber after chamber, gallery after gallery is opened, a new beauty of the past appears, freshly vivified by the long-excluded light, and, as we are assured, labyrinths of interest remain yet to be explored.

AN ANCIENT WINE-SHOP.

A wine-shop was lately found at Pompeii, roughly ornamented with imitations of marbles in fresco. Over the podium of the front room runs a band of stucco, with four groups or scenes painted on a white ground. The first, on the left, represents a young man kissing a woman dressed in yellow garments, with black shoes. She says, “Nolo, cym myrta” * * “I don’t want to be kissed; go to your Myrtalis.” The second scene represents, very likely, the same woman talking to Myrtalis, who says, “Non mia, est.” They both point their fingers at a third female, bringing in a great wine-jar and a glass. She says, “Qui vol. symat oceane, veni. bibe,” an invitation to partake of the drink. The third scene represents two gamblers seated, having the chess-board on their knees, on which several latrunculi are seen disposed in rows of different colors, yellow, black, white. The one on the left is just throwing the dice, and says, “Exsi,” “I won.” The other answers, pointing to the dice, “Non tria, duas est,” “You have got two, not three.” Both fight in the fourth scene. One says, “Non it a me, tria, ego, fvi,” “I did not throw two, but three. I have won.” The other answers, “Orte fellator ego fvi,” “You ——! I have the game.” At this moment the shop-keeper comes in, and pushing them outside, says, “Itis, foras, riksatis,” “Go out to quarrel.”


[Pg 178]

XII.

VESUVIUS AND ITS ERUPTIONS.

THE GREAT ERUPTION OF VESUVIUS.—WHAT IT DID.—THREE CITIES WIPED OUT.—LAVA AND ITS CHARACTER.—GOING TO THE MOUNTAIN.—SKIRMISHING WITH GUIDES AND BEGGARS.—ARCHITECTURAL STEEDS.—A HORSE WITH A HAND RAIL AROUND HIM.—COAT-HOOKS TO LET.—A MOTLEY CROWD.—HOW AN AMERICAN WAS MOUNTED.—A NEW MODE OF SPURRING.—THE ROAD FROM RESINA.—BURNING LAVA.—CROSSING THE LAVA BEDS.—CLIMBING ON FOOT.—HAPS AND MISHAPS.—AN ENGLISHMAN’S ACCIDENT.—LIGHTING A CIGAR AT THE CRATER.—SUFFOCATED BY SULPHUR FUMES.—DOWN AMONG THE ASHES.—A LONG FALL AND SLIDE.—IN HERCULANEUM.—UNDERGROUND BENEATH THE CITY.—“LOOK HERE.”—HOW THE CITY WAS DISCOVERED.—THE ERUPTION OF 1872.—HORRIBLE SCENES.—EXTENT OF THE DESTRUCTION.

The eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii destroyed Herculaneum at the same time. Some historians contend that the occurrences were not identical in point of time; but, after all, it makes little difference to us whether the two cities were simultaneously destroyed or not. The probability is, and it is pretty well settled, that while the ashes and stones from the crater of Vesuvius were blown upon Pompeii, the lava and mud flowed in the direction of Herculaneum, and covered it. A third city, Stabiæ, was destroyed at the same time—a fact which is not generally known. Castellamare, a well-known summer resort near Naples, stands on the site of Stabiæ, whose excavations, not having promised very well, were filled up soon after they were begun.

The lava which flows from a volcano during violent eruptions is a composition of melted stone and oxide of iron. The stone is mainly feldspar and hornblende. There is a good deal of sulphur also in the lava when it rises in the volcano, but the most of it is thrown out in the form of sulphurous fumes. The lava very much resembles the slag or scoriæ [Pg 179] flowing from an iron foundery, and, when suddenly cooled, it assumes a glassy character. When it consolidates or cools, it forms what are known as volcanic rocks. If the streams of lava are cooled under no other pressure than that of the atmosphere, they assume a porous appearance. Lava, cooled under the surface of the water is much more compact, and where it is cooled under heavy masses of earth and rock, it becomes quite solid.

STARTING FOR VESUVIUS.

Our party visited Herculaneum after making a journey to Vesuvius. We wished to see the volcano first, and afterwards to explore the city which it had destroyed. We rode out of Naples, after our usual struggle with the hackman, and at Resina left our carriage to proceed on horseback. About half the population gathered to see us off. A staff, or heavy stick, is considered indispensable, and each of us purchased one from the crowd of boys and men, whose wooden material was sufficient for starting a small forest. I think our selection was made from about two hundred and forty-seven sticks, which they simultaneously presented in our faces, and with the demands of the venders and the piteous appeals of forty or fifty beggars, we had, for a few minutes, a concord of sweet Italian sounds.

As soon as we had bought the sticks we used them to clear away the crowd, and as we were all young, reasonably powerful, and as indignant as we were powerful, we made a clear circle around us in a very short time. Then we bargained for animals on which to ride. I obtained a horse, something like those with which the famous Mackerel Brigade was equipped.

REMARKABLE STEEDS.

My horse had no hand rail along his deck, by which to cling on, though his back-bone had a close resemblance to a rail with a great many knots on it. He had an elegant selection of knobs sticking out all over him, on which to hang superfluous coats and other garments. One of my companions offered to charter two of the knobs as coat-hooks, but immediately withdrew his offer when the horse which he was to ride was brought out. Mine looked like a frame with a skin drawn [Pg 180] over it, but his resembled a frame without any skin. I suggested that, when he got through the journey, he might sell out his horse to be used as a lantern for a light-house, and that the ribs would give a peculiar effect to the rays of light.

The third man of the party obtained a mule that had lost one ear, and had his tail eaten off by the rats. The beast had a habit of going backward faster than forward, and before we had gone a mile we asked the guide to shift the saddle so that our friend’s face could be turned towards the stern of his craft; but the guide insisted that such a thing had never been done, and that the mule would be all right if the man behind him would give an occasional prod with his stick. The fourth man was mounted on a donkey, or mule, or horse; I cannot say exactly what the animal was, but he seemed to be a mixture of the three, with a small infusion of bull-dog and rhinoceros.

He had a hide that would turn a six-pound shot, and as for cudgelling, he rather enjoyed it than otherwise. His rider had brought along a pair of spurs, which he picked up a day or so before in Naples. He proposed to show us his skill in mulemanship, but the mule was so small, and his rider’s legs were so long, that the latter could not reach the beast with his heels. I suggested a dodge which I had seen in practice before. With the spurs on his heels my friend found his feet too far aft, when he raised them, to do any good; I accordingly suggested that, if he buckled the spurs on just below the knees, he would find them to be of more advantage. He tried it with one spur, which had a perceptible effect on the activity of the animal; but, unfortunately, the activity was sidewise, or backwards, or in circles, and not straight ahead. The beast either sidled along the track, or else went in quick plunges, in a way that was very uncomfortable. Our whole cavalcade, considered as an average, did not get along very fast, and every fifteen minutes we had a grand kicking plunge all round; but we were all sufficiently accustomed to the saddle to save ourselves from being thrown. We made about three miles an hour each along the route, or fifteen miles an [Pg 181] hour for the five of us, which, on the whole, was not to be considered bad.

The road from Resina winds along sometimes over the lava beds, and sometimes on a carriage-way, constructed at great expense, but now almost entirely useless. In some places the lava, though it had been lying there several years, was quite warm, and there were cracks, from which the heat steadily issued. Lava requires a long time for cooling, and sometimes, where it is of great depth, it will not cool enough for one to walk upon it within two years after it has flowed from the mountain. We got along very well, assisted as we were by the native loafers, who followed us, and occasionally took a turn at, or, rather, with, our animal’s tails. With the mild beasts they got along very well, and I think the animals would have had their tails twisted off before breaking into a run; but the vicious beasts did not like the arrangement, and they either quickened their pace, or let fly their heels at the twisters.

A SAFE HORSE.

My horse had been warranted to me as a safe beast, and after we had fairly started, I found that he was pretty nearly as safe as a dead horse. When he began to climb the mountain, he really seemed to be more dead than alive, and no persuasion, whether with my stick or heels, could induce him to break into a run. When we reached the foot of the cone, half a dozen boys offered to hold him; but I concluded he had better hold the boys—one was quite sufficient to keep him quiet while we made the upward journey.

The real work of climbing Vesuvius began at the foot of the cone. The beasts that had brought us would not go beyond this point, and so we dismounted. After refreshing ourselves with a bottle of villanous wine, that tasted of sulphur, sewer-water, and other delightful things, we removed our coats and started upward. There was a fresh lot of loafers, who wanted to assist us. They had chairs strung upon two poles, by which four men could carry a person to the summit. The chairs were very good things in their way, but I preferred to walk, and so did my companions. The path sloped at an [Pg 182] angle of forty-five degrees, and was made up of ashes and stones. The natives had arranged the stones in such a way, that a person could step from one to another without great difficulty, only that it happened that the stones were so far apart that they occasionally needed a pretty wide step.

SEDAN CHAIRS.

Finding I would not be carried in a chair, the loafers importuned me to be dragged up with a strap or rope. A stout fellow went in front of me, and continually pressed me to seize a strap which he invitingly pushed before my nose. I repeatedly told him that I did not want it; but he stuck to me half way up, and then concluded I was a bad bargain. As I would not accept his offer of assistance, he proposed that I should give him half a franc to leave me. This I refused to do, and told him he might go to the summit if he liked, and enjoy the scenery; but he wanted no summit, unless he could earn something. He started back down the mountain, and I had the pleasure of seeing him miss his footing, and roll to the bottom. I learned afterwards that, most unfortunately, he did not break his neck, and was not seriously injured.

I have had a good deal of climbing in my life, but that was the worst thirteen hundred feet I ever made at one time and in one piece. I had to stop several times on the way up, in order to take breath, and something with it to make the breath go down. One of my friends suggested giving it up when near the summit; he said there had been a great mistake in the statements of the guides and guide-books. I asked him how it was, and he said, “We were informed that donkeys go only to the foot of the cone, and not to the top; but it is my impression that there are now four of the greatest donkeys in the known world trying to reach the summit.” We forgave him for his joke, and, after a mouthful of bad wine, he felt better, and proceeded.

For a good deal of the distance where we climbed it seemed as if we slipped back one step for every two or three that we took forward, and in some places we slipped back two steps where we went forward one. An exhausted Englishman was just ahead of us, and his misery gave us great comfort. [Pg 183] One of the Italians had a leather strap fastened about his own neck, and persuaded the Englishman to take hold of it. Another Italian went before the first, and held on to a strap around the first man’s waist. Another Italian went behind the Englishman, and pushed him ahead, so that he managed to get along very fairly.

AN ENGLISHMAN’S MISHAP.

At a critical moment the rear Italian slipped; the Englishman slipped next, and pulled down the two fellows in front. The result was, that the whole four were doubled up in a heap, rolled over in the ashes, and lost about fifty feet of distance before they could recover themselves. For about a minute there was a confused mass of legs, arms, and curses, some Italian and some English, which drew forth shouts of laughter from the spectators. The enraged Britisher did not like the journey, and gave up the attempt as a bad job. We were sorry for this, as we expected him to be suffocated in the sulphur fumes at the top, and afford us an opportunity to observe his agony.

When we reached the summit we sat down to rest, and take a little wine. Then the guide led us around to the crater, where the fumes of sulphur and clouds of steam were rising out of the volcano, and around a great, yawning gulf, that was a complete mass of fire. We had to hold our kerchiefs over our noses to save us from suffocation, and even with this it was almost impossible to breathe. The crater, at that time, was comparatively small,—at least, so they told me,—but it seemed to me a very fair crater for all practical purposes. The flames filled it from side to side. Their colors were white, purple, yellow, and crimson, and they threw up clouds of smoke and steam. It seemed as if the summit of the mountain was hollow, and might easily be broken in. If a man should fall into the crater, his chance of escape would be as good as if he was dropped into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with a twenty ton anchor fastened to his neck.

It seemed to me as if there might be an eruption at any moment, and I wanted to get away from the place; but the guide said there was no danger, that the crater always filled [Pg 184] up before an explosion, and that they knew days and weeks beforehand when it would occur. To convince me that there was no danger, he said that he had a family to support, and wanted to live, though I could see no reason why, and he had no hesitation in going close up to the edge. Although I had no family to support, I knew a man who had one. I therefore concluded to do as he did, and so crept up and looked over, holding the kerchief all the while to my face.

LOOKING INTO THE CRATER.

A very brief gaze was sufficient for me, not because the sight was less grand than I had expected, but because the fumes of sulphur were so strong that I feared I might faint, and in falling, drop into that confounded hole. There are various modes of death which I should consider disreputable, and dropping into a volcano is one of them.

We went so near to the fire that I lighted my cigar at the flames of Vesuvius, and as I was quite weary I enjoyed the cigar with a great deal of relish. We cooked some eggs which we purchased of an Italian speculator. He had brought them up at a venture, and provided himself with salt and bread, and a few bottles of wine, so that we were able to make a comfortable meal. Our appetites had been sharpened by the labor of climbing, and we made a hearty repast, the more so as a view was displayed before us which I will not easily forget. Gold and blue, that brilliant gold of the sun, a whole world of cheerful beams, and a splendid azure-blue is lying upon the sea under us. That is a sky so magnificent, so many-colored, as no other country has ever seen. Yonder lies Capri, there Procida, and at a little distance Ischia, all floating upon the water, like so many boats, adorned with many-colored flags, all splendor, all charm. This wreath of villages and cities, washed by the bay of Naples, glistens like marble, and yonder, where the sea pierces so deep in the land, is Naples. That charming city is surrounded by landscapes of the brightest hues, blue, green, life and joy! The Neapolitans, proud of this gem, call her “a piece of paradise lost upon the earth.” A view of the bay of Naples from the top of Vesuvius is probably the most charming one upon earth. The [Pg 187] great difficulty of the ascension, and the still greater annoyance of the beggars; and the enormous number of curious visitors, has led a company to project a railroad, which does away with all such troubles. The distance from the suburbs of Naples to the top of Vesuvius is twenty-six miles, twenty-three of which are to be laid with ordinary railroad tracks, and the distance from Atrio del Cavallo to the top, which is the steepest stretch, being three miles, is a wire-rope road, which prevents the cars from sliding back over the steep plane. The plan is made to have the whole road covered with a vaulted roof of lava, to a distance of about one hundred feet from the crater, which will at the same time divide the streaming lava into two tributaries, running on either side of the road, which is built of lava also, and is elevated. The model of the road is the same as that of the Rigi. One of the stations of the road is the observatory of Prof. Palmieri, who here feels the pulse of the mountain. He showed us, with the greatest courtesy, the different scientific instruments of which he makes use for his investigations. It would take too much space to describe them here; let it suffice to say that they enable the professor to make his calculations to a nicety, and that we really may say that he “feels the pulse” of the mountain; he not only knows what is going on at the moment in this great reservoir of lava, but he is able to predict an approaching eruption.

RAILROAD FROM NAPLES TO THE SUMMIT OF MT. VESUVIUS.
THE PROJECTED RAILROAD.

Going down the mountain was much easier than going up. We did not go down at the same place where we made the ascent, but went a little to one side, where we could walk down through the ashes. The first step or so is a little trying to the nerves, but after two or three steps you acquire confidence and then let yourself out. All you need to do is to stand erect, throw your head back, and start off, putting one foot before the other in a dignified sort of way. The ashes are generally dry and dusty, but at the time of my descent they had just been moistened by a slight fall of rain, so that no dust arose from them. Our feet settled in the ashes up to the ankles, and at every step we went forward six or eight yards. It took us an hour and a quarter to climb the mountain, and we came down in seven minutes, including a halt on [Pg 188] the way to make love to an English girl, who had slipped, and was unable to pick herself up. We assisted her to her feet, and lost a minute or two in our work of gallantry.

RACING IN THE LAVA BEDS.

A countryman of ours who attempted to come down just behind us was not quite as successful as ourselves. He managed to pitch forward and turn a very pretty somersault; but the exercise did not improve his personal appearance or his temper. When he brought himself to rights, and reached the place where the horses were standing, he was very much dilapidated, and as cross as a bear with a chewed ear.

It is hard work to ascend Vesuvius, but it is jolly fun to come down.

DESCENT OF VESUVIUS.

We mounted our animals and came away. On the steepest part of the descending road, we tried to get up a race, thinking that the laws of gravitation would help us. Part of the beasts were induced to run, but there were two or three out of which no speed could be made faster than a walk. Even a descent as steep as the roof of an ordinary house had no temptations for them, and I wanted to try the experiment of flinging them over a precipice, to see whether they could be started into anything like a respectable pace. I have my doubts about it; and had they been flung from a perpendicular cliff, I think they would have come down through the air as majestically and as calmly as a parachute descends from a balloon.

When we reached Resina, we rode to Herculaneum. The modern discovery of this city resulted from digging a well in the year 1709. The site of the city had been lost, owing to the great depth—nearly one hundred feet—of the solid material which covered it. Properly speaking, Herculaneum was destroyed by liquid mud, rather than by burning lava. Since the destruction of the city, there have been six different overflows of lava, so that for all practical purposes the site is covered with this solid material.

When the well referred to was being made, the workmen came upon another well; an ancient affair, nearly eighty feet from the surface. Several works of art were brought to light, [Pg 193] but for some reason the government of Naples prohibited the explorations. Thirty years later, they have been renewed, and have since been prosecuted at different intervals. At the present time the excavations are continued with much zeal, and startling discoveries are being made.

SEARCHING FOR RELICS AT HERCULANEUM.

As was the case with Pompeii, so over ancient Herculaneum a new city has been built. Underground passages have been explored like those of a mine, without uncovering them to the light of day. One great difficulty of the excavations exists in the fact that whilst Pompeii, at the time of the great eruption, was covered with ashes, Herculaneum was covered with liquid lava, which, if not exposed to the air, requires sometimes two or three years to cool off, but then it is almost as hard as flag-stone. It is easily to be seen that under such difficulties the excavations but slowly progressed; the more so, as the digging has to be done very carefully, so as not to mar the relics, for which the excavation properly is done.

It is not often that articles are found at a height above four feet from the floor, as their weight naturally carried them downwards through the soft mass of ashes. The digging is therefore rapidly prosecuted until the uniform above level has been attained. After this, the workmen carefully examine every piece of lava which they extract by small portions. As soon as the experienced eye of any worker recognizes the indications of a mold being formed in the lava, labor near that point is stopped, and tamping irons are cautiously inserted to make two or three vents in the cavity. Then liquid plaster is poured in; and after being left sufficiently long to harden, the lava is taken away, and the cast is removed.

A YOUNG MAN AND A YOUNG LADY.

In this way some curious facts have been brought to light. Two skeletons were found in close embrace, the teeth perfect, indicating youth in its prime; skeletons of a young man and maid. They had fallen together in their flight, and death had wedded them. There was a mother with her three children, hand-in-hand, who tried vainly to outrun death. Perhaps the mother, singly, might have done it, but she could not leave her children. Plenty of food for sad thought is furnished in [Pg 194] remembering that at Herculaneum and Pompeii, six hundred skeletons have already been exhumed!—many in such positions and circumstances as to suggest very touching episodes accompanying the final catastrophe.

The skeleton of a dove was found in a niche overlooking the garden of a house. She had kept to her post, notwithstanding the shower of hot, death-dealing lava. She sat on her nest through all the storm, shielding the egg which was taken from beneath her.

THE STREETS OF HERCULANEUM.

The streets of Herculaneum are all paved with lava, just as the streets of Naples are paved to-day. One street is more than thirty feet wide, and furnished with raised sidewalks. The houses were mostly of brick, and in general appearance and structure like those of Pompeii, which we described before. Magnificent pieces of art were taken out of them, but it is to be deplored that the paintings, as a rule, fade as soon as they are exposed to the light of day. Many statues and busts and pieces of furniture claim our highest admiration; they are admirably executed, and evince a highly-cultivated taste. Various musical and surgical instruments, and boxes, and many utensils belonging to the kitchen and toilet, call our attention, especially those of the kitchen, the utensils being very variegated, and mostly manufactured of copper lined with silver. Many imitations of precious stones have been found; they naturally excite the curiosity of the chemist, who is eager to know how the old Romans produced them. Most of these articles are now exhibited in the Museum of Naples, where the paintings are kept under glass, which precaution prevents the fading of the brilliant colors as much as possible.

Herculaneum possessed a theater, which claims our greatest attention, as it is the most important building discovered. It was able to contain eight thousand persons. Its walls are highly decorated, and its floors and pillars were constructed of different colored marble.

SIGNOR FIORELLI.

Signor Fiorelli, the Italian engineer who supervises the excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii, claims that Pompeii did not contain more than 12,000 inhabitants at the time of [Pg 197] the eruption, although it has generally been supposed that the population was from 20,000 to 50,000.

THE GATE OF HERCULANEUM AND STREET OF TOMBS.

Eight gates have been discovered, and the roads outside of them are lined on each side with tombs of considerable size and architectural pretension. The street of tombs, before the gate of Herculaneum, was probably the principal burial place of the city; and the sepulchral monuments adorning it, give evidence of the refined taste and great wealth of the prominent inhabitants. The streets, which, for the most part, run in regular lines, are, with some exceptions, barely wide enough to admit a single vehicle. Five of the main streets have been partially or wholly traced, and with these a regular system of minor streets appear to have been connected. The thoroughfares, with a single exception, terminate in or traverse the western quarter of the city, which is the only part yet completely explored.

The Italian government at present liberally assisting the excavations, the space now laid bare measures about 670,000 square feet, or one-third the whole area occupied by the city. Signor Fiorelli calculates that, making the excavations on an average twenty-five feet deep, and employing eighty-one laborers daily, the whole city will be unearthed in 1947.

Our descent into Herculaneum was by a staircase opening from a small house, where we found a number of guides in uniform. We paid our two francs each, and were remitted to the care of a guide, who pretended to speak English, but, to our great amusement, we soon found out that the whole extent of his English vocabulary amounted to: “Look here!” which precluded every explanation given in Italian. His knowledge of English only tended to make his Italian sound very funny indeed.

After we had seen all that was noteworthy, we mounted the steps into the open air, and returned to Naples. When passing Mt. Vesuvius, our guide told us, that indications of an eruption had been observed, and really in the following year the eruptions came. It did much damage and [Pg 198] attracted many visitors to Naples, but it did not equal in extent or magnificence the great eruption of 1872. This outbreak began on the 23d of April, and was at once the grandest and most terrible of all the eruptions that have occurred during this generation.

THE ERUPTION OF 1872.

For some days previous to the outbreak the mountain gave indications of approaching activity, and when the eruption began, hundreds of people observed it from the old lava beds between the observatory and the town of Resina, and some of them remained there during the whole of the night of April 25. Early the next morning two great seams opened under these spectators’ feet; hot sulphurous vapors enveloped them, and as they sought safety in flight, great rivers of lava rushed out of the newly-opened craters, and threatened the frightened sight-seers with speedy destruction. Some found the earth under them too hot to be walked upon, and, falling down, perished where they were. Others were suffocated by the gaseous emanations from the earth, and still others were so injured that they died after reaching a place of safety.

In the towns and villages around the volcano the destruction of property was very great, but the people generally escaped by timely flight.

In all the towns the terror was wide-spread. Nine distinct craters were opened, and lava streams, some of them sixteen feet deep, ran down the sides of the, mountains, destroying everything in their paths. Several of the villages were almost entirely buried in ashes, as ancient Pompeii was in the eruption previously described. Even in Naples, people were almost smothered with the shower of dust, cinders, and sand that poured down for days. Every window was kept closed, and every traveller through the streets was compelled to protect himself by carrying an umbrella; and there were serious fears, on the part of the timid, that the beautiful Italian city of to-day was to play the tragic part of Pompeii in a repetition of the terrible scenes of eighteen hundred years ago.

THE CRATER OF VESUVIUS.

[Pg 201]

Many people lost their lives, some in consequence of remaining to protect their property, and others from venturing too near out of motives of curiosity. At one time a group of fifty or more people were surrounded by the lava, and burned to death in sight of those who were powerless to aid them. They were standing on a little hill, and did not see, until too late, that the lava had flowed around it, and placed them on an island, as it were, with a red-hot river all around them. Many others were burned by the lava and the hot blasts which came from it in various parts of its course. A gentleman who witnessed the eruption thus describes the scene in a letter written from Naples on the 27th of April, 1872:—

STORY OF AN EYE-WITNESS.

“Yesterday morning I went out to get a carriage to go up Mount Vesuvius, and on my way I was asked by a respectable looking man in the street if I had heard the news of the night. He then told me that hundreds of people, who had gone up the night before to see the burning lava in the Atrio di Cavallo, were dead. I had seen the mountain at eleven o’clock the night before, when there was a stream of lava running from the top of the cone into the Atrio—that is, the valley between Vesuvius and the adjoining hill, the Somma, where there seemed to be a lake of fire. Later in the night there was a tremendous eruption, a large crater opening suddenly between the Observatory and the Atrio di Cavallo, across the path of the visitors, it is said, of a mile in diameter. We started from Naples at eight o’clock. The view of the mountain was magnificent. An enormous cloud of dense white smoke was ascending to an immense height above the mountain, like great fleeces of cotton wool, quite unlike any cloud I ever saw. I could see the lava rushing from several openings to the right of and above the Observatory, but below the cone. The lava was still flowing from the cone into the Atrio, but no ash or dust was thrown up. We drove on to Resina, where the population were in fearful excitement, not knowing what to do, and apparently apprehensive of instant death—everybody making signs to us, and telling us to go back. We went on to the Piazza di Pugliano, where we [Pg 202] were stopped and told that no one was allowed to go up the mountain, by order of the police. However, after some expostulation, I took a guide on the box and started again.

AN ISLAND OF FIRE.

“A few minutes afterwards we met a cart bringing down a dead body, and as we went on we saw other bodies—at least twelve—of which one only appeared to be living. They were frightfully burned on the face and hands, and some, which were carried on chairs, in a sitting position, were very ghastly objects. Further on we met people—officials, apparently—coming down, all warning us to go back. At last, when we had arrived at an elbow of the road not far below the Observatory, we met the officer who has charge of the Observatory, who said we could not go on; that the danger was imminent; that the lava was running across and down the road before us; that he had orders from the prefect of Naples to prevent any one ascending, and that we could not pass. My coachman was getting a little anxious, though I will do him the justice to say he was not afraid; so I consented not to take the carriage beyond a turn in the road above us to the right, especially as I did not wish to meet the lava in a narrow road where we could not turn the carriage. We left the carriage there, and ascended on foot with the guide by a path straight up the mountain-side.

“At length we stood on the edge of the flat ground reaching to the foot of the cone. Currents of lava were running down on both sides of us far below; the craters from which they flowed were hidden by the smoke; clouds of smoke were ascending from the top of the cone, and the lava still pouring down the Atrio. The roar of the mountain, which we had first heard at Portici was now tremendous, continuous, and unlike anything else I ever heard,—millions of peals of thunder rolling at the same time,—when suddenly, about noon, there was a cessation, with a low, rolling sound; and one heard the ticking and rippling of the lava currents pouring down the hill-sides below. Then, in about a minute, came a deafening roar, shaking the ground under our feet; and a new crater burst forth just on the other side of the Observatory, as it seemed [Pg 203] to us, and dense clouds of ashes and stones were thrown up into the air on the left hand of, and mingling with, the great white cloud, making a great contrast with the dark-brown dust and ashes, which rose perpendicularly to an immense height. The roaring continued and kept on increasing till it became deafening, and I began to think it might injure our ears. We staid there about an hour and a half.

A MAGNIFICENT SCENE.

“The scene was magnificent, the smoke occasionally clearing away and giving us the view towards the Atrio, that towards the cone being always clear; but as some of our party fancied that the ground might open under our feet, and that we might find ourselves in the midst of a new crater, I at length reluctantly sent the guide to bring up the carriage. Had I been alone I should have staid there till the evening. When we had gone down a short distance the same phenomena again appeared. The sudden cessation of the tremendous roaring, the clicking and rippling of the falling lava, and the low muttering became then again audible; then the fearful roar, and the shaking of the ground, and another crater burst forth on the flank of the mountain, below the Observatory, sending up clouds of dust and ashes, which rolled over and over till they reached an enormous height, but quite separate from the other clouds. All this time the sun was shining in an Italian sky without a cloud.

“After stopping some time to admire the scene, we continued our descent; but before we reached the bottom of the hill we saw the lava from the last crater tearing its way down through the vineyards to our right with wonderful rapidity. Just an hour after we left the top of the hill the cone commenced sending up torrents of stones, which fell in all directions; but whether the red-hot hail reached our position on the height I know not. When we reached Resina it was curious to see the congratulations for what they thought our escape on the faces of the people. The uncertainty and the panic were gone, and they were steadily packing up their beds and the few things they could carry, and starting with every sort of conveyance to put their guardian saint, St. [Pg 204] Gennaro, between them and the danger. When I started from Naples I expected to find all the world at the top of the mountain; but, to my great surprise, there was not a single stranger there—only the few persons employed in bringing down the dead. I believe the police prevented any carriage passing after ours. The awful roaring of the mountain continued and increased till midnight, when it ceased, and only roared again for a short time about four o’clock. To-day the mountain is quieter, and the Neapolitans are a trifle less pale. The view of the mountain at midnight was grand in the extreme.”

THE ERUPTION SUBSIDING.

Several villages were destroyed in this eruption, and many acres of vines were covered with lava and ashes. But as soon as the eruption was over, many of those who had fled returned to whatever of their old homes they could find. There is something strange in the fascination of the people for the places which they are well aware are liable at any time to the lava torrent or the storm of ashes. Eruptions have occurred, and will occur again; but all the reasoning you can offer would not induce these Italian peasants to go and live elsewhere.

At the present time Professor Palmieri reports from his observatory, near the top of the crater, that symptoms have been observed by him which indicate a new eruption, and strange to say, the Italians, who are accustomed to live constantly in danger, quietly look out for the occurrence, living at the very foot of the death-dealing mountain. The soil is extremely fertile, and eagerness for wealth seems here even to expel fear for death.


[Pg 205]

XIII.

THE CAVERNS OF NAPLES.

EXCAVATIONS NEAR NAPLES.—POZZUOLI.—VISIT TO THE CAVE OF THE CUMEAN SIBYL.—ACCIDENT TO AN ENGLISH TRAVELLER.—HUMAN PACK-HORSES.—DARKNESS AND TORCHES.—THE LAKE OF AVERNUS.—DROWNED IN BOILING WATER.—A DANGEROUS WALK.—IN NERO’S PRISON.—INSTRUMENTS OF TORTURE.—USE OF THE RACK.—THE IRON BEDSTEAD.—BROILING A MAN ALIVE.—TREATMENT OF PRISONERS.—AN ANCIENT FUNERAL. —VIRGIL’S TOMB.—CONSTRUCTING WINE CELLARS.—NOVEL PLAN OF ROBBERY.

The traveller who visits Naples has abundant opportunities for making underground explorations in the neighborhood of that city. A few of the places he can examine are of natural origin—the Blue Grotto, for example; but by far the greater part of them are artificial. A most interesting journey can be made to Pozzuoli and its immediate neighborhood. With a longing desire to see some of the underground curiosities that have made that part of Italy famous, I arranged a tour in that direction before I had fairly settled myself at the hotel. We made a party of three, all Americans, and all as impatient and uneasy as our race is said to be when travelling on the continent. A skirmish with a horde of rapacious coachmen secured us a carriage, and we drove out of Naples by the road which skirts the bay in the direction of Rome.

Arriving in the vicinity of the famous places, we were beset by guides, who almost climbed into the carriage in their eagerness to secure an engagement. We picked out the cleanest of the lot, or rather the least dirty, and mounted him upon the box by the side of the driver, where he sat in all the dignity of an emperor. He spoke a confused jumble of English, French, and Italian, which was no language in particular, but might be anything in general. His first movement [Pg 206] was to stop at a wayside house, from which a woman emerged bringing us half a dozen candles or torches of twisted rags and tallow, each of them as large as one’s wrist, and about three feet long. We objected to so many, but the guide assured us they would all be needed. I was inclined to doubt his statement, from my knowledge of the rascality of guides in general; but he met me with the promise, “Me them will pay for if not they be wanted, Si, signor. You verrez will.”

Of course we could not refuse after this guarantee. I paid for the torches with a silent resolution to make the fellow eat what were left over; and, as the tallow was bad, and the rags were worse, there was good reason to believe they would not make an agreeable dinner.

GOING TO POZZUOLI.

Soon after making this purchase, the work of sight-seeing began. Each place we visited had a man at the entrance, and not one of us could go inside without paying for the privilege. There were always a half dozen idle fellows hanging about ready to sell cameos and other curiosities which had been dug up in the vicinity, as they solemnly avowed; in reality the cameos were of modern manufacture, and made in Rome or Naples. The speculators would begin by asking fifty francs for a cameo which was worth about five, and which they would sell for five if they could not get any more. If we safely ran the gantlet through these avaricious tradesmen, we were beset by local guides who wanted to lead us, and we generally found it desirable to employ some of them in order to see what the place contained. In one instance these guides acted as pack-horses, and I can testify that one of them, at least, had all that he wanted to carry; and this is the way it happened.

CITY OF NAPLES, BAY, AND MT. VESUVIUS.— SEAPORT OF SOUTH ITALY, NEAR THE SITES OF HERCULANEUM AND POMPEII.
A RIDE IN NAPLES.

At the cave of the Cumean Sibyl, where the Emperor Nero and other famous men of the olden time were accustomed to go to hear the prophecies on which their fate depended, we found a larger crowd than usual. A party of Americans were just emerging as we entered, and one of them intimated that the place laid over anything he had yet seen. Our torches [Pg 209] were lighted, and we went forward quite a distance, through a tunnel eight or ten feet wide, out of which a smaller tunnel descended. Down this tunnel we walked until we came to the edge of a black, repulsive pool, over which the light shone very dimly. There was considerable smoke hanging over the water, and altogether the place was about as gloomy as anything I had ever seen. For all that could be discovered, the pool might be a thousand feet deep, and any number of miles across; to venture upon it might be like venturing upon the Atlantic Ocean, or any other great body of water. I noticed that the guides had their trousers rolled to the knee, and were barefooted. They fearlessly entered the water; two of them carried the torches, and three others backed themselves to the edge where there was a sort of stepping-stone.

“What is to be done now?” we asked of our private guide.

“Montez ze backs ze men of,” he replied. “You they carry porteez will to Grotto del Sibyl.”

HUMAN PACK MULES.

We hesitated to trust ourselves with these fellows, who might drown us, or throw us into a hole a few thousand feet deep, and leave us to come up again through the crater of Mount Vesuvius. But finally we concluded to try it, and so we mounted our two-legged steeds and rode off.

It happened that I was the heaviest of our party, and it also happened that the man who took me did not weigh as much as I did by at least fifty pounds. He trembled beneath me like a plateful of jelly in the hands of an intoxicated waiter, and I expected every moment he would drop me into the water. We went out from the shore into the smoky darkness, and in less than a minute we were completely at sea. Water was beneath and around us, and there was a black sky above that we could almost touch. No horizon was visible, and altogether we seemed to be in a world about ten feet in diameter, and without sun, moon, or stars.

Our porters splashed along in water about two feet deep, and I thought much more of the liability of my pack animal to stumble than I did of the Cumean Sibyl and her oracles. [Pg 210] Nero was less in my mind than the garlic-eating Italian beneath me, and I was much less interested in the Roman kings than in a certain subject of Victor Emanuel. Our trio exchanged comments on this novel mode of travelling, and for the time we had very little appreciation of the wonderful history of Rome and her dependencies.

CUMEAN SIBYL.

As near as my recollection serves, we had about five minutes of this sort of travel, when the head of our procession came to a halt before a recess in the wall, which our leader described as the Sibyl’s Bath. It seems that before delivering her oracles, she used to take a bath, on the principle, doubtless, that cleanliness is next to godliness, and the purer her skin the more likely would the gods be to aid her with their inspiration. The artists represent her as a pretty woman, and of course she was well aware that frequent bathing had a tendency to preserve her good looks.

The couch or bench where she reclined when delivering her oracles was pointed out, and as it then appeared, it was anything but comfortable. The presence of the water in the cave was explained to be something modern, and not at all in fashion when the Sibyl used to be at home to visitors of wealth and distinction. She used to keep her floor dry and well swept, and probably she had a little sideboard with a cold ham or two and a bottle of wine. Nero was a frequent caller, both in fashionable and unfashionable hours, and used to send her valuable presents. Mrs. Nero was jealous, but the old gentleman was in a position to do pretty much as he liked, and didn’t mind her scolding. One of my companions showed me a scrap of paper, which he said he found just inside the entrance to the cave, while I was paying off the guides. It ran as follows:—

May 10, 4 P. M.

Dearest Sib: Expect me at eight. The old lady is going out this evening, and won’t miss me. Have the tea ready, and send out for a bottle of Clicquot. I will bring a mince pie and some Limburger cheese; also a new pair of ear-rings and a chignon.

Your loving

Nero.

[Pg 211]

I suspected that the note was a forgery, as it was written in English, and the paper had the water-mark of 1866. I called my friend’s attention to these slight discrepancies, and he at once put the paper in his pocket, and said nothing more about it.

AN UNFORTUNATE ENGLISHMAN.

After looking at the couch of the Sibyl we started back to our landing-place. Just as we neared it we met another party going in. One of the porters of the new party was evidently weak in the knees, for he stumbled just as he passed me, and went down like a handful of mud. The gentleman he carried was dropped into the water, and fell flat, as though intending to take a swim. He slowly rose to his feet, and after blowing the water from his mouth with a noise like the spouting of a whale, he ventured several remarks that were nowise complimentary to his porter or to the place. He appeared somewhat excited. His language showed him to be English, but there was nothing in it to indicate that he was a member in good and regular standing of the Church of England. He did not finish his journey to the bath and couch of the Sibyl, but followed us to the shore, where he wrung himself out, and then retired to his carriage to be hung up to dry. With a heartlessness peculiar to many travellers, he refused to pay the porter for his services. It is fortunate that the latter did not understand English, as he would have been offended at the remarks which were made about him.

From the Sibyl’s Cave we went to the famous Lake of Avernus, which was described by Virgil long before anybody who reads this book was familiar with a single word of Latin. Near the lake is the famous passage into the mountain about which Virgil wrote:—

“Facilis descensus Averni. Sed revocare gradum, hic opus, hic labor est.”

We paid our admission fee, and then prepared according to the directions of the guide. We laid aside our coats and vests, removed our collars, neck-ties, and hats, and altogether put ourselves in a condition quite improper in polite society. A boy stood ready to precede us in a costume consisting of a pair [Pg 212] of pantaloons and a tin pail. A fresh egg was now shown us, and we examined it to see that it was quite cold and raw. The boy then took the egg and a torch, and went into a tunnel like the one at the Sibyl’s Cave. A blast of hot air met us at the entrance, as though it came from a furnace, and I thought of Nebuchadnezzar and the treat that he used to have for his visitors. On and on we went, and also down and down. Old Virgil was right when he said that the descent was easy, for we went down with the grace of so many oysters entering the mouth of a champagne bottle. Hotter and hotter grew the air, and before we were half way down I remembered some business that I had neglected when I left America. I wanted to go back to look after it, but my friends argued that it would keep a little longer, and I had better go on. So we continued down into the bowels of the mountain, over a slippery pathway and in a temperature as agreeable as that of the stoker’s room on a steamship.

We reached the end at last, and the boy stooped to the edge of a pool of water and placed the egg within it. We could see a thin vapor rising from the surface, and readily imagined that it was steam. The boy was careful of his hands, more careful than was necessary, since he might have added to the interest of the occasion by scalding them, and then hiring another boy to take his place. There were plenty of boys outside who could be hired cheap, and if a dozen were killed daily by scalding, or rendered helpless, it would have made no serious diminution of the Italian population.

FACILIS DESCENSUS AVERNI.

We stood there a couple of minutes, and then the boy took the tin pail and scooped up the egg and a quart or two of water. He then started back, and scrambled quite nimbly up the steep and slippery path. It was a difficult ascent to make, and we acknowledged that Virgil’s head was level when he told about the labor required to retrace one’s steps from Avernus. We perspired like a man who has just learned that he is the father of triplets, and by the time we completed the journey, our clothing was pretty thoroughly saturated. The boy was accustomed to it, as the old lady’s eels were to being skinned, [Pg 213] and the hide on his shirtless back looked like the outside of a long-used pocket-book. The egg was thoroughly cooked, and the water in the pail was of a scalding temperature, altogether too hot to put one’s hand into. The egg cost us half a franc, and so did the boy: one of us ate the egg with a little salt, but we declined to eat the boy with or without salt, and he did not urge us.

The guide told us that one day an Englishman went down the “descensus Averni,” and on arriving at the hot water, he stepped around so carelessly that he slipped and fell in. His cries and shrieks rang through the tunnel; he was pulled out as quickly as possible, but he was so badly scalded that he died in a few hours. Several accidents have happened there by persons scalding their hands and feet, but the character of the place is such, that people are likely to be careful; otherwise there would be frequent casualties to record.

NERO’S PRISON.

We visited the ruins of temples that were erected to I don’t know how many deities, and the next subterranean exploration that we made was at Nero’s Prison, as the guide and the guide-books call it. We left our carriage and went on foot up a narrow lane, and along a path where beggars followed and beset us at every turn; notwithstanding their importunity, they did not extract any money from us, though they appeared in all the conditions in which beggars could possibly present themselves. Nero must have been a charming personage if one could judge of him by looking at the place where he used to shut up those who offended him. It was a subterranean affair, and we were obliged to light our torches to explore it. We were led through winding passages into cells that were anything but comfortable, the guide stopping every moment to explain to us the nature of each one of the cells, and the uses to which they were put. They were small enough to render it utterly improbable that a man would exert his legs very actively in running, after he was once shut in, and as for light and ventilation, they were quite in keeping with the size of the apartments.

I inquired about the character of the food which Nero used [Pg 214] to furnish to the occupants of his boarding-house, and was told that it was not of a luxurious character. Nero had no table d’hôte, but used to send the meals to the rooms of his guests. None of them are alive now, and their early death is to be attributed in many cases to the treatment they received. At the time they resided there, oysters had not been invented, and there is nothing on record to show that the delicious conglomerate which we call hash had made its appearance. Some of the patrons used to express a desire to live on the European plan, and take their meals outside; but the proprietor would never permit it. And it must be said, to his credit, that his establishment was to a certain extent a free lunch concern, as he never charged anything for board and lodging. Everything was gratis, and of course the patrons who complained must have been mean fellows, who couldn’t be satisfied, no matter what you might do for them.

CHOICE FURNITURE.

The furniture of the place was very simple. It had been mostly removed when we were there, but it consisted originally of a bundle of straw on the ground and a double lock on the door. There used to be a gymnasium, where they kept a choice lot of racks, thumb-screws, and other luxurious arrangements. Life in the private rooms used to be monotonous, and in order to render it interesting, Nero would take his patrons into the gymnasium to amuse them. Some of them he would play a joke upon by tying them down on a rack and then winding up the machine so that a man of five feet eight would often be converted into six feet two. When he had been played with in this way, they would turn him loose, though releasing him did no good, as he was generally dead before they let him off.

NERO’S GYMNASIUM, AN APARTMENT IN “NERO’S PRISON.”
PROCRUSTES’ BED.

The gymnasium had another arrangement, patented by Mr. Procrustes, which was intended to equalize all men, and make them of a uniform height. This invention, based on the principles of mechanical communism, was a bedstead of iron, and there were various individuals who enjoyed the treat of being placed upon it. A poet has alluded to it as follows:—

[Pg 217]

“This iron bedstead they do fetch
To try our hopes upon.
If we’re too short we must be stretched,
Cut off if we’re too long.”

When they laid out a man on this couch, if its length corresponded with his, he was immediately removed before he had time to go to sleep. If he was short, both in money and in stature, they elongated him until he could touch headboard and footboard at the same time; and if he was a tall fellow, they shortened him at the feet with a large pair of shears that were kept for the purpose. When a hundred men had been measured on this bed and placed in a row, they were found to be of the same elevation. A good many of them died soon afterwards, but people were numerous in those days, and the dead ones were not missed by those who didn’t know anything about them.

Down in the kitchen, Nero had a gridiron resembling a garden gate, or a section of an iron fence. He had so many cooks that all of them could not be constantly employed, and so he busied himself to devise ways to employ them. He found that the gridiron was just the thing, and when his cooks were idle he used to take one of his lodgers down stairs and promise him a good roast. The lodger would be thinking of a nice turkey or a leg of mutton when Nero said “roast” to him, and as the private table was not very good, he was always ready to go below. When they got down stairs Nero would tip the wink to the cooks, who would seize the lodger and tie him on the gridiron. They then built a fire under him, and Nero carried on the joke by standing alongside with a big ladle and pouring hot oil over his guest. When he was done brown, and turned over and done on the other side, they would let him off to enjoy the fun of seeing the sell played on the next man. No doubt he would have enjoyed it had he not been dead long before they got through with him.

THE TOMB OF VIRGIL.

When we returned to Naples, we went by another route than the one we had taken in the morning. At one place our way led through a tunnel cut into the solid earth, and said to [Pg 218] be more than two thousand years old. It has worn down greatly since it was first opened; the marks of the axles of carts and wagons are visible along its sides ten or twelve feet above the present floor. It is lighted by torches placed at regular intervals along the walls, and is an important thoroughfare for people going between Naples and certain villages and towns to the north of it. At the end nearest to Naples we were taken to what is supposed to be the Tomb of Virgil, though its authenticity is considerably in doubt. It certainly is not much of a tomb, and many a man not half so talented or famous as Virgil has been lodged after death in far more beautiful quarters than these.

The peculiar nature of the earth composing the hills around Naples has greatly facilitated the construction of tunnels and caves. It is almost identical with that of the bluffs of Vicksburg—easy to cut, and at the same time sufficiently firm to prevent falling in. No roofing or arching of any kind is needed, and the tools ordinarily used in excavations are all that are required. Consequently every man who has a hill on his farm can construct a spacious wine cellar at little expense; and if he has a friendly neighbor over the hill, they can easily cut their way through, and save the trouble of climbing when they want to visit each other.

I heard of Neapolitan thieves who sometimes find out a well-stored wine cellar in the side of a small hill, and carefully observe its position. Then they erect a small house on the other side, and begin a small tunnel. They cart the dirt away at night, and after a month or so enter the cellar and steal enough wine to pay them handsomely for their trouble.


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XIV.

THE EXCAVATIONS OF DR. SCHLIEMANN, AT MYCENÆ (GREECE).

HIS EARLY LIFE AND IDEAL.—THE TREASURES OF PRIAMUS.—DESCRIPTION OF THE SPOT.—EARLY HISTORY OF MYCENÆ.—PAUSANIAS, THE ANCIENT ARCHÆOLOGIST.—WHERE THE EXCAVATIONS WERE COMMENCED.—THE TOMB OF AGAMEMNON AND HIS FAITHFUL WARRIORS.—DESCRIPTION OF THE TREASURES FOUND.—PROOFS OF THE IMMENSE ANTIQUITY OF THE TOMBS.—RECENT PORTRAITS TAKEN OF HEROES OF ANCIENT GREECE.—HOW IT WAS DONE.—THE VALUE OF THE DISCOVERIES REGARDING ART MATTERS.—HERACLES STRUGGLING WITH THE LION.—DR. SCHLIEMANN’S HEROIC WIFE.—DISCOVERY OF THE TEMPLE OF ÆSCULAPIUS.—A BYZANTINE CAVE UNDER THE ROCK.—A DISCOVERY WHICH FILLS ATHENS WITH JOY.—THE STATUE OF VICTORY FOUND IN ALMOST PERFECT CONDITION.
DR. AND MRS. SCHLIEMANN, THE EXCAVATORS, AT MYCENÆ (GREECE).

Dr. Heinrich Schliemann, the great excavator, of whom so much has been said of late, is a German by birth, and a man of an idealistic character. In his youth, he dreamed of the heroes of antiquity; he was a passionate student of the Trojan war, and the adventures of Odessus and Agamemnon. He loved to hear, in school, Homer recited, and afterwards, when he went through his variegated life, as ship’s boy, ship’s broker, clerk, commercial correspondent, and, at last, as an independent and rich merchant, one ideal pursued him, that of seeing, for himself, the seat of Homer, and the fatherland of the heroes of whom that great poet of antiquity sings; he wanted to find the traces of the past dead. After he had occupied himself, for many years, with his plan, after having surmounted innumerable obstacles, of which he gives a touching description in his autobiography, he succeeded, in 1867, in undertaking his first trip to Ithaca, the Peloponnesus, and Troja. The searches then made led to the discovery of the treasures of Priamus, which astounded the world; and scarcely has the astonishment of such remarkable [Pg 222] discoveries cooled off, when Dr. Schliemann surprises us by a new miracle. He believed in the divinity, and found its trace; the treasures showed that Priamus had existed; the tomb identified Agamemnon.

But before entering upon a description of the excavations, and the treasures found therein, we deem it highly necessary to give a description, in outline, of the spot where the gems of antiquity are being unearthed.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SPOT.

We cannot do better than give the extract from the notes of an excursion, made on the very spot, under which Dr. Schliemann is now digging for treasures and historical facts, which undoubtedly are of the greatest importance for the knowledge of antiquity and the land of Homer. This excursion was made in 1871, some five years before the persistent doctor commenced his researches.

It reads substantially as follows:

“From Tiryns we proceeded, Feb. 7th, by carriage to Argos, the city of Inachus, where we found horses saddled, waiting for us, to enable us to go to Mycenæ. We crossed, on our way, the river Inachus, and found, on the Argolic plain, for the first time, the red poppies which we afterwards noticed as so abundant in Palestine. After having gone up the crumbling steps of the amphitheater, the most important monument at Argos, (where, beset by the importunate solicitations of some boys, we bought two or three old coins, where coin is said to have been first invented. The invention of coin is ascribed to the Lydians, yet it is certain that it was used at Argos.) We mounted our horses and rode over the plain, finding in many places only a difficult bridle-path, to the treasury of Atreus, or the tomb of Agamemnon. This structure, for it may be either treasury or tomb, or both, (we commend to Dr. Schliemann the solution of the problem,) consists of a building cut out of the side of a hill, entrance to which is through a gateway, down an inclined plane, with walls on both sides, into two vaulted apartments—one larger than the other, and both now empty. The most remarkable feature is the gateway, and especially the huge soffit which spans it, not [Pg 223] more from its immense size, than from the apparent impossibility of removing it from the place which it occupies, held in its position by its own weight, and supporting the pressure of the mass above it. (A similar contrivance we noticed in the gateway of the temple of Jupiter at Baalbek.) ‘The remains of copper nails in the walls of the larger apartment, indicated that it had been sheathed with copper plates, while the inner chamber may have been coated with marble.’

“Here, after having examined the ruin, we lunched and again mounting our horses, proceeded to view the celebrated ‘Lions’ of Mycenæ, once the site of the royal palace of Agamemnon—itself a ruin in the time of Homer—its foundation going back to an almost dateless antiquity. The ruins of Mycenæ are, in many respects, unequaled in interest by any object in Greece. Their position is fortunate; there is no habitation near them. The traveler ascends from the open plain to the deserted hill on which they stand. The walls of the citadel may still be traced in their entire circuit, and on the western side they rise to a considerable height. Only a few foundations of ancient buildings remain, and one or two cisterns hewn in the rocky soil, and lined with cement. Such is the present state of the Acropolis of Mycenæ. Two gates, one on the northeast, the other on the northwest, both guarded by a tower, gave entrance into the city. The two gates and tower seem to have been connected, and illustrate the military architecture presented to our notice in the Iliad. The ‘Lions’ are represented in high relief, rampant, headless, their feet resting on a pedestal which is a Doric column reversed, carved out of a block of gray limestone. By whom erected, or for what purpose, must ever remain a mystery. Perhaps the simplest explanation is the best, that they denote the ‘courage leonine,’ and were heraldic badges upon the national escutcheon of Mycenæ. We clambered over the walls of the ruined palace of Agamemnon, on the hill-side we came across several pieces of antique pottery, which we have preserved. To make the illusion more complete, while we were exploring the ruins, a fierce, wolfish, shepherd-dog, the only guardian of the place, in a field below, [Pg 224] kept up a loud, persistent barking, which ceased not till we had left the spot.”

It is perhaps too soon, in the present imperfect state of the excavations at Mycenæ, to form a true estimate of their value, as related to the authenticity of the heroes of Homer. However, we will give, as far as that is possible, from the reports of Dr. Schliemann himself, a review of the wonderful things which this great sapper and miner has brought to light:

THE CITY OF MYCENÆ.

The city of Mycenæ must have been wonderfully beautiful. Homer calls it “the city rich in gold and broad of streets,” at the time when the ruler of Mycenæ, Agamemnon, assisted the Greeks against Troja, with one hundred ships, and a great number of men, for which service he was elected their commander-in-chief. He fell, at his return, by the faithlessness of his wife, and with him the glory of the city was gone. Only rarely we find, in history, traces of her unimportant existence. About the middle of the fifth century B. C., she was destroyed by the Argivi, and her inhabitants dispersed.

THE EXPLORATIONS AT MYCENÆ. THE TREASURY OF ATREUS (ENTRANCE.)

The ruins were never taken away, and they were only for archæologists of antiquity and of the modern times, an object of interest.

The “gate of lions” of Mycenæ, which has been built in over-old Grecian style, has been known long ago; it gave entrance to the bourg; Pausanias, who, while traveling in Greece, two centuries after Christ, visited the old city of Atreus, probably found the gate in a far better condition than it is at the present date; it was, for him, an object of the highest interest, and he was of opinion that the Cyclops themselves had builded the gate and walls. Further, he relates: “Under the ruins of Mycenæ, is a well, and the under-earthly apartments of Atreus and his descendants, which served them as treasuries. There are also tombs; in the first place, that of Atreus, and then all the graves of those who returned with Agamemnon from Troja, and who, like he, were murdered by Aegisthus. Only Clytemnestra and Aegisthus have not been deemed worthy of being buried there; their graves are outside of the wall.”

[Pg 225]

Dr. Schliemann, reading this account of the archæologist of antiquity, had not the slightest doubt but that the history of Greece was more than a mere tradition, and how wonderfully have his presentiments been fulfilled!

When we enter the bourg by means of the “gate of lions,” we are soon enabled to continue on our way through a corridor, which is formed by a well-preserved stone wall which surrounds a circular plain of about fifty feet in diameter; the wall reaches nearly to the height of a person’s breast. On this plain, Dr. Schliemann commenced his excavations; already at a small depth they found the first traces; several slabs of a yellowish lime, adorned with ancient reliefs, and showing that they once had served as slabs on graves. On taking them away, they saw a broad shaft in the earth, twenty feet long, and ten feet deep; a second, parallel to the first, followed, and afterwards, three others were found behind the smaller sides of the first two. Of course, Dr. Schliemann was bound to penetrate to the extreme depth of these shafts, and while digging, he found earthenware, and small objects manufactured of gold.

At last, they came to the extreme depth on a hard floor, and here three skeletons were lying, at a little distance from each other, surrounded by innumerable weapons and objects of luxury, partly of gold, and partly of silver; one of these corpses was distinguished by exceedingly well-preserved teeth.

THE TOMB OF AGAMEMNON.

This was the tomb of Agamemnon and his faithful warriors.

Dr. Schliemann, in his correspondence to the London Times, describes the treasures which he found lying around the bodies, in the following manner:

DR. SCHLIEMANN’S ACCOUNT.

“Among the most interesting objects of this sepulchre I reckon the magnificently ornamented golden buttons. Twelve are in form of a cross, and one of them is two and one-fifth inches large, and three inches long; three are somewhat smaller, and the remaining eight are of a still less size. Of splendidly ornamented round gold buttons were found, in all, two hundred and sixteen, two of which are two inches in diameter, seven are of the size of a five franc piece, and two [Pg 226] hundred and seven are still smaller. All these buttons, the lower part of which consists of a bone button in form of our shirt buttons, must have served on the clothes of the deceased, whereas all which show only a flat piece of bone or wood, have evidently served to decorate the sheaths of swords, lances, etc., to which they had been soldered with tin, or otherwise fastened. There were in all found in the tomb, twenty-five two-edged bronze swords, sixteen of which are in a perfect state of conservation; four of them had handles plated with gold and richly ornamented. There were also found with the swords, five large handle-buttons, four of which are of alabaster, and one of wood; all of them are ornamented with golden nails. Further, two golden shoulder belts, which were worn on the shoulder across the breast; both are four feet long, and one and three-fifths inches broad. There were further found two large girdle-belts ornamented with circles and flowers; one of them is composed of two pieces. There was also found a part of a similar belt, and a child’s golden girdle-belt, only one foot four inches long, and two and one-fifth inches broad. Further, a splendidly ornamented golden handle, probably of a scepter. It terminates in a dragon’s head, whose scales seem to have been imitated by square pieces of rock crystal, which are inlaid like mosaic. This is an object of marvelous beauty, of which Homer would have said, ‘A wonder to look upon.’ There were also found seven large and one small golden diadems—one of the former is ornamented with golden leaves. All of them show splendid ornaments of circles and spiral lines. Further, four golden ornaments of the greaves, almost in form of a bracelet: one comb of bone, in a large handle, or casing of gold, of the usual form, as ladies wear it; one enormous, most magnificently-ornamented, massive, gold bracelet, weighing three hundred and sixty grammes. In the center of the ornamentation of this bracelet is soldered a separate piece of gold, representing the sun with his rays. The size of this bracelet is so enormous that the person who has worn it must have had gigantic arms. Quite in opposition to the size of the bracelet are two massive golden seal [Pg 227] rings, the opening of which is so small that they would only fit a child of ten years. I, therefore, suppose that they may have been used as seals only. One of the seals represents two warriors on a two-wheeled chariot with two horses, which seem to run at full gallop; one of the warriors is holding a bow in his hand, and has just shot an arrow at a stag. The stag is wounded, and in anguish turns his head. The other seal ring represents a warrior who has just vanquished his three enemies, and is in the act of giving, with his uplifted sword, a last blow to one of them, wounded, and kneeling before him on one knee; the latter tries to parry the blow with his uplifted hands and with a lance, which he holds in his right, and seems to throw at his opponent. Another seems to be mortally wounded, for he lies on the ground, leaning on both his hands. The third, who alone of all the four warriors has a helmet with a crest on his head, is flying under the cover of an enormous shield which reaches from his neck to his heels; but still he turns his head towards his victorious enemy, and is in the act of throwing a lance at him. The anatomy of all the men is so well observed, their posture is so faithful to nature, and everything is executed with so much art, that when I brought to light these rings, I involuntarily exclaimed: ‘The author of the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Odyssey’ can only have been born and educated in a civilization which could produce such wonders. Only a poet who had master-pieces of art like these continually before his eyes could compose those divine poems.’

WONDERFUL GEMS.

“At the head of one of the bodies was found a large and heavy golden helmet, but it had been much crushed, and had become nearly flat under the ponderous weight which pressed upon it. In its present state, it is difficult to describe it. On its forepart, the openings for the eyes and mouth, as also a protuberance ornamented with small stars, are distinctly visible, as also on the top of the helmet, the tube for the crest. The back part is beautifully ornamented with an imitation of the hair. The face of the same body was covered with one of the golden masks which we frequently met with. It seems to [Pg 228] have been the custom with the ancient Greeks, to cover the faces of their beloved dead, with masks of gold which exactly represent the outline of the features; probably they did so to preserve the face. We find this custom back in the wooden masks of the Egyptian mummies. The breast and sides were covered by a one-foot eight-inch long, and one-foot broad, thick plate of gold, which was no doubt intended to represent the coat of mail. There were further found one hundred leaves of gold, either of circular or of cross-like form, with impressed ornamentation, consisting either of spiral lines, or of circles. Further, three very heavy golden breast-pins, of which the one is five and one-half, the other five, and the third four and one-half inches long. The last is crowned with a ram, the two others with an ornament in shape of a helmet, and the heads of all the three breast-pins are perforated, probably to put in a flower. There were further found two masterly ornamental objects of massive gold in the form of crosses; also a large golden vase weighing one and seven-eighths kilogrammes: it has two handles, a large foot, and ornamented with three upper and two lower parallel lines, between which is a row of fourteen stars; further, a large golden vase with one handle, and an ornamentation representing seven beautiful flowers; another golden vase with two handles; further, a splendid little golden œhœ, or wine can, with an ornamentation of spiral lines. Further, six golden drinking cups, one of which is a drinking cup with two handles, on each of which is a pigeon, each of the two handles being joined to the foot by two separate golden blades. This goblet reminds us of Nestor’s goblet, which was also ornamented with pigeons (see ‘Iliad,’ XI, 632, 635). One of the other goblets is ornamented with parallel flutings. There were further found two small golden vessels; also, eight silver vases, three of which are admirably conserved; one of the other has its bottom and the mouth of bronze; below its bottom were found one hundred of the aforesaid golden buttons. I further found, in this tomb, thirteen large bronze vessels. This kind of vessel was in high esteem in the heroic age, and we see them continually mentioned [Pg 231] by Homer as prizes in the games. I suppose that to each hero were given in the grave the goblets and other objects which were dear to him in his lifetime, having been won by him in the games, or having been given to him by his host as a pledge of hospitality and friendship. There was also found a large quantity of small perforated amber balls of necklaces, and a bronze or copper fork with three teeth, which had probably served on the funeral pyres. There were further found thirty-five arrow heads of obsidian. Nothing could give a better idea of the great antiquity of these tombs than these stone arrow-heads, for the ‘Iliad’ seems to know only arrow-heads of bronze (e.g., ‘Iliad,’ XIII, 650 and 662). Probably there had also been deposited bows and quivers in the tomb, but they would have been of wood, and would have rotted away. To my greatest regret, among thousands of gold ornaments, there is not even a single sign resembling writing, and it therefore appears certain that the sepulchres belong to an epoch which preceded the introduction of the Phœnician alphabet. Had the latter been known, the Mycenæan goldsmiths, whose continual efforts appear to have been directed to the invention of a new ornamentation, would have been very ambitious to show the novelty of the alphabet. A second proof of the immense antiquity of these tombs, is the entire absence of any vestige of either iron or glass, or of any pottery made on the potter’s wheel. But the hand-made pottery had reached a high degree of perfection, such as has never been attained here in later times by the pottery made on the wheel.”

The doctor, enthusiastic as he is with his new discoveries, had the mortal remains of the immortal heroes taken from their graves, and the great departed ones received the unprecedented honor to have their portraits painted by an artist of our day. Of course, the golden mask was used for that purpose.

The greatest scientific importance of the discoveries at Mycenæ, lies in the fact that we now make acquaintance with a kind of art which very nearly approaches oriental representation [Pg 232] and oriental technique. It can easily be seen, from the works of art found by the excavations, that the artists of that remote time did not care so much to give true representations of real existing things, but to procure to dead things, as much as possible, a living, graceful form.

GRECIAN ART IN MYCENÆ.

Among the treasures, a golden plate was found, upon which Heracles is engraved, struggling with a lion. This last engraving, above all others, may serve as a scientific guide, through the labyrinth of the treasures of Mycenæ. The struggles of Heracles with the monsters of the earth, are the property of Grecian tradition; hence, we have not to deal with Asiatic or India-European art, but with real, purely Grecian art.

The most precious objects found at Mycenæ, are collected at Athens, with those formerly found by the doctor among the treasures of Priamus, and are preserved in the vaults of an Ionian bank.

It is proper that we should allude to Dr. Schliemann’s heroic wife, of whom, as his most valuable and sympathetic assistant in his labors, he speaks, as is most fitting, in words which constitute her highest eulogy. The story of their union reads like a romance. “Mrs. Schliemann is the only woman in Greece who knows the Odyssey by heart.” The Dr. once said, before a party of Athenians, that he would marry the first lady who could recite the Odyssey. A fair Greek girl appeared one day, unintroduced, and asking if the promise was genuine, recited Homer, and secured her home. She also secured a wife’s share of $1,000,000. The two have been faithfully burrowing among its ruins themselves, and as will be seen from the portrait, she is proud of the accomplishments of her husband, and wears one of the trophies of his glory, the head apparel of queen Helena, whose elopement with Paris, the son of Priamus, caused the Trojan war.

STATUARY AND ARCHITECTURE.

It is known that the archæological society of Athens, under whose direction Dr. Schliemann is now excavating at Mycenæ, and from whom he has met with no little opposition, besides the difficulties arising from the nature of the ground, which [Pg 233] would seem, to a less resolute spirit, almost insurmountable, have of late made some valuable discoveries at Athens. They have cleared away the debris on the south side of the Acropolis, and have discovered the temple of Æsculapius, where they have found many bas-reliefs representing the goddess of health, and two very beautiful marble heads, nearly perfect; also, some inscriptions of great historical value. They have also found a Byzantine cave under the rock. This circumstance reminds me of some exquisite specimens of sculpture seen by me, while in Athens, in my visit to the Acropolis. From these we return to the recent excavations at Olympia. These are carried on by a commission from the German and Greek governments. The latest discoveries announced are those made on the site of the celebrated temple of Jupiter, consisting, among others, of a Doric capital, with its abacus in excellent preservation, considered as belonging to one of the columns supporting the eastern pediment of the temple, fragments of bronze, and terra-cotta objects, also, of the marble tiles described by Pausanias as composing the roof; and a magnificent torso, supposed to be the statue of Jupiter, one of the group of figures adorning the pediment of the temple. On the last day of the year, however, a telegram was received by the king from Dr. Demetriades, announcing a discovery which has filled Athens with joy. The statue of Niké (Victory), one of the group in the pediment, has been found imbedded in the soft, alluvial soil, in an almost perfect condition—as if it had only yesterday been taken down from its lofty pedestal. It is said to be a figure of unmatched beauty and grandeur, and what gives it a higher value is that the name of Praxitiles himself is engraved on it. Thus much is as yet known, but details are eagerly waited. Archæological discovery is eagerly pursued in every part of the land, of which it may be said that not a spadeful can be turned, without revealing some new treasure of its most glorious epoch.

The objects found by Dr. Schliemann have been forwarded to England, and placed in charge of the National Bank. They have been placed under the care of that institution for [Pg 234] safety, and will remain there in the strong room, until a suitable museum can be provided, when they will all be labeled, and will be exposed, in proper cases, for the public to see them.

It is a fact not generally known, that Dr. Schliemann is not assisted by any fellow-enthusiast in the cause of archæology, nor is he in the employ of any society. He defrays the expenses all himself, and we may be assured that they are very heavy.

It is but proper that we should allude here to the fact that Mrs. Schliemann is most ably and energetically assisting her husband in the discovery of the treasures of the ancients.

THE SECOND TREASURY.

The dome of the Second Treasury was broken in, a long time ago, and therefore it is better known to antiquarians; but Mrs. Schliemann has now thoroughly excavated, and explored the whole building. While her husband was excavating within the walls of the Acropolis, she undertook the excavation of this relic of the past, and the approach to it, which was formerly completely concealed, is now laid bare. Its position is close to the Gate of Lions, and it is found to differ only in slight details from the other one, known as the Treasury of Athens. The lintel over the doorway is the largest stone in the building. It is twenty feet long, seven feet wide, and eighteen inches deep, and a course of large stones of the same depth is carried all around the walls, on the same level. The diameter of the dome is a little less than that of the Treasury of Athens, but as there is an opening in the top, by which the light enters, the view is not so impressive. The inhabitants of Mycenæ did not seem to be acquainted with the principle of the arch, as the dome is constructed with courses placed horizontally. Dr. Schliemann, pretending that Agamemnon was buried here, calls it the Tomb of Agamemnon; others have named it the Tomb of Cassandra.

The Treasury of Athens shows the most perfect condition of building of the ancients. The second, third, and fourth treasuries (there are four in all), gradually decrease in architectural skill, and we might almost say of the fourth, that it [Pg 235] is nothing but an excavation made in the soil, speedily covered with rough stones. It is covered in such a way that a person entering it has to creep on all fours.

For what purpose these buildings were created, remains a mystery. In the Homeric age, tombs are always described as “piled,” or “heaped up;” they are always mounds, and the fact of the earth covering these so-called “treasuries,” is a strong evidence of their sepulchral character; but the magnificently built accessories would lead to the conclusion that it belongs to a period posterior to the Iliad and the Odyssey.

HECTOR’S TOMB.

Hector’s tomb is described as the “hollow grave.” This was the primitive cell, which became developed into an unarched dome. Of this, many examples are found in the tumuli near Kertch, some of them of a very large size, and, though different in construction, they afford a good illustrative parallel. In the structures just described, we find a developed architecture which seems to have been rich with metallic decoration. Here all resemblance to the simple cell of the hollow grave has been lost, and now the foot or two feet of earth, heaped on the top, is nearly all that is left to remind us of the original mound, from which this style of tomb had its origin.


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XV.

MEXICO AND ITS MINES.

THE USES OF SILVER.—COIN AND ITS ABUNDANCE.—PUZZLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMISTS.—WONDERFUL SKILL OF THE SILVER-WORKERS.—THE SILVER PRODUCT.—THE MINES OF MEXICO.—THEIR EXTENT AND RICHNESS.—GUANAJUATO AND ITS MINES.—THE VETA MADRE.—VISIT TO THE SERRANO MINE.—UNDERGROUND PYROTECHNICS.—THE VETA GRANDE.—THE PACHUCA MINE.—AN OFFER TO THE KING—THE GROUND PAVED WITH SILVER.—SULPHUR MINERS.—ASCENT OF A MEXICAN MOUNTAIN.

One of the most important of the metals is the one known as silver. All the civilized nations use it for the manufacture of coin as a circulating medium, and the consumption of the metal for this purpose alone is very great. Political economists have busied themselves with the problem of the immense annual waste from the wearing away of gold and silver, but thus far they have met with no success. For large amounts, bank notes—either of the government or otherwise—are in use, and have many advantages over coin. But for small amounts, gold and silver have not been replaced, and there is little probability that they will be. Their jingling makes an agreeable sound, but unfortunately it reduces the weight of the coin, and wears away, particle after particle, which cannot be saved by any process yet invented.

Silver has long been used in the Arts, and its whiteness renders it particularly desirable for this purpose. Of late years, it has taken a very prominent place, especially in America, and the productions of the silver-workers border on the marvelous. At the Philadelphia Exhibition, the display of silver ware in the American section was such as to attract large crowds at all hours when the place was open to the public, and there were few visitors who did not confess themselves [Pg 237] astonished at what they beheld. There was an endless variety of silver work, from very small articles up to very large ones. Down to a few years ago, the English and other people over the Atlantic had almost a monopoly of silver work, and were justly entitled to a claim for superiority. But at present, the American workmen are equal to any competition, and some of the ornamental pieces they have recently turned out cannot be surpassed anywhere else in the world.

The impetus given to this branch of Art is due, to some extent, to the abundance of silver in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas, and the desire to make as much use of it as possible. Some have feared that the opening of so many silver mines would cheapen the metal, and cause a great shrinkage in the value of that now on hand, but up to the present, no such result has been reached. Silver has taken the place of gold, for many uses, and if matters go on in the future, as they have gone in the past, the demand will long continue to equal the supply.

One of the foremost silver-producing countries in the world is Mexico, and its fame extends a long distance into the past. The metal was known to the ancient Aztecs, and was worked by them, with exquisite skill, into numerous ornamental and useful articles, but among the vast mineral treasures of Montezuma, the quantity of silver was small compared with that of gold, and gave little promise of the argentiferous mines of his territories.

THE SPANISH MINERS.

The Spaniards had a keen eye for valuable things, and no sooner did they find what the country contained in mineral wealth, than they proceeded at once to develop it.

They opened mines wherever there were indications of silver, and so fast did they progress that it was estimated, at the beginning of this century, that operations were going on in from four thousand to five thousand localities, which might all be included in about three thousand distinct mines. These were scattered along the range of the Cordilleras in eight groups, the principal of which, known as the central group, contains the famous mining districts of Guanajuato, Catoree, [Pg 238] Zacatecas, and Sombrerete, and furnished more than half of all the silver produced in Mexico.

The great vein, or Veta Madre, is referred to elsewhere, and is one of the most remarkable deposits anywhere known. It is contained chiefly in clay slate, and crosses the southern slope of the hills in a northwest and southeast direction, dipping with the slates (the range which it follows) from forty-five to forty eight degrees toward the southwest. The width averages a hundred and fifty feet, and the depth is unknown. It has been traced about twelve miles, but its most productive portion thus far, or rather, the portion operated, is only about a tenth of that distance.

The mines of Zacatecas, opened in 1548, are also upon a single vein, called the Veta Grande, averaging in thickness about thirty feet. The formation is of green stone and clay slate, the former the most productive. The veins of Catoree are in limestone, supposed to be of carboniferous age.

THE ORE IN THE MINES.

The greatest proportion of silver in every mining district of Mexico is obtained from the sulphuret of silver, an ore of gray color, disseminated through the quartz matrix in minute particles, and more or less combined with other metals. The other varieties of argentiferous ores are numerous, but comparatively small in quantity; they are the chloride of silver, ruby silver, native silver, argentiferous pyrites, and argentiferous galena.

The comparative quantities of these, at the different mines, is very variable, and few of the miners are able to determine them with exactness. Notwithstanding the antiquity of the silver mining business in Mexico, the processes which are employed are still far from perfect, and greatly behind those of the Nevada and other mines. The ore in Mexico is so rich that it has not been considered worth while to practice any economy or to bring science to the miner’s aid.

Col. Albert S. Evans, who made a journey through Mexico, a few years ago, gives a graphic account of a visit to the Serrano mine, in the vicinity of Guanajuato. He was invited, with several others, to a pyrotechnic display in the mine, and thus describes it:

[Pg 239]

THE SERRANO MINE.

“The mine is situated in the hill below the Buffa, at the upper end of the city. Five hundred men, women, and children are employed at this mine, getting out the ore, breaking it up, and sorting it. The men generally work in small gangs, for a share of the sales of the ore they take out. The amount of silver mined, weekly, is about five thousand dollars, and the expenses one thousand dollars, leaving a net profit of four thousand dollars. The great tiro is about nine hundred and fifty feet in depth.

A horizontal tunnel penetrates the hill from a level with the hacienda, cutting the tiro, or perpendicular shaft, at four hundred feet from the surface. This tunnel may be about fifteen hundred feet in length; a railroad track runs through it, and lying down in the cars, we were carried in to the edge of the tiro.

This tiro is thirty feet in diameter, and six sided, laid up in cement, like that at the Valenciano.

The necessity for this is seen in the fact that a rock, weighing many tons, was displaced from a station near the bottom of the shaft, a few days previous to our visit, and falling upon the miners beneath, killed and maimed a large number of them.

Standing here, four hundred feet below the surface of the earth, and six hundred feet above the bottom of the shaft, with a patch of pale blue sky far above us, and inky darkness, almost palpable to the touch, around us, and filling all the depths below, we witnessed the most wonderful scene on which we gazed in Mexico.

Men were sent up to the top of the tiro at the surface of the ground, and told to discharge rockets down it. This they did, and the hissing and explosions of the fiery messengers caused the most deafening echoes and re-echoes, while the sides of the shaft, dripping with ooze and slime, were revealed with startling distinctness by the momentary glare.

But this was nothing to what followed; balls of the fiber of the maguey, or aloe plant, three feet in diameter, and steeped in pine pitch or resin, were swung out over the mouth of the [Pg 240] shaft, and set on fire. When the first was in full blaze, it was detached, and allowed to fall into the abyss. Like a great comet with body of molten metal, and long tail of flame, rushing on a doomed planet, the monster projectile came down from the dizzy height above us, and passing the mouth of the tunnel in which we stood, with a roar more deafening than the loudest thunder, went bounding and crashing into the depths below, illuminating everything, for a moment, with the blinding, lurid glare, followed by a darkness and silence more profound than before. As soon as the tremendous echoes which were awakened by the first, had died away, a second was sent down, and others followed in quick succession.

Most of our party were unable to control their nerves sufficiently to enable them to approach the edge and look up and down the tiro, holding by ropes to prevent them from becoming dizzy and falling headlong into the depths, but those who could do so, beheld a scene, the awful sublimity and grandeur of which beggars all the powers of language.

DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THE MINE.

The remainder of the party now left, and I, in company with the superintendent, clothing myself in a miner’s suit, to keep off the water and mud, descended to the bottom of the mine, one thousand feet and more from the surface.

We went down ladder after ladder, along gallery after gallery, through chambers like great churches in size, and others in which we could not stand erect, down steps cut in the rock, and so slippery with dripping water and soft clay, as to compel us to use an iron-shod staff to support ourselves, and through many a winding turning, until we stood at the bottom of the tiro, wet through with perspiration, and trembling with exhaustion.

At the bottom of the tiro is a great pond of water, the reservoir into which all the drainings of the mine are gathered, and the buckets on the great cables, worked by the malacates at the top, were constantly coming and going between it and the end of the tunnel six hundred feet above. These buckets will hold three to four hogsheads of water, and are made of [Pg 241] rawhide, in the form of an ordinary Mexican water jar. An iron ring distends the mouth of the bucket, and when the vessel descends, the wet hide flattening down allows the water to rush in, and as the lifting commences, it falls back into its original form, filled to the brim with the dirty fluid. When the bucket reaches the level of the tunnel, it is hauled into the opening, and as the cable is slackened up, it flattens down again, and the water, escaping over the rim, runs off down the side of the tunnel.

But there are still lower depths. We went down nearly two hundred feet more, and at the bottom of the last level, found men at work taking out ore. The dripping of the water at this point is very considerable, and two plans are made use of to get rid of it. A part of the water is carried up to the reservoir in pig skins on the backs of naked and sweating Indians, and a part—the larger part—is pumped up to that point by hand.

PRIMITIVE APPLIANCES FOR MINING.

The pumps are mere straight logs, thirty feet long, with a bore of three inches, and a piston and bucket, pulled and pushed, back and forth, by two stalwart Indians sitting on either side, working by main strength, without even a lever purchase to help them along. There are stations or reservoirs at the end of each pump, and all must be kept continually working, night and day. The Indian pumpers sit down to their work upon the wet rock, and are as naked as when born; the great heat and want of ventilation at this depth, rendering clothing, if they had it, a superfluity.

They get fifty cents each, per day, and work twelve hours at a shift. In all my mining experience, I have never seen such a waste of power, and such thoroughly primitive appliances for mining.

I went through many of the galleries and drifts, and examined the vein carefully. The main vein is five to twelve feet wide, quite irregular, and runs in a generally southwestern and northeastern direction, dipping to the southwestward as it descends.

It carries metal in a very unequal degree in different portions, [Pg 242] and though presenting rich specimens, and bunches of almost pure silver in spots, is not generally very rich.

In one chamber, I saw a number of mules and horses feeding, a thousand feet below the surface. These poor creatures are let down in slings, from the surface, through the tiro, and never go out again alive. They turned their glazing eyes upon us with evident pain as we passed with lighted torches, and appeared to regard us with mournful interest, as in some way connected with the world above, of which they still retained some dim recollection, but which they were never to look upon again.

In another chamber, I saw women and children cooking food for their husbands and parents. They appeared to live here, altogether, probably returning to the light of day only at long intervals. Utterly worn out, at last we climbed our way back to the tunnel, emerging into daylight just as the sun was setting, swallowed a liberal allowance of brandy, to protect ourselves against taking cold, mounted our horses, and galloped back to the city.

THE RESCATA.

The weekly sale of ores at the several mines, is called the rescata. One at the Serrano, I attended. The ore is placed on the ground, each miner’s work in a separate lot, and the buyers sample it before the sale. It is sold in the lump, by guess, not by weight, the buyer taking his chances on the amount. The auctioneer stands silent, under an umbrella, while the miners who have a small interest in the sales, over and above their wages, volubly shout the praises of the lot in turn. As each lot is put up, the buyers singly whisper their bids in the ear of the auctioneer, and when all have bid, he announces who bid the highest; the other bids are not named.

The chances for collusion seem, to me, to be very great. Some lots brought as high as five hundred dollars, and the aggregate sales exceeded six thousand five hundred dollars, at this rescata. This ended our sight-seeing in Guanajuato.

The silver mines of Northern Mexico, near the boundary of the United States, are supposed to be of great value, also, but their development has been retarded by the hostility of the [Pg 243] Apache and Comanche Indians, who hold possession of portions of the territories.

Mining operations, however, have been undertaken, of late, upon the Rio Grande, and also over the American line in Arizona territory, the products of which are already reaching the United States. Central America possesses no silver mines that are worked to much extent, but rich ores are known to exist in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

THE REAL DEL MONTE.

A very rich mine in Mexico is the one known as the Pachuca, in the group of the Real del Monte, and it has been worked almost from the time of the conquest of the country by Cortes. The most successful operator was Pedro Terreras, a muleteer, who found a shaft something more than a hundred years ago. He made so much money from it that he gave the King of Spain two ships of war, and promised him, if he would visit the country, he should have the ground paved with silver, and should not be required to put his royal foot on the plebeian earth. The king did not come, but he made the enthusiastic Terreras a member of the nobility under the name of Count of Regla. The mines yield about four million dollars annually, and the Regla family is one of the richest in Mexico. The ore yields about a hundred dollars a ton, and the miners are carefully searched every time they come up from their work. They wear only the lightest possible garments, which are changed and shaken whenever the gangs are relieved.

An interesting feature of mining life in Mexico is the search for sulphur in the craters of volcanoes. Popocatapetl and Orizaba are the principal mountains where this substance is sought, and an extensive business is carried on. The sulphur rises in the form of vapor, and is condensed around the crater of the volcano. It requires several years for an accumulation sufficiently thick to pay the expense of collection, and sometimes the work is very dangerous. Men are let down by ropes into the interior of the mountain, and sometimes they are killed by the heat and noxious gases. The miners are a hardy race, and seem to enjoy their venturesome occupation.

[Pg 244]

ASCENT TO THE CRATERS.

The ascent of these mountains is at all times difficult and fatiguing, and very few persons, other than the miners, ever attempt it. Sometimes an adventurous traveler happens along, and is not satisfied till he has made the ascent of one or both of the mountains, but he generally accumulates enough fatigue to last him several months.

Of this number is Mr. D. S. Richardson, United States Secretary of Legation, who, in February, 1877, climbed the peak of Orizaba, or Citlatepetl, as it is called by the Aztecs, the star mountain of the Anahuac. He had previously climbed to the top of Popocatapetl, and from its summit had gazed out over a sea of clouds to the frozen top of its mighty rival, and now the position was reversed. Mr. Richardson was accompanied by Mr. Eustace Morphy, who, with indomitable pluck, held out to the last. The point from which the ascent of Orizaba is generally undertaken is San Andres Chalchicomula, a pleasant little town, which lies directly under the great volcano, at its southwestern base. Here the sulphur-miners and the ice-cutters come down to sell the products of their hazardous industry. The time selected, February 5th, was not at all favorable for the ascent. The miners and guides had all come down, and reported the ascension impossible for several days to come; there had been no such storm in fifty years, they said, and to attempt to go up was simply madness.

Richardson and his companion yielded to their advice, and for a few days engaged in a hunting expedition—which, however, was a failure in so far as finding game was concerned. They saw one rabbit, and heard wolves and coyotes howling; but that was all. They were high up the mountain side, the weather was pleasant, and, as they had plenty of provisions, and no thought of care, they enjoyed the interval with a sense of absolute freedom. It was cold sometimes, and at night the little stars would look down freezingly through the tops of the pines, as if in derision of their foolishness; but these discomforts were as nothing compared with subsequent ones.

At one o’clock on the 10th of February, they began their climb up the mountain. For several hours their path wound [Pg 245] up through the desolate ravines which separate the Sierra Negra from the peak. Great masses of volcanic rock were observed in fantastic shapes on every side, and on the entire face of the country, half covered with snow, could be read the signs of the savage convulsions which some day must have shaken the mountains to their foundations. On the morning of the 11th, the party resumed their march at two o’clock, and the ascent is thus described by Secretary Richardson:

THE ASCENT OF THE ORIZABA.

“We were six, all told, four Indians, Morphy, and myself. No party ever tried an ascent with better fellows for guides. They knew every inch of the ground, were strong and good-natured, and took a lively interest in the success of our enterprise. As we were the first to go up after the heavy storms, we went prepared to have a tough climb. The Indians said we would reach the top by ten o’clock, which was giving us seven hours to do it in. Under ordinary circumstances, and when the snow is in the best condition, the sulphur miners go up in five or six hours from the cave, but on the present occasion they had underestimated the difficulties. The snow was low down and very heavy, and long before the sun peeped up over the murky horizon, we were hopelessly launched upon the long, glistening slant, one end of which seemed reaching out to touch the stars, and the other shot far below us into a bank of clouds.

“Sunlight found us on the south side of the mountain, on a level about equal to the height of the Sierra Negra. The ascent now began to be very laborious, and, for the first time, we began cutting foot-steps in the ice in order to proceed. When half way up the mountain, the route usually taken is along a ledge of rocks which reaches up out of the snow like the dorsal fin of a shark, and runs clear to the top. In this respect, Orizaba differs very much from its kindred peak, Popocatapetl. Sharp, jagged points of rock stick out all over its surface like the spines of a porcupine, while the summit of Popocatapetl is a clean, unbroken cone. These rocks on the slopes of Orizaba are one of the principal sources of danger in the ascent, as they often come tumbling down in great [Pg 246] quantities; but at the time of our adventure, they were all held fast by the unusually heavy fall of snow. This was a point in our favor; but if we did not have to dodge rocks, there was no lack of active operations in other respects. The higher we went the more abrupt became the ascent, and the more uncertain the foothold. Ten o’clock came around, and the summit was still far above us.

“Every step now had to be cut out of the solid ice, and the fatigue and light air were beginning to tell on our uninitiated muscles. At eleven o’clock, we were at the foot of what is known as the rocks of the arrepentimiento. This is the last grand pull, the home-stretch, and it could not be more appropriately named. It is probably not over three hundred yards to the top, but it is almost a perpendicular wall of ice, and as it is reached when the adventurer is already fainting and about ready to give up, it is a formidable obstacle. We were three hours in getting over it, and then, almost fainting, and completely exhausted, we threw ourselves down on a little shelf of sand at the top of the peak.”

It was two o’clock in the afternoon when they reached the summit, just eleven hours after their departure from the Cave of Santa Cruz, which is itself no less than thirteen thousand feet above the sea. Two of their Indians left the party, preferring to climb the mountain the next morning, to spending the night on its top. Mr. Richardson says that that was the most horrible night he ever hopes to pass. He says:

“Shortly after our arrival, a cold wind came up that struck us to the very bone. There was no shelter to be obtained, as the descent into the crater was impossible, and the excavations from which the Indians take sulphur were covered deep with ice and snow. The bald, naked peak presented but one point where it was possible to spend the night. A little below the lip of the crater, on the southern side, a little steam escapes through a bed of sand, and here the snow is melted off a spot about a rod square. Into this sand we scratched a hole, and, pulling our blankets over us, laid down. We had no eyes for the magnificent panorama which was spread out before us, [Pg 247] or the sun, which was going down blood-red in the west; we were too utterly miserable and cold.

“I do not think any of us slept a wink all night. Our blankets froze stiff as boards, and all attempts to light a little spirit lamp and make coffee were fruitless. We could not even drink our wine, for it had turned to ice in the bottles. Thus hour after hour of the longest night I ever spent dragged by, and at length signs of day began to creep up slowly from the east. Almost too stupefied and stiff to move, we were only induced to crawl out from our holes by the stern realization of our desperate situation. The wind, too, now began to go down somewhat, and after moving about a little we felt better. Making our way up to the topmost pinnacle, we planted our flagstaff and unfurled our blood-red banner to the breeze.

THE CRATER OF THE ORIZABA.

“The crater of Orizaba, which is much smaller than that of Popocatapetl, is still an awful chasm, and is probably not far from two miles in circumference. We could not take measurements of it, as all the instruments were down the mountain with the other party. It shows no signs of life, and with the exception of the heated sand on which we passed the night, we failed to notice any evidences of volcanic action still going on. But what a contrast this awful stillness to the great convulsions of which this mountain has once been the center. We had a magnificent view, for about an hour after sunrise, and as far as the eye could reach, peak after peak of lesser magnitude told the story of its volcanic birth. By a queer coincidence, I had brought The Last Days of Pompeii with me to read in leisure moments, and as I looked out over the world at my feet, and thought of Bulwer’s vivid description of the last days of that doomed city, the thought suggested itself, ‘who knows how many Pompeiis are buried beneath these hoary hills, and what tales might these rocks repeat if they would?’”


[Pg 248]

XVI.

CORAL REEFS AND CAVES IN THE PACIFIC.

THE ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC—HOW THEY HAVE BEEN FORMED—WHAT THE CORAL IS—THE WONDROUS ARCHITECTS OF THE SEA—WHAT A UNITED STATES STEAMER SAW—HOW THE CORAL IS FISHED FOR—ROMANTIC STORY OF A CAVERN—HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED—AN ELOPEMENT AND EXERCISE IN DIVING—LOVE AND TURTLES—A BATTLE IN THE WATER—KILLED BY SHARKS—A MAIDEN’S GRIEF—THE PERIL OF A LOVER—SURPRISING A FATHER-IN-LAW—END OF A SUBMARINE COURTSHIP.

The waters of the Pacific ocean contain thousands of islands far away from the coast. Their presence is recognized, long before they become visible, by clouds directly above them in the otherwise clear sky. The land absorbs the heat of the sun, and accumulates it faster than the water; soon an ascending current of warm air is formed, carrying up moisture into the colder regions of the atmosphere, where it is condensed and forms clouds. A similar phenomenon is observed in our western plains, where the sky is frequently clear enough in the morning, but by ten or eleven o’clock, enough heat has been accumulated to cause the formation of clouds.

THE ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC.

The islands of the Pacific are of two kinds, called the higher and the lower. The lower rise but seven, ten, and rarely as high as one hundred feet above the level of the sea; while the higher islands reach an elevation of 10,000, 12,000, and even 15,000 feet. There is no transition between them. The most remarkable are the lower islands. Their appearance is very peculiar. In the first place, the eye is arrested by a white beach; then comes a line of verdure, due to tropical trees; then a lagoon of quiet water, of a whitish or a yellowish color, then another line of verdure, and finally, beyond all, the dark, blue waves of the ocean. Whitsuntide Island is a remarkable model of the structure of these islands:

[Pg 249]

It is a ring rising seven or eight feet above the sea level, enclosing a lagoon, and presenting the characteristics just described. The lagoon inside is but a few fathoms deep; but on the outside of the island, the water is fifteen thousand feet deep. Here, then, we evidently have a tower-like structure reaching up from the bottom of the sea, and having a depression in its summit. Some of these lower islands are fifty miles across, but most of them are not so large. In some the ring is broken at several points, and these are designated by the Malay word atoll.

The island of Tahiti, the principal one of the Society Islands is a good example of the second class or higher islands. It rises seven thousand to eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, has no lagoon in its center, but a crater, and the water around it is very deep. It may, in fact, be considered as a mountain rising to a height of some eighteen thousand feet from the bottom of the sea. Outside of it is a double girdle of low islands, one near, which Darwin calls a fringing reef, and one further out, to which he gives the name of a barrier reef.

On examining these reefs, and the lower islands, their structure will be found made up entirely of animal remains, generation after generation having left their homes, consisting of limestone, to accumulate there. On the top, we find these animals living and growing, in all colors, shapes, and sizes. The highest islands, on the contrary, except those near the continent, like Borneo, Sumatra, etc., are entirely volcanic, and do not contain sandstone, granite, or gneiss, like the mountains of the continent.

The limestone of the lower islands is not due to sedimental deposits from the ocean, but is the work of the coral animal, the great architect of the sea.

WHAT THE CORAL IS.

The great savant, Prof. Agassiz, describes them as follows:

“These animals are but a sac, like the finger of a glove, only more leathery. Around the mouth is a series of tentacles, formed by a prolongation of the skin. They are all skin, in fact, and have no special organs, yet they digest food with [Pg 250] tremendous rapidity, absorbing it directly. It makes no difference if you turn them inside out; they will digest just as well as before. You cannot kill them by dividing them; for they live all over, like a plant. For this reason they have been called zoöphytes. [1] If you cut one into eight parts, each part will live and set up in business for itself. Like all other animals, however, they grow out of eggs. The eggs are formed within the skin, which is double, and divided into cells by partitions or septa. When mature, they detach themselves, move about in the water until they find a favorable place, and then establish a new colony. They do not contribute to the growth of their parent colony, which is effected in another way.

[1] The term Zoöphyte is applied to simple polyps and compound individuals consisting of many polyps united together, as in most corals. They often branch like vegetation, and the polyps resemble flowers in form.

“On examining a piece of coral, it is seen to be full of little holes, popularly supposed to be the places for the stomachs of the animals, but this is not so, at all; the coral animal does not form a secretion around it like the mollusks,[2] but inside, between the two folds of its skin. Coral is, therefore, the bones and not the skull of the animal. As before stated, these animals work in societies or colonies, and their tendency is to repeat the forms peculiar to each species; thus we have corals shaped like a hand, like the branches of trees, like mushrooms, like a brain, with its convolutions. They grow and multiply in these societies by budding or gemmation. The side of the animal begins to bulge out, and the protuberance so formed develops into a new mouth, which soon eats and digests for itself, but does not separate from its parent. This process goes on symmetrically, and produces the variety of regular shapes just described.

[2] Mollusks are invertebrate animals, having a soft, fleshy body, which is inarticulate, and not radiate internally.

“Some distance below the surface, we no longer find these beautiful shapes, but a dense, solid, coral rock. Take for instance, the coral reefs of Florida. Beginning one hundred

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WHAT THE CORAL IS.

and twenty feet below the surface, we first find about thirty feet of massive rock, then the astræa,[3] then the meandrina, [4] and about ten feet below the surface the palmata or hand-shaped coral. In the shallow mud between the reefs and the continent, there are multitudes of branching corals of the most beautiful forms, colors, and delicacy of structure. The production of coral rock is explained partly by the mechanical action of the waves, and partly by the destruction of the coral insect by the sea urchin and other animals that feed on it. The waves disintegrate the structure formed by the animal, and then roll back the coral sand, thus produced upon it, where it undergoes a process of induration in the course of time.

[3] Astræa, a coral in the shape of a star.

[4] Meandrina, a genus of corals with meandering cells, as the brain-stone coral.

“It is an interesting question how the structure ever rises above the water level, seeing that the animal which makes it cannot live out of the water. The little architects retain enough sea water to last them over until the next tide, and are so enabled to work up to the highest water-mark. Actinia have been observed all closed up on the rock at low water, and then suddenly opened like magnificent flowers, five and six inches in diameter, when the tide rose.”

So far, what Mr. Agassiz says of them; now let us try and look at them ourselves. In the hot, summer months, when the waters are bringing forth the moving creature that has life, millions of diminutive, jelly-like spawn are thrown out by the parent animal. For a while, they enjoy their freedom, and seem to luxuriate in the exercise of their powers of locomotion, which they are never hereafter to recover; but soon they become weary, and settle down upon some firm, stationary body. At once they begin to change their form; they become star-like, the mouth being surrounded by tentacles, very much as the center of a flower is surrounded by its leaves. After some time, each one of these ray-like parts pushes out extensions, which in their turn assume the shape of tiny stars, and establish their own existence by means of an independent mouth. In the meanwhile, lime has been deposited at the [Pg 252] base of the little animal, by its own unceasing activity, and forms a close-fitting foot, which adheres firmly to the rock. Upon this slender foundation arises another layer, and thus by incessant labor, story upon story, until at last a tree has grown up with branches spreading in all directions. But where the plants of the upper world bear leaves and flowers, there buds forth here, from the hard stone, a living, sensitive animal, moving at will, and clad in the gay form and bright colors of a flower.

This flower is the animal itself, seen only in its native element, and unfit for air and light. What we call coral is its house, outside of which it prefers to live, rather than within.

How they build their dwelling, human eye has never seen. We only know that the tiny animals, by some mysterious power, absorb without ceasing the almost imperceptible particles of lime which are contained in all salt-water, and deposit them, one by one, in the interior. This is done, now more, now less actively; and the denser the deposit is, the more valuable the coral. Gradually this substance hardens and thickens, until, in the precious coral, the Isis Nobiles of science, a large tree is formed, which often reaches the size of a man’s waist. It is perfectly solid and compact, and adorned on the surface with delicate parallel lines. Thus, on the tree-shaped limestone, grows the life-endowed body of the polypus; it moves, it feeds, it produces others, and then is turned again into stone, burying itself in its own rocky house, whilst on its grave new generations build unceasingly new abodes.

This is the so-called blood-coral, the favorite of antiquity, and the fashion of our day—next to the pearl, the most precious jewel of the deep.

It is not easy to obtain a piece of living coral, for the purpose of studying its wondrous structure, and admiring its exceeding beauty. The great depth at which the mysterious little animals dwell in the ocean, secures them against the mere amateur fisherman; and the professional coral-fisher in the Mediterranean, the son of superstitious races of Southern [Pg 253] Italy, is even extremely reluctant to admit outsiders into the secrets of his trade. However, they seem only to seek very superficially. As a proof of this assertion, we cite the following example:

The United States Steamer Gettysburg, while on her way from Fayal to Gibraltar, recently made a discovery of considerable importance, in the shape of an immense coral bank (hitherto totally unknown), in latitude 36° 30´, longitude 11° 28´. Partial surveys were made, and the least depth of water noted was one hundred and eighty feet, which, in mid-ocean, is very significant. Twenty miles west of the bank, the sounding line marks sixteen thousand five hundred feet, and between the bank and Cape St. Vincent, twelve thousand feet. The commander of the Gettysburg believes that in some portions the coral rises to the surface. How such a reef, in a part of the ocean which is constantly traversed by vessels, can have remained undiscovered is almost inexplicable. It is also stated that the bank is rich in valuable coral of light pink shades of color.

CORAL FISHING.

The coral fishing is done in this way: a large net is fastened by a stout rope to the stern of the vessel. At the end of this rope hangs first an iron cross, consisting of two hollow tubes, laid cross-wise, through which strong ash poles have been thrust, and to this are fastened a number of old sardine-nets, no longer fit for their first purpose, and countless ends and bits of wide-meshed pieces of rope, as thick as a finger—the whole apparatus a mass of rags and rotten network. But the more such wretched-looking pieces of network the fisher can fasten to his iron cross, the better are his chances. When the sea is perfectly quiet, he lets them sink down to a depth of sixty or even a hundred fathoms, where they slowly spread and unfold themselves over a vast extent. Now the vessel proceeds slowly on in the manner of our trolling, and as soon as the skilled hand of the fisher observes that the rope pulls, and consequently something is fastened to the net, he pulls it slowly up, and the treasure, if any there is, is heaved on board with great care, and now comes the task of picking out [Pg 254] the precious treasure from the meshes of the network, and to loosen them from the fragments of stone on which they are growing.

HOW TO EXAMINE THE CORAL.

The only way to examine the living animal is to seize the little fragment of rock, or the shell to which the mysterious creature is fastened, at the very moment that it appears near the surface, and to dip it, if possible, without exposing it to the air, immediately into a vessel with salt-water, which you hold ready for the purpose. At first, there is nothing to be seen but a vague, indistinct mass of grayish substance. You suspend the animal and its tiny abode by a string in the middle of the glass globe, and carry it to a dark place; for the coral will not display its beautiful form and colors in the gleaming light of the day. It takes hours, often, before the obstinate little creature condescends to give a sign of life.

At last the club-shaped extremity of the dingy red substance begins to wrinkle up into little rings here and there. Looking now with a magnifying-glass you perceive with joy, that the eight star-shaped indentations assume a white tinge, and the red grows every moment to a more lively hue. The lines widen, and soon the whole resembles a beautiful flower of eight leaves.

We have seen that those wondrous little animals in length of time have built mountains to a height of fifteen thousand feet. The coral islands and reefs are but just above the surface of the water, except in cases where they have been lifted by earthquakes or other internal action, after the little architect of the sea had done his work. Many of these coral islands are of circular form, with an opening which will admit the passage of boats, and sometimes of ships. The waves break on the outer edge with that long, steady swell peculiar to the Pacific, but on the inside the water is as calm and peaceful as that of a mountain lagoon. Sometimes the coral reefs have been formed around the volcanic islands so as to encircle them completely, except at a single opening. In such cases, they make excellent harbors between the reef and the island: the harbor of Tahiti is a splendid specimen of this kind of work. The reef surrounds the island in such a way as to make a lagoon of still [Pg 255] water, like the moat around a castle. The entrance is deep, and sufficiently wide to admit ships of every size.

On many of the volcanic islands there are caverns, some of them of considerable size, and often of great depth. Runaway sailors frequently hide in these caverns, and they are also resorted to by the natives in times of warfare. There is a cavern in the Island of Hoonga, one of the Tonga Islands, which has a romantic history from the use that was made of it by the man who discovered it.

AQUATIC SKILL OF THE FEEJEEANS.

One day a young chief of Hoonga was out on a fishing excursion, and caught sight of a large turtle. The turtle dived, and so did the chief, leaving his canoe floating on the surface of the water. The natives of nearly all the Pacific islands can swim like seals; they are in the water and learn to swim about as soon as they learn to walk. It is commonly said that a Feejee baby will swim instinctively, like a puppy or a kitten; but this is not strictly true. The natives think nothing of swimming a mile or two at a time, and they frequently get up swimming matches, in which they show great speed and endurance. The accomplishment is not confined to the sterner sex; girls and women swim as well as boys and men, and frequently the girls carry away the prizes in the swimming matches. It is proper to say that they are not as elaborately dressed as the young ladies of New York and Paris; on some of the islands nobody wears any clothing whatever, except a little oil rubbed over the skin, to keep out the water. Since the missionaries settled in the South Pacific, more attention is paid to dress than formerly; but the quantity worn is surprisingly small, and would not admit the wearers to a fashionable party in America.

The young chief dived for the turtle, and the two had a lively race. The turtle went into a hole in the rocky shore, and the chief went after him. The turtle disappeared, and the chief rose to the surface of the water to regain his boat. But instead of finding himself in the open air, he was in a cavern, a hundred feet wide and twice as long, with a dome as high as the roof of an ordinary church. It was lighted from [Pg 256] the water and from a few crevices in the rock, where nobody could reach them. On one side there was a floor of solid rock, smooth as the best sidewalk of a city, and evidently the resort of the turtles of that neighborhood. He explored the cavern, and concluded that he had hit upon a good thing, and would keep it to himself. Taking a new twist in his neck-tie, adjusting his collar, and seeing that his diamond pin was well fastened, he dived into the water, swam outside, and rose near his canoe. With his thumb on the side of his nose, he paddled home, lighted his gas, and sat down in his easy-chair.

He was not a married man, but he had hopes in the direction of matrimony. He loved the daughter of an old chief whose tribe was then at war with his own, and as long as the war lasted there was no hope for their union. His tribe was preparing for an assault upon the other, and the economical custom prevailed there of eating all who were killed or made prisoners. His tribe was more powerful than the other, and if the battle should be on the side of the stronger party, they would have the pleasure of devouring the vanquished ones. He had no particular objection to eating, or seeing his friends eat, the body of his father-in-law, and especially that of his mother-in-law,—many a married man in America can understand his feelings, and sympathize with them,—but he did object to seeing his bride roasted or fricasseed; so he studied out a plan to save her from the gridiron or stewpan.

WHAT A PAIR OF LOVERS DID.

He managed to communicate with her the next day, and told her to meet him at a certain place on the shore, at an appointed time, where he would be ready with his canoe. He was there on time, and she came, with her waiting-maid, who carried their entire wardrobe in an old bottle. A quart of cocoa-nut oil was sufficient to dress her for several days, and it did not take long to pack up. They entered the canoe, and the chief paddled them to the cave, which they reached just as the sun was rising.

“Dress yourself, my dear,” said he, as he ceased paddling, “and have your maid do likewise.”

She poured out a handful of the oil, and rubbed it over her [Pg 257] porphyry-colored shoulders, so that she could slip easily through the water. Her maid followed her example, and then fastened the bottle to a string around her neck.

“Now, if you’re ready,” said the lover, “follow me.”

“Ready,” was the response.

He went overboard, and mistress and maid went after him.

Down they dived like three dolphins, the princess keeping close at his heels, and the maid following the princess.

The lady had some misgivings when they entered the hole in the rocks, but she concluded that her lover knew what he was about, and therefore she asked no questions. In fact, she could not talk at that time, as any one familiar with efforts at subaqueous conversation can testify.

THE HAPPY COUPLE IN A TURTLE CAVE.

They rose in the cavern, and clambered out upon the solid floor, disturbing half a dozen turtles, and capturing one of them just as he was sliding off into the water.

The princess was delighted, and so was the maid, who thought the place one of the jolliest she had ever seen. They talked about the best plan to arrange the house, and laughed to think what a commotion her absence from home would create. After an hour or so he left her, promising to bring some furniture, and fit up the establishment, so that they might start at housekeeping in good style.

There was a precious row in Oklingee’s palace when he found that his daughter had disappeared. He searched through his village, but could find no trace of her; and, after several hours of fruitless endeavor, he came home, and for the first time discovered that she had taken the bottle of cocoa-nut oil, and then he knew that she wouldn’t return in a hurry, and that her absence was premeditated. He did not know that anybody was in love with her, but very naturally suspected that she had eloped with some young man. His rage was great, and he ordered all the youths of the tribe to be sent before him.

All came, and were closely questioned. None of them knew anything about the princess and her flight, and all were able to prove where they were the night before. His anger [Pg 258] was partially appeased when some one brought in a prisoner freshly caught, who was immediately killed and served up for dinner.

Oklingee’s wrath turned to grief, and he determined to bring on a great battle at once, by way of distracting his sad thoughts. Moreover he suspected that his daughter had been stolen by some of his foes, though his spies brought him word that she was nowhere to be seen in the camp of the enemy.

A HOME UNDER WATER.

Meantime the lovers were happy in their new home, though the visits of the young chief were never of long duration. He carried her a liberal supply of mats for bedding, and kept the place well stocked with cocoa-nuts and other things good to eat. Anything that would be injured by the water was carefully wrapped in a shark’s skin before it was taken to the cave, and as the skin was quite water-proof, the articles did not suffer in transit. It was no easy work for the youth to dive and swim into the cavern with a bundle fastened to his neck; but love gave him strength, and he was ready to undergo any hardship for the sake of his heart’s idol. She reciprocated his kindness, and arranged all the mats and other furniture so that the house was quite comfortable, and even luxurious.

The turtles did not approve of the invasion of their home, and made up their minds not to live in the society of the moonstruck couple and their servant. As the latter showed no disposition to leave, the former abandoned the place, though now and then one made his way there and climbed upon the rocky floor. When the splashing of the water denoted the approach of a turtle, the princess and her maid would quietly slip aside, and leave him to pick out the spot he wanted and go to sleep. They would then stealthily approach him, and turn him on his back, where he would be helpless. Cutting off his head was the next step, and by the time the chief made his appearance the turtle would be ready to take home. He was thus able to account to his friends for his absence, as he took a turtle home nearly every day, and was greatly praised for his skill in the chase.

[Pg 259]

One day a fellow who had been unfortunate in turtle hunting, and taken nothing for a fortnight, determined to follow the chief, and find out where he had so much good luck. He paddled his canoe silently along, keeping some distance in the rear, so that he was not noticed by the lover. The latter reached the cave, and was so intent on seeing his lady love that he did not think to look around. Taking a bag of cocoa-nuts, he dived and rose as usual. The other waited a long time for his reappearance, and at last was rewarded by seeing him come up dragging a turtle, which he lifted into the canoe. Just as he was picking up his paddle, he discovered the spy, and knew that his secret, or at least a part of it, had been found out.

FATE OF A SPY.

The other laughed, but his laugh was brief, as the lover went for him, and there was every promise of a fight. The canoes met with a crash, and the men grappled and fell into the water. Their struggle was long, as neither had any weapons or clothing, and their oily skins did not offer good holding-ground for their hands. At last the chief had the spy by the throat, and at the same time struck him a violent blow on the nose, so that the blood spurted out.

The waters of the South Pacific swarm with sharks. Some of these grow to a considerable size, and are strong enough to seize a man and kill him. They rarely attack the natives; there seems to be a friendliness among the sharks and the natives, as the latter can swim among them with almost complete safety, while a white man would be caught in a moment. It sometimes happens that a group of natives will be bathing and frolicking in the water with sharks all around, as inattentive as though nothing were near them. But let a white man join the party, and he will instantly attract the sharks. A white cloth thrown into the water will bring them around; anything white seems to draw them and receive their attention. It not unfrequently happens that sailors who have incautiously put their naked hands or feet into the water over the sides of a boat have had them bitten off by sharks.

[Pg 260]

FOOD FOR SHARKS.

Blood also attracts them, and where there is blood, they make no distinction between natives and foreigners. In the present instance, the lover had drawn blood from his antagonist, and it instantly occurred to him that both their lives were in danger if any sharks were around. He released his hold, dived under his canoe, and swam away a hundred feet or more, so as to be out of the vicinity of the blood he had drawn.

As he rose to the surface and looked around, he saw that the spy was just recovering from the force of the blow. His head was above the water, and his hands were moving as if he were slowly swimming towards the rocks. Suddenly he gave a shriek, and disappeared as if drawn under, and the lover then knew that his expectations were not incorrect. But with a taste of blood the sharks would be likely to attack him, and he therefore swam farther away, and climbed upon a small reef just even with the surface.

Fortunately a light wind came up and blew his canoe towards him. When it was near the reef he swam out and reached it, and then paddled home with his turtle. For two days he did not go out again; partly through fear that the sharks might be around the spot where his antagonist was killed, and partly in order to allay any suspicions that his previous movements might have aroused.

When he next visited the cavern, he found his princess greatly distressed, and almost dead with grief. Soon after his last visit her maid took it into her head to go outside. She dived into the water, and rose close to the foot of the cliff. The lover had been gone an hour or more, but an empty canoe was floating not far away, and near it a dozen sharks were quarrelling over something which she naturally supposed was the body of the owner of the bark. Of course she thought that the canoe must belong to the young chief; and when she returned and told her story, it is no wonder that the princess went into hysterics. On the next day he came not, and they then knew that he was lost. Their grief had been great, and so were their surprise and relief at his return.

[Pg 263]

BATTLE OF THE WARRIORS.

He went and came safely. Next day the warriors went out to battle, and the stronger tribe was victorious. The slain were eaten, and the prisoners were reserved to be killed whenever wanted. Among the latter was Oklingee. The young chief had shown great courage in battle, killing two of the fattest and tenderest warriors with his own hand, and his people were consequently inclined to do the handsome thing by him. Oklingee was old and lean, and the young chief easily persuaded his people to let the patriarch live. The old fellow was gratified at being saved from the hash-mill for the present, and asked the youth what he could do for him.

“Give me the hand of your daughter” said the young man, respectfully.

“Certainly, my dear boy,” said Oklingee; “not only her hand, but her entire self, provided you can find her. She has eloped, and I don’t know where she is.”

“I will show you,” said the youth, as he led his prospective father-in-law to his canoe, and seated him on a mat in the bottom. Then he summoned his friends, and together they paddled their light canoes in a gay procession over the water. Near the mouth of the cavern they halted, and the chief jumped overboard.

A CANNIBAL WEDDING.

While all were wondering at his strange behavior, he reappeared with his tawny princess at his side. Everybody was surprised, and the old man gave the happy couple his blessing. The wedding was appointed for the following Sunday; cards were issued to all the relatives, the prisoners that had been held over were killed and roasted, and everybody was happy.


[Pg 264]

XVII.

BURGLARS AND BURGLARIES.

REMARKABLE BURGLARIES.—UNDER GROUND FOR DISHONEST PURPOSES.—WONDERFUL ADROITNESS OF BURGLARS.—A REMARKABLE ROBBERY.—OCCUPATION OF A LAWYER’S OFFICE.—LABOR UNDER DIFFICULTIES.—A TROUBLESOME POLICEMAN.—STRANGE SCENE IN COURT.—THE CULPRIT’S REPLY.—ROBBERY BY COUNTERFEIT POLICEMEN.—THE OCEAN BANK ROBBERY.—RAPID AND THOROUGH WORK.—AN ASTONISHED WATCHMAN.—BAFFLING THE POLICE.

Labor underground may be performed for a bad, as well as for a good purpose. It may be for dishonest gain, or it may be to secure a place of concealment for stolen treasures, or for those who steal them. In the performance of this kind of labor, men will frequently display ability and enterprise sufficient to insure them a good living and ultimate independence in an honest calling. They overcome obstacles of great magnitude; constantly risk their lives and liberty, and frequently fail to obtain any reward; their enterprises are hazardous; and where they promise great returns, they very often fail to redeem the promise. Men who plan great robberies frequently show the qualities that would make them prominent in an honest pursuit; they may spend half their lives in prison, when they might be honored and respected if they chose to be so; but they deliberately decide that honesty is not the best policy, and accept the career, which is certain to cover them with dishonor.

Some years ago there was a skilful and successful robbery of a jewelry store in Manchester, England. The store was entered between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning; the safe was opened and goods to a great value were taken; the occupants of the store had bought their safe only a few [Pg 265] months before; it had been warranted fire and burglar proof, and they at once brought suit against the makers of the safe to recover the value of the goods that were stolen.

When the trial came on, one of the counsel stated that a man, then in prison for another offence, had acknowledged to a share in the robbery of the jewellers. With the consent of both parties the man was brought into court to testify to the robbery, and say how it was performed. As he entered the room everybody became silent, and all eyes were turned towards him.

A BURGLAR ON THE WITNESS STAND.

They had expected a low, mean-looking fellow, with the face of a bull-dog, and the general appearance of a brute. Instead of such a man, they saw one whose bearing was erect, and whose face denoted intelligence. He took his place in the witness box, and when everything was ready he began his story. He gave the history of the robbery at length, and detailed each step of the proceedings. His manner was captivating, and at times he displayed enthusiasm and eloquence that would have fitted him for the position and honors of an advocate.

“We watched the store for more than a month,” said he, “so as to learn the habits of everybody around it. We found they shut up Saturday, and no one went near the place till Monday morning, and so we fixed on Saturday night and Sunday as the best time to work. There was a lawyer’s office over the store, and the lawyer went away about three o’clock in the afternoon, and didn’t come back till ten the next morning. Sunday he didn’t come at all, and so we were sure of him.

“We went into his office every day for a week before we went to work; but of course we didn’t touch anything. We laid out all our plans in his office, and smoked his cigars, and I will do him the credit to say they were excellent. As soon as he was gone that Saturday, we went into his office, took up the carpet, and then lifted the boards in the floor. We made a hole three feet square down to the laths and plaster of the ceiling of the jewelry store. Then we waited till the store [Pg 266] was shut; and it hadn’t been shut five minutes before we had a little hole in the ceiling large enough to push down a tightly closed umbrella.

NEW USE FOR AN UMBRELLA.

“We got the umbrella down, and then opened it, so that it would catch all the rubbish, and thus prevent our making any noise. When we were ready to go into the store, we had to arrange things so as to work systematically. We had laid all our plans for this beforehand.

“A gas-light was kept burning in the store, and there was a hole in the shutter, so that anybody could look in. A policeman passed the store once in every fifteen minutes; it was his duty to look in every time, and I can say for him that he did his duty. The man who was to work at the safe had to lie on his side in full view of the peep-hole; but by rolling over twice he could get under a counter and be out of sight.

“There were five of us in all. One was to work at the safe, with a string tied to his toe. This string was held by a man who sat on the edge of the hole in the lawyer’s office. Then a man was at the lawyer’s window, and another was walking up and down the opposite side of the street. The fifth man took turns at the safe, so that we should lose no time in resting.

“When the policeman was coming, the man in the street made a signal to the man at the lawyer’s window. This one signalled the fellow at the hole, and pulled the string gently. The man at the safe then rolled under the counter; he staid there till the policeman had looked in and gone along, when the signals were repeated, and he rolled out and went to work again.

“We lost five minutes out of every fifteen in this way, and at one time we thought we should have to give up. We got into the safe, though a little after midnight; and then it didn’t take long to empty it of all we could carry. We were out of the store by one o’clock Monday morning, and took an early train to London.”

The burglar then went on to give a description of the process of opening a safe. He said that it was a rule with skilful [Pg 267] burglars that any safe could be opened, provided there was a place anywhere for the insertion of a wedge. “If we can get a wedge in anywhere,” said he, “the safe is bound to open, even though the first wedge is no thicker than the blade of a knife.

“BURGLAR PROOF SAFES.”

“All we want besides proper tools is plenty of time, and there never was a safe manufactured that cannot be opened if you give us time.”

He then described the advantages and disadvantages of the safes made by different manufacturers.

“A’s safe can be opened by a skilful man in twenty hours; B’s in fifteen hours; C’s in eleven hours; D’s in nine hours; and as for E’s,” mentioning one that had recently come into notice, “we consider it no more than an ordinary trunk, as we can open it in half an hour.

“There is no safe made that cannot be opened inside of thirty hours, and if we can be sure of not being disturbed for that time, we are certain of our game. Any safe will answer its purpose, provided the intervals of visiting the place where it is kept are never so great as the time required to open it.”

As the man finished his story, and was taken from the court to go to prison, the judge asked him why he did not abandon burglary and live honestly. “Your story,” said the judge, “shows that you possess sufficient intelligence and ability to make you a master mechanic in a very short time, and if you would lead a respectable life you could be sure of a good living.”

The burglar turned to the judge, and replied with great earnestness, “I am as proud of my profession as you are of yours, and have no desire to leave it. I stand high in it, and the praise and admiration of my associates are just as dear to me as the praise and admiration of a shopful of mechanics would be to their master. Besides, we run risks that mechanics do not; we must have the skill to baffle the police, and save ourselves from arrest, while the mechanic needs nothing of the kind. The greater our danger, the greater is the respect shown to us; and one reason why we [Pg 268] love our profession is, because there is so much danger in it. And any skilful and experienced burglar will tell you so.”

The man went back to prison to serve out his sentence for the crime of which he was convicted. Doubtless the notoriety he had obtained by his appearance in court was of great assistance in consoling him for his imprisonment. He was proud of his accomplishments as a burglar, and seemed to take his incarceration more as an honor than a disgrace.

In this country there have been several robberies of the higher sort, such as entitle the perpetrators to great praise for their skill, although it was shown in a bad cause. Among these may be included the famous Philadelphia Bank robbery, a few years ago, where the burglars actually informed the bank officers that an attempt was to be made against them. They proceeded in this wise:—

A WELL-PLANNED ROBBERY.

One afternoon, a little before the close of business hours, a man in the uniform of a policeman entered the bank and asked for the cashier. On meeting that official, he stated that he had been sent by the police captain of the precinct, whom he named, to warn them that there was reason to suspect that an attempt would be made that evening to rob the bank. He said an extra policeman would be detailed to watch the bank, and another extra man would be placed on the beat. The cashier thanked the man for the information, and told him to give his compliments to the captain. The man then departed, and the bank officers, after notifying their private watchman, closed the establishment and went home.

Of course the private watchman was on the alert, and kept a sharp lookout. About ten o’clock a policeman appeared, and asked if there had been any suspicious movements around there. The watchman said there had been none; and while they were talking another policeman appeared, and joined them in conversation. The first was the extra to watch the bank, and the second was the extra on the beat. The watchman opened the door of the bank, and allowed them to enter, so that they could see the approaching thieves without being seen.

THE PHILADELPHIA BANK ROBBERY.

[Pg 271]

AN UNHAPPY WATCHMAN.

When the three were fairly inside, there was a sudden change in the state of affairs. The door was closed, the watchman was knocked down, bound, gagged, and carried to the president’s room, where he was seated in a comfortable arm-chair. One of the men drew a pistol and sat in front of him; the other opened the outer door, blew a small whistle, and in a minute half a dozen men, as nearly as the watchman could judge, entered the building. The door was closed behind them, and the party went at work to open the safe.

Swiftly, and as silently as possible, their work was performed. The watchman, from the place where he was bound, could not see, but he could hear, and he knew they were at work with drills, blow-pipes, wedges, and the other implements of the burglar’s trade. Hour after hour passed, the watchman, bound and gagged, being guarded by his vigilant keeper. In telling the story subsequently, he said he was civilly treated by the man who guarded him. At his request the cords that held his arms were loosened, and the gag in his mouth was placed where it would least inconvenience him. Whenever he complained of thirst, his keeper gave him a glass of water from a pitcher in the room.

An hour or so before daylight the robbers opened the safe, and secured their plunder. Hastily packing it into the bags that had contained their tools, they departed, leaving their tools behind, and leaving the watchman securely fastened in his chair. He was ordered not to stir for an hour: bound as he was, he could not stir until some one came to his assistance, so that the parting injunction of the thieves was entirely superfluous. The amount of their plunder was never positively made known to the public, but was understood to be not less than two hundred thousand dollars—a very fair compensation for the work of a single night.

THE OCEAN BANK ROBBERY.

Of the many successful bank robberies that have taken place on this continent, the Ocean Bank burglary ranks among the foremost for its ingenuity and skill, and for being a complete puzzle to the most experienced detectives of the city of New York. Although an investigation by the police [Pg 272] authorities was begun within a few hours after the discovery of the robbery, no clew was ever obtained, or, at any rate, given to the public, of the perpetrators; and to this day the whole matter has been involved in mystery, and probably will ever remain so.

The maxim of war, that the reduction of every place, however strong, is possible, must be equally true in the art of thievery. It is evident that no vault can be made impregnable; no lock can be contrived by human ingenuity, with all its mechanical appliances, that will prove superior to other human ingenuity; no system of watching can make property entirely safe against the patience and acuteness of men who give good faculties to the science of stealing.

The premises occupied by the Ocean Bank were at the corner of Greenwich and Fulton Streets, New York, a locality much frequented by day and night. One would imagine that an attempt at robbery in this locality must be detected very quickly, provided the policemen and the watchers employed around the neighboring stores performed their duty. The robbery occurred between one and three o’clock on the morning of the 28th of June, 1869. It appears that there was no regular inside watchman employed by the bank, but they had an out-door man employed to watch the premises.

It is supposed that the robbery was planned many weeks before it took place, and one or more persons familiar with the thorough workings of the bank were suspected of being, to some extent at least, participators in the enterprise.

The basement of the premises in question was occupied by a Mr. William Okell, a gentleman well known in the city, and doing business as a broker. Having more room than he required for carrying on his business, he rented out several small offices for business purposes. In the early part of June, a man giving the name of Charles K. Cole, and representing himself as an agent for an insurance company in Chicago, engaged one of these rooms; and to him is given the credit of planning the robbery, in connection with others.

Immediately above the office rented to Cole was the [Pg 273] president’s private office, and through the ceiling of this office an entrance was made sufficient to admit a man’s body. From the subsequent examination by the detectives, it appears that holes were drilled through this ceiling from above and below, as the Brussels carpet in the president’s room contained no holes, which would not have been the case had the drilling been done entirely from the basement.

It was urged by some that this drilling through the ceiling and large beams must have occupied weeks, while other experienced officers asserted that it could have been accomplished in a few hours. One of the severed beams was four inches thick by fourteen in width. Some believed that an entrance was effected through the side door, and that the person or persons had a good knowledge of the employees, where the safes were, the contents of the vault and safes, and the key to the combination lock.

A STARTLING DISCOVERY.

The discovery of the robbery was made by the colored man up stairs, on Monday morning, when he opened the bank, in his usual way, to clean the offices. He detected a strong smell of powder, and went into the rear office to find out the cause of it. There he was astonished at the view which met his Ethiopian eyes.

On the floor of this office were the vaults and safes. Here he observed several caps of different descriptions, six or eight in number; overcoats, blouses, and overalls, such as are used by machinists; oil-cloths, rubber shoes, saws, bits, awls, jack-screws, drills, lanterns, and every other kind of implement used by expert thieves. The instruments were gathered together and taken into the possession of the police, and a cabinet of four hundred pieces was made of them.

The vault and safes were found to have been broken open; United States bonds were lying scattered about, as well as large quantities of coin and currency, mixed with which were small wedges, railway bonds, copper coin, augers, chisels, flasks of powder, any quantity of cigar stumps, which showed that the burglars took the situation very coolly, pieces of chilled iron, fuses, gold certificates, and other valuable securities.

[Pg 274]

FRIGHT OF A PORTER.

Just outside the vault was placed a very heavy bag of gold, which had been lifted out; but owing, probably, to its great weight, it was abandoned. Tin boxes had been burst open and thrown in all directions, as well as the securities which they had contained, and everything betokened the utmost recklessness in ransacking the safes. When all this disorder and chaos met the porter’s gaze, he became half bewildered, and did not know how to act; he thought he might be arrested for what had been done by others, and for a few minutes he contemplated flight. He had been through the rooms at one o’clock A. M., on the same morning, and found everything secure, so that it was plain the robbery had been done in a very short time. He, at last, raised an alarm that the bank had been entered, and in a short time Captain Steers, of the twenty-seventh precinct, took possession of the bank until the officers arrived.

When the robbery became known, the city was thrown into intense excitement, as it was rumored that over one million of money and securities had been stolen. The bank was quickly besieged by depositors and other interested parties, together with the usual assembly of curiosity-seekers. The depositors were perfectly uncontrollable; and at one time it seemed that they were going to lay hands on money, or securities, found outside the vault, and make themselves secure against loss. The police, however, kept them at bay, and kept them out of the building. At length the bank officials appeared on the scene, in company with the bank’s legal adviser; and after a short time they issued a statement that only about twenty thousand dollars had been stolen.

This report kept down the excitement, but the depositors really did not know whether they were safe, or utterly ruined. The detectives took charge of the case, but, as stated at the outset, they were unable to cope with the matured plans of the thieves, and did not succeed in bringing any of them to the bar of justice.

BLOWING OPEN A SAFE.

The vault was in the president’s room, at the rear of the premises. It was defended by an iron door, having a combination [Pg 275] lock. This door was blown open with the gunpowder which had attracted the porter’s attention. The door being opened, everything in the safe was accessible. The keys to the second door hung on the inside of the one that had been thrust open by the action of the powder, and it is hardly necessary to say that the thieves made good use of them.

The third door was forced open with a powerful screw, the force used being sufficient to depress the floor under the door. Here were two safes; one contained the securities of the depositors, and the other the property of the bank.

The boxes of the depositors appeared to be the principal attraction for the thieves, and paper securities were preferred to the gold which stared them in the face. These boxes were completely overhauled, and securities to the amount of about five hundred thousand dollars were abstracted; one depositor having lost as much as fifty thousand dollars, for which the bank was in no way responsible.

About thirty thousand dollars belonging to the bank, in checks and currency, were stolen. The thieves overhauled some thirty thousand dollars in Clearing House currency, which could have been negotiated, as well as thirty thousand dollars in gold coin; but which they did not touch.

The detectives went to work, and it was said that one or more of the bank’s officials were suspected, and closely watched for some time subsequent to the robbery. Two men, who were said to be the most daring and accomplished bank thieves in the city, were suspected; but no trace could be obtained of their having been seen near the Ocean Bank. These men were supposed to have committed a robbery, just previously, at the National Bank of New Windsor, of something like one hundred thousand dollars. A number of expert English burglars had also arrived a short time before the robbery, but nothing could be brought against them.

On the third day after the burglary, a patrolman, in Elizabeth Street, about three o’clock A. M., met two young lads whom he knew. Suspecting they were up for no good at that hour of the morning, he spoke to them. They informed him that [Pg 276] there was a large trunk standing on the sidewalk, opposite No. 8 Elizabeth Street. He went to the number indicated, and there found the trunk, as they had described. On it was a card directed to Captain Jourdan (late superintendent of police), of the sixth ward. The trunk and the two boys were taken to the station-house.

SECURITIES RETURNED.

When Captain Jourdan was summoned, and the trunk was opened, it was found to contain unnegotiable securities, to the amount of three hundred thousand dollars, which had been stolen from the Ocean Bank. The property consisted of bonds, checks, securities, and currency, together with legal documents, such as conveyances and mortgages; but no clew could possibly be obtained as to the sender of the trunk.

The total loss sustained by the bank proved to be about twenty-five thousand dollars, out of the bulk of the valuables and money stolen; but as the property returned to Captain Jourdan principally belonged to the depositors, their loss was estimated to be something near half a million of dollars.

The various implements found at the bank were valued at two thousand dollars, and were of the very finest finish; some of the pieces were worth as much as two hundred dollars, and three hundred dollars each.

Altogether, it was one of the most skilful, ingenious, and well-planned robberies ever committed in this country. The most singular part of the robbery is that, although an outside watchman was employed to guard the premises, no one was seen to enter the bank, or the basement of the building; neither was any one seen to leave the premises at any time of the night or morning when the robbery took place.


[Pg 277]

XVIII.

THE EARLIEST EXCAVATIONS.

GRAVES AND THEIR CONSTRUCTION.—DIFFERENT MODES OF BURIAL.—TOMBS.—THE MOST EXTENSIVE TOMBS.—OBJECT OF THE PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT.—A VISIT TO THE GREAT PYRAMID AND ITS DESCRIPTION.—DIFFICULTIES OF CLIMBING.—THE TOMBS OF THEBES.—A FAT AMERICAN’S ADVENTURE.—ENTERING THE TOMB OF ASSASSEEF.—RECITING POETRY UNDER DISADVANTAGES.—SWALLOWING A BAT.—JACK’S DISGUST.—FATE OF A FAT MAN.—STUCK IN A PASSAGE-WAY.—HOW THE ARABS REMOVED HIM.

There is little or no reason to doubt that the earliest excavations ever made by human hands were for purposes of sepulture. The burial of the dead, or rather the disposition of their bodies, has been a necessity in all countries and all ages since the days of the Garden of Eden. Some nations have practised cremation, and there are many arguments in its favor; but with most of these nations it was the custom to gather the ashes of the dead into urns, which were buried with much formality. Among some of our western tribes of Indians the bodies of the dead are placed on scaffoldings of poles several feet high, and there left to the action of the elements. This practice had its origin in the absence of all tools suitable for digging in the earth, and possibly from a vague theory that the body of the deceased should be raised towards the home of the Great Spirit beyond the skies. Some of the ancient nations had a theory concerning cremation, which was, that the flame, rising towards heaven, carried the spirit of the deceased and enabled it to reach the mansions of the blest. On the same theory the Chinese write or print their prayers on paper, and then burn the paper; the flame carries the prayer upward, and as light and heat come from [Pg 278] the Controller of the universe, they are considered the proper vehicles for the transmission of appeals to his mercy, his pity, and his infinite love.

AUSTRALIAN NATIVES BURNING THEIR DEAD.
AN INDIAN BURIAL PLACE.
EARLIEST FORM OF SEPULTURE.

The earliest form of sepulture was in the grave, a simple trench a few feet in depth. With the dawn of civilization came the tomb, rudely constructed of stones piled together, or cut out of the solid rock. The most elaborate specimens of the latter kind of tomb are in Egypt; thousands of years ago they were constructed, and to this day they remain, and are regarded with wonder by travellers from all the nations of the globe. The most extensive tombs of modern times bear no comparison to those which are found in the lands bordering on the Nile. The pyramids of Ghizeh, immense mounds of stone, and constructed with the greatest care and engineering skill, are the tombs of the rulers of Egypt in the days of her greatness and prosperity. The pyramid of Cheops rises to a height of nearly five hundred feet, and is of proportional width at its base. Down deep in its centre is the coffin of the man whose name has been given to the pyramid; thousands of years have passed since this huge tomb was constructed, and it will doubtless remain for thousands of years to come. No tomb of modern times approaches it in grandeur, or gives promise of outlasting it.

Though the opposite of underground in their character, and erected rather in the interest of death than in that of life, the great pyramids deserve a description here. Excavations were made for their foundations, and the interior chambers, where rest the coffins of those for whom they were erected, are, for all practical purposes, as much underground as they would be in the deepest coal mine of England or America. The pyramids are mostly on the west bank of the Nile, not far from Cairo; tourists designing to visit them make Cairo their starting-point, and from that city several groups are in full view. Altogether about seventy pyramids have been counted in this region, and the remains of many others are visible. Decay’s effacing fingers are constantly at work; forty centuries have passed since the pyramids were erected, [Pg 281] and their durable character can be readily inferred when we remember how long they have stood.

A sepulchral chamber was first excavated in the rock, and during the life of the king who was to repose within it, the work of building the pyramid was pressed forward. It was generally completed before he died, and therefore he had the consolation of knowing that he would not be kept waiting around for his tomb to be constructed. The structure was made over this chamber, an elegant coffin of stone being first placed within it. A passage-way about four feet high and three feet wide was kept open, so that the body of the king could be carried to the sepulchral chamber when the proper time arrived for depositing it in its coffin. The pyramid was practically solid, as the chamber and passages leading to it were the only hollow spaces. The sides of the pyramids were directed to the four cardinal points of the compass, and their exactness in this particular leads to the supposition that the ancients were acquainted with the principles of surveying as practised by modern engineers.

CONSTRUCTION OF THE PYRAMIDS.

The pyramids were constructed of red granite from quarries at Assouan, and other points of the Nile, and of a hard limestone from quarries at Makotam and Tourah. The blocks were very large, and it must have required a vast amount of mechanical power and engineering skill to quarry them and move them to the places where they are now found. Many engineers think that the Egyptians must have possessed some mechanical power which has been lost and become unknown to the people of the present century. Especially is this the case with the huge stones at the top of the pyramids, where the number of persons who could work must have been very small for want of room. Other engineers say that the ordinary derrick on a large scale would have been sufficient for the purpose, and it is pretty certain that this instrument was used, as holes have been found in the stones, where it is supposed the feet of the derricks were placed. Others think that the blocks were moved by human power, of which the kings had an unlimited quantity at their command. One [Pg 282] theory is, that as fast as the courses of stone in a pyramid were laid, the earth was piled around it so as to form an incline, where the blocks could be slowly rolled. When the last course, at the top, was laid, the pyramid would have the appearance of a hill with gradually sloping sides. The earth could then be removed, and when it was all carried away the pyramid would stand as it was intended to stand. It is true that this mode of work would require an immense force of men; but what did the kings of Egypt care for the toil of their subjects? The kings owned the land and the people, and could do as they pleased with either.

THE PYRAMID OF CHEOPS.

The pyramid of Cheops, known as the Great Pyramid, was twenty years in building, and it is said by Herodotus to have required the labor of a hundred thousand men during that time. Cheops stopped all other works connected with religious rites until the pyramid was completed. To facilitate the transportation of stone from the Tourah quarries, a causeway was built three thousand feet long, sixty feet wide, and fifty feet high, which is said to have required ten years for its completion. A railway engineer of the present day would have finished this causeway in a month, provided he could have the unlimited supply of laborers possessed by the Egyptian kings.

The Great Pyramid covers an area of between twelve and thirteen acres; the side of its square measures seven hundred and forty-six feet, and its height is four hundred and fifty feet. It was originally seven hundred and sixty feet square and four hundred and eighty feet high; its outer portions have been removed to furnish stone for building purposes in Cairo. Originally, it was a perfect pyramid; the builders began at the top and filled in, with small stone and cement, the angles formed by the recession of each layer beyond the one below it. Each side was thus left with an even surface sloping at an angle of 51° 50´. The outer casing being removed has left the courses of stone in the form of steps nearly four feet high, so that the ascent is not an easy one. There are always plenty of Arabs hanging around the pyramid ready to [Pg 283] assist a traveller who wishes to ascend to the summit. By pulling and pushing him over the steps, they get him up at a reasonably rapid rate; but the exercise is of such a nature, that it frequently leaves him feeling very much as if he had been passed through a patent clothes wringer.

The pyramid contains about eighty-two millions of cubic feet of masonry, and the total weight of the stone used in its construction is estimated at more than six million tons. The entrance is on the north face, fifty feet above the base, and about twenty-four feet from the central line. The passage-way is low and narrow, and extends, in a downward slope of twenty-six degrees, three hundred and twenty feet to the sepulchral chamber. The chamber is forty-six feet long, twenty-seven feet wide, and eleven feet high. There is a branch passage-way leading from the main one, which terminates in a smaller room, called the Queen’s Chamber; it is supposed that this room was intended for the resting-place of the queen’s body, but it contains no sarcophagus.

THE KING’S CHAMBER.

In the apartment known as the King’s Chamber, the walls and roof are of a highly polished granite, in slabs of great size. The only article of furniture in it is a sarcophagus of red granite, seven and a half feet long, three feet wide, and nearly four feet high. It is too large to be moved through the passage, and must have been placed in the room before the roof was covered. It is supposed that it contained a wooden coffin with the mummy of the king, and that these were taken away when the pyramid was first opened and plundered. In the construction of the pyramids, arrangements were made for closing the passages with blocks of granite, which have greatly retarded all attempts at exploration. It is supposed that there are other apartments yet undiscovered in the Great Pyramid; and at some future day an enterprising and patient explorer may be rewarded with important revelations.

Nearly a thousand years ago, the Great Pyramid was visited, and plundered, and the work of destruction has been renewed at various intervals since that time. But notwithstanding the centuries that have passed since the first visit, new apartments [Pg 284] and passages have been discovered within the past thirty years, and several important facts in the history of the pyramids have been obtained from the hieroglyphics on the stones of the interior. Another pyramid near the great one was explored in 1837; a sarcophagus was found, and with it was a mummy case of King Menkuré, but the mummy was gone where the woodbine twineth, or somewhere else. Near the pyramids there is a great number of tombs, some built above the surface, and some excavated in the rock.

The Arabs have opened nearly all the tombs and plundered them of their contents. They have no respect for dead Egyptians, and whenever they find the entrance to a tomb beneath the sands that have been blown from the desert, they quickly open the receptacle and search it for articles of value. The Egyptians used to embalm the bodies of their dead with the greatest care. Professors of the art of embalming were numerous; and judging by the extent of their work, they must have been in constant practice. The first step in the Egyptian method was to put the body in a sort of spicy pickle, where it was kept for two or three months. The viscera and all internal organs were removed to give a better chance to the pickle; and when the work was sufficiently advanced, the body was dried, filled with preserving gums and spices, and properly bandaged. The bandaging of a mummy was one of the fine arts, and sometimes a hundred yards of cloth would be required for a single subject. Every toe and finger had its separate bandage, and the preserving articles were so soaked into the bandages and plastered over them, that there was sometimes more gum and bandage than body.

PREPARING A MUMMY.
MUMMIES BURNED FOR FUEL.

A close-fitting case or coffin was put outside the mummy, and he was then ready to be packed away for any number of centuries. He kept well, for the work was thoroughly done; and mummies are constantly found in good preservation after a rest of four or five thousand years. The Arabs rob the tombs, and break up the mummies for the gold and silver which were concealed about them; and many a mummy has [Pg 285] come to grief in consequence of attempting to take his money along with him. After the mummy is broken up he makes very good fuel; the Arabs occasionally burn him; and in the early days of the Cairo and Suez Railway, the firemen on the locomotives found that mummies, cut into proper lengths, made a very good substitute for wood and coal. The gums and rags that preserved the mummy are combustible, and thus facilitate his destruction. Arabs and railway stokers are, like the law, no respecters of persons, especially if the persons have been dead forty or fifty centuries. It amuses and benefits these modern Vandals to burn mummies; and it is proper to say, that the mummies don’t appear to mind it.

The subterranean tombs and other excavations on the Nile are numerous, and sometimes of great extent. Several of them are so large, that travellers who ventured into them without proper guides have been lost, and have perished for want of food and light. A modern visitor says that after going through several tombs, he felt very much as if he had been rolled in an iron mill. The passages leading into the tombs are long and dark; sometimes they extend hundreds of feet in an indefinite sort of way, and not by a straight course, as a respectable tomb ought to have its entrance. A slender man can get along much more easily than a fat one; the latter gets stuck sometimes, and can easily fancy himself a number ten gun-wad forced into a number eight barrel. An acquaintance of mine once vowed that not for the whole of Egypt would he venture into a tomb again, and that he had done with explorations.

“Ask him about the tomb of Assasseef at Thebes,” said a mutual acquaintance, who was sitting between us. We were in a café at Rome, and whiling away an evening after a visit to the Coliseum, and the ruins in its vicinity.

“Hang Thebes and all it contains,” was the curt reply. “Well, if you insist upon it, you shall have it on condition that you won’t speak of it again.”

We made the required promise; and after taking an extra sip of brandy and water, he began.

DAHABIEHS AND DONKEYS.

“There were two of us, and we were making the journey [Pg 286] of the Nile in a dahabieh. You know what beastly things those dahabiehs are generally, though sometimes you find one that is quite comfortable. Why the beggarly Egyptians don’t call them boats, and be done with it, I never could understand. We landed at Luxor; and after looking at the ruins there, we rode to the tombs of the kings, seven or eight miles away. They mounted me on a donkey so small, that my feet dragged on the ground, and I had to take a reef in my legs to keep from wearing away my boot soles. Jack, my companion, said, that if I wore spurs, I would have to buckle them on just below my knee, as I could not raise my heels without having them so far aft, that they would not reach the animal. There was no necessity for spurs, as we had a boy to run astern of the donkey, and give him an occasional turn in the tail to help him along. The boy kept a firm hold of the tail most of the time, and was helped along by it more than the donkey was. At one time, when we were on the edge of a little ridge, the donkey watched his chance, and let his heels fly into the stomach of the urchin. A prize-fighter couldn’t have made a better blow. The boy went rolling down the ridge, and I thought we should have to pay for him, or buy a new one.

“He scrambled up again, and wasn’t hurt at all. Evidently he was used to that sort of thing, but I don’t believe he liked it, for he made some remarks that sounded very much like swearing. I gave him half a franc, and he appeared satisfied, and ready to be kicked again. He went around behind the donkey, and got into position; but the beast wouldn’t respond for an encore, and so the thing was dropped. But you can believe the boy gave that tail fits for the rest of the ride; and by the time we were through, it looked like a piece of old rope with half the strands gone.

“Jack was poetic, and began to blow and recite verses; but I couldn’t think of anything except Old Hundred, and the Last Rose of Summer. They wouldn’t do for the occasion, and so I amused myself with looking around at the sand and rubbish, and wondering why people came there to see [Pg 289] them. Thebes must have been a nice sort of a city, but it is very much out of repair now. It is very good as a ruin, but wouldn’t be worth much for anything else. All around us there were the remains of temples and palaces that must have cost a great deal of money when they were built. Our guide kept talking about tombs and other cheerful subjects, and by and by he took us to the tomb of Assasseef. I didn’t care much about going in, as it was nothing but a hole in the ground, anyhow. Jack insisted, and so we tried it.

THE TOMBS OF THE EGYPTIAN KINGS AT THEBES.
HALL IN THE TOMB OF ASSASSEEF.
ASSASSEEF AND HIS TOMB.

“Assasseef wasn’t a king, but only a wealthy old priest, who had made money by speculation in stocks or some other way, and wanted to make a permanent investment. So he went into the tomb business, and built a very comfortable one, and larger than any of his neighbors. It has an outer court a hundred feet long, and two thirds wide, and the underground passages run nearly a thousand feet into the mountain. It was all well enough as long as we were above ground, but when we went below it wasn’t so comfortable. The walls were black and dirty; the passages were narrow and dusty, and sometimes they were so low that we had to crawl. The bats had a pre-emption claim to the place, and didn’t like to be disturbed. They flapped their wings in our faces, and flew around in a way that wasn’t pleasant. Jack opened his mouth once to spout a verse of poetry, and got a number three bat between his teeth before he finished the first line. I used to chaff him about it afterwards, and he threatened to bat me in the mouth if I didn’t stop.

“There were so many bats that the noise they made in the empty vaults and passages seemed like distant thunder, and I began to think the mountain would tumble in. The guide went ahead; and whenever we began to talk of giving it up, he would tell about some wonderful thing a little farther on.

“A good many of the passages were so low and narrow that I had to be pulled in and out by the heels, and it didn’t take long to disgust me. I was as dusty as if I had made the campaign of Virginia without being brushed, and the dust I had picked up wasn’t of the best kind either. It consisted of pulverized [Pg 290] mummy and other relics of ancient Egypt; and I think I should have made a very good show-piece if I had come home in just the condition in which I emerged from that tomb.

STUCK IN AN UNDERGROUND PASSAGE.

“The joke kept growing worse, till they got me in a place where I had to expel all my breath to crawl through. We got into a sort of room where an Egyptian named something or other had spent thirty-five or forty centuries of his mummy existence; but the place was about as attractive as a bath tub. The mummy had gone, and taken his baggage with him, all but the bats, which kept flying around and making themselves uncomfortable. But when we went to get out, the job was serious. The passage-way, as we came into this tomb, was a descending one, and I got into it by going stern foremost, as a ship drops down a current to pick up a new anchoring spot. But in going out I had to climb up, and that wasn’t so easy. The space wasn’t large enough for a man of my size to crawl well, as you have to raise your body a little every time you push yourself forward with your hands. For the same reason I couldn’t get a purchase with my feet, and I hadn’t gone five yards before I stopped. The guide and one of our water-carriers were ahead, while Jack was behind me, and had an Arab to bring up the rear. I yelled out that I couldn’t get farther, and the train came to a stop.

“I was frightened, and that made me swell up like your finger when you have a ring on that is a size or so too small. I filled that passage-way as a cork fills the neck of a bottle, and I couldn’t stir any more than if I had been anchored. The guide got hold of my arms and pulled, but he couldn’t do anything, especially as the place wasn’t adapted to towing purposes. What was to be done I couldn’t tell; and I began to think I should have to stay there, and be converted into a mummy for the amusement of future visitors.

“Jack and the Arab finally pulled me back by the heels, and the Arab went for a rope. When he brought it we arranged for a new departure. They wanted to put the rope around my neck and pull me along; but I objected to this, as it might result in stretching my neck a little longer than I wanted [Pg 291] it. I looped the thing around me just below the arms; and then the guide and the water-carrier went ahead, and towed me along. It was no easy work, but they got me out at last into the larger passages, where I could get along comparatively easy. The guide said something about a fine tomb farther in the mountain, but I had had all the tombs I wanted for that day, and made as straight a course as I could for the outside. And you don’t catch me in a tomb of that sort again if you give me all the kings in Egypt.

CONDITION OF THE MUMMY MARKET.

“When we got outside, we found a crowd of Arabs with fragments of mummy for sale. They had legs, and arms, and heads in abundance, but the market was rather too high to suit me. In fact I didn’t want any mummy, and told the guide to set the fellows adrift. Jack bought a dried arm, and took it back to the boat, but I believe he threw it overboard a few days later. After that adventure, I visited a good many ruins, but only went where I had daylight to guide me. Whenever they told me of a beautiful tomb, and the wonders that it contained, I admitted that it must be very nice, and took everything they said in good faith. I was willing to see the tombs by proxy; and when Jack went inside, I staid where I could look at the Arabs, and study the columns of the ruined temples.”


[Pg 292]

XIX.

EXPERIENCES IN WILD LIFE.

NECESSITIES OF TRAVELLERS IN WILD COUNTRIES.—CONCEALING DOG FOOD.—DEFENCES AGAINST WILD ANIMALS.—HONESTY OF CERTAIN NATIVES.—THE AUTHOR’S EXPERIENCE WITH SIBERIAN KORAKS.—CONCEALING FOOD IN ICEBERGS.—BARON WRANGELL AND DR. KANE.—STORY OF BLANKETS AND BLANKET STRAPS.—A CACHE.—WHAT IT IS.—AUTHOR’S FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH ONE.—A FRAUDULENT GRAVE.—CACHE OF A WHISKEY KEG, AND HOW IT WAS MADE.—“TWO-BOTTLE CAMP.”—CONSOLATION OF A HARD DRINKER.—AN EXTENSIVE CACHE.—HOW THE INDIANS FOUND IT, AND WHAT BECAME OF THEM.—JIM FOSTER AND HIS TENDER HEART.

In all sparsely settled or wild countries, travellers when on journeys are frequently obliged to carry provisions for their entire trip. If they are to go back over the same route they follow in their outward course, they do not carry their provisions the whole distance, but leave them at different points, where they can find them on their return. Especially is this the case where food for the draught or riding animals must be provided. In Northern America and Asia, and in Greenland, Spitzbergen, and other arctic countries, dogs are used for draught purposes; and where a party is travelling it is always necessary to carry a supply of dog food. The favorite article for feeding dogs in winter is dried fish, and great quantities are prepared in the summer months, and stored away where they can be safely kept.

CONCEALING FOOD IN ICE.

An expedition starting in winter for a journey of ten days will carry ten days’ supply of food for dogs and men. If the journey exceeds that time, the allowance must be reduced; and sometimes the party will be on the point of starvation. At the end of each day’s journey, it is customary, if the party is to return by the same route, to conceal a day’s supply of food, and thus lighten the load as much as possible. There [Pg 293] are several ways of making these deposits. The first requisite is generally to protect the food against wild animals. Poles eight or ten feet high are set upright, and a rude box is made at the top, where the food can be placed. Wolves and foxes are the principal four-footed thieves; they cannot climb, and therefore anything protected in this way is safe from their depredations. Sometimes a hole is made in the ground, and the deposit is placed within it. This can only be safely done in winter, as the soft earth in summer can be dug up by the enterprising and keen-scented animals with very little trouble. A hole in winter can be made secure by pouring water over the replaced earth, and allowing it to freeze. Wolves and foxes can do many things, but they have not yet invented any way to dig through frozen ground. They are wise enough not to attempt it, as they would need a new set of paws every half hour if they followed digging in frozen earth as a means of livelihood.

Baron Wrangell, Dr. Kane, and other arctic explorers, when travelling on the ice of the Polar Sea, used to make holes in the bergs and hummocks, and sometimes in the level ice, which frequently gets a thickness of eight or ten feet. After they had made the deposit in a hole of this sort, they would fit a block of ice as nearly as possible to the opening. After inserting the block they poured water into the interstices, and allowed it to freeze, so as to make the place as solid and even as ever. This was a sufficient protection against small animals, but not always against polar bears. These huge beasts would scent out the food, and with their powerful claws they managed to dig into the ice, and help themselves. Even if the food had been put into strong boxes before it was deposited, the beasts did not seem to be hindered in getting at it, as they would break the boxes as easily as a rat would open an egg-shell. Dr. Kane once tried the plan of sealing the food in sheet iron cans pointed at the ends. Sometimes the bears tossed these cans a while, and then abandoned them but they generally managed to throw them about with sufficient violence to break the shell and reach the contents. [Pg 294] A healthy and full-grown polar bear is a powerful beast, and has no respect for the laws affecting the ownership of property.

HONEST ABORIGINALS.

In the extreme north deposits of food are in much greater danger from four-footed beasts than from men. In the first place, the beasts are much more numerous than men, and consequently want more to eat. Men are not very likely, in those wild countries, to come near the deposits, especially in arctic explorations; and even when they find them they are not generally in the habit of stealing. The Esquimaux of the region where Dr. Kane made his explorations are somewhat thievish when they have the opportunity, but the natives of Northern Asia have a high reputation for honesty. There are some tribes that have never learned to steal; they have had very little intercourse with white men, and are thoroughly uncivilized. As an illustration of this barbarous honesty, I will give my own experience among the Koraks of North-eastern Siberia.

My first acquaintance with them was on the shores of the Okhotsk Sea, where they had assembled with their herds of reindeer. When we went ashore we managed somehow to wet our blankets, and I hung mine up to dry. I expressed my fears that the blankets would be stolen by some of the Koraks, but was told that everything would be safe. When we camped at night, my blankets were dry, and I slept in them. But I forgot the blanket-straps, and there they hung in the open air all night, and all the next day.

Now, it is a moral or an immoral certainty that a pair of leather straps, new, and in good condition, in almost any other country would have been taken in hand by somebody who couldn’t bear to see them unused. But when I finally thought of my straps, I found them hanging where I had left them thirty hours before, in full view of a dozen or more natives, who were dressed in skins, and didn’t know anything more about civilization and the customs of fashionable society than a horse knows about running a sewing-machine.

EXPERIENCE WITH A CACHE.

On our western plains the custom of concealing articles in [Pg 295] the ground prevails over any other mode. The Indians have long practised it, and they manage it so skilfully that it is next to impossible to detect them. The early French settlers and explorers learned the practice from the Indians, and the name they gave to a place of concealment—“cache,” from cacher, to conceal—has been adopted into the language of all plainsmen, of whatever nationality. So well is this word known that many frontier Americans use it in preference to words in their own language having the same meaning. A frontiers-man will speak of finding a place where a squirrel had cached a peck of nuts, or will tell you that he cached his bowie knife in his boot-leg rather than carry it at his waist-belt.

My first acquaintance with a cache on the plains was in the vicinity of Fort Kearney. Our party was camped near a half dozen men who were returning from Salt Lake City, and had lost three of their oxen. We struck up an acquaintance, and in the evening invited them to sit around our fire, where we exchanged news and stories, they telling us of Utah, and we telling them about the States or “God’s Country,” as one of them called it. “Stranger,” said he, “if ever I get back to God’s Country, and you catch me again on these yere plains, you may just shoot me for a prairie dog. I’ve seen all I want of this yere living, and don’t hanker for no more of it. I’m a going back where I can have a square meal at a table, and drink whiskey that wouldn’t burn a hole through an old boot in five minutes.”

We were not bountifully supplied with the necessaries of life, but we felt liberal, and ventured to offer a drink of whiskey to each of the strangers. They took it as unhesitatingly as a kitten would take a saucer of new milk, and we became friends in a short time. When we separated, one of the eastward-bound travellers said,—

“May be you’ll run short of flour before you get to the mountains, and a little would help you along. Now, we had to lighten up just this side of the Platte crossing, where we lost two of our oxen. We couldn’t find anybody to sell to, and as we didn’t like to throw things away altogether, we [Pg 296] cached some of them. Next day we met a man one of us knew, and we sold him all the caches but one, and told him where to find them. But there was one bag of flour in a cache away from the rest, and he didn’t want no flour; so we didn’t tell him where it was.”

We offered to buy the flour, but the men would not listen to the proposition.

“It’s Utah flour,” said one of them, “and isn’t very good. The sack is small, and the whole lot wouldn’t be worth a great deal; but you can’t buy it. You’ve treated us handsome, and we’re not going to be rattlesnakes. We want you to take that flour, and you shan’t pay for it.”

We thanked them heartily, and proffered another drink, which was accepted and swallowed.

HOW TO CONCEAL FLOUR.

“About five miles this side of the old crossing of the Platte,” one of the strangers continued, after wiping the drops of whiskey from his lips, “you will come to a dry creek. There’s a small clump of willows on your right hand, and mighty small willows they are too; and on the left side, a dozen yards off the road, there are three buffalo heads piled up, with a sage bush sticking in the top one. Now, you go up the creek past these yere buffalo heads about fifty yards, and you’ll see a grave with a little board at one end. On the board are some words which we cut, that says, ‘J. MEANS, SALT LAKE, 34 YEARS.’ Now, there ain’t no J. Means there, but there is a sack of flour, and you’ll find it by digging.”

We made a memorandum of the direction, and soon after retired to sleep. In the morning we broke camp, and continued our journey, keeping the cache constantly in mind. When we reached the spot indicated, we opened the grave, and found the sack of flour, as our friends of a night had told us we should find it. The soil where it lay was quite dry, and the flour might have been left there for months without serious injury, beyond growing a little musty.

A grave is regarded with respect by nearly all white men and by most savages. Consequently a cache is frequently made in the form of a grave. A head-board bearing the [Pg 297] name, residence, and age of a fictitious dead man, serves to complete the deception, and is likewise useful in describing the cache so that it can be found. All sorts of articles can be placed in the grave, provided they are not of a character to attract wild animals and cause them to dig. In certain localities, the animals, when hungry, will dig into a real grave, and exhume the body to devour it. Thus it happens that the fact that a mound has not been disturbed by beasts sometimes reveals its character to a keen-eyed observer, and tells him that it is a cache, containing something else than the remains of a luckless traveller.

DECEIVING A DRUNKARD.

In a journey from Denver to New Mexico, in the autumn of 1860, our party contained one man whose appetite for whiskey was of the keenest and most insatiable. In making up our outfit, we had left a portion of the purchases to him, and he had bought about six times as much fire-water as we really needed. On the first and second day he managed to get as drunk as a Tammany repeater at election time, and was neither ornamental nor useful. On the second night, while he was sleeping, and possibly dreaming of a paradise where there were rivers of pure Bourbon, and no charge to bathers and drinkers, we arranged a plan to bring him to grief. We took a keg of whiskey from our wagon, and cached it a little way from camp. We threw the dirt into the creek, and built a fire over the place of concealment, so that there was no trace of what we had done. In the morning we kept him away from the wagon until we were several miles on the road, and as he had a bottle at his command he did not discover the loss until night.

But when he did discover it, there was trouble in the camp. We dared not tell the truth, for fear he would insist upon returning to recover the treasure. So we feigned ignorance, thought it must have been lost on the road, or left in Denver, or, possibly, the driver had stolen it. We were all certain that it had not been left at the camp, as we had followed the universal custom of emigrants on the plains, and carefully examined the ground after the wagon had started.

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To console himself, he went into a condition of blind drunkenness, and remained in it till morning. At this camp we cached a couple of bottles of whiskey, and then solemnly averred, next morning, that he had swallowed them. To all his denials we were incredulous, and we narrated, with great minuteness, how he drank one bottle after another, filling a pint cup at a time, and draining it at a gulp. He finally began to believe that we were right, and for the rest of the journey he kept comparatively sober.

TWO-BOTTLE CAMP.

On our return, two weeks later, we had a long day’s journey before us to reach “Two-Bottle Camp,” as we had named it. In the morning we made a general confession to the old fellow, and owned up to the theft and concealment of the bottles. His rage at the deception practised upon him was great, but it was not equal to his joy at knowing there was happiness ahead. Never on the whole journey did he exert himself more than on that day to keep the wagon in motion, and enable us to reach the whiskey-hunting ground by sunset. To him the camp of the Two Bottles was like a harbor for which the storm-tossed mariner hopes and prays when the gale is upon him, and his ship is lying at the mercy of the wind; and as soon as we reached it, he made a rapid break for the cache, and opened it before the wagon was fairly halted.

He forgave us everything, and for that evening we had a millennium on a small scale. We compelled him to retain one bottle for the festivities of the next evening, as we wanted him to go to town sober, and consequently determined to exhume the keg, and put it in the wagon without his knowledge. Everything was lovely; the keg was secured, and when we reached Denver, we pretended to discover it in the office whence we had started.

In the days of the great emigration overland in 1849 and ‘50, the emigrants frequently found their wagons too heavily burdened, and were obliged to throw away or cache a large part of their loads. When they cached their goods, the Indians generally found them, as the work was almost always [Pg 299] done carelessly and in haste, so that traces of it could be plainly seen. One old plainsman once described to me a cache which was made by a party to which he belonged.

“We found,” said he, “that we must lighten up our wagons; and so we concluded to stop a day or two, make a cache, and give our animals a chance to rest. We were near the Wind River Mountains, and Indians were not abundant. We had seen none for several days, and thought we could rely upon doing our work without their seeing us. We were in camp when we decided to make the cache, and at daylight next morning two of us started out to find a good place.

“About three miles off the trail we found a bluff that was quite steep towards a small river that we named Lost Ox River, because one of our oxen afterwards got into the quicksand and was drowned. We thought this bluff would be a good place for a cache, as we could throw the dirt into the river and have it washed away. The bluff was hard and dry, and would keep things from spoiling.

AN EXTENSIVE CACHE.

“We drove the train into the valley, at the foot of the bluff, and then went to work. We made a hole about three feet square, and as many deep, and then we hollowed out a space as large as a good-sized room. We did not drop an ounce of dirt around the opening, but threw it all into the river. We spread blankets and sacks all around the opening, and laid a row of them from the hole to our camp, so that the ground wouldn’t be trodden up.

“Then we lightened our wagons of everything we could spare. There were bundles of goods, extra clothing, saddles, chains, boots, and everything we thought it possible to do without. When the hole was full, we put the stump of a tree into the opening, and scattered leaves and rubbish around it, so that nobody could possibly see that the earth had ever been disturbed.

“It took us three days to make the cache. Our mules and oxen had gathered strength, and we moved on, with a good prospect of getting through to California.

“But things grew worse instead of better. When we got [Pg 300] into the alkali plains our oxen died off fast, and we had to throw away something every day. With so much bad luck it was quite natural that we should get into rows among ourselves, and the upshot of it was, that we separated. Some of us were discouraged, and wanted to go back; and we did go back.

“Four of us took our rifles, and each picked out a riding mule to carry us to the Missouri River. We had two pack mules, and thought we could somehow manage to get through. We had a hard time of it, stranger, and didn’t get farther than Laramie, where we broke up, and concluded to try our luck at anything that turned up.

“When we got to where we left the trail to make our cache, I told the boys we had better go and see if it was all right. Three of us went there, and left the other to take care of the animals.

“Somehow the Indians had found out the whole thing. We don’t know how they did it, but it was most likely that the wolves and foxes went to digging there for the leather in the boots and saddles, and the Indians saw where they dug, and knew something was hid. All around there were tracks of Indians, and they had taken out more than half of what we had put there.

“While we were talking about the business, and cursing the red skins, we saw five of them coming up the valley. There were four bucks and one squaw, and they hadn’t seen us. So we just laid low and waited for them. They stopped at the foot of the bluff, and the bucks made for the hole, leaving the squaw to take care of their ponies and keep watch.

CAPTURING A SQUAW.

“The squaw sat down, with her back against a tree, about fifty feet from where we were. She was evidently tired, for she dropped her head forward, and didn’t keep much of a watch. Jim Foster, one of the fellows with me, was an old Indian hunter, and knew how to work. He crept up behind her, slipped the belt from his waist, and before she knew what she was about, he had the belt around her neck, and fastened her to the tree. As soon as he had her fast, the other fellow [Pg 301] and I ran to the cache, picked up the stump that had been in the hole originally, and put it where it belonged. Then we piled logs and rubbish on top, and stopped up the crevices, and waited a couple of hours, until we thought they had breathed all the air up and were good Indians.”

“What do you mean by good Indians?” I asked.

“Why, don’t you know,” said he, “that all good Indians are dead Indians?”

I saw his point, and after he had terminated the smile with which his axiom was delivered, he went on with the story.

“We made sure that they would never do any more stealing. We didn’t want to kill them, of course, but we thought it would be no more than right to cache them along with the property that was left. There never was a better use made of an Indian than to cache him. As soon as we were satisfied that they couldn’t get out, we took the ponies and went to where our fourth man was waiting with the mules. We distributed our loads on the mules, took the ponies to ride on, and you may believe that we travelled our level best out of that region.”

“And the squaw,” I asked; “did she go with you?”

A CARELESS PLAINSMAN.

“O, I forgot about her. Jim was a careless sort of a fellow, and he pulled that strap so close around her neck that she never recovered. Come to think of it, she didn’t live long, not more than five minutes, and Jim was very sorry. He said he would do the best he could for her, and seeing she was dead, he wouldn’t refuse to bury her. So he carried her to the river, where there was a good bed of quicksand, and dropped her in. She sunk easy, and I reckon she’s somewhere about there now. She had a lot of silver ornaments about her, and Jim felt so bad that he kept them to remember her by. He said it would be a shame to waste them, as silver was scarce in that country. He wanted to go back, and see if the bucks had something valuable about them; but I thought we had done a fair morning’s work in hiving the ponies, and it was best to be getting away from there before any more Indians came around. And we up and travelled lively.”


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XX.

THE GREEN VAULTS OF DRESDEN.

THE RICHEST TREASURY IN THE WORLD.—HOW THE SAXON PRINCES ACQUIRED IT.—THE DIFFERENT CABINETS, AND WHAT THEY CONTAIN.—WONDERFUL CARVINGS, MOSAICS, AND CURIOSITIES.—SPLENDID GOLD AND SILVER PLATE.—MAGNIFICENT ROYAL REGALIA.—A LUXURIOUS AND GALLANT MONARCH.—HIS ROMANTIC ADVENTURES.—A MARVELLOUS TOY.—DAZZLING EMERALDS, PEARLS, RUBIES, AND DIAMONDS.—THE LARGEST AND MOST PRECIOUS GEMS ON THE GLOBE.—INGENIOUS AND DESPERATE ATTEMPTS TO ROB THE VAULTS.—A THIEF WALLED UP ALIVE.—EFFECT OF EXPOSING HIS SKELETON.—ARE THE PRICELESS JEWELS FALSE?—WHAT AN ENTERPRISING SCOUNDREL MIGHT ACCOMPLISH.

The Green Vaults (Grüne Gewölbe) of Dresden, as they are called from the hue of the hangings which once covered them, are in the Zwinger, a group of buildings erected by Augustus II. as a vestibule to a new palace. They are not under ground as might be supposed from their name, and from the fact that they contain the treasures of the King of Saxony. They are vaulted apartments, eight in number, stored with rare carving, mosaics, gold and silver plate, precious stones, and an endless variety of curious and invaluable articles.

The collection is the richest possessed by any European monarch, and altogether beyond what so small a power would be thought able to collect or keep. The Saxon princes, it must be remembered, however, were of far more consequence and influence in the past than they are in the present. The Freiberg silver mines alone were a source of immense revenue before the discovery of America, and Saxony had various means of acquiring wealth of which she is now wholly deprived.

I have examined nearly all the royal treasuries abroad, and none of them are at all equal to the collection in Dresden, [Pg 303] which is likely to create an agreeable surprise even after one has heard its variety and value extolled. I have known political economists to regret that what might be converted into so much money should be allowed to lie idle, and I have met others, again, who regarded the treasures of art and the priceless jewels gathered there as so many baubles unworthy of serious consideration. Persons of cultivated taste and lovers of beauty, however, can hardly be so narrow in their opinions, for they will find in the Green Vaults something more than capital uninvested, or glittering toys. The princes deserve commendation for the liberal manner in which they expended their wealth for the æsthetic benefit of those to come after them.

WONDERFUL WORKS OF ART.

The apartments are so arranged that each one you enter surpasses the last in interest and the variety of its contents. A great deal of space would be required to enumerate all the articles, though the principal may be easily set down.

The first apartment is devoted to bronzes of the nicest and most curious workmanship. There are copies in miniature of some of the famous statues, that cannot be fully appreciated without close attention to detail and a liberal understanding of art. A crucifix by John of Bologna, and a small dog, stretching itself, by Peter Visscher, are masterpieces of their kind.

In the second apartment are ivory carvings of remarkable excellence; among them a number of beautiful vases, some quite large, cut out of a single piece. There are, also, a battle scene by Albrecht Durer, a crucifix by Michael Angelo, and a marvellous group of some ninety figures carved in one piece sixteen inches high, representing the fall of Lucifer and his wicked angels. Nothing could be finer or more exact than these figures. Small as they are, they are perfect, and plainly show what extraordinary patience and skill the artist must have had. A goblet, of stag’s horn, cut like a cameo, in figures portraying the chase, is admirably wrought, as is also a cup on which the story of the Foolish Virgins is delineated.

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The third apartment has Florentine mosaics, engraved shells, ostrich eggs carved and ornamented, a singular chimney-piece of Dresden china set with precious stones, paintings in enamel, and a number of portraits of historic characters, the most noticeable of which are Peter the Great and Augustus II., surnamed the Strong.

CUPS OF GREAT VALUE.

The fourth apartment is filled with the gold and silver plate formerly used at the banquets of the Saxon princes, a portion of which was wont to be carried to Frankfort on the occasion of the coronation of the German emperors by the electors of Saxony, who held the hereditary office of arch-marshal at those imposing ceremonies. Beyond the mere value, this plate is not desirable. If it were mine, I should melt it at once into the coin of the realm, since it has neither grace nor beauty of form. It may seem very grand to eat and drink out of such vessels, but they would be found extremely inconvenient for practical purposes. The china of our day is altogether superior to all the gold and silver plate that has ever been heaped on royal tables.

The fifth apartment is taken up with agates, crystals, chalcedony, lapis lazuli, and other varieties of semi-precious stones. Some cups of moss agates are particularly beautiful, and two goblets, composed entirely of cut gems, have a value of ten thousand dollars each. An equestrian statue of Charles II. of England, made from a solid piece of cast iron, represents him in the character of St. George, and is skilfully done. The eminent sculptor, Colin of Mechlin, has shown the cunning of his art by two spirited combats of knights, though they are only wooden heads; wood being the material of which the carvings are made. The largest enamel painting known, a Magdalen by Dinglinger, is also shown there.

The sixth apartment abounds in figures carved in ivory and wood, many of them caricatures of men and animals, which express the grotesqueness of the German mind. Single pearls of extraordinary size, nearly all found in the River Elster, are cut into odd shapes, some of them representing rustics, jesters, and elves. A pearl, large as a hen’s egg, is [Pg 305] intended to portray a Spanish court dwarf, and is superbly done. Trinket as it is, it could not be purchased for twenty-five thousand dollars. There is, besides, any number of costly trifles, on which a vast deal of ingenuity and money must have been expended, and which are interesting from their artistic merit.

The seventh apartment is radiant with the splendid regalia used at the coronation of Augustus II.

Augustus is inseparably associated with the history of Saxony, and the antecedents of Dresden. He succeeded his father, John George III., as Elector of Saxony, though not until after his elder brother’s death, in 1694, and was elected to the throne of Poland, made vacant, two years later, by the decease of John Sobieski. The Polish nobles were unwilling to be ruled over by anybody but a Roman Catholic, and Augustus, whose theology was of a very accommodating quality, abandoned Protestantism for the sake of the crown.

Between his wars, his intrigues, and his parades, his sixty-three years of life were superlatively busy. He was highly educated for his time, and so much interested in art that he began the collection of pictures in the Dresden Gallery, and purchased many of the valuable curiosities now in the Green Vaults. His reign was marked by luxury and splendor, and his court was the constant resort of artists, alchemists, and adventurers of both sexes, on whom he lavished countless favors. The celebrated Countess of Königsmark was one of his many mistresses, and bore him a son, who subsequently figured so prominently in French history as Maurice, Count de Saxe.

ROMANTIC STORIES OF A KING.

Augustus was such a prodigal that he loaded Saxony with debt, and inspired the magnates of Poland to imitate his improvident example in Warsaw. Elegant, accomplished, daring, and unscrupulous, he made war on men and love to women to the end of his days. If all the accounts be true, he was as charming as Apollo and as strong as Hercules. The archives of Dresden attest his wonderful muscle to such a [Pg 306] degree that Samson would have been no match for him. One of his pastimes was to become enamoured of some distinguished lady he had never seen; go in search of her; throw her husband, father, or brother, just as it happened, over high walls, and then carry her off in his arms as if she had been a feather weight.

These tales are interesting, but there are too many of them to be credible. I cannot tell how large the Saxon or Polish women were a century and a half ago, but I will lay a large wager that Augustus could not carry very far many of them I have seen recently. If he had the taste ascribed to him, I am sure he would not make the attempt, unless it should happen to be in the night, when darkness reduces beauties and beldames to the same level.

ROYAL PASTIMES.

Persons going to Dresden, or indeed to any part of Saxony, will spare themselves questions by presuming that Augustus has done nearly everything worth doing in the entire kingdom. He is to Saxony what St. Patrick is to the south of Ireland, King David to Scotland, or Charles V. to Belgium.

The eighth and last apartment entirely eclipses all the others in the richness and magnificence of its contents. One of the wonders of this cabinet, called the Court of the Great Mogul, was made by Dinglinger, an artist justly considered the Benvenuto Cellini of Saxony. The Court represents the Emperor Aurengzebe on his throne, surrounded by courtiers and soldiers,—about one hundred and forty figures,—in pure gold enamelled, attired in costumes appropriate to the country and the time. Each figure has its individual expression and character, as will be perceived by close observation.

This marvellous toy, which is really a work of the highest art, employed Dinglinger (he was the court jeweller during the early part of the eighteenth century) for nearly ten years, and cost one hundred thousand dollars. Another carving of a similar character portrays different artisans with a fineness and finish which no one would expect, considering its diminutive proportions. There are also other specimens of his [Pg 307] exceeding skill that fully entitle him to the fame he has achieved.

A specimen of uncut Peruvian emeralds, bestowed by the Emperor Charles V. on the Elector of Saxony, is one of the finest in the world, and a mass of solid native silver from the Himmelfüst mine of Freiberg so well illustrates its richness as to enable me to believe that in fifty years nearly twenty-two hundred tons of silver were obtained from that single mine.

The Saxon regalia there exhibited includes the sword of the elector, carried by the princes at the imperial coronations; the decorations of a miner’s uniform made for the Elector John George; a great number of chains, collars, and orders of the Garter, Golden Fleece, and Polish Eagle; and a curious antique portrait (a cameo of onyx) of Augustus the Strong. A sardonyx six and a half inches long, and four and a half broad, reputed to be the largest extant, attracts much attention from its oval shape and beautiful regularity.

Two rings once worn by Martin Luther appeal not a little to earnest Protestants. One of these, an enamelled seal ring, cut with a death’s head, and the motto “Mori sæpe cogita” (Reflect often on death), is sufficiently mournful in suggestion to satisfy the most dismal of theologians. The other ring is a carnelian bearing a rose, and in its centre a cross.

A RARE COLLECTION OF JEWELS.

Then comes a glass case of the rarest and costliest jewels, the first division containing superb sapphires, the largest of them uncut, the gift of Peter the Great. The second division is full of splendid emeralds; the third of magnificent rubies (the two largest weighing forty-eight and sixty carats); the fourth abounding in beautiful pearls, one native set being little inferior to the Oriental; while the fifth division is radiant with diamonds.

Such another collection does not exist anywhere in the world. If these diamonds were sold for the sum they would very readily bring, they would more than pay off, it is said, the [Pg 308] entire national debt of Saxony. The diamond decorations for the gala dress of the elector consists of buttons, collar, sword and scabbard, all incrusted with the largest and most valuable stones, some of them weighing fifty carats each. The most remarkable of the stones is a green brilliant, weighing one hundred and sixty carats, and said to be worth two millions of dollars. There are also various orders studded with diamonds and many single gems, yellow, rose, and green in color, as well as pure white.

DIAMONDS IN ABUNDANCE.

Admirers of diamonds can have an ocular banquet there; for the collection is magnificent beyond description. I have seen women hang over them until their eyes fairly watered (I wonder if this is the reason they are called gems of the first water), and I have noticed men regard them with a passion for possession that savored of wildness. As mere objects of beauty, they are deserving of all admiration. Those priceless gems are constant miracle-workers. The smallest ray of light that falls upon them is converted into a glorious sheen. They make the very atmosphere brilliant, emitting from every point a radiance which is dazzling. Hardly any conjuration of magic can be greater. The blaze of jewels, when the sunlight touches them, is almost overpowering. The mines of Golconda, as they were in their palmiest days, appear to be open, and all their glorious treasures to be flashing, scintillating, coruscating at once.

PRECAUTIONS AGAINST THEFT.

One might imagine that the diamonds and many of the other valuables of the Green Vaults would be in danger from the admission of strangers. The naturalness of this opinion has doubtless given rise to the story that unseen soldiers have their muskets levelled through invisible loopholes in the walls at the head or breast of everybody entering the royal treasury. This is a mere romance, never having had the smallest foundation in fact. Such precautions are not at all necessary; for nobody could steal anything, and get away with it, even if he should try. The costliest objects are covered with strong iron or steel wires, not sufficient to obstruct the view, bµt enough to prevent their seizure by any designing or dishonest [Pg 309] person. Moreover, the custodian, who conducts you through the cabinets, locks and bolts each door after him, so that the thief could not easily make his escape; and if he did succeed in getting beyond the walls, an alarm would be immediately given, which would almost necessarily insure his capture.

The value of the entire collection at Dresden it is almost impossible to give. I have heard it estimated at from twenty millions to twenty-five millions of dollars, and even as high as fifty millions. Most of the works of art, as well as the jewels, are actually beyond price; for they could not be replaced. They could not be purchased any more than the Raffaelles, Correggios, and Titians, in the famous Picture Gallery in the same city.

It is said that numerous efforts have been made during the past hundred years to rob the Green Vaults.

One of these was by two Poles, who had had a wide experience in forgery, burglary, and crimes of all sorts, in the early part of the present century. They had at first designed to secure a number of confederates, but afterwards abandoned the idea, fearing that their secret would be unsafe when so many persons shared it. After revolving various plans in their mind, they concluded to depend upon themselves alone, and accordingly entered the vaults, pretending to be Protestant clergymen from Geneva, in company with a large party of visitors, composed mostly of Englishmen and Americans. When they had reached the last cabinet, and while one of them was making particular inquiries of the custodian, and attracting the attention of the party by his large fund of information (he spoke English with remarkable facility), his companion contrived to hide himself in something closely resembling a bale, the material for which he had concealed upon his person. A quarter of an hour after, one of the supposed-to-be clergymen was missed, and his disappearance was explained by the positive statement of his confederate that he had returned to his hotel while they were in the third apartment, having an engagement that demanded his presence. [Pg 310] A number of the visitors thought they had seen him a few minutes before; but the disguised Pole was so positive in his declaration, that they naturally fancied themselves mistaken.

CAUGHT IN THE VAULTS.

The party at last went out, and late that night the concealed villain, who was prepared with matches and a dark lantern, crept out of his spurious bale, and, with instruments provided beforehand, got into the cases, cut the wires, and secured many of the most precious diamonds. He then attempted to get out of the vaults, but, to his astonishment and consternation, they were too strong for him. The partner of his guilt was at his appointed post on the outside, and waited in vain until daylight for the robber who was to come forth at a stated hour with his treasures. The other Pole had secured his great wealth; but, by a strange shortsightedness not uncommon to villains of his class, he had not calculated closely enough upon the means of getting away with it. Finding that the vaults were his prison, he tried to put the jewels back in such a shape that their displacement would not be noticed, and then crept once more into his bale. The custodian entered with a number of sight-seers about noon the day following. His quick eye discovered at once that the diamonds had been tampered with, and this fact, taken in connection with the mysterious disappearance of the previous day, confirmed him in the belief that a robbery had been attempted, and that the robber must be hidden in that particular apartment. Consequently he ordered a guard, and a thorough search having been made, the thief was soon exposed. The scoundrel, knowing it would be useless to deny his design, made a full confession in respect to himself, and was tried and sentenced to prison for twenty-five years, equivalent to life, for he was at the time of his capture more than fifty-five. After serving ten years of his sentence, he made his escape by bribing, as it was supposed, some of the officials, and not long after was killed in Palermo while attempting to break into the house of an English resident of the Sicilian city.

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About 1798 some twenty Viennese rogues went to Dresden for the express purpose of robbing the Green Vaults of their most valuable jewels. Their plan was to undermine the treasury, enter it by night, and make their egress by the same channel. Their scheme was bold, and might have prospered, beset as it was with obstacles. Any and all result was frustrated, however, by the betrayal of the gang by one of its number, tempted by the hope of a liberal reward for his treachery. He was, it is asserted, handsomely paid, and the information which he furnished caused the arrest of three of the conspirators; the rest leaving the city suddenly, and placing themselves beyond the reach of the law. Two of the miscreants were sent to prison, and the third, who was a native Greek, and reported to have been for some years a brigand, cheated justice by poisoning himself in his cell.

MAN ENCLOSED IN A WALL.

About fifty years ago, as the story is told in Dresden, certain changes were made in the Green Vaults, involving the laying of a new interior wall of brick. This intended addition having become generally known, an enterprising rogue in the city conceived a plan of robbing the treasury by concealing himself in a part of the wall then unfinished; designing to get out at night, after the workmen had gone away, and carry off whatever was lightest and of most value. He did succeed in concealing himself, as he had wished; but unfortunately for him, the masons worked more rapidly than he had supposed they would, and enclosed him completely. Whether he knew at the time what would happen, and was afraid of revealing his presence, or whether he was totally ignorant of the peril of his situation, will forever remain unknown. As may be imagined, the thief, being, like other mortals, unable to live without air, soon succumbed to his peculiar surroundings, though his fate was a secret for years after.

New improvements, then making, caused the removal of the brick wall, and within it the perfect skeleton of a man was discovered. Great and exciting was the mystery at first; but diligent inquiry, and vivid recalling of the date when the [Pg 312] work was done, solved the enigma by establishing a connection between the finding of the skeleton and the disappearance of a certain notorious criminal. The skeleton of the thief was put together, and for some time occupied a conspicuous position in the vaults, as a warning to all inclined to follow his example. But it served as an example instead, as was shown by the fact that several attempts at robbery were made there within six months after the grim exposure. The skeleton was then removed from the vaults, and as is popularly supposed, has been transferred in a multiplied form to the private closets of the Dresdeners.

Not a great while ago, a story was started to the effect that the principal diamonds in the Green Vaults had been stolen by some of the officials of the court, and replaced with counterfeit stones. This report obtained wide currency, and was generally believed among the common people. It may be inferred that there was no basis whatever for the tale, as any one who is a judge of jewels may easily determine for himself. If it were possible to make such excellent counterfeits of diamonds as are those now at Dresden, genuine gems would certainly lose much of their value, since there would be no method of distinguishing between the real and spurious.

The contents of the Green Vaults have for generations been a source of anxiety to the Saxon princes. Again and again, during the troublous times in Germany, they have been compelled to carry their treasures to the mountains in the region along the Elbe, known as the Saxon Switzerland, and to keep them there for security until the peril of plunder had passed. This sudden transportation of the royal valuables was very frequent during the Seven Years’ War, and it is reported that many of them were lost in the haste and excitement attending their removal.

THE GREEN VAULTS A TEMPTATION.

The Green Vaults offer a constant temptation to the rogues of the old world, and it would not be at all surprising if some man or men, possessed of a rare genius for pilfering, should yet accomplish what has so frequently failed. Robbery and [Pg 313] burglary are so much a profession nowadays, and so much real talent is employed in their behalf, that those who have been graduated in the calling will be inconsiderate of their own interest if they do not some time perfect a scheme which will result in plundering the greatest and richest treasury on the globe.

CHANCE FOR A BURGLAR.

A rich reward awaits any one who will enter the Green Vaults of Dresden and carry away their treasures, or so much of them as could be easily carried by one man. Possibly an American or English burglar will yet be found who can succeed in this daring enterprise.


[Pg 314]

XXI.

THE CATACOMBS OF PARIS.

THE FAIR CAPITAL UNDERMINED.—HISTORY OF THE VAST GRAVEYARD.—SIX MILLIONS OF SKELETONS.—A JOURNEY THROUGH THE CITY OF THE DEAD.—HORRIBLE SENSATIONS OF BEING LOST THERE.—GHASTLY DISPLAY OF SKULLS AND BONES.—TRAGIC AND COMIC INCIDENTS.—TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE IN THE MIGHTY CHARNEL-HOUSE.—SCENES NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN.

Few persons think, while strolling through the fashionable streets of Paris, and seeking pleasure in its charming precincts, that they are wandering over a vast graveyard, and that only a thin crust of earth separates them from the burial-place of six millions of human beings. Down there lie the remains of a third as many people as the entire French capital contains. A large part of the beautiful city is undermined by vaults, and these vaults, which are the famous Catacombs of Paris, contain the dead of centuries.

The Catacombs of Paris are not used, like the Catacombs of ancient Thebes, Rome, and Naples, as places of original sepulture; for they were once quarries from which the stone employed in building the city was taken. The quarries were beneath the southern part of the town, directly below the Observatory, the Luxembourg, the Odéon, the Pantheon, and many of the well-known streets, such as St. Jacques, La Harpe, Tournou, Vaugirard, and others. Their extent is estimated to be about three millions of square yards; and long before they were cemeteries, they served as refuge and shelter for thieves, incendiaries, assassins, and all the desperate criminals who for many centuries abounded in the city. It is only a little more than a hundred years since Paris has been orderly, or in any sense secure. During the middle ages, and down to [Pg 315] the latter half of the past century, property and life were extremely unsafe. Ruffians stalked abroad by day as well as by night, and bade defiance to law and its guardians. In those times the quarries shielded many of the greatest villains in the capital. After committing robbery, arson, or murder, they fled into those excavations, and the men whose duty it was to arrest them were afraid to follow where they would certainly have been massacred. Many are the stories told of policemen and soldiers meeting their death in the subterranean vaults at the hands of the malefactors they were pursuing. These were so familiar with all the recesses and windings of the quarries that they could not only escape, but they could lie in ambush, and fall upon the officers of the law with terrible vengeance. So numerous were the murders committed in the quarries by ruffians of the olden time, that finally none of the king’s minions could be found bold enough to venture into those abodes of mystery, darkness, and crime.

RESORTS OF THIEVES.

In 1784 some part of the quarries was broken through from above, and as there was imminent danger of the houses in the streets falling into ruin from similar accidents, a number of the most skilful engineers were ordered by the government to descend into the quarries, make a careful investigation, and render them in future altogether secure. While so engaged, M. Lenoir, lieutenant general of the police, conceived the idea of removing to the vaults the remains that had been buried in the cemetery of the Innocents, then standing on the present site of the Halles Centrales, the principal market of the city. Other graveyards within the municipal limits needed to be emptied, and it was determined that the contents of these graves should also be transferred to the subterranean region; so, on the 7th of April, 1786, a formal consecration of the Catacombs as a place of burial took place with imposing religious rites and ceremonies. The human bones were borne from the graves at night in funeral cars, accompanied by priests decked in their sacerdotal robes, carrying torches, swinging censers, and chanting the Roman [Pg 316] Catholic service for the dead, and on arriving at the depository were hurled down a shaft in magnificently miscellaneous confusion. Such a democratic mixture, osseously speaking, of saints and sinners, princes and peasants, reformers and robbers, bishops and beggars, poets and pickpockets, grand ladies and grisettes, coquettes and cocottes, was never before made on the banks of the Seine. This superb disorder remains to the present day, so far as rank and caste are concerned. The skull of a pious prelate rests upon the ribs of a desperate cutthroat, and the thigh-bone of a once renowned beauty of the Faubourg St. Germain touches the grinning teeth of a vulgar conscript shot for desertion. The skeleton arms of a dainty poet are interlocked with those of a hideous hag who poisoned her father and mother in the Rue de la Croix Rouge.

A BONY CONFUSION.

If the opinion be well founded, that on the day of judgment the dead will arise in their proper persons, the unfortunates buried in the Catacombs of Paris will find it an extremely arduous task to collect themselves together. One might imagine, in such a universal resumption of long-cast-off and worn-out fleshly garments, that some nondescript individual might appear on the awful scene with the head of a marquis on the trunk of a rag-picker, borne along by the legs of a ballet dancer, and a cripple gesticulating to the angelic host with the right arm of a cardinal and the left arm of a lorette. It has long been a theological problem whether, on that solemn occasion, the dead will recognize each other; but it will be a matter of even more serious moment to them whether many of the Parisians will be able, so strangely will they be made up, to recognize themselves. That there will be a rattling among the dry bones no one who has entered the Catacombs can doubt, and that much of the rattling will arise from Monsieur Bonjour’s effort to make a complete conjunction with his remains, and from Madame Beaujoli’s endeavor to hunt herself up, must be plain to everybody. Some of these anticipated troubles may be partially obviated, however, by the fact that the bones from one cemetery have been kept [Pg 317] apart from the bones of another; and as this predicted resurrection is not likely to occur for some time, we need not concern ourselves in regard to the hypothetical awkwardness and inconveniences of so distant a future.

ENTERING THE CATACOMBS.

Until within a few years, admission to the Catacombs could be readily obtained; but their insecurity, resulting in a number of accidents, has recently prevented the authorities from opening these gloomy recesses to the public more than once annually,—usually about the first of October,—when a few persons are permitted, after obtaining tickets from the inspector general, to accompany him in his subterranean tour. The first time I visited Paris I was extremely anxious to wander through the Catacombs; but finding many obstacles in my way, and being much occupied otherwise, I quitted the city without gratifying my curiosity. I returned, however, ere long, and was so diligent in prosecuting my purpose that one pleasant autumn morning, in company with a dozen strangers, I descended from the garden of the city custom-house at the Barrière d’Enfer to explore the stony chambers of the dead.

We had provided ourselves with wax tapers, which we lighted, each of us carrying one, before we went down a circular flight of some one hundred steps leading to the dismal galleries running in every direction, and containing the ghastly remains of millions of our fellow-creatures, once as merry and ambitious, as fond and foolish, as hopeful and as vain, as any of us are to-day. At the bottom of the staircase a guide placed himself at our head, and, observing that our tapers were all in good order, took the lead, after exhorting us to keep together, and on no account, if we valued our lives, to attempt to explore any other than the main avenues through which we were to pass.

The Catacombs hold the victims of the different revolutions so frequent in Paris; and now, moreover, the common graves (les fosses communes) in the three principal cemeteries of Montmartre, Mont Parnasse and Père la Chaise, are emptied every five years, and the plebeian relics consigned to the [Pg 318] Catacombs, to make room for more bodies in those populous burying-grounds. Thus are the great vaults steadily and rapidly increasing their lifeless hosts, and adding to the horrors of a region necessarily horrible from the first.

THE FIRST OF THE PASSAGES.
YAWNING PITS AND CAVERNS.

Several hundred yards from the base of the steps which we had descended is an octagonal vestibule, and over it an inscription in Latin to this effect: “Beyond these boundaries repose those who await a blessed immortality.” We passed through a door leading into a long gallery lined with bones from the floor to the roof; the arm, leg, and thigh-bones being closely and regularly piled together in front, their uniformity relieved by three rows of skulls at equal distances, while behind these the smaller bones are thrown, regardless of arrangement of any kind. The gallery conducts to several apartments resembling chapels, called Tombs of the Revolutions, and Tombs of the Victims, because they hold the relics of those who had perished in popular insurrections against existing authority. I had noticed, before reaching the vestibule, and what may be considered the Catacombs proper, that the passage was very narrow,—only two persons being able to walk abreast therein,—and little more than six feet in height. This passage soon made a sharp turn, and at the corner the names of the streets directly above were cut into the stone, and two black arrows painted upon it, one pointing to the entrance of the vaults, and the other to the great charnel-house we were about to explore. We were in chambers of hewn-out rock. Rock was above us, below us, and on every side. The walls were very damp, the water in many places dripping through what might be termed the ceiling, in which were so many cracks and crevices that it seemed as if the walls might tumble and bury us at any moment. Two or three of my companions grew very nervous as they perceived about them such alarming signs of insecurity, and expressed the wish that they had not undertaken what they declared to be a foolhardy enterprise. As I walked along, I saw at different turnings of the passage what appeared to be deep, yawning pits; and feeling a curiosity to examine them, I stopped and stretched my taper over [Pg 319] the side. Appearances were not deceitful. The deep pits were really there—dark, awful, and impenetrable. I could not help thinking how easy it would be for any one who should get lost and become bewildered, to stumble into one of those fearful holes and dash his brains out. Even such a dreary death would be infinitely preferable to the long agony of confinement in, without any hope of release from, such a place of horrors. While I was speculating on the possibility of the situation, the little procession got quite beyond me, and I was aroused from my gloomy reverie by the echoing voice of the guide urging the members of our party to keep close together. I hurried forward just in time to see the door of the vestibule open, and to go in with the rest.

The Catacombs are laid out very much like the old quarters of Paris, the different avenues being named after the streets above them, and the principal buildings overhead being indicated on the walls. It seemed very strange that certain famous structures, with which I am very familiar, should be only eighty or a hundred feet from where we were walking, as those sepulchral caverns appeared hundreds of miles away from the bright and beautiful city we had quitted half an hour before. Nothing can be more dismal and depressing than the Catacombs, with their miles and miles of human bones and skulls confronting you wherever you turn, and seeming to dance and grin as the light and the shadow of the passing tapers fall upon them.

How easily we are cheated by the imagination! I could almost have sworn, as I hurried by, that I saw some of the thigh-bones move to and fro, and the jaws of the skulls open and shut, and extend, in ghastly grimace, a repulsive welcome from the dead to the living, who would soon be no more than those hideous remains. There is a certain fascination, however, I must confess, in the sombre, subterranean city. The parade and panoply of grim mortality held me like a spell, and again and again I found myself far in the rear of the solemn excursionists. I liked to fall behind and watch the thick shadows which gave way before and closed in behind [Pg 320] them, and listen to the hollow and dreary echoes of their voices murmuring through the mighty vaults. I fancied the babbling company to be a crew of resurgent spirits, whose duty it was to visit the cemeteries of the globe, and awake the dead to judgment. They had a certain weird semblance as they flitted on in the dim distance, and their tones came back to me as if they had fallen from tongues long silent in the grave. The fancy pleased me, and I indulged it, and the kindred fancy that the heaps of bones were animated, until, sometimes, so strong were the suggestions of the place, I really confounded the living with the dead.

Once, in going by an avenue running to the right, I yielded to a temptation to step into it, to look at an extraordinary heap of bones. This did not occupy more than thirty seconds,—at least, it did not appear longer,—and yet, when I stepped back into the broader passage (the main avenues in the Catacombs are much wider than those I have mentioned outside the vestibule), I found, to my utter consternation and horror, that my companions had left me; I could not see the light of their tapers, nor could I hear the least echo of their steps or voices.

LOST IN THE CATACOMBS.
FEELINGS OF HORROR.

Lost in the Catacombs! How often I had imagined it! and now, indeed, it had become a terrible reality. Horror almost paralyzed me for the moment. I seemed to be all nerve and brain, and these thrilled and throbbed so wildly that I was forced to lean against the rock for support. I thought I should go mad, for there was something in the very idea of being shut up in that awful cavern, in the awful silence and awful darkness, doomed to perish by inches, every hour expanding to an age, which rendered any other means of death blissful by contrast. My head swam, and I believed I was about to swoon, when, feeling that to do so was to be destroyed, I roused my will and almost involuntarily sprang forward. My movement was so sudden that my taper was extinguished, and an inky blackness fell upon me like a pall. The horror of my situation was a hundred-fold increased. If I could have lighted my little candle again, I should have [Pg 321] been almost happy; and yet, a few seconds before, I had regarded myself as the most miserable of mortals. My brain seemed to be absolutely bursting, and my heart forcing itself into my throat. I was conscious of a sense of suffocation, and I was not sure that the rocky walls were not pressing together to crush me. I remember having an anxious longing that they might do so, and end the agony I was enduring. I frankly admit I had never known before what human suffering can be. I had not supposed myself capable of such mental anguish; it was ten thousand times more, and worse, than death—an indefinable and overwhelming dread of something which might not be named, but that could be pictured with miraculous power. I had confronted death often, in sickness, in catastrophe, in battle, on land and water, by falling, and by fire, and the so-called King of Terrors had not shown himself half so terrible as I had anticipated. But then and there, in those silent and rayless Catacombs, I was unnerved, overpowered, and horrified, by a crushing dread of the unknown. Every moment was a month. Every feeling was a minister of horror. Exactly what I did I shall never know, though I seem to have a misty recollection that I strove to kill myself by dashing my head against the rocks. For some time I was incapable of determining my conduct; and then, with all my exquisite sense of mental pain, I was aware of hurrying rapidly through the thick darkness.

How long this continued I know not; but of a sudden I saw beyond me a flash of light like the aurora in the far northern sky. Was I really mad? Was I dreaming? Was I dead, and waking from the sleep of death? I rubbed my eyes, I pinched myself, I tried to scream, but I could not make a sound. Burning as my throat was, and all on fire as I seemed from head to foot, my voice froze as I sought to give it utterance.

Still, I was not deceived. There was a light before me, and as I dashed on involuntarily, I saw that it proceeded from the tapers of my companions, whom I had nearly overtaken. The reaction of my feelings almost prostrated me. [Pg 322] My heart beat like a tilt hammer, my breath was well nigh spent, my pulses leaped with fever, and yet I felt that my face must be blanched, and I should not have been surprised if my hair had turned gray.

In a few seconds I had joined my party and relighted my taper. Nobody knew through what a crisis I had passed, nor did I say anything about it except to remark, casually, that I had extinguished my candle by letting it fall. From inquiries I learned that from the moment I had missed my companions until I had rejoined them, not more than two minutes had elapsed; and still, by the measure of my mind, I had lived through months of pain.

If I had not already known it, I should have been convinced then that time can be reckoned only by feeling; that no clock can keep the record of the heart; and that the soul strikes hours every moment of its existence.

ADVICE TO EXPLORERS.

I would advise those who may feel inclined to go through the Catacombs to take a box of wax matches in their pocket, and a little luncheon besides, so that if their taper be blown out, or they be lost, they may at least be relieved from the terror of absolute darkness and immediate starvation. When persons are missed down there, a search is immediately made for them, and nobody would feel half so uncomfortable while he had light and food as he would in the midst of gloom, and haunted by the necessity of dining on himself.

The moist and grave-like odor which fills the Catacombs, added to the images of death on every side, intensifies their sepulchral aspect, and makes those wandering in the ghastly haunts seem to themselves only half alive. The faces of those with me did not appear any more natural than their voices, and all of us had a certain taint of the tomb. Even the tapers flickered and sank in the unwholesome atmosphere, as though even fire, which rages in the centre of the earth, could not support itself in that dusky Golgotha.

In some places the skulls have been arranged in the form of crosses and set into the wall—probably by the priests of Paris, who, like all their tribe, delight in symbols and devices [Pg 323] coupling death and religion; forgetting that the creed they preach declares there is no death, that true religion leads to eternal life. Monks of all ages—and there are many monks who have never taken orders—have been little more than sacerdotal sextons, revelling in disease and decay, lamentation and funerals, as if Nature had set their spirits to the music of bereavement and woe.

Bones, bones, bones! Skulls, skulls, skulls! I can well believe six millions of mortal remains have been deposited in the Catacombs, which look as if they might have been the graveyard of the globe since the dawn of creation. They furnish the most extensive bone-yard I have ever visited. They do not contain nearly so many dead, in all probability, as the Catacombs of Rome; but on the Seine the dead are exhibited to much more advantage than on the Tiber. The French make the most of everything, and their osseous arrangement and display are not equalled anywhere.

FONDNESS FOR SOUVENIRS.

Americans have often been laughed at for their fondness for relics, and very deservedly too; for they seek mementos in all places, and under every variety of circumstances. I should never have suspected any of my countrymen of a disposition to deprive the Catacombs of any of their horrors; and yet several of them actually carried off shin and thigh bones in order to recall the pleasure they had experienced in Paris. One fellow—I think he was a medical student from Boston—tried to secure a whole skull; but as he could not very conveniently get it into his pocket, he was reluctantly forced to leave it behind. Possibly he was an admirer of the first Napoleon, and anxious to obtain a souvenir of Bonaparte. I presume I have met men who, if they were given time and opportunity, would despoil that horrid vault of a very large proportion of its revolting treasures.

During our ramble we encountered a well of pure water enclosed by a wall. In it are a number of gold-fish that manage to live by some mysterious means, though the guide informed us that they did not spawn. The well comes from a spring which some of the workmen discovered while making [Pg 324] repairs many years ago, and gave it the name of the Spring of Forgetfulness, afterwards changed to the Fountain of the Good Samaritan. The water is declared to be sweet; but I should need to be extremely thirsty before drinking what would seem infected with death.

MAXIMS FOR VISITORS.

The Roman church, always on the alert to point morals and preach sermons, has filled the Catacombs at convenient intervals with inscriptions designed to be impressive. Some of these are,—

“Happy is he whose hour of death is ever before his eyes!”

“Be not proud or boastful, O mortal; for this is the end of the loftiest ambition and the highest glory!”

“Death recognizes not rank—in his eyes the prince and the peasant are the same!”

“Come, all ye busy worldlings into this silent retreat, and listen to the solemn voice that rises from the tomb!”

“Remember, O man, the mercies of thy God, and remember He will call thee when thou least expectest to hear His voice!”

“The grave is dark; but the paths that lead from it are, to the righteous, strewn with eternal flowers!”

“Mock not the lowly, for in the courts of Heaven the lowly may stand before thee, shorn of thy worldly pride!”

No doubt there is a great deal of truth in these maxims; but in spite of them, and many more like them, death has never been rendered very attractive to persons enjoying good health and a fair degree of prosperity. Death bears about the same relation to life that the Catacombs do to Paris; and I have never yet known any man or woman who would willingly quit the gay Boulevards or the delightful Champs Elysées to walk in the bone-lined and noisome vaults of the subterranean city.

We passed only through the main avenues of the Catacombs,—there is very little variety in them,—and after spending nearly three hours underground, having supped full of material horrors, we reached another staircase, and once more ascended to the light of day, and the blessed sunshine. [Pg 325] I had no idea where we were, and I was somewhat surprised to find that we came out nearly a mile and a half from where we had gone down. The charming capital never, I think, appeared quite so charming as it did on that delicious afternoon when I returned from death and decay to the living and the loving, to the comforts and the joys, of the upper world.

AN ENGLISHMAN’S OPINIONS.

While we were in that vast subterranean graveyard, I was struck by the different effect it produced upon different persons in our party. An Englishman, who was extremely anxious to “do the thing, you know,” was superlatively disgusted after he had passed the vestibule, and declared the Catacombs the “beastliest place” he had ever seen. He grumbled like Vesuvius before eruption, and swore that the French authorities ought to be exposed for permitting the subjects of Her Majesty to thrust themselves into such a “bloody” hole. He even suggested that it was a French trick to get rid of certain true and noble Britons, and, of course, threatened to write to the Times on the subject. He was constantly predicting that the rock overhead would tumble down and bury us all, and really seemed uncomfortable because something horrible did not happen. After he had gone half way through, he wanted to go back, and when he had reached the end of the route, he was much dissatisfied that we hadn’t done a great deal more. He fretted and fumed every minute of the three hours, and did his best to render every one as nervous and discontented as himself.

Several Americans ran all sorts of saws on the Englishman, and prophesied some terrible calamity at every step, saying they never would have thought of coming into the gloomy region unless they had expected that a fair proportion of the excursionists would be killed. Two of my countrymen insisted that they had made their wills before they had left their hotel, and a third averred that he had a vial of prussic acid and a revolver in his pocket for the express purpose of committing suicide, if he should be lost in the cavernous windings. He asked the Briton if he had not taken the same [Pg 326] precaution, and pronounced him superlatively reckless because he had not, explaining the advantage of self-destruction over a lingering and horrible death. John Bull, remarkable to relate, had not the slightest suspicion that the “Yankees” were poking fun at him. On the contrary, he regarded all their jests as solemnly sincere, and asserted that it was exactly like our nation never to enjoy anything that was not accompanied by a bloody murder of some sort.

A young Italian, who was quite good-looking, and far more conscious of the fact than anybody else, endured martyrdom in the Catacombs from quite another cause. He was very carefully and daintily dressed, and appeared to consider dust or soil upon his clothes as a sovereign evil. He was the dandiest of dandies, and the most fastidious of fools. He looked rather blank, as I had noticed, when we first began the descent of the circular staircase in the Custom House garden. He was in advance, and before we had gone down a dozen steps, I observed a number of large drops falling from the blazing tapers above him upon his new hat and coat. Some kind friend pointed these out to him, and he actually turned pale with wrath and chagrin.

INCONVENIENCES OF A VISIT.

“Who could have done this? Such conduct is disgraceful! I did not come here to have my clothes ruined. I wish the Catacombs were in the bottomless pit.” These and other phrases he ejaculated in choice Tuscan, which very few understood, but which those who did understand enjoyed not a little. After the marring of his wardrobe, there could be no pleasure for him. If he had been shown all the wonders of the world, he could not have forgotten his tarnished garments. His misfortunes followed him. The water dropped through the crevices upon his august person, and as he was unusually tall, he crushed his hat every few minutes against the overhanging rock, which struck oaths out of him as steel strikes fire out of flint. I fancied sometimes that he envied the skeletons he passed, because they had no clothes to spoil. Long before he had finished his underground journey, his beauty of person and raiment was sadly injured, and I am [Pg 327] confident that he will remember the Catacombs, and curse them for the harm they did his garments, till the end of his days.

INQUISITIVENESS OF AN AMERICAN.

A native of Maine entertained us by inquiring constantly of the guide, who could not speak a word of English, while the New Englander had not the least knowledge of French, in regard to the probable cost of the Catacombs, and whether they paid as an investment. He was very desirous to know, also, whose skull this one might be, and whose that, evidently under the impression that all the monarchs and historic characters of France were buried there. Our guide, too polite not to pretend to comprehend the inquisitive fellow, gabbled away in bewildering generalities. The Maine man asseverated again and again, that he would give five dollars to know what the Frenchman said; and therefore I assumed to tell him. I informed him, though the Catacombs had cost five hundred millions of dollars, that they paid a larger interest than any property in the country; that they were owned by the Rothschilds, who received one hundred dollars from the government for every skull put into the vaults; and that, as there were six millions of them, he could calculate the profits. “By thunder!” he replied; “no wonder those old Jews are so rich. I never knew before how they made all their money. I wonder if a chap couldn’t buy a little Catacomb stock.”

That mighty charnel-house is not without its tragic history. A number of persons have been lost there in spite of all the precautions against accidents; but these have been very rare of late, because so few persons could obtain admission.

A few years ago, a newly-married couple arrived in Paris from the provinces, having gone to the city on their bridal tour. It was their first visit to the capital, and they were naturally desirous to see its lions. The bride had heard a great deal of the Catacombs, and would not be satisfied without exploring them, albeit her husband endeavored to dissuade her from such a dismal enterprise. She was bent on going, and so they went together. He kept close to her side, constantly fearing she might be lost. He admitted that he [Pg 328] had a presentiment respecting her, and sure enough it was realized.

AN UNHAPPY HONEYMOON.

They had been in the Catacombs something more than an hour, when, having stopped to examine a curious skull, he called for her to look at it, and discovered, to his horror, that she was missing. There were nearly two hundred in the party, and nobody had observed when or where she had disappeared. They all retraced their steps, entered the adjoining passages, and shouted themselves hoarse to attract her attention; but all in vain. Not the least vestige of her could be discovered. The bridegroom was beside himself with grief, declaring that he knew she would never be found, and calling upon the rocks to fall, and relieve him of his misery. It became necessary to drag him from the sepulchral vault, and when this was done, he proved to be a raving maniac. He was sent to an asylum, where such was the violence of his paroxysms night and day, that he died of exhaustion in less than a fortnight. Diligent search was made for the missing bride, though to no purpose. Not the slightest clew was obtained to her fate, and it was finally conjectured that she must have wandered into some tortuous avenue, and fallen into one of the pits which I have described. Such was the melancholy ending of a honeymoon before it had fairly begun.

Another couple, who had been married a number of years, and who had long lived so inharmoniously that they had gone apart several times, entered the Catacombs in the spring of 1853. The wife was missing when the party came out,—it is always the custom to count the number at the beginning and end of the journey, so as to see that none are lost,—and the husband asserted that he had seen her only a few seconds before. Still, she could not be found on that day or the next; but about a fortnight after, a body answering to her description was discovered in one of the narrow passages into which excursionists are never taken. She had evidently been dead some time, and a deep wound on her temple indicated that she might have perished from violence. Her husband was not [Pg 329] free from suspicion of having murdered her; but as she might have been so injured by a fall, he was never openly accused of the crime. The story was generally circulated, and the anti-matrimonial jesters of the capital insinuated that more than a thousand unhappy husbands immediately applied for permission to make the subterranean tour with their wives, in the hope that they might be as fortunate as the ungrieving widower.

IMPRISONED FOR THREE HOURS.

Walking one day on the Boulevards, my companion pointed out to me a well-dressed man, who had a certain prematurely old look, and whose hair was perfectly white. I was told he was only thirty-five, and that, five years before, he had gone into the Catacombs with a young lady to whom he was engaged, and had hidden himself away from the sepulchral pilgrims for a few minutes, that he might learn how his supposed loss would affect his betrothed. He hid himself so very effectually, that three hours elapsed before he could be found. He had in that time entirely surrendered all hope of release, and the physical changes of years had fallen upon him. He has often described his sensations during those hours, and has represented them as the most terrible he could conceive of. (I can imagine, yes, even understand, what they must have been by my own experience.) The revolution in his mental was as great as the revolution in his physical nature; and after his distressing sensations, all his freshness and buoyancy of feeling departed. With a strange morbidity, he associated the young lady on whom he had wished to try the sentimental experiment with the agony he had endured, and though she was as wretched as any woman ought to be when he was missed, he broke off his engagement, and refused to see her again after that eventful day. The gentleman may be living still; for, in spite of appearances, he had an excellent constitution and vigorous health. He was in good circumstances, and went to dine regularly at the Café Anglais, where he had told his story so often, that he had received the name of “Catacombes” Beaudinet. Nothing remarkable except that had ever happened to him, and as he was a Frenchman, and fond [Pg 330] of prattle, his one adventure filled him, and rendered him a bore of the first water.

A MANIA FOR SUICIDE.

As is well known, the French not only have a passion for suicide, but a passion for committing it at certain places, and in certain ways, that seems to be contagious. Forty years ago, a young journalist, while exploring the Catacombs in company with many of his acquaintances, naturally fell to talking on the subject of death, and expressed his opinion that there was nothing awful in it, or even unwelcome. Some of his friends rallied him on this position, and told him he would think very differently if he were conscious that death was near at hand. He stoutly denied that it would change his sentiments in the least, and when nobody appeared to believe him, he suddenly drew a small knife from his pocket, and before any one was aware of his intention, he thrust it into his heart. His suicide, in such a place too, filled his friends with horror, and the press, as he had been a member of the guild, gave detailed accounts of the tragedy, accompanied by strange theories and analyses of the causes that must have led to it. For several weeks, the Paris journals were full of communications on the subject; and they so aroused public attention and curiosity, that in less than six months nearly twenty men stabbed themselves to death in the Catacombs—all of them unquestionably the effect of example.

The Catacombs are the reverse side of the fair picture of Paris. Never since my journey through them have I been able to forget that they lie black and yawning under some of the most beautiful quarters of the capital. When the sunshine is brightest along the Seine, I think of the darkness below. When the city smiles fairest, I recall the millions of grinning skeletons underneath. When the music from the gardens, and the concerts, and the operas sounds sweetest, I fancy mingling among the strains a mournful dirge for the departed and forgotten, so confusedly heaped together in the awful dreariness of the Catacombs.


[Pg 331]

XXII.

PETROLEUM.

OIL SPRINGS.—THE FIRE FIELD OF THE CASPIAN.—THE FIRE WORSHIPPERS.—THE RANGOON DISTRICT.—FIRE WELLS OF THE EAST.—PETROLEUM IN AMERICA.—ITS DISCOVERY AND HISTORY.—OIL FEVER.—ANECDOTES OF SPECULATION.—FORTUNES WON AND LOST.—EXTRAVAGANCES OF THE NOUVEAU RICHE.—THE STORY OF JOHN.—HOW TO GET UP A PARTY.

In various parts of the world there are springs, or natural sources, of inflammable oil. Some of these have been known for thousands of years, but most of them are of recent discovery. The oil which flows from these springs is generally known as “petroleum,” the word being of Latin origin, and signifying rock oil. The most productive oil springs are of artificial origin, and are made by boring into the earth, or rock, in certain localities. The most famous natural deposit of this substance, or anything akin to it, on the surface of the earth, is in the Island of Trinidad, in the West Indies, where it forms a lake of asphaltum and petroleum, which is called Tar Lake. This material is a very good substitute for pitch, and is extensively used for coating vessels, and preserving their timber.

A gentleman who has visited this lake says that it is about a mile from the sea-shore, and the distance around it is about a mile and a half. Near the shore the tar is solid, and appears as if it had cooled, when the liquid was boiling, in large bubbles. As one goes from the shore to the middle of the lake, the temperature increases, the matter becomes softer, and in the centre it boils steadily. At a distance, when first seen, it resembles a lake of water; but when one approaches it, it appears like glass. A strong odor of sulphur arises from it, and can be detected at a distance of eight or ten miles. There [Pg 332] is a bed of coal under the lake. It is of bituminous character, and makes a thick smoke when burning.

THE SACRED FIRE WELLS.

The largest supplies of petroleum are obtained in America. Throughout Europe and Asia there are many petroleum wells. One of the most celebrated localities where they are found is the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. At Baku, on the shores of the Caspian, there are many springs of naphtha and petroleum, and a great many streams of inflammable gases. The abundance of these wells caused the region to be called The Field of Fire; and in the ancient times Baku was known as the Sacred City of the Fire Worshippers. The annual value of this production is about half a million of dollars. About fifteen miles from Baku there is a jet of inflammable gas rising from the rock, and known as the Perpetual Fire. A temple has been built over it, and the fire has been burning for hundreds of years. Pilgrims come from all parts of Asia to visit this sacred well. The place is in charge of a large priesthood, who are supported by the gifts of the devotees.

Another region, quite as wonderful as that of Baku, is the Rangoon district, in India; and a considerable portion of India has been, for thousands of years, supplied by it with rock oil. One authority says, that the number of wells in that district is nearly six hundred, yielding half a million hogsheads of oil annually. Most of the Rangoon wells are artificial, and are sunk in beds of sandy clay, resting on the sandstone, but the wells rarely exceed a hundred feet in depth.

Some parts of Africa are known to contain petroleum springs, and there are many of these springs throughout China and various other regions of the East; Australia and New Zealand claim their share, and it is probable that every country on the globe could, by means of proper borings, be made to yield petroleum.

SENECA OIL AS A MEDICINE.

As before stated, America is the great petroleum-producing country of the world. Rock oil is found in various parts of the American continent, from Hudson’s Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The most prolific oil region in America is in Western Pennsylvania, and [Pg 333] millions of dollars’ worth of petroleum have been obtained there. Thousands of men have made fortunes in petroleum, and a great many have made fortunes in it the wrong way. The early settlers of that region were well aware of the existence of petroleum, having obtained their knowledge of it from the Indians. The Indians used to collect the oil on the shore of Seneca Lake, and it was sold as a medicine, in small quantities, under the name of Seneca Oil. A stream in Alleghany County, New York, was named Oil Creek, on account of the petroleum floating on its surface, and the same name was given to another stream in Venango County, Pennsylvania. On the old maps of that region several localities were marked as affording oil, but it is only within the past thirty years that the oil product has been of any importance.

The substance, as before stated, was used as a medicine, and the inhabitants collected it by spreading blankets on the surface of the stream, and then wringing out the oil which they absorbed. There are indications that the oils were collected long ago, as several deep and very old pits have been discovered. Some people attribute the construction of these pits to the early French settlers, some to the Indians, and some to the predecessors of the Indians. A history of Pennsylvania, published thirty years ago, says that the Indians used the oil to mix with paint in dressing themselves, and refers to an old letter, written by the commander of Fort Duquesne to General Montcalm, describing an assembly of Indians at night on the banks of the creek; and in the midst of their ceremonies they set fire to the oil on the surface of the water. As the flames burst out, the Indians gave wild shouts, which recalled to the writer many of the ceremonies of the ancient fire worshippers at Baku.

BORING FOR SALT WATER.

The early settlers did not collect great quantities of oil, probably not more than twenty-five or thirty barrels a year. In 1845 operations were being conducted for obtaining salt at a place above Pittsburg, on the Alleghany River. Several springs of petroleum were struck, but the value of the material was not known. In Ohio, over fifty years ago, borings [Pg 334] were made for salt water. An account, descriptive of the work, said, “They have sunk two wells, which are now more than four hundred feet deep. One of them affords very strong and pure water, but not in great quantity. The other discharges such vast quantities of petroleum, or, as it is vulgarly called, Seneca oil, and besides is subject to such tremendous explosions of gas, as to force out all the water, and afford nothing but gas for several days. We make but little or no salt.”

This story of the ignorance of the value of petroleum and the disappointment of the salt-makers at finding springs of petroleum instead of salt water, reminds one of the account of the Irishman who complained of his trouble in shooting ducks: “I was not able to fire a shot,” said he. “Every time I got sight of a duck another one swam in between him and me, and I could not kill anything.”

PUMPING WELL ON OIL CREEK, VENANGO COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.

The first movement for utilizing this vast oil product was made, in 1854, by two New Yorkers, who organized a company, and secured the right to a certain spring on Oil Creek; but they made no progress until three years later, when Messrs. Bowditch and Drake, of New Haven, undertook to search for oil. In the winter of 1858 and ‘9, Colonel E. S. Drake completed arrangements for boring into the rock below the bed of the creek. On the 26th of August, 1859, oil was found at a depth of seventy-one feet. The drills sank into a cavity in the rock, and the oil rose to the surface. By means of a pump, four hundred gallons were obtained per day, and a larger pump being introduced, the supply reached one thousand gallons daily. This was the beginning of the borings for oil in that region. Every spot where oil was found, or was likely to be found, was carefully examined, and a great many wells were put down. Up and down the banks of Oil Creek derricks were erected and wells were sunk, and in a year or two the banks of the stream looked as if their natural product had been derricks rather than trees. The ground was perforated like a sieve, and if the holes had been a few feet, instead of a few inches, in diameter, it would have [Pg 337] been dangerous walking round there for fear of tumbling through. The original depth of seventy-one feet was found insufficient, and the borings were frequently conducted to a depth of several hundred feet. I believe one well was sunk over two thousand feet, and a great many wells exceeded a thousand. Many of them never produced oil, and the man who had risked his money to bore these wells saw it vanish without affording anything in return.

FORTUNES WON AND LOST.

A great many stories are told of fortunes made and lost in boring for oil. In some cases men just narrowly missed success, and in others they obtained their success by accident. A story is told of some men who had secured a locality and sunk their drills to a depth of nearly a thousand feet. All their money was gone, and they knew not where to obtain more. There were no indications of oil, their machinery was mortgaged, and the sheriff stood by to secure it. They were about to abandon work; it was near the close of the day, and they had no credit and no means to continue work on the following morning. One of the men proposed to quit about four o’clock in the afternoon. “No,” said the other; “let us die game, and put the machine through till sunset.”

He tore away a piece of the timber supporting the derrick, and threw it into the furnace to give additional speed to the engine. Just as the sun was beginning to dip behind the western hills, the drill suddenly sunk several feet. It was withdrawn from the rock, and a column of oil mixed with salt water followed it. They had “struck oil,” and were saved.

In another instance a company was formed, and had drilled a dozen wells, but without success. Their capital was nearly gone, and they were working on a well which, if unsuccessful, would prove their ruin. Just as they had expended almost their last dollar, and were within twenty-four hours of suspending, they found oil in abundant quantities, and were saved from ruin.

There are many instances of men searching for oil, boring their wells to a considerable depth, and abandoning them in [Pg 338] consequence of the exhaustion of their money, and the discouraging prospects. After abandoning their work, others took possession of the places, and in a few days, sometimes in a few hours, opened wells of great value.

In the oil regions I was once told a story of two men who had been at work a long time, but could get no oil. Their money was exhausted, and they became discouraged. When they had expended their last dollar, and mortgaged everything, they stepped aside and made way for their creditors. As they surrendered their machinery, one of them said,—

“Let us clear out of this place, and go to work by the day until we can get enough to try it again.”

“Hold on,” said the other; “let us sit down and see these fellows work. We will stay a little while, and see if they get along as fast as we did.”

So the two men remained, mainly for the reason they did not know what else to do.

A LUCKY STROKE.

The new comers drilled away at the well, which was already several hundred feet deep, and in half an hour after they began working they found oil. When the tools were withdrawn, the well began flowing a hundred or more barrels per day. Imagine the disgust of the former owners!

It was the same in the oil regions with regard to disappointments that it has been in California and other countries containing mineral treasures. A case like the one just described is almost an exact parallel of a case in California, where two men, working a week or more on a claim where they hardly made money enough to pay their expenses, abandoned it in disgust. Two others stepped in, and on the very day they took possession, found a lump of gold worth several thousands of dollars. In another instance some Americans abandoned a claim, which was immediately occupied by half a dozen Chinese. The Chinese found a rich deposit of gold within six inches of where one of the Americans had abandoned the use of his pick and shovel.

SALTING A WELL.

Petroleum wells can be “salted” or “baited,” just as gold or other mines can be salted, and in the early days of the oil [Pg 339] fever, the baiting of petroleum wells was by no means an uncommon thing. Sometimes it would be done by one of the owners of a well in order to defraud other owners. For instance, Smith and Brown have entered into partnership to put down a well. They join their money together, buy the necessary drills and machinery, and go to work. The well is down one or two hundred feet. Smith gets tired of it. He knows that Brown has more money, and so thinks that he will sell out. While Brown is asleep, Smith gets a barrel or so of petroleum, and pours it into the well. Next morning, when they go to work, the condition of the hole is tested as usual, and of course there are indications of petroleum. If a barrel has been poured into the hole it is filled for quite a long distance. Smith has taken care to be away at the time, and appears in perfect ignorance. If Brown is honest he will tell Smith, on his reappearance, of the rich supply they have found; but the chances are two to one that Brown will say nothing, except to suggest carelessly that the well is not very promising, and ask Smith what he will give for his share. Smith says, with equal carelessness, “I don’t want to buy, but I will sell my interest for three thousand dollars.”

Perhaps he puts it at a higher figure. He knows the length of Brown’s purse, and goes for its contents. The result is, that Brown secretly chuckles over his speculation, and buys the well.

Smith goes on his way rejoicing, and Brown, still more rejoicing, stays where he is. He knows that a few inches more of depth to the well will yield abundant oil, and he works away very earnestly; but somehow he keeps on drilling for a long time, and at last awakens to the consciousness that he has been sold.

A great many petroleum wells have been salted and sold in this way, but it sometimes happens that the would-be swindler gets the worst of his bargain. I knew one case, in 1863, where a man baited a well in the above way, and sold it. He laughed that evening over his sharp trick; but he laughed less the next morning, when he passed the well and saw that the [Pg 340] tools had been withdrawn, and the well was flowing at the rate of three hundred barrels a day. A few hours after the purchasers entered upon their work, they struck oil and were happy.

A NEAT SWINDLE.

A trick that has been practised in the oil regions to some extent is to convert a well which has no oil in it into a genuine flowing well. I have known this to be done by conducting a pipe underground from a tank at a genuine well a few hundred yards away. The pipe opens into the baited well, and it can readily be seen that with a good “head” on the pipe the well will be a perfect flowing well, to all intents and purposes. Men are engaged in barrelling the substance, and a visitor can see with his own eyes the amount of the yield. If he wants to buy a well, nobody has any great desire to sell, and he may have difficulty in buying the whole thing outright; but he can get an interest in it for a comparatively low figure. Sometimes he may buy one man’s interest, and then another man’s, and he thinks he has struck a very fine bargain. But during the night, after his purchase, the oil ceases flowing, and he finds that his property is worthless.

Another swindle of the same sort is to have a tank filled with oil, and a pipe run through one of its supporting posts, and under ground into the well. The pumping machinery is kept at work, and it may be pumping, say, at the rate of one hundred barrels a day. But all the time that the pump is working, the oil is running into the well, and it may run in and be pumped out again and again. The operation is a simple one, and well calculated to deceive.

FRAUDULENT OIL COMPANIES.

A great many petroleum companies were organized at one time, which had no existence beyond the paper one that they had in New York and other cities. Some of these companies gave most brilliant promises. I remember one which printed a flaming prospectus, and announced that there was room on its territory for three thousand first-class wells. No one could doubt the truth of this assertion, but its territory happened to be on the top of a mountain, where three hundred thousand wells might have been sunk without finding a [Pg 341] drop of oil. The projectors of this concern sold a great deal of stock, but I believe they never declared a dividend of a single dollar, or even took the trouble to sink a well. Their money was made by defrauding their patrons rather than by doing any work in an honest way. Millions of dollars were sunk in oil speculations whose investors never obtained any return whatever. The public heard of the wells that yielded enormously, but they never heard of the thousands of wells that never amounted to anything.

So great was the rage for oil speculation during the height of the fever, that a well would be sunk where there was the least chance or prospect of obtaining oil. Suppose a man found a spring of pure water; he might pour a gallon or so of oil on the surface, and then carelessly, and with apparent innocence, lead a stranger to the vicinity. The stranger soon smells the oil, examines the water, and buys the spring at a high price.

One day a farmer broke a kerosene lamp in his cellar. A few hours later he admitted a stranger who wanted to buy some potatoes. The stranger discovered the oil, forgot about the potatoes, and immediately opened negotiations for buying the house and the land on which it stood. He paid about three times as much as they were worth, and the farmer went away happy.

A man, who thought crude petroleum a good remedy for freckles, one day bathed his face in that article, and lay down to sleep. As he tells the story, he was waked in half an hour by a New York speculator who was trying to sink a shaft into his ear.

THE SPRING THAT FLOWED WHISKEY.

A story is told in California of a man owning a farm which he wanted to sell. He had heard of the petroleum dodge, and thought he would try the same plan in another way. So one day, when a lot of speculators from San Francisco were at his house, he poured a gallon of whiskey into a small spring, and then led the speculators in that direction. The farmer spoke of the spring, said that he made no use of it, as he had an abundance of water near his house. He had never observed [Pg 342] the spring except to remark its peculiar color. He roused the curiosity of the strangers so that one of them tasted the water, winked at his neighbor, and stepped aside. Before night the farmer had sold his place at a high price, and the speculators had organized a company for supplying the California market with an excellent article of whiskey cocktail. But somehow their enterprise never succeeded.

The immense fortunes made from petroleum speculations were almost marvellous; a man might be poor to-day and worth a million dollars to-morrow. In the morning he could not raise enough money to buy a breakfast, and at noon his credit would be good for the purchase of a first-class steamship. A man might be working as a day laborer this week, and his wife would be taking in washing at a dollar a dozen. Six days later he would be a millionnaire clad in broadcloth and fine linen, and wearing a diamond like a calcium light, while his wife would be arrayed in silks of the most costly character, and wearing them as uneasily as a bull-dog wears a pair of trousers tied around his neck.

A good story is told of a woman one day selecting some diamonds in a jewelry store on Broadway. Two other women were standing near and observing her motions. One of them suggested to her friend, “Evidently shoddy.”

The diamond purchaser raised her eyes for a minute, and said, “No, madam; petroleum.”

A great many stories are told of a youth in the oil regions who was brought up on a farm, and who, for a year or more, after the outbreak of the oil fever, was driving a team at fifteen dollars a month. He had a grandmother, as most young men have, but she was unlike a great many grandmothers, as she was enormously rich. She owned a large farm, and leased it to speculators who wished to search for oil. She always stipulated for half the oil, and her farm was so productive that she had a magnificent income, and accumulated money at a very rapid rate. A common report was, that she had eleven barrels and four trunks full of greenbacks.

THE MILLIONNAIRE YOUTH.

One day she did as all good grandmothers do,—she died. [Pg 343] The youth, whom I will call John, as that was half his name, became heir to her vast estate. He dropped into two millions of cash, and into the farm, which yielded about two thousand dollars a day. He had never had so much money before in all his life. Ox-driving at the compensation he received would require a long time for the accumulation of such a fortune.

He thought the matter over, and determined to have a good time. He engaged several youths of his acquaintance to assist him in wasting his substance in riotous living. The party went first to Cleveland. At the railway station they had some dispute about a carriage, and so John bought a carriage to take them to their hotel. When he reached the hotel he concluded that that was not the kind of carriage he wanted, and so gave it away. He secured all the best rooms in the house, ordered the best supper the proprietor could furnish, and the party went to bed on the floor as drunk as a quartette of badgers. They rose the next morning with very large heads on their shoulders, and were occupied during the forenoon in removing their Mansard roofs by means of soda water and cocktails.

John sent for the best team in Cleveland, and obtained a four-horse one, with a carriage gorgeous enough for a third-rate emperor. He picked out one of the drivers round the front of the hotel, told him they were going to stay in Cleveland a few days, and if this driver would take the team and drive them round during their stay, he should have the whole concern, at their departure, for his trouble.

John next proposed to charter a grog-shop, and another institution which shall be nameless, for the exclusive use of himself and friends during their stay. They made things lively for a few days, and then left for Philadelphia by way of Buffalo.

They stopped at Niagara Falls, and proposed hiring a boat-load of people to be sent over the falls for their amusement; but, somehow, they could not find anybody willing to make the jump. John wanted to buy the Falls and run them as a [Pg 344] private show, but he changed his mind and continued his journey.

WASTING HIS SUBSTANCE.

In Philadelphia, and subsequently in New York, the party was guilty of various extravagances, and sometimes displayed absolute ingenuity in getting rid of their money. On one occasion they treated a party of fifty or more street laborers to champagne, filling each of them up to his chin, and sending them home blind drunk. They bought horses and carriages to give away next day. They chartered hotels and other public resorts for their exclusive occupation. They used to give away ten-dollar bills, and sometimes hundred-dollar bills, as gratuities to servants.

John seemed to be troubled to know what to do with his money, and it gave him more anxiety than he was ever blessed with during the days of his ox-driving experience. I believe he died after a year or so of this new life. It was too much for him; he could endure poverty, but he could not enjoy or endure such an accumulation of wealth.

There was a case similar to his of a young man growing suddenly rich through petroleum, who started on a riotous career, and managed to get heavily in debt. The wells gave out, and left him without money, and no prospect of obtaining any. In a year from the time of his becoming so suddenly wealthy, he was at work again as a day laborer, and meditating upon the uncertainties of life in the oil regions.

On one occasion an oil speculator came to New York with fifty thousand dollars or more in cash, and claiming that he had a flowing well yielding two hundred barrels a day. In less than a fortnight he had gambled away his money, sold his wells, and the last I saw of him he was on his way to the station-house for default of paying the amount of his hotel bill. He was kept there a short time, and then released. I believe the hotel never received anything from him.

A great many extravagances have been committed by the petroleum aristocracy. Persons suddenly raised from poverty to affluence are nearly always anxious to effect an entrance into society. They take fine houses, and sometimes they [Pg 345] manage to get people of repute to visit them, though not often.

GETTING UP A PARTY.

Three or four years ago a family that had suddenly grown rich determined to give a party that should introduce them to society. They made preparations, and sent out a great many cards of invitation. They ignored their former acquaintances altogether. They selected the names of their guests from the City Directory, taking those that were prominent in the social world. They even pretended to an aristocratic descent, and I believe their card of invitation bore a crest of some sort or other.

The evening of the entertainment came. Madame, almost smothered in silks, with a large amount of store hair, and decked with diamonds enough to set up a jewelry store, was all ready to receive her guests. The daughters were in their best, and expected to make a dozen conquests apiece in the course of the evening. A magnificent supper had been prepared, and a troupe of servants were awaiting the commencement of their duties. Eight o’clock was the hour fixed for the party.

At eight o’clock there was not a guest in the house. “Surely,” said Madame, “they will be here very soon.” Half past eight o’clock came. Nobody. Nine o’clock. Nobody. Half past nine. Nobody; and then ten o’clock, and still Nobody. It was then the great truth stood revealed that the party was a failure.

The servants, who had been standing about with their tongues in their cheeks, were commissioned to eat what they could of the gorgeous banquet, and the aspirants to social honors smothered their sorrow, and made no more attempts, for that season at least, to get into society.


[Pg 346]

XXIII.

WINE AND BEER CELLARS.

WINE CELLARS.—HOW THEY ARE MADE.—PLACES FOR STORING BEER.—THEIR EXTENT.—THE GREATEST WINE CASK IN THE WORLD.—ITS CAPACITY.—PECULIARITIES OF WINE AND BEER VAULTS.—VISITING A CELLAR IN POLAND.—CURIOUS SIGHTS.—THE ANTIQUITY OF THE BOTTLES.—WHAT A VISITOR DID.—THE RESULT OF TOO MUCH WINE.—A DANGEROUS BRIDGE.

A German resident of New York, engaged in the manufacture of beer, visited the excavations at Hallett’s Point, near the upper end of Manhattan Island, and, on viewing the large space which had been dug out of the solid rock, exclaimed, “What a capital place for storing lager beer.” Many a wine and beer manufacturer has made the same remark on visiting the Mammoth Cave, or other huge caverns. The best places for storing malt or vinous liquors are under ground, for the reason that an equal temperature can be maintained at all times; summer’s heat and winter’s cold make but very little change of the thermometer in the depths of the earth.

PLACES FOR WINE UNDER GROUND.

In various parts of the world, particularly in Europe, there are vast underground spaces specially designed for the storage of wine, beer, and similar beverages. Nearly all these articles require to be kept some time before they are fit for use; especially is this the case with wines, some of which improve steadily during a year, or for ten, or twenty, fifty, or it may be for a hundred, or five hundred years. Some of the wine cellars of Europe have been hewn out of the solid rock, or dug out of the solid earth, at vast expense, for the simple purpose of storage. Other wine cellars were, originally, quarries, or mines; and after they had been abandoned by the miners, they were taken up by the wine and beer manufacturers, and adapted to their present uses. The same is [Pg 347] the case in America. Reference is made elsewhere to the cellars of Dubuque, Iowa, which are nothing more nor less than exhausted lead mines. At several places on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers there are cellars which originally were quarries or mines. Their natural treasures were taken from them, and they are now filled with artificial ones.

In California, particularly in the Sonoma Valley, are some wine cellars which have been dug out of the rock for no other purpose than for that of storage. Some years ago I visited one of these establishments with a small party, and the proprietor, in order to give us an idea of the temperature, shut us up a little while, and left us to ourselves. The place was not cold, but it was cool compared with the outer atmosphere, and we very soon began to sneeze. Had we been kept there for any length of time, I suspect that we would have had sore throats and all that sort of thing; but they were prevented by the select assortment of liquids which the wine manufacturer supplied to us with such liberality that some of his visitors’ legs became very much entangled, and refused to perform the duty usually required of them.

All through Europe, and particularly in France and Germany, there are cellars of great extent. The wine makers of France and Germany are able to store away thousands of casks, and other thousands of bottles, every year without any difficulty. The same is the case with the beer makers of North and South Germany, particularly in the vicinity of Munich and Vienna. There is one wine cellar on the Moselle, which is said to be capable of containing a million bottles and twenty or thirty thousand casks of wine at one time, and I have heard of one wine cellar even larger than this. The capacity of the beer vaults of Munich is, I think, greater than that of the German and French wine vaults. It is certain that a storage capacity sufficient to supply the annual consumption of beer in Munich, Vienna, or Berlin, must approach the dimensions of a small city. It is well known that the average German can get outside of a great quantity of beer in the course of twelve months. As an illustration, I may mention [Pg 348] that the day before writing this paragraph I was told of a strike among some German laborers in an establishment near New York. Their strike was not for wages, but for beer. They were satisfied with the pay they received, but not with the quantity of beer furnished to them. Their employer allowed them two five-gallon kegs daily for every three men, and in their strike they demanded a daily keg of beer per man. They said that two thirds of a five-gallon keg were not sufficient, but they would manage to get along with five gallons each per day. The employer agreed with them, and they resumed work as soon as he consented to their demand.

FAMOUS BEER DRINKERS.

It is on record that one individual German drank one hundred and fifty glasses of beer per day, and I believe there was an instance in Cincinnati, a few years ago, where a German consumed, on a wager, one hundred and eighty-eight glasses between sunrise and sunset of a summer’s day. It is not fair to take these ambulatory beer casks as an indication of the drinking abilities of the Teutons, but it may safely be assumed that an ordinary community of Germans can get outside of an average of twenty glasses a day per man without feeling it.

THE GREATEST WINE CASK.

It is not my province to describe the process of making beer or wine, as the work is mainly performed above ground, but simply to allude to the space where these beverages are stored. I have visited a fair proportion of them in various parts of the world, and they are all pretty much alike. They are simply large vaults or caves, sometimes arched over to prevent the falling in of the earth, while in other cases they are cut out of the solid rock, and require no arching. Sometimes a wine cellar will consist of a single vault, with regular pillars or arches sustaining its roof, while in other cases there will be a great many galleries, or tunnels, running off in different directions. Sometimes the casks containing the wine or beer will be of a size that will permit of their being rolled about, while in other cases the casks or tuns will be so large that they always remain stationary, and are filled and emptied without being moved from their places. An example of this is the celebrated tun of Heidelberg, constructed in 1751, [Pg 349] and capable of containing forty-nine thousand gallons. It has been filled but two or three times since its construction, and the process of filling occupied on each occasion two or three weeks. It is sufficiently large to allow the erection of a ball-room upon it, and several festivals and dances have been held there. It is the largest cask which has ever been made, or probably ever will be made.

The preparation and preservation of wine require great care, and, above all things, an even temperature. Many a cask of wine has been spoiled by being kept too hot or too cold; and this is one reason why the preference is shown by wine makers for underground places of storage. Apart from this fact is the saving that can be made by utilizing the space under the earth where the surface is of great value.

As before stated, a visit to one wine cellar is very much like a visit to another. The stranger is led or guided among rows of casks and bottles, and sometimes his underground journey will amount to a mile, or two or three miles, of linear distance. He wonders how the demand can be so great for this material, just as a countryman wonders, as he walks through the market of a large city, how all the beef, pork, and mutton can find purchasers. He may go through a market and think the supply exceeds the demand, just as when he walks the streets for an hour or two, and sees the crowds of people, he will wonder where all this mass of humanity can find sufficient food. In the same way a person unfamiliar with the business may have alternate surprises about the supply and consumption of wine.

A WINE CELLAR IN WARSAW.

One of the first wine cellars which I visited in Europe was in the famous city of Warsaw, Poland. I had entered Europe by the back door, as it were, coming from Asia over the Ural Mountains; and consequently the first ancient city I found where there was any wine trade of significance was Warsaw. A travelling friend and myself were under the guidance of an officer serving on the staff of the governor of Poland, and while pointing out the curiosities of the city, he suggested taking us to one of the oldest wine cellars in [Pg 350] Europe. I think he said there were a few, but only a few, which had greater antiquity.

Our party was small,—only three of us altogether,—and we drove in a single carriage to a very unattractive place in the Jews’ quarter of Warsaw. We entered a narrow and rickety-looking building, which gave no promise of the wealth stored away beneath it. The officer was acquainted with the proprietor of the place, so that we easily obtained permission and escort for our underground journey. The proprietor himself took charge of us, and was accompanied by a servant to assist in showing us round, and possibly to see that we did not stow away in our pockets any of the valuable bottles in the cellar.

We descended a narrow stairway, so narrow, in fact, that we went singly, and so low that we were obliged to stoop to avoid hitting our heads. The place was hewn out of the rock on which Warsaw is built, and it was arched over to sustain the weight resting upon it. Reaching the floor of the cellar, we were first led between rows of casks, and the ages of the casks were stated as we walked among them. One was pointed out that had been in the cellar thirty years, and another that had been there two or three times as long. They were covered with dust and cobwebs, and looked as if good for a much longer stay. Over our heads we could hear the rumbling of carriages in the streets, just as one can hear the carriages in exploring the ruins of Herculaneum.

Cask after cask was pointed out, until our eyes were wearied, and we were then taken to the old cellar where the bottles were stored.

Our guide explained that the cellar we had just visited was a modern one, only two hundred and sixty years old. The old cellar, he said, was made in the days when Poland was a kingdom, and more powerful by far than the now great Muscovite empire. I do not remember positively the age he gave it, but I think it was some nine hundred or a thousand years old. I was too busy looking among the bottles to take particular notice of what he said, and am not willing to trust [Pg 351] too much to my memory, especially on the occasion of visiting a cellar like this. The real interest of the place began when we entered the locality where the bottles were stored. Here were little shelves—I say little, though many of them were three or four feet wide—covered with bottles, some standing upright, while others were carefully packed away. There was one shelf where the bottles had been lying undisturbed for twenty years; another where they had not been touched for thirty, another for forty, and another for fifty years. Above most of the shelves a date was chiselled into the rock, and the date, as I was told, indicated the time when the wine was bottled and placed there. These chiselled places were, however, comparatively few, as the most common designation was that of a date cut in a small piece of board which rested above the bottles.

OLD BOTTLES OF WINE.

In some places the dust of ages had almost obliterated the dates, but our guide seemed to know them all from recollection. I remember one date of 1750, another of 1634, and I believe there was one board dated somewhere about 1590. Shelves were pointed out which were said to contain wine that had not been moved or disturbed in any way for three hundred years. I do not vouch for the truth of the statement, but merely give it as I heard it.

It was interesting to observe how the dust and cobwebs had gathered about the bottles, and also to observe the shapes of the bottles. The more recent shapes were those familiar to all drinkers and friends of drinkers of the present day. Then there were short, thick-set bottles, while others were dumpy and very long in the neck, reminding one of an overfed goose or a camel suffering with the dropsy. Some of the earlier bottles indicated that the art of blowing glass was not well known at the time of their construction, as they were badly shaped, and frequently had deep indentations in their sides. Some of them could be called flasks, rather than bottles, as they had no necks at all, and were round at both ends. All the bottles that I examined were carefully sealed, and I was shown several bottles with long, tapering necks, [Pg 352] that had been tightly closed by melting their ends in a flame after the wine had been placed inside, just as the tube of a thermometer is closed after it has been filled with quicksilver or alcohol. In order to get at the wine enclosed in this way, it is necessary to break away the top of the neck.

ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS A BOTTLE.

The cellar was perfectly dry, so that no moisture collected anywhere. I may remark, by the way, that a dry cellar is always desirable. There was no moisture, but there was a liberal supply of dust and cobwebs. On bottles that had been in their places only a few years, there would be a slight film or covering of dust. Those that could boast of twenty years, and those that had remained undisturbed a hundred or two hundred years, were covered so thickly that it was almost impossible to distinguish the bottles from the mass which covered them. I saw one shelf—I forget its age—where not a bottle was visible; it seemed to be a mass of cobwebs, and nothing more. To judge from its appearance, I would not have given twenty-five cents for the contents of that shelf; but if I had offered twenty-five hundred dollars, my offer would have been spurned with disdain. I asked the value of the wine on this shelf, and was told that it was twenty guineas a bottle. I did not want any of it at that price, but I presume that there are plenty of men in the world who are ready to pay it.

After we had seen the curiosities of the place, the proprietor insisted that we should make a practical test of his wine. He did not open any of the twenty-guinea stuff, and we could not expect him to, though I secretly hoped he would consider himself sufficiently honored by our presence to do the handsome thing, and break a bottle or two of it just to give us a taste. The best he would do was to open a ten-guinea bottle from another shelf. It is not every day you can smack your lips over wine worth fifty dollars in gold a bottle, and we sipped it very carefully, and allowed it to trickle not too rapidly down our throats. I found it a very agreeable wine; it had a rich and fruity, though rather sweetish taste. I know nothing to which it can be compared, and therefore I will not make any comparison.

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WINE TASTING AND ITS EFFECT.

The proprietor treated us on the descending scale, for the next bottle he brought us was a five-guinea one. It was only forty or fifty years old, a very juvenile stuff, but we were unable to discover any great difference between it and the other. Two or three kinds of this wine were shown us, and then he brought all sorts of new wines just in the cellar, that is to say, they had only been there some five or ten, or it may be twenty years. Other wines were brought forward for our deglutition; and after a time the thing became a little monotonous, and I suspected that we might get our heads and feet a little tangled. I suggested that we had other business to attend to, and had better not indulge in the wine business any longer; but the proprietor was polite, and was constantly offering us just one more sample.

“Have the gentlemen taste this one,” he would say to the officer who accompanied us, and at the urgent request of the officer we would indulge the proprietor.

The officer repeatedly stated, on presenting the wine, that that would be the last; but somehow there was always something new to be tasted, and something that we could not decline without giving offence. Before we got through, we tasted nearly every wine in the cellar, and finally asked to be let off.

When we reached the foot of the stairway, we found it had shrunken greatly in size. We had descended without difficulty, but now it was necessary to move up edgewise, and I firmly believe, that if we had remained below much longer, the shrinking process would have made the staircase so narrow, and the roof above so low, that we should have been unable to get out, and might have staid there forever. Think of one’s terrible fate in being shut up in a wine cellar to die.

TURNING AN AMERICAN HEAD.

My companion wanted to sit down on the foot of the stairs and go to sleep, but I told him it was not a custom in Poland on visiting wine cellars, or, so far as I knew, in any other country. He then asked me to write to his friends, if I succeeded in getting out, and tell them to send money enough to buy out the concern to take it home to America. [Pg 354] He would take cellar and all if he had to carry the whole city of Warsaw and the Ex-King of Poland in his trunk. He had a friend at New York who would just like this sort of thing. He would be willing to sell all his interest in the United States if he could only assemble his friends in that cellar, and get them as blind drunk as he was. I saw that he was wandering mentally, although unable to wander much physically, owing to the extreme suppleness of his legs. He began to chide me for taking so much wine, and said I ought to have followed his example, and drank nothing.

The situation became alarming. There was the staircase growing narrower until it resembled a loophole in the wall of a fortress. I was very much inclined to sit down with my friend, and wait until the place grew larger. While thinking what to do, we were roused by the appeal of our officer comrade to taste of another wine, a very superior article from Hungary. We told him politely that we must refuse, intimated that we should feel much better without it, and if he could only plan some way by which we could get out of that cellar and reach our hotel, we should be very much obliged.

He led the way up stairs. We observed that luckily they were large enough for him to ascend without difficulty, and finally we reached the space above. Once there we breathed more easily. We thanked our host for the attention he had shown us; we thanked him by shaking his hand, and keeping our mouths closed. To thank him in English would do no good, as he did not understand our language, and we were a little doubtful of our ability to pronounce our words correctly. I am sorry that my friend made so free with this ancient wine, as it totally incapacitated him from saying a word in Polish or any other language with which he was not familiar.

When we reached the open air we found that our heads became level again, and in a little while the effect of our wine-sampling excursion had passed away. Assuming the dignity of a couple of emperors, we rode to our hotel, took a lunch, and felt better.

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All over the world it is a trick of the proprietors of wine cellars to put their visitors through the system of sampling, so that, drink as sparingly as they may,—a teaspoonful at a time only,—they will be very much confused in body and mind before they emerge from the clutches of their entertainers.

A DANGEROUS BRIDGE.

In one of the Western States I am acquainted with a wine dealer whose cellar is entered by crossing a narrow bridge over a brook. The bridge is ten or twelve feet long, about three feet wide, and has no railing. I have heard him say that no visitor to his wine vaults ever yet walked that plank on his return from the cellar without tumbling into the brook. From what I have heard of his establishment, I think he is not very far from the truth. Many a visitor to that cellar has received an involuntary plunge bath as he came out into the open air.


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XXIV.

THE BASTILLE.

ITS HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION.—THREE AMERICANS SEARCHING FOR IT.—A FRENCH JOKE AT THEIR EXPENSE.—HOW PRISONERS WERE RECEIVED AND TREATED.—HORRIBLE DUNGEONS.—THE OUBLIETTES.—CRUELTIES OF THE BASTILLE.—THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK.—HIS ROMANTIC STORY.—DESTRUCTION OF THE BASTILLE.

One of the most famous dungeons or prisons in the world was the Bastille of Paris.

It was a state prison and citadel of the city, was built in the year 1369, and destroyed by the mob in the beginning of the revolution of 1789, or more than four centuries after its construction.

It is a curious fact that no plan of the Bastille as originally constructed is in existence, neither is there any plan extant of the Bastille as it appeared at the time of its destruction. Somehow the kings of France were averse to giving the public much information about this famous prison of state. They appear to have been satisfied with the knowledge that the place existed, and that those who displeased them could be shut up there, and they never troubled themselves to know the exact plan or model of the concern.

There has been a great deal of exaggeration concerning the Bastille, and many stories have been told about it which had little or no foundation. After all, there was really no need of exaggeration, for the atrocities committed within the walls of the Bastille are quite horrible enough for all practical purposes.

THE GRAND HOTEL, PARIS.

In ordinary life the French are a quiet, harmless people, and they are the last in the world whom you would suspect of [Pg 359] atrocities; but every revolution in France has been full of horror, whether in past times or in the present. It has been said that you may take the mildest Frenchman in the world, give him a place of authority where his acts will not be called into question, and the chances are great that he will conduct himself in a very savage manner. I do not assert this of my own knowledge, but leave the reader to judge whether the history of the French prisons and French tyranny does not, in some degree at least, corroborate the statement.

The day after my arrival in Paris, a friend proposed that we should visit the Bastille. We were talking upon some topic, and I had actually stepped inside the carriage with him and given the order to the driver before it occurred to me that the Bastille did not exist, and had not existed for several scores of years. When I remembered this, and told my companion, he said,—

“I came very near selling you. I want to get even on selling myself.”

SEARCHING FOR THE BASTILLE.

Then he told me a story of his experience in searching for the Bastille. Bear in mind that he was an editor, familiar with history (editors of course know everything), and if he had given the subject a moment’s thought it would have occurred to him that there was no Bastille in Paris worth mentioning. Let me tell his story as he told it.

“There were three of us who came over in the steamer, landed at Brest, and came to Paris. We arrived here in the evening. We put up at the Grand Hotel, and the next morning started out to ‘do’ the city. The first thing we saw as we stepped out of the hotel door to the Boulevard was an omnibus, on which was the sign ‘Place de la Bastille.’ We mounted to the top of this omnibus, and away we rode down the Boulevard.

VERDANT AMERICANS.

“By and by we stopped near a large, open square, with a monument in the centre. The conductor motioned us to get off, and said something which we did not understand, but took to mean that this was the end of his route. Moreover, the omnibus turned round, and we understood pretty well [Pg 360] that we must get ashore. I was the only one who could speak French, and I couldn’t speak much of it. As we left the omnibus, I said to the conductor, ‘Monsieur, où est la Bastille?

“The conductor stared at us, smiled, and turned away. Then we stepped on the sidewalk and looked around. Close by us was a ‘Restaurant de la Bastille,’ and on the corner we could see the sign of ‘Place de la Bastille.’ There was a cake shop close by, and that had a sign which indicated that it was the cake shop ‘de la Bastille.’

“Then we stopped a well-dressed Frenchman, and said to him, ‘Monsieur, où est la Bastille?’ The fellow was too polite to laugh in our faces, as the conductor did, but he said not a word, and walked off. I saw, though, when his back was turned towards us, that he was shaking his sides, and evidently grinning.

“Then we stepped into the restaurant, and I said to a waiter, ‘Garçon, où est la Bastille?’ and that infernal waiter laughed in my face. I said to the other boys, ‘These confounded Frenchmen round the Bastille are all fools. I thought Frenchmen were polite, but these fellows have no politeness at all.’ We climbed out of that restaurant, and went out on the square on a Bastille hunt.

“There was no more sign of a prison than there is inside your boot. We walked round that square about ten minutes, when it got into one of our heads,—not into mine though,—that the Bastille had been destroyed in 1789. I had nothing more to say, except that we were the three biggest fools in all Paris. Here we had been hunting round, boring everybody, and asking them to show us a prison which was destroyed eighty years before, as we perfectly well knew, only we did not happen to recollect it. We went back to the Grand Hotel, and the next time we went out sight-seeing we made sure that the thing we inquired for was in existence.”

DESCRIPTION OF THE BASTILLE.

The Bastille was an irregular building in shape, as the original construction, in the time of Charles V. had been added to by each successive monarch. It had as its principal [Pg 361] feature eight round towers, connected by curtains of masonry, and was encircled by a ditch a hundred and twenty-five feet wide. This ditch was generally dry, and was surrounded on its outside by a wall sixty feet high, to which was attached a wooden gallery running round the whole inner circumference of the ditch opposite the castle. This gallery was called the “Rounds.” Sentinels were stationed on these Rounds, and it was their duty to be perpetually in motion, in order to discover any movement of the prisoners for escaping. The Bastille had a governor and a staff of assistants, and it had a garrison of one hundred men, with their proper officers.

Whenever a prisoner was brought to the Bastille, his trunks and clothing were carefully examined, in order to discover whether he had any concealed papers or weapons. The advocate Linguet, who had been detained there for three years, says,—

“The new comer is as much surprised as alarmed to find himself subjected to a personal examination by four men, whose appearance seems to belie their functions; men clad in uniforms, which leads one to look for a regard to decencies, and wearing decorations which presuppose a service which endures no stain. This man takes from him his money, that he may have no means of corrupting any one of their number, his jewelry on the same consideration, his papers for fear he should find any resource against the tedium to which he is henceforth devoted, and his knives and scissors are taken from him for fear he should commit suicide or assassinate his jailers.”

After this examination he was led to the cell intended for him to occupy. These cells were situated in all the towers. The walls were at least twelve feet in thickness at the top, and at the base they were thirty or forty feet. Each cell had a small window defended by three iron gratings, one within, the second without, and the third in the middle thickness of the masonry.

The bars of this grating were an inch thick. No fire was [Pg 362] allowed, and there was no glass in the windows, so that in winter these cells were like ice-houses, and in summer they were hot and damp.

CHARACTER OF THE DUNGEONS.

The dungeons were nineteen feet below the level of the court-yard, and five below that of the ditch. They had no openings but a narrow loophole communicating with the ditch. The inhabitant of these dungeons was deprived of air and daylight, and lived in a damp and infected atmosphere. Oftentimes the floor of his cell was covered with mud, and he found himself surrounded by reptiles, rats, and other disagreeable creeping or walking things.

The written history of the Bastille shows that these horrible cells were frequently used for the confinement of prisoners in order to make their existence as terrible as possible. There is a tradition that iron cages were used for the confinement of prisoners, but writers who have given their attention to this subject say that nothing of the sort was discovered at the time the Bastille was destroyed. There is also a tradition in regard to the Oubliettes, which are described as holes into which condemned prisoners were lowered, where they should languish and die forgotten. There is also a tradition in regard to a Question Chamber, in which suspected prisoners were tortured to make them confess their guilt, or to reveal the names of their accomplices.

PLACE DE LA BASTILLE, PARIS.
THE BASTILLE.—ERECTED IN 1369.

The Bastille could contain fifty state prisoners in solitary cells, and by putting two persons in one cell the number could be raised to a hundred. Sometimes as many as three hundred persons were in the Bastille at once, and in that case they were densely crowded. According to history the prisoners were wretchedly fed, but it should be said, in justice to the government, that this state of affairs was probably due to the frauds of the subordinates rather than to any intended cruelty on the part of the government, as the latter generally made liberal allowances for the support of the prisoners of state. One writer asserts that in his time the governor of the Bastille had a great number of prisoners, many of whom were paid for at twenty-five francs a day, and that their [Pg 365] subsistence did not cost as many sous. There was a regular tariff for expenses for the table, lights, and washing of all prisoners, according to their rank. A prince was allowed fifty francs a day, a marshal of France thirty-six francs, a lieutenant general thirty-four francs, and so on down to the inferior prisoners, who were allowed two francs and a half.

TREATMENT OF PRISONERS.

A prisoner might be examined at the moment of his arrest, or not until weeks, months, or years afterwards. He had no mode of offering any defence, or of telling his friends where he was, or why he was detained; and sometimes he did not himself know these facts. He was allowed no books or papers; he could not communicate with anybody except by special permission. He could not be visited except on an order from the lieutenant of police, and at such visits all the conversation must be in the presence of an officer of the prison, and no allusion could be made to the cause of detention, the term of imprisonment, or any topic of that sort.

The treatment of prisoners varied greatly. Some, whom it was desired to kill by slow torture, without trial, or even without a hearing, were shut up in the horrible dungeons already described, where they were fed on the worst possible food until death relieved them from their suffering. Others, whom it was not designed to punish or destroy, but simply to detain, enjoyed every comfort, and a great deal of luxury. They had large rooms, fine furniture, excellent and abundant food, plenty of wine, books, and papers, could have their own servants, could be visited by their friends or families; in fact, could do pretty nearly as they pleased, except to go out of the Bastille.

Sometimes the Bastille was under governors who had a good deal of the milk of human kindness in their composition, and sometimes it was under the control of men who had as little feeling and sympathy as a stone. Prisoners were well or badly treated according as the governor was good or bad in character, and also according to the instructions which had been received concerning their treatment. The most horrible feature about the Bastille was the mode of sending persons [Pg 366] to it. No man could be safe from imprisonment there, and he was subject to the whims and caprices of the minister of state, whom no appeals could reach, and by whom no call for justice would be heard or heeded. If any man incurred the displeasure of the minister, or of any one who had sufficient influence to secure an order for his arrest under the royal seal, he might be taken to the Bastille at any moment. If his accuser desired that he should never more go out into the world, and never hold communication with any one, the accuser’s will became law. Hundreds of men were sent to the Bastille without knowing the cause of their arrest or the names of their accusers, and without being allowed to communicate with family or friend. It was this uncertainty, this ever-present fear of injustice and cruelty, that made the name of the Bastille appalling, and led every Frenchman to regard it as a place full of horrors.

HORRORS OF THE BASTILLE.

It is said that some of the most barbarous cruelties ever inflicted within the walls of the Bastille were during the reign of Louis XI. Louis himself was the author and inventor of some of the worst barbarities. It is recorded in history, that he caused dungeons to be made in the Bastille surrounded with smooth and polished masonry, where the prisoners, who were lowered into them, were obliged to remain in an unnatural position, which they could not change. According to history, the princes of the house of Armagnac were shut up in these horrible pits, and were drawn out twice a week to be scourged in the presence of the governor, and once in every three months to have two of their teeth torn from their jaws. Sometimes split sticks of dry wood were placed on their fingers, and then the sticks would be set on fire and allowed to consume. Richelieu sent many of his enemies to the Bastille, some of whom were treated with extreme consideration, while others endured great severity. One of these men, the notorious Bassompierre, was immured there twelve years by the order of Richelieu.

MAN IN THE IRON MASK.

One of the greatest mysteries attending the Bastille is that of the Man in the Iron Mask. A great deal has been said and [Pg 367] written about him, some of it being fact, and some of it fiction. Who he was is not positively known. It is very certain that he was a personage of great importance, whom it was desirable to keep out of the way, and at the same time very desirable not to kill. He was always treated with the utmost consideration. Every one of his attendants uncovered his head when in presence of the mysterious personage. His clothing was of the finest character, his food was of the best quality, and served on the choicest table-ware. He was rarely left alone, and then only in a place whence he could not escape; his face was always covered with a mask of black velvet, fastened behind his head with steel bands. His private governor was De Saint Mars, and it is supposed that he was answerable with his own life for the safety of the Man in the Iron Mask, and for the preservation of his incognito. When first heard of he was confined in the Marguerite Islands, in the Mediterranean. One day a fisherman, passing near the place of his confinement, saw a hand wave towards him from a window, and a moment after, a silver plate was thrown out. The fisherman picked up the plate and looked at it; saw that some words were engraved upon it, and immediately took it to the governor of the prison. The governor looked at it carelessly, and then asked the fisherman if he had shown it to any one, or had read it. The fisherman answered, “No, your excellency, I have shown it to no one, and as for myself I cannot read.”

“That is fortunate,” said the governor; and giving the fisherman a gold piece, he dismissed him.

The gold piece, however, did the fisherman very little good, as he was assassinated that night by some unknown person.

Every piece of linen, every scrap of paper, everything which in any way would convey information, was scrupulously examined. One day the mysterious man made some writing on one of his shirts which was going out to the wash. By some means this escaped the notice of the jailers, and was found by the washerwoman. She could not read, and when she returned the linen, she called the attention of the governor to [Pg 368] the writing. She was rewarded for her fidelity with a gold piece, and she, like the fisherman, was assassinated on the night after she had obtained her reward. After this, the Man in the Iron Mask was always furnished with new linen every day, and that which he had worn was immediately destroyed.

AN ILLUSTRIOUS PRISONER.

From the Marguerite Islands, he was moved to the Bastille, where he died on the 19th of November, 1703. He was buried the next day in the cemetery of St. Paul, under the name of Marchiatti.

In the Bastille he was waited upon at the table and at his toilet by the governor, and no one else. He was allowed to go to mass, and a file of soldiers always accompanied him. Their muskets were loaded, and their matches were lighted; they were ordered to kill him instantly in case he spoke to any one, or attempted to tear off his mask. Who he was, and what he was, will probably never be known. No person of sufficient note to justify such precautions as were taken in his case was absent from the stage of history at that time. The general impression is, that he was an elder brother of Louis XIV., the fruit of an adulterous intrigue between Anne of Austria and the Duke of Buckingham, or some other of those lovers for which Anne was famous. As he was born in wedlock, he could not have been dispossessed of his claim to the throne, if his existence had been admitted. Louis XIV. may have had some absurd prejudice against murdering his brother, though it was not the fashion of those days to be so very fastidious. A story was written by Dumas under the title of the Man in the Iron Mask, and it has been dramatized and given on the stage in Europe and America. The mystery which envelops the wearer of the mask gives an additional interest to all stories concerning him.

DESTRUCTION OF THE BASTILLE.

In talking about this historic individual, we have almost forgotten the Bastille. After the time of Louis XIV. the Bastille became a place of imprisonment, not alone of persons of honorable birth, but of common malefactors, and of persons of very low repute. The imprisonment of Beuzot, the king’s librarian, for obeying the king’s own directions, by the minister [Pg 371] De Breteuil, brought to light the whole system of iniquity in which the prison was managed. On the 14th of July, 1789, the people arose in their fury, captured the Bastille, and ransacked and destroyed it. At the time of its capture only seven persons were found in its cells and dungeons, one of them having been there since his eleventh year. There was another who had been ten years in the Marguerite Islands, and thirty years in the Bastille; he appeared, on his liberation, bewildered and half idiotic, like a man waking from a sleep of forty years, and looking out upon a new world. The records of the prison reveal many cases as bad as this, and any lover of liberty, even to the smallest degree, cannot regret that the Bastille has passed away forever.

DESTRUCTION OF THE BASTILLE, JULY 14, 1789.—ITS KEY PRESENTED BY LA FAYETTE TO GEORGE WASHINGTON, AND NOW AMONG THE RELICS AT MOUNT VERNON.

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XXV.

DIAMONDS AND DIAMOND MINES.

HOW DIAMONDS ARE OBTAINED.—THE COUNTRIES THAT PRODUCE THEM.—MODES OF SEEKING THEM IN BRAZIL.—CURIOUS PRECAUTIONS AGAINST THEFT.—HOW A SLAVE IN BORNEO ROBBED HIS EMPLOYER.—FAMOUS DIAMONDS AND THEIR HISTORY.—THE REGENT, THE ORLOFF, AND THE KOHINOOR.—FIDELITY OF A SERVANT.—THE STAR OF THE SOUTH.—A SHARP TRICK OF AN AMATEUR GAMBLER.

The hardest known mineral in the world, and at the same time the most valuable, is the diamond. It cannot be cut or scratched by any other substance. In cutting the diamond, another diamond, or the dust of one, must be used. The process of polishing these stones by rubbing two of them together was probably known in Asia a great many years ago; but it was not introduced into Europe until the middle of the fifteenth century. The diamond-cutters of Asia preserved the secret of their work very carefully long after these valuable stones were brought to Europe. About the middle of the fifteenth century, Louis Berquen, of Bruges, accidentally discovered that by rubbing two diamonds together, their surfaces might be cut. The powder obtained in this way is used for polishing the stone.

The diamond must first be dug from the earth, and if we only knew where to find them we could doubtless discover richer gems than any of those now known. The earth which contains the diamond is worked in the same way as the auriferous gravels, both having been produced by the same causes. Gold occurs in the beds or streams, by the disintegration of the rocks, in which it was originally contained, and their gradual wearing and washing away. Diamonds were originally contained in the rocks in the same way that gold was held there, and the process of disintegration has been pretty much the [Pg 373] same. Many of the places where gold is found contained diamonds; and in some localities in California the sands are now being reworked to obtain any small particles of gold that may have been left, and also to obtain diamonds. The original gold-seeker looked only for the yellow metal. The gold-seeker of to-day searches not only for gold, but for hard pebbles, which may prove rough diamonds.

WHERE DIAMONDS ARE FOUND.

Diamonds are found in various parts of the globe. The most celebrated diamond regions are those of India, South Africa, and Brazil. The Indian diamond mines are in various localities, the most famous being in the vicinity of Golconda. They have been exploited for thousands of years, and some of the stones now in existence have a history dating back two thousand years before the Christian era. The diamond mines of Brazil have latterly yielded more extensively than have the Golconda mines. At one time, a slave at work in a Brazilian mine struck with his pick a bed of diamonds which were valued at nearly two millions of dollars. They were carried to England, and caused a panic in the diamond market. The supply was the largest ever known to come forward at one time, and greatly frightened the holders of precious stones, not only in England, but all over the continent of Europe. If any individual could be so fortunate as to find a few million dollars’ worth of diamonds at one time, he could create an alarm among the dealers in precious stones from one end of the world to the other.

The work of obtaining diamonds is not by any means the easiest in which a man can engage. About the hardest way in the world to obtain gold is to dig for it, and the same may be said of diamonds. In the Brazilian mines the earth consists of sand and gravel in the beds of the streams. It is taken out in the dry season, and piled away where it can be conveniently washed. Then in the rainy season the washing begins. Sometimes the men work by hand, as it were; that is, by taking a quantity of earth in a bowl, or pan, and then, standing in the middle of the stream, under the eye of a vigilant [Pg 374] overseer, they slowly wash away the sand and dirt, until nothing but pebbles remains.

DIGGERS AT WORK.

The pick and shovel are used for breaking up the diamond-bearing gravels, just as they are used for breaking up earth which contains gold. The water carries away the clay, and sand, and fine dirt. The large stones are thrown out, and the finer gravel that remains is carefully picked over. It is examined in the sunshine, where the light plays upon the gems, and leads to their detection. The search for the diamond is always conducted under the eye of a superintendent, so as to guard against theft. Each diamond-seeker has a little case, made of reed, and generally ornamented on the outside. The small diamonds are placed in this case, and every negro who possesses a case which has once held diamonds is very unwilling to part with it. He regards it with a superstitious reverence, believing that when it once contains precious stones it will lead to the discovery of more.

The earth which has been gathered up for washing, if it is not worked immediately, is placed under a long shed, and when the rainy season begins, and water becomes abundant, the slaves are assembled for their duty. In the diamond district of Brazil the sheds are generally about thirty yards long, and half as wide. They consist simply of upright posts, and a thatched roof, erected over the spot where the heaps of gravel are placed. A stream of water is conducted through this shed. There is a range of sloping troughs, each about three feet wide, connecting with the streams at the upper end. Opposite the troughs there are high chairs, where the overseers are stationed.

A slave at each trough takes about a bushel or so of the gravel, and lets the water in slowly, in order to wash away the gravel and earthy particles. Then he throws out the largest stones, and examines the rest, with great care, for diamonds. Whenever he finds one, he stands upright, clasps his hands, holding the stone between his thumb and finger, and shows it to the overseer, who receives it.

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When a slave finds a stone exceeding seventeen and a half carats in weight, he is immediately set at liberty. Free papers are given him, and he cannot again be enslaved. Generally, on such occasions, a holiday or half-holiday is granted to the negroes about the establishment. The lucky finder is carried on the shoulders of his comrades, and when the day ends most of them are in a condition the reverse of sober.

DISCOVERY IN BRAZIL.

In the diamond district of Brazil the diamonds were first discovered by gold miners, about the year 1730. At first they were ignorant of the value of the gems, and threw them away as useless. Some of the stones were sent to the governor of Brazil as curiosities. He supposed that they were crystals, and by accident a few were carried to Lisbon, where they happened to be shown to the Dutch consul. The consul was a diamond sharp, and recognized the true character of the stones. He immediately caused them to be sent to Holland, where they were cut, and found to be of great value.

As soon as the character of the stone became generally known, large quantities of them were gathered and sent from Brazil, and at one time it seemed as if the diamond market would be ruined. The Portuguese government took means to secure a monopoly of the trade. The diamond district was surrounded by well-defined boundaries, which were guarded with the greatest care. No one was permitted to cross them without a permit from the superintendent of the mine, and whenever a traveller who had visited the diamond ground was leaving it, he was obliged to submit to a thorough examination of himself and baggage. So great was the vigilance, that, it is said, at one time every traveller leaving the district was detained three days at the boundary, and was compelled to swallow medicines whose effect was to prevent his absconding with any precious stones concealed in his stomach.

A peculiar system was established for the regulation of this district. Stringent laws were passed to provide for the registering of the inhabitants, the admission of settlers, and the punishment of infringements of every kind upon the government [Pg 376] monopoly. At first the diamond mines were rented to private individuals; but so many frauds were practised, that the government took the matter into its own hands, and worked the mines under officers of its own appointment. At present the mines are open to anybody who chooses to work them, on payment of a tax, which is placed not on the amount of diamonds obtained, but on the number of men employed. This method of collecting the tax is much more successful than the old one of levying a royalty upon the diamonds. The number of men employed can be readily counted, while, the diamonds being small, they could easily be secreted, and the payment of the proper tax evaded.

THE GOLCONDA MINES.

In Asia the most noted localities for obtaining diamonds are in various parts of India and the Island of Borneo. Two thousand years ago the mines of Golconda were the richest on the globe; but for some time they have been comparatively unproductive.

WORKING A DIAMOND CLAIM IN BRAZIL.
RIVER WASHING—CRADLING FOR DIAMONDS.

The working of these mines is carried on very nearly in the same way as the working of the mines of Brazil. In the Brazilian mines the slaves and overseers are permitted to wear clothing, though the slaves are allowed but a very small quantity. Formerly they were compelled to work naked, to prevent their secreting diamonds. At the present time the garments they wear are subjected to the most careful examination. In the mines of India the laborers work entirely nude; but the temperature is such that they do not suffer on account of the absence of clothing. In spite of every precaution they manage to steal diamonds. They secrete them in the hair, unless their hair is cut very short. They push them into their noses, and hide them in various parts of their bodies, and in other ways.

In one of the mines of Borneo there was once a laborer who managed to steal several valuable diamonds. As he wore no clothing when at work, and underwent the usual examination, he was considered entirely safe. He escaped with his prizes, became a rich man, lived contented, and died happy. In his old age he revealed the secret of his diamond thefts.

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INGENIOUS MODE OF STEALING.

He had prepared himself for the work with the assistance of a surgeon, who shared with him the proceeds of the enterprise. The surgeon placed a ball, somewhat larger than a pea, in the fleshy part of the man’s thigh; kept down the irritation as much as possible, and allowed the flesh to grow over the wound, or nearly so. The ball was then taken out, leaving a comfortable cavity a quarter of an inch below the skin. A small opening was made, and the skin at the opening was allowed to grow around a steel rod about half as large as the diameter of the cavity. In this way a very fine receptacle was formed for the deposit of the diamond.

It took some time to get it up, but when finished it was entirely satisfactory, and the man was sure of having his pocket always about him. When he found a diamond that could be crowded into this cavity, he would manage to stow it away; and then, at the earliest opportunity, he repaired to the office of the surgeon, where the diamond was removed with the aid of a pair of forceps. They did not strike for the largest diamonds, and were doubtless more successful in this mode of working than if they had planned their enterprise on a grander scale.

It is a general principle in chemistry, that when the component parts of an article are well known, a counterfeit can be produced, provided the component parts are attainable. But it is not so with the diamond.

For hundreds of years chemists have labored to produce this stone. They know perfectly well of what it is composed, but they cannot repeat it. The diamond is nothing more than pure crystallized carbon, and placed under a great heat it boils and disappears. It is not acted upon by acids or alkalies, and when kept in the open air, it may be heated to a high degree without damage. Exposed to the intense heat produced by a Bunsen burner, it is converted into coke; and if it is heated in the open air, it boils at the temperature of melting silver, and disappears in the form of carbonic acid gas. If the sun’s rays are converged to a focus by means of a lens, and directed upon a diamond under a bell-glass filled with oxygen gas, the [Pg 380] diamond will burn; and when it is consumed, carbonic acid will be found beneath the glass. Thus the most precious substance in the known world can be made to disappear.

HOW TO KNOW THE VALUE OF DIAMONDS.

The diamond is sold by its weight, estimated in carats,—a carat being equal to three and one fourth grains Troy, and subdivided into half, quarter, eighth, and so on. It is difficult to say what a rough diamond is worth, since a great many reasons may occur to cause its fluctuation in value. The ordinary estimate for a cut diamond is sixty dollars a carat, that is to say, when the stone weighs a single carat. The price of the diamond exceeding a carat is not in proportion to its weight, but by the square of the weight, that is to say, to the weight multiplied by itself. Thus, if a diamond weighing one carat is worth sixty dollars, one which weighs two carats is worth 2 × 2, and then multiplied by sixty, or two hundred and forty dollars. A stone of three carats is worth 3 × 3, multiplied by sixty, or five hundred and forty dollars. The value, therefore, of a polished diamond is found by multiplying the square of the weight by the price of a stone of one carat. This is the rule generally given for the pricing of diamonds; but the value of each stone varies more or less according to its character, so that one stone weighing fifteen carats might be worth three or four thousand dollars more than another stone of the same weight. The best rule, probably, for obtaining the price of diamonds, is to ask a man who has them for sale. Diamonds are sold very much like any other commodity, that is, for the highest price the purchaser is willing to pay.

Diamonds, especially those of a large size, require, it is needless to say, great care in keeping, to save them from being stolen. The crown jewels of England are kept in the Tower of London in an iron cage surrounded with glass. Some of them are of great antiquity. The crown jewels include not only diamonds, but some valuable rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls. The crown contains a heart-shaped ruby, which is said to have been given to Edward the Black Prince by Don Pedro, King of Castile, after the battle of Najera, A. D. 1367.

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FAMOUS STONES.

It was afterwards worn in the helmet of Henry V., at the battle of Agincourt, in the year 1415.

The crown jewels of France disappeared in 1792, during the troubles of the first republic, though they were kept under seal, and in the royal treasury. Some of them were afterwards found buried in an obscure place, which was named in an anonymous letter sent to the prime minister. The famous Regent diamond was in this casket.

The Regent diamond is probably the finest and best cut stone in the world, though it is not the largest. It was named after the Duke of Orleans, who was regent during the minority of Louis XV. The regent bought it, in 1717, for one hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds sterling. It was sold to him by Governor Pitt, who paid twelve thousand five hundred pounds for it in India five years before. Its weight before cutting was four hundred and ten carats, and the process of cutting occupied two years. Its weight was reduced to one hundred and thirty-six carats, and its present value is estimated at a million dollars.

Pitt was an unhappy man during the five years he owned the stone. He carried it with him constantly. He never made known his movements a day beforehand, nor slept for two nights successively in the same house.

Another diamond, quite famous in its way, is the “Sancy.” It fell from the helmet of Charles the Bold at the battle of Granson, and was picked up by a Swiss soldier. The soldier disposed of it for two francs, and thought he had made a very good bargain. In 1589 it was bought by De Sancy, treasurer to Henry IV. of France. In 1792 it was stolen, and after various adventures, was bought, forty years afterwards, by Prince Demidoff, who paid for it seventy-five thousand pounds. It has since been sold for a much smaller sum.

A few years ago a diamond was found in Brazil, and imported into France under the name of the Star of the South. It was found by a negress, and bought for a few dollars by a speculator, who obtained a large return for his investment. Its weight in the rough was two hundred and fifty-four carats; after cutting, it was one hundred and twenty-four carats.

[Pg 382]

Another famous stone, known as the Grand Duke of Tuscany, is of a yellow color, and weighs one hundred and forty carats.

It was lost at one time, and bought subsequently, it is said, for a few francs, out of a jeweller’s shop at Florence, the jeweller supposing that it was only a piece of colored crystal.

THE ORLOFF AND THE KOHINOOR.

A famous diamond in Russia is the Orloff. It is shaped like an egg, with an indented hollow in the smaller end. It was found at Landak, in India, and at one time formed the eye of an idol in a Brahmin temple at Pondicherry. An enterprising deserter from the French army managed to have himself shut up in the temple, and during his incarceration he gouged out this eye of the idol. He attempted to capture the other eye, but was unsuccessful. He was lucky enough to get away with his prize, which he sold to a jeweller at Calcutta. After passing through the hands of various purchasers, it was bought by a Greek merchant, who sold it to the Empress Catherine for four hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and an annuity of twenty thousand dollars, with a title of nobility.

THE ORLOFF. STAR OF THE SOUTH. STAR OF THE SOUTH—ROUGH. THE NASSAC. THE SHAH.
THE CUMBERLAND. THE SANCY. THE DRESDEN. THE REGENT DIAMOND. THE KOHINOOR—RECUT.
AUSTRALIAN BRILLIANT. THE EUGENIE. REGENT—SIDE VIEW. THE HOPE. THE FLORENTINE.
CELEBRATED DIAMONDS OF THE WORLD.

One of the best known, and probably the most famous, diamonds in the world is the Kohinoor. It is interesting for the great number of historical associations connected with it. It is said to have been worn by an Indian king three thousand years before the Christian era. From this king the Kohinoor passed through the hands of successive sovereigns of Central India, until about the beginning of the fourteenth century, when it was added to the treasures of Delhi by the Patan monarch Aladdin. In 1739 the Persian monarch Nadir Shah conquered Delhi, and had an interview with its vanquished ruler. The latter put on his best garments in order to make as good an impression as possible. He wrapped a gorgeous turban around his head, and in it he fastened the Kohinoor.

The Persian conqueror, during the progress of the interview, saw this diamond, and, in the expressive language of modern days, “went for it.”

He was too polite to capture it by main force, but proposed eternal peace and friendship to Mohammed Shah, the vanquished [Pg 385] ruler of Delhi. The latter, like Barkis, was willin’, and the two embraced.

“As a token of our friendship,” said Nadir, “let us exchange turbans.” Mohammed was cornered and obliged to comply, and Nadir walked off with the prize. But Nadir did not keep it long, as he was assassinated soon after.

After his death it passed to the hands of Ahmed Shah of Cabool, and thence through various other hands, until in 1849, when, on the annexation of the Punjaub to the East India Company’s territory, it was stipulated that the Kohinoor should be given to the Queen of England. It was sent to England, and was delivered to the queen July 3, 1850. It was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in London, but caused great disappointment by its inability to develop the proper refraction, unless surrounded by strong lights; in fact, it was much inferior to its glass model in the Tower. Its name, Mountain of Light, seemed to be a misnomer.

RECUTTING THE KOHINOOR.

An examination was made with a view to recutting it. Scientific gentlemen were called in, and skilful cutters at Amsterdam were sent for. After much consultation, it was determined to recut the stone. The proper machinery was prepared, and set up, and the Duke of Wellington was required to begin the work.

In cutting a diamond, the stone is firmly embedded in lead at the end of a stick. Only the portion which is intended to be cut is exposed at one time. The Kohinoor was properly fixed in its leaden surrounding, and placed in the hands of the duke. He held it firmly against a swiftly revolving wheel covered with diamond dust, and in a little while the first facet was finished. Then the stone was placed in the hands of the workmen who were to continue the operation; and when their labors were completed, the Kohinoor was found blazing brilliantly, and justified its title as the Mountain of Light.

The largest and most valuable diamond in the world, so far as known, is presumed to be the one so long owned by the Sultan of Matan, Borneo. It weighs three hundred and sixty-nine [Pg 386] carats, and is valued at five million dollars—a very good piece of property to have; but it is said to be so carefully kept, that no ordinary diamond thief can obtain it.

ARTIFICIAL DIAMONDS.

Though diamonds cannot be made artificially, they can be imitated, and the imitation is almost perfect. Several French manufacturers of bogus diamonds have obtained high reputation for their skill. Flint, white sand, and silver are the substances used; at least they are said to be the substances, though there is doubtless some other material added which the manufacturers do not mention. These fraudulent diamonds, in weight, color, and brilliancy, are almost identical with the genuine ones, and some of them have even deceived the dealers. They will stand some, but not all, the tests applied to diamonds. They reflect the light perfectly, but are apt to grow dim in a few weeks, and require fresh polishing. The diamonds sold in New York under the name of Alaska, Australia, or California diamonds are mostly of French manufacture, and were never seen in the locality whose name is applied to them.

False diamonds have become so common among certain classes of Americans as to cause the real diamond to be used very rarely among other classes. During the prosperity of the famous Tammany Ring, false diamonds blazed on many a political shirt-front, where they could be seen and admired of men.

The followers of the Ring politicians were generally equipped with false diamonds; but the great leaders, like Tweed and his companions, decorated, or were supposed to decorate, themselves with the genuine article.

There are many strange stories told in connection with diamonds. We have already seen through what vicissitudes the famous diamonds have passed.

A story is told of a French prince, who, while travelling, was attacked by robbers. He had intrusted a valuable diamond to a faithful servant. The servant was slain, but the master escaped. He returned subsequently to the scene of the fight, and sought for the diamond, but could nowhere find it. At last he bethought himself to examine the body of his [Pg 387] attendant, when he found that the latter had swallowed the diamond to preserve it.

A FORTUNATE ACTOR.

Some years ago an actor, looking through an old clothes shop in London, found a pair of slippers decorated with glass beads, and suited to a character he was about to play. He bought them for a trifle, paying two or three shillings for them. He wore them on the evening of his performance, and used to leave them lying carelessly about the theatre. He had them a year or more before discovering, as he did, by accident, that the supposed beads were diamonds, and that the shoes which had cost him a few shillings were worth thousands of pounds. He sold them soon after making the discovery, and retired upon the fortune so easily obtained. He never took the trouble to ascertain their previous character or history.

About twenty years ago, in a gaming-house in New York, a gambler, who may be called Smith, put up a ring as a stake, against an outside player for a hundred dollars. The player—I call him Jones for sake of convenience,—won the ring and went away with it. Smith had received the ring a short time before as a present, and was told at the time that it was false, or, as it is generally called, “paste.” Jones took the ring next day to a jeweller, and asked what it was.

The jeweller said, “It is paste—worth about two dollars.”

“Have you a genuine stone like it?” Jones asked of the jeweller.

“Yes,” was the reply, “I have one exactly resembling it, worth five hundred dollars.”

“Will you take out the paste and set the genuine stone in its place,” asked Jones, “provided I leave you its value as security, and pay you for the use of it?”

“Certainly,” was the reply; and the bargain was quickly settled. The change was made, and Jones walked away with the ring.

HOW A GAMBLER WAS CAUGHT.

That evening he was in the same gaming-house, and was chaffed by the friends of Smith on obtaining a paste ring against a stake of a hundred dollars. Jones insisted that the [Pg 388] ring was genuine, and offered to back his opinion with a bet of a hundred dollars. The bet was taken, and it was agreed that Jones, Smith, and a person selected by the two, should go together to the prominent jewellers and ascertain the value of the ring.

Next day they visited the stores, and jeweller after jeweller examined the stone, and pronounced it genuine, and worth four or five hundred dollars. Most of them were ready to give four hundred dollars for it.

The bet was paid, and Jones departed to drive with a friend up town; but on his way he called at the jeweller’s, exchanged the genuine stone for the paste, obtained his five hundred dollars he had left on deposit, paid for the use of the diamond, and slipped away.

That evening he was again at the gambling-house, and rallied Smith on having sold himself. Smith acknowledged that he had been deceived, but he never supposed the ring was worth anything, and was surprised to find that the stone was genuine.

“Well,” said Jones, “I don’t wish to take any mean advantage of your stakes; you staked that ring for a hundred dollars, and the jewellers said it is worth four or five hundred dollars. For a hundred dollars, the amount of your stake, you can have it back again.”

Smith bit at the offer, paid the hundred dollars, and received the ring. Jones departed, and did not return. Imagine the disgust of Smith when he subsequently found out the real state of affairs.


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XXVI.

THE DIAMOND FIELDS OF SOUTH AFRICA.

MODE OF REACHING THEM—THEIR EXTENT AND RICHNESS—THE YIELD OF THE MINES—CHARACTER OF THE AFRICAN DIAMONDS—MODE OF WORKING—THE NEGROES AND THEIR PECULIARITIES—DU TOIT’S PAN—KIMBERLEY—COLESBERG KOPJE—LIFE IN THE FIELDS—DUST STORMS AND HEAVY RAINS—A WHIRLWIND AND ITS EFFECTS—CAUGHT IN A STORM—INDIVIDUAL INSTANCES OF GOOD LUCK—A DIAMOND ON A BURST.
THE DIAMOND FIELDS OF SOUTH AFRICA.

The owners of diamonds, and those who buy and sell the gems, were thrown into great consternation, a few years ago, by the announcement of the discovery of immense diamond deposits in South Africa. As usual, when rich deposits of precious stones or precious metals are known to have been found, there was a great rush for the newly-opened region. Many persons imagined they had only to land at some point on the coast of South Africa, and the first touch of the pick or spade would bring them fortune in the shape of Koh-i-noors by the thousands. Many of them found their mistake long ago. On the other hand, many others have been handsomely rewarded for their enterprise and exertion. The diamond fields of South Africa have created some large fortunes, and a great many small ones. “Lucky finds” have been numerous, and the diamonds seem to be pretty well distributed in the valleys where they exist.

The regular route to the diamond fields is by way of Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town is an interesting city of about thirty thousand inhabitants, picturesquely situated on Table Bay. The diamond fields are about seven hundred miles distant. There are no railways in that region, and the most rapid conveyance is by the mail-coach, which makes the journey in about six or seven days. A slower and cheaper [Pg 392] conveyance is by ox or horse teams, generally the former. The route is not a picturesque one. Those who imagine beautiful valleys, wide-spreading plains, open prairies thickly covered with luxuriant grass, with a horizon of rugged mountains, will be disappointed with the reality. The plains are generally treeless and stony, many of the hills are barren, and the very settlements along the route are quite too dirty and dilapidated to be attractive. Several rivers are to be crossed, some of them very muddy, and some of them abounding with quicksand.

On some of the plains, the oxen suffer for want of grass and water, and the cruel beatings they receive from the hands of their Hottentot drivers are exceedingly disagreeable to sensitive travelers. The Hottentots carry a whip of Rhinoceros hide, known by the name of “shambok.” It is quite analagous to the “courbash” of the Egyptians. It resembles a small, long, flexible cane, and is capable of drawing blood at every stroke when handled by an artist. From twenty-five to forty days are consumed in the journey with ox wagons, and when the traveler reaches his destination, he feels very much as though he had been run through a cotton-picker.

DU TOIT’S PAN.

The diamond fields are first reached at Du Toit’s Pan, and the traveler suddenly finds himself in the midst of great activity. The ground is cut and seamed in all directions, and the pits whence the diamonds are taken, are, in many instances, two hundred feet deep. The mode of working in these mines is somewhat different from that of gold mining. In the first place, the white miners are not strictly miners at all, as they universally employ the natives to do the work, and their own occupation is simply that of overseer. The natives work for a sum equal to about five dollars a week and their board. They are of four different nations, and a miner thus describes them:

THE NATIVE MINERS.

“The handsomest and most trustworthy race are the Zulu Caffres of Natal and Caffraria. The next are the Basutos. Third are the thievish and drunken Hottentots, and fourth, the Koraunas, small, ugly, and contemptible beings, despised by [Pg 393] all the rest, and of no use to the diggers, owing to their unconquerable laziness. I always admired a Zulu. There was one living near our tent, a model for a sculptor. He would sometimes cross my path, with his long steady strides, his blanket hanging around him in graceful folds like the toga of a Roman senator. One hand grasped the robe, and allowed freedom of motion, while the other would be crossed on his breast. In his woolly locks, braided and arranged neatly on his head, would appear feathers of different wild birds, while underneath his massive brow shone a pair of eyes—coal-black eyes—with such long lashes that they reminded me of eyes in eastern pictures. A man with such orbs as his could speak were he deaf and dumb. An aquiline nose, with inflated nostrils, overshadowed a delicately curved mouth, full of firmness and pride. Below was the massive chin of statesmen and conquerors. In fact, he was a model man in ebony.”

The natives will only work a short time. When they have accumulated a certain amount of money, they purchase arms and ammunition and go home. They are good-tempered, obedient, and faithful, and do not spend much money upon dress. Sometimes they get themselves up gorgeously, and a wardrobe sufficient for an ordinary white man will dress at least a dozen negroes. One will deck himself with a coat, another with a hat, another will consider himself finely arrayed in a paper collar, while a pair Of trousers will be sufficient for two, if properly divided. An odd boot, shoe, or stocking, or an old shirt that reaches perhaps as far as the waist, is considered the proper thing for polite society in negro land.

The discovery of diamonds in South Africa was made in the year 1870. A traveler through those regions stopped one night at a farm-house, and found the children playing with some pebbles. One of the pebbles attracted his attention, and he bought it for a trifle. He subsequently sold it, at Cape Town, for three thousand dollars. He bought another from a negro, which he sold for fifty-six thousand dollars, making a very fair margin of profit on his transaction. When the natives found these stones were of value, they began to search [Pg 394] for them, and a great many were brought in. Then began the rush for the diamond fields. Great numbers of people went there from Cape Town, and as the news spread to England and to other countries, there was considerable excitement concerning the South African fields. The place where the diamonds were found is in an extensive district of country belonging to Dutch farmers.

GARNET AS AN INDICATOR.

The surface indication of a diamond mine are numerous garnets, which are not of any particular value. The general rule is that wherever the garnet is found, one is pretty certain to find diamonds. At first, the principal diggings were at a place on the Vaal river, where there was an abundance of water. The gravel was taken to the river and washed, and the diamonds were separated from the worthless stones. Only the earth was allowed to float away, as it was possible that some large and valuable gems might be carried off with the smaller stones. When the stones had been separated from the earth, they were carefully sorted, and in a short time the miners became very expert at recognizing the gems.

The diamond fields of South Africa, covering an area of perhaps one thousand square miles, are between longitude 24° and 28° east, and latitude 27° and 30° south. It is estimated that, down to the end of 1876, eighty-five million dollars worth of diamonds had been taken out, and this estimate does not include thousands of stones that were carried directly to England by their owners, and did not pass through the market at Cape Town. Diamond owners would have been ruined completely by the African discoveries, had it not been for the fact that the great majority of the diamonds found there are of poor quality. Professor Lenant, who has given considerable attention to the matter, says that of the Cape diamonds, about ten per cent. may be classified as first quality, fifteen per cent. of the second, and twenty-five per cent. of the third. The remainder, under the name of “bort,” is employed in cutting diamonds and for various other purposes, by the lapidary, by the engineer in rock drills, for cutting glass, and similar purposes.

[Pg 395]

DIFFICULTIES OF MINING.

Unfortunately for the miners at the Cape, there is a very short supply of water. If they could have adopted the system of hydraulic mining to their work, they would have saved enormous labor and expense. At many of the fields which are distant from the rivers, the gravel is removed by means of buckets, drawn up by long ropes, and it very often happens that a single heavy rain of a few hours, will destroy the entire labor of months, the pit becomes filled with water, and there will be no way of extracting it except by evaporation, or by the laborious process of hoisting or pumping. One of the fields, known as Colesberg Kopje, fell off, in one year, more than fifty per cent. from the yield of previous years, in consequence of the heavy caving and floodings caused by the rains. The value of claims in that region has gradually fallen, and so desperate is the condition that, at last accounts, money was loaned upon mining licenses at the rate of ten per cent. a month, with a foreclosure at the end of the first month if the interest was not paid.

At the diamond camp, the small stones form the basis of value. They might be used for currency except for one fact. Gold dust, in California, was used for currency, for a long time. Its value, of course, is directly proportioned to its weight, a pound nugget being worth exactly twelve times as much as an ounce nugget of the same fineness, but the value of diamonds increases with enormous rapidity as they grow heavier, so they cannot be put in bunch or weighed out the same as gold. Transactions frequently take place in diamonds, and the amount of exchange is often very difficult to compute.

The last region of which we have any account is known as Kimberley, and a city of ten thousand inhabitants, with banks, hotels, churches, and theaters, has grown up there. In its general features, it is not unlike a frontier city in California or Colorado, except that its streets are filled with carts carrying earth away from the diggings, and with great numbers of negroes who come to work in the mines. The diamonds are found in a conglomerate which is dug up from the bottom [Pg 396] of what has once been a deep cañon. At Kimberley, the cañon is two hundred feet deep, and one thousand feet across. When one descends into this place, it is almost impossible to hear the human voice, on account of the noise made by the wheels and buckets, and the picks, shovels, and other tools of the miners. In the early times of the mining excitement at the Cape, the negroes were reasonably honest, but association with the white man has made them otherwise. When they can steal the diamonds they do so. They will secrete them in their ears, their mouths, or their noses, and a negro has been known to work an entire day with two or three diamonds concealed between his toes.

HOW AN ENGLISHMAN LOST A DIAMOND.

An interesting story is told of how an Englishman lost, one day, a valuable diamond, through his impetuosity. He had found a very large and fine stone at the bottom of his pit, and was coming up the ladder, carrying the diamond in his mouth. A negro happened to shake the top of the ladder, whereupon the Englishman proceeded to swear at him, as an Englishman might be expected to do. The result was, the diamond fell from his mouth down into the pit or into a neighboring one, and its whereabouts was never discovered by the unlucky finder. We have heard of mouths that speak pearls, but it is rarely the case that one hears of a mouth swearing diamonds.

In the early days at the diamond mines, there was a good deal of rioting and trouble. There was not much observance of law, mainly for the reason that there was no law. But at present, every thing is orderly and peaceable. The diamond fields are partly in regions controlled by the British government, and partly in the Republic of the Orange Free States. The latter country became known to many Americans through the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, in 1876. It had a small display, but a very attractive one. First and foremost, of course, were the diamonds in the rough, which included many specimens of stones, varying in color and size. Then came a quantity of the soil in which the gems are found, and then the pebbles which accompany the diamonds. Copper, iron, and other ores were exhibited; many excellent specimens [Pg 397] of leather were displayed; there was a collection of stuffed birds; there were tusks of ivory, skins of various wild beasts, specimens of wool, and a model of the carts used to convey it to the coast. The great business of the country is in grazing, and the sheep and cattle in its limits may be counted by millions. Its population is estimated at about one hundred thousand, of which three-fourths are whites. Of late years, the farmers have found an excellent market for many articles of produce, by taking them to the diamond mines.

SCENE AT AN AUCTION.

The scene at the sale of edibles is a curious one. As the fields became thickly populated, there was a great demand for fruits and vegetables, and the farmers sent in everything they could spare. At one time, oranges sold for twenty-five cents each, potatoes for seven cents a pound, and eggs one dollar and twenty-five cents a dozen. Nearly everything was sold at auction, the farmers arranging the things in lots to suit purchasers, and then submitting them to the care of the market master. The scene at an auction is thus described:

“At seven o’clock in the morning, the market master mounts a stool, and business commences. An eager crowd surrounds him, of all colors and nations, yelling, talking, laughing, and making themselves merry, when suddenly a dead silence falls on the reckless assemblage, as a pail of eggs are held up to their gaze. ‘Now, how much for the eggs, at per dozen?—one shilling bid?’ A dozen heads bob in the affirmative. Two shillings; three. The price rises, until the man with the long purse becomes their owner. Up goes a pumpkin. A rush by the crowd. Every eye seeks that of the auctioneer. Every man wants to bid; but in the twinkling of an eye it’s gone. ‘For how much?’ an outsider asks of another. ‘Cheap at three “bob”’ (shillings), he answers. Up goes another pumpkin, and another, until very likely a whole wagon-load is disposed of, at prices which make the old Boer’s face wrinkle with smiles. Next there is a scramble to get exactly over a heap of fine potatoes which are to be sold. Two or three weaker ones get upset in the rush, while a dense circle of giant and muscular diggers surrounds the center of [Pg 398] attraction. Of course the unlucky outsiders have no chance of catching the market-master’s eye, and, in self-defense, form an opposition circle around the next pile, each one mentally calculating the amount of ‘tin’ he is prepared to stake on the produce before him. This exciting work goes on until nine o’clock, when the crowd of diggers, having purchased everything eatable, leave for their claims, while the lucky owners of the wagons crowd into the little market-office, eager to receive the price of their loads, and to ‘trek’ away from the city of tents.”

STRUGGLING WITH NATURE.

The diamond fields are subject to heavy rains, and also to very sudden and furious winds. The amount of dust and flies in circulation, is quite uncalculable. One visitor says that the flies, troublesome as they are, are much more agreeable than the dust. “Although persecuting one most incessantly by day, night puts a stop to their torments, while no sooner does a puff of air come from yonder plain, than you inhale a volume of dust—not the earthy, loamy dust of agricultural land, but the whitish-gray lung powder which has been refined by the action of shovel and sieve, until it is as light as air. It impregnates your food, your hair is like a door mat, and your eyes have a chronic soreness, as though a thousand delicate needles were pricking into the eyeballs, while your body is chafed and sore from the friction of dusty clothes. All this is unpleasant; but we will suppose that the gentle wind has increased to a howling tempest, that storm clouds fill the sky, and tents shake to the breeze; then, and then only, do the diggers reach the climax of misery. From hundreds of sieves, and hundreds of conical dust heaps, the wind gathers its load, and, like some malicious fiend, sweeps through the camp, turning the light of day into a hideous yellow twilight, circling around unprotected tents, and through all the seams and cracks, filling them full of floating dust. The diggers sneeze, cough, weep, and for relief rush into the open air, or more properly, into an air of lime, where, utterly choked and blinded, they fall on their faces, there to gasp for breath, like a dying turtle, and curse the day they saw the fields.

[Pg 399]

“This sometimes continues for hours: business is suspended; people desert their claims, and shut themselves up in their dwellings; the streets are abandoned to the dogs, and no one has rest until the wind falls, or a blessed shower turns dust to mud. Whirlwinds of any size or power are always considered unpleasant visitors, and in Du Toit’s Pan they still keep up their reputation. They do not actually tear things upside down, and ruin whole tracts of country, as our Western tornadoes do, but they have an elevating influence, which tents, unfortunately, find it hard to resist, and try their hand at some mischievous trick, which involuntarily makes the sufferer shake his fist at the receding column, as if it was some naughty boy with a smart pair of legs. Now, a broad-brimmed hat leaves its owner’s head with a rush, and when he clears his sight, and spies it majestically revolving two or three hundred feet above him, and evidently having a through ticket for the distant plain, his heart sinks within him, and he mournfully descends his heap to purchase another, or lets his ‘angry passions rise,’ and flails his Caffre for ‘hooraying’ at the exciting spectacle. Again, a digger is industriously sorting on a light table. He has nearly finished his work, when, on looking up, he sees that which makes him shut his eyes, hermetically seal his lips, and bob his head under the table. It is an unlucky position, for the whirlwind upsets the table on his head. It skins his face, and then dives down the adjoining hole, on top of some affrighted black, while the column of wind and sand rushes on, increasing in size and power until it appears on the edge of the camp, to the dismay of all ladies on the streets, all cooks in their canvas or open-air kitchens, and all owners of crazy or dilapidated tents. A minute or two more, it is a thing of the past. The damage is done. The column is far out on the dreary plain, and people resume their occupations.

“One spring day, a tent-maker who lived by us, had placed a large and light frame tent upon the edge of the road, without fastening it in any way to the ground. He was warned not to leave it so exposed, but it being a calm day, the advice [Pg 400] was neglected. About an hour after, he was inside, busy decorating its walls with red tape, when a sudden and violent whirlwind swept off the claims in all its dusty majesty, and careering down the road, encountered the unfortunate tent. A moment more, it rose in the air like a balloon, the astounded tent-maker vainly hanging to its ribs, until, seeing it was bound to go up, he dropped out, like an apple from a tree. Up it went, whirling with frightful velocity, and pursuing the course of the road, until it knocked fiercely against the gable of a neighboring canteen. In went the roof, while out came the inmates, amidst the smash of bottles and the running of brandy. On and on, and round and round, went the tent, until, espying a jaunty little canvas house which defied wind and rain, in a fit of jealousy it went into it, and, with a grand smash, both lay in ribbons on the ground, while the disgusted tent-maker settled a bill for two ruined houses, instead of being paid for erecting one.

“During the summer months, rain-storms, with heavy thunder and lightning, are frequent. They generally approach with a violent breeze, sharp lightning, and loud thunder. The clouds are all in motion, crossing and meeting each other, while along the face of the nimbus, or storm-cloud, is a heavy gray pall of vapor. This is much lower than the rain-cloud, and when close to the earth, portends a fearful storm. The gathering blackness, increased by clouds of dust, the zigzag lightning, the hoarse, reverberating sound of the thunder, and the moaning wind, all strike the spectator with awe. He gazes around him out on the distant plain, where all is dreary and somber; at the immense gray mounds of the claims, deserted, and looking ghostly and unearthly against their pitchy background—and the storm is upon us. Some ominous rain-drops strike the tent, a flash of lightning blinds, a peal of thunder stuns, and the gates of heaven open. The war of the tempest drowns all other sound, the tent shakes and trembles beneath the blast, while rivers of water course down the street, cutting great gullies in the road, and quickly undermining any protective earth-work the digger has placed around him. [Pg 401] Soon the canvas begins to leak, and the inmates of the tent stand in dripping silence, listening to the war of the elements. One night, our Caffres were drowned out by one of these heavy storms. They generally slept in a large, circular fire-place of three feet deep, just sufficient to keep the cold from them, and thus were snugly ensconced when it began to rain. Above the fire-place was a hollow which drained into it. As this drainage was very unpleasant, and often, in heavy rains, flooded out the fire, we built a dam against it as a protection. On the night in question, it rained so fast the hollow was soon a sheet of water, which pressed with such force against the dam that it gave way. In an instant, the fire-place was full to overflowing, and the Caffres, thus rudely awakened, gave one mighty yell as the waters covered them. Aroused by the noise, I peeped forth as they were struggling out, their black heads showing around the edge of the fire-place like those of so many hippopotami. After getting out, and giving some hearty shakes, they commenced fishing up their bed-clothes from the treacherous flood. Long before sunrise, next morning, they were at the tent door, calling loudly for ‘soupies,’ or what we denominate ‘eye-openers,’ and certainly their condition, after what they had gone through, demanded relief.”

THE LUCKY ONES.

Some of the stories told about the diamond finds are decidedly attractive. Some of the earlier miners made large fortunes in a short time. They had nothing to pay for their ground, and found from one to twenty diamonds every day. When the price of claims went up, they sold out, anywhere from two to ten thousand dollars, and went home. One man made fifty thousand dollars in a month, divided his claim into six parts, sold each part for one thousand five hundred dollars, and went away satisfied. A ship was wrecked on the coast. The captain, of course, was a very unfortunate man. Not knowing what to do, he went to the diamond fields, where he stayed three months, and went away with seventy-five thousand dollars. A Dutch Boer found, in one day, thirty-one diamonds, which weighed respectively thirty-three carats, eighteen, fifteen, nine, seven and a half, and other smaller ones. He [Pg 402] went away from the fields, and on returning, after an absence of a month, his black servants, whom he had left in charge, turned over to him more than three hundred diamonds. One man found a stone, at the end of four days’ work, which brought him, in clean cash, eighty thousand dollars.

A CURIOUS FACT ABOUT DIAMONDS.

A curious fact about the diamond is that it sometimes bursts. The experts at the Cape can generally determine, by examining a stone, whether it will burst or not. When first taken out, a small speck is seen in it. If it is put aside in a dry place, it is in fragments by the next morning. The miners keep such a stone in water or oil, generally, until they find somebody green enough to buy it. The bursting is caused by disappearance of moisture in the stone, and, of course, it is retained there as long as the stone is kept moist.


[Pg 403]

XXVII.

THE UNDER-WORLD OF PARIS.

THE IMMORALITY AND LICENTIOUSNESS OF THE CAPITAL.—COMPARISON WITH OTHER CITIES.—FRENCH ETHICS AND LITERATURE.—DIFFERENT GRADES OF THE DEMI-MONDE.—THE TRUE STORY OF CAMILLE.—THE GARDENS ON THE SEINE.—THE DANCES AND THE DANCERS.—THE PETITS SOUPERS OF THE COCOTTES.—AFTER-MIDNIGHT SCENES.—ACTRESSES AND CHAMPAGNE.—ADVENTURESSES AND CHÂTEAU MARGAUX.—INTERIOR OF A THIEF’S DEN AND MURDERER’S CELLAR.—BLOODTHIRSTY VIRAGOES AND DESPERATE CUTTHROATS.

The demi-monde is aptly named; for, while it is so eminently worldly, the world rejects it, and in most instances assumes to be unconscious of its existence. In the French capital it is accepted as a fact, and it can hardly be any more dangerous there on that account, than it is in cities where it is ignored. The French have gained the reputation, but without any good reason, of being much more immoral than other nations. We Americans are constantly asserting this, and our iteration has had the effect, no doubt, of inducing us to believe that we are a great deal better than they. Our assumptions are unquestionably loftier, and we are more anxious to hide our defects; but that we have fewer vices, setting aside our pretences, and stripping off our shams, must not be too hastily admitted. It is to the disadvantage of the modern Gauls that on many subjects they are inclined to say what they think, while we are disposed to think what we do not say. They, too, take human nature as they find it, as it has been from the first; having no expectation of changing it by shutting it up on one side, and giving it free vent on the other.

French authors are not at all squeamish or puritanical, and [Pg 404] are addicted to the treatment of themes which we discuss only in private. The cities of France, notably Paris, do not robe themselves in external sanctity, careless of the inner quality of their ethical raiment, and, on account of their openness of speech and deportment, they are gravely misjudged.

THE WORST CITY IN THE WORLD.

Paris is bad enough, Heaven knows; but that it is the wickedest city on the globe, as is frequently asserted, must be taken with large grains of allowance. The wickedest of cities are numerous. Not only has Paris that reputation, but Vienna, Naples, St. Petersburg, Berlin, London, New York, have it also. Even Boston, the centre of the land of steady habits and high moral ideas, is pronounced by many persons, who know it intimately, as unequalled for private profligacy. Stockholm, in the far and frozen north, where the temperature might be fancied to freeze the evil passions before they could have full play, has often been declared more immoral than Paris, Naples, Vienna, or London. In proportion to the population, there are more illegitimate children born in Stockholm, it is said, than in any other capital of Europe; and as marriage is held to be the best and purest condition of men and women, this extraordinary extent of illegitimacy must be interpreted to the Swedish city’s discredit.

It is all folly to arraign any particular community as worse than another. Communities are like the individuals who make them up. This has certain defects which that has not. Circumstances and conditions produce different results in different places; but, on the whole, mankind, when thoroughly understood, will be found very similar in most of the centres of civilization.

As Paris is acknowledged to be the capital of gayety and pleasure, and as morals are left there to take their natural course rather than to be hampered without benefit, Paris is the best place to observe human nature in its disapproved relations. The demi-monde is opposed to the grand-monde, and ought to represent, therefore, not only women of a peculiar class, but the members of both sexes whom society, as the expression of conventionality, refuses to acknowledge. The [Pg 407] demi-monde, in this sense, means the under-world, nowhere so interesting a study as on the Seine.

CHARACTER OF THE UNDER-WORLD.

Outwardly, the French capital is most decorous. Vice shows like virtue because it is relieved of grossness; even more, is softened and rounded with grace. You do not see there, as in London or New York, repulsive and revolting scenes. You do not encounter drunken and disgusting men: you do not hear women, who have unsexed themselves, indulging in ribaldry and profanity in the public thoroughfares, or anywhere else in fact. Everybody and everything appears so proper that inexperienced and innocent souls have expressed their astonishment at the ill fame the city has acquired, and have concluded that its bad name is undeserved. Promenading on the Boulevards or riding on the Champs Elysées, they are unable to distinguish the Faubourg St. Germain from the Quartier Latin—the upper-world from the under-world.

GRAND AVENUE OF THE CHAMPS ELYSEES, PARIS.

It is estimated that more than fifty thousand of the women of Paris live in a state of concubinage, which, in a population of two millions, is something enormous. The proportion is startling, but more from the facility attained there for procuring statistics than from the fact itself. Actualities, whether painful or not, are known and recorded in that capital, instead of being unsuspected, as they are likely to be elsewhere. This vast number of unchaste women are by no means professional courtesans,—probably five thousand would include all of these,—but embrace half a dozen grades of illicit relations.

CAUSE OF PARISIAN WICKEDNESS.

The causes that contribute to prostitution in France are, first, the unwillingness of men of education and position to marry girls who are poor, and can therefore have no marriage portion. Wedlock among the Parisians is far less sentimental and romantic than it is with us. It a species of one-sided covenant and partnership, in which the wife is expected to be loyal, and the husband to do as he pleases. He cares less for sympathy and affinity than he would if he did not expect to seek them outside of the domestic circle. He marries [Pg 408] generally for practical reasons; because it will benefit him socially, or be of substantial advantage. In consequence of this, young women in humble circumstances are little likely to be wedded. They have hearts if they have not incomes, and when their affections are enlisted, they listen to the voice of Nature without waiting for the sanction of the priest. It is not the custom, either, in France for men or women to wed out of their station, though love or passion does not respect social lines or distinctions in that country more than in any other. Hence it may be seen that unwedded wives must be numerous in Paris.

Another cause is the draft that the army makes upon the young men of the country. Compelled to enter the military service before they are married, their habits are such, after they have remained in the army the allotted time, as do not conduce to matrimony. The whole land is drained for the sake of steel-and-gunpowder parade. Thousands and tens of thousands of people who have no interest whatever in, and are only made the worse for, war, are compelled to furnish its sinews at a ruinous cost to themselves.

Still another cause is the number of illegitimate children, who, regarded as the children of the state, are reared and educated by the state, and at a certain age are left to provide for themselves. Many of the young men seek military service, while the young women, for the most part, become what their mothers have been before them. Their tastes and their ideas are superior to their rank. They are unwilling to look for husbands in a lower grade, and cannot secure them in a higher. Gallants and lovers, however, are abundant and persevering, and under the circumstances seldom woo in vain. France, moreover, tolerates, if it does not encourage, relations that other countries raise their hands in holy horror at. It does not act on the conviction that the absence of one virtue expels all the other virtues; it refuses to brand and ostracize a woman because she has merely been unfortunate, or to make her responsible for the wrong she has sustained at the hands of man. France, it must be admitted, is juster to [Pg 409] women than other nations are, for it gives them an opportunity to be independent and advance themselves, even though they have committed what we might regard as the unpardonable sin.

THE DIFFERENT GRADES.

The first circle of the demi-monde in Paris and other French cities, though it is not so called, includes the educated and rather refined women I have mentioned, who from poverty, dependence, or want of fixed position, cannot marry in the rank to which they properly belong. Their antecedents shape their destiny, and they hardly regard the relation they have been accustomed to consider inevitable as they would regard it had they been differently trained, and had the ethics of the nation been less liberal.

The second circle is represented largely by the grisettes. Many of them marry, and live domestically all their lives; but many others have a gay and coquettish disposition, prefer lovers to husbands, excitement to routine, display to conventionality, and the exhilarations of to-day to the serenities of to-morrow. These are truly of the half world, for they are half married, and yet wholly independent. They live with their masculine friends; take care of their apartments; are their companions at concerts, balls, and theatres, in the evening; and yet they have their regular daily duties at the shops where they are employed. They are not isolated; they have society of their own; are contented, cheerful, and often enjoy themselves better than the women who have been honored by wedlock.

The most showy and best defined type of the demi-monde is the adventuress, who is the popular representative of the entire class. The French playwrights have delineated her fully, and made her familiar to everybody. “Camille,” and “The Marble Heart,” have heroines of this sort. The former drama treats her sentimentally, and the latter cynically. She is not so generous and self-sacrificing as Camille, nor so selfish and sordid as Marco. After Alexandre Dumas wrote “Camille,” and achieved such astonishing success, another Parisian littérateur composed “The Marble Heart” as an offset to it, declaring Marco to be the real, instead of the ideal lorette.

[Pg 410]

TRUE STORY OF CAMILLE.

The story of “Camille,” or “La Dame aux Camelias,” as it is termed in the original, is founded very largely on fact. The central figure of Dumas’ pathetic drama had genuine existence. Her name was Marie Duplessis. She was as lovely in person and as elegant in manner as she is portrayed on the stage. Indeed, the theatric picture was almost a photograph, and the incidents of Marie’s life have been closely followed. The Armand was a young and excessively romantic physician, who, having met the beautiful cocotte at an opera ball, fell so desperately in love with her that he wished to make her his wife. She had too much good sense and prudence, independent of feeling, to permit such a sacrifice; but his devotion and generosity touched her nearly, and soon awoke an answering passion. In spite of her errors, she seems to have been intrinsically a fine and noble woman, who, under favorable circumstances, might have been pure and true. So much was she impressed by his chivalry that she cast off her admirers, purchased a handsome villa near Versailles, and begged her new lover to share it with her. He did so; for he was infatuated with Marie, and would not listen to the sober counsels of his family and friends. His father, in very moderate circumstances, was sorely troubled at the conduct of his son, who had no thought nor care for anything but his mistress. The old gentleman, unable to influence the head-strong boy, sought an interview with the lady of the camellias, and begged her to break off the connection. She undertook the task, and succeeded where his family had failed. Her success, however, was obtained at the expense of truth and her own heart; for she made her lover believe that her attachment to him was waning.

Armand, with all the gloom of the Inferno weighing upon his spirits, went to Italy, trusting that absence and travel would enable him to forget the woman he now deemed unworthy of him. He was gone a twelvemonth. He bore separation much better than she, as men usually do. Before half that time the charming lorette fell ill and died. The doctors asserted that her ailment was consumption, but the poets insisted [Pg 411] it was a clear case of broken heart. Her death, with her previous history and romantic reformation, moved the curiosity and appealed to the sentiment of Paris, especially after the tale had been told in gushing style, and in any number of short paragraphs in one of the gossipping journals.

When the villa at Versailles was advertised for sale, with its elegant furniture and dainty articles of virtu, a crowd gathered, and the bidding was so spirited by reason of active competition, that everything brought nearly double its actual value. Dumas, then quite young, was present, and secured, as a memento, a handsome ring which Marie had worn.

Six months after, some one called at Dumas’ house to see him personally. The author found the stranger to be a pale and melancholy young man, who said he had come with the hope of buying the ring that had been purchased at the sale. Further conversation revealed the fact that the stranger had been Marie’s lover; that he had given her the ring; and now, overwhelmed by the news of her death, of which he had just been apprised, he begged, as a special favor, that he might be permitted to purchase what to him had such inestimable value.

Dumas, deeply touched by the story, insisted upon making a present of the trinket to the bereaved youth, and afterwards wrote out the tender tale which has since drawn tears from half the world.

CHARACTER OF THE ADVENTURESS.

The adventuress is usually favored by nature, and carries her fair face and symmetrical form to the best market. If not handsome, she is winning, has great chic, clear insight, a thorough understanding, and the weaknesses of our common humanity.

Good and kind at first, she has become what man has made of her; and in the vocation she has chosen, vanity and self are her impelling powers. Her beauty is a commodity she offers to the highest bidder. She receives large sums, but she squanders them recklessly; for display is almost the only passion of her being. She shines in the Bois; bets desperately at Baden; turns heads at Vienna; shocks the proprieties [Pg 412] of London; dashes resplendent along the Nevski, in the height of the gayeties of Petersburg; creates a sensation at Florence; astonishes the staid Germans at Berlin; interrupts the opera at Madrid; and finally, furnishes the subject of a letter for the New York Herald.

CAREER AND FATE OF A COQUETTE.

Her career is necessarily brief, for her reign must end when years begin to tell. Between twenty and thirty-five her golden harvest must be gathered. Not unfrequently she dies by her own hand; but oftener she has learned prudence ere her charms have waned, and is contrite when it is no longer easy or graceful to sin. It is a great mistake to suppose that the adventuress is invariably drawn out of the Seine, and exposed at the Morgue. No longer able to repeat her triumphs, she likes to withdraw from Paris, in some retired town seek the consolations of religion, and bestow charity upon the poor. She is more interesting at forty than in the flush of her glowing youth; since then the flame of her self-love has been allowed to smoulder, and the radiance of her true womanhood returns once more.

The fourth circle of the demi-monde are those priestesses of Venus who sin without satisfaction, and laugh without gayety. They are not materially different in Paris from what they are in other cities. They have gone down by slippery and sable steps, but not to a level with despair. They do not despair and live, in the air of France; for with despair comes the pan of charcoal. They have intervals akin to cheerfulness, and highly-spiced sensations bounding from pleasure to delirium. They need not cease to hope or fear, since there is still a deeper deep; and that is the fifth circle, whose representatives frequent the streets at night, the cheaper cafés, and the common gardens, in search of means to continue in their horrid trade. Even these are not so degraded as the same kind of unfortunates are with us. They do not drink; they do not swear; they do not importune strangers rudely; they do not from the first disgust in their effort to attract. They have apartments of their own, a certain kind of society and a species of freedom that women, however fallen, always [Pg 415] enjoy in France. They are not labelled outcasts, as in England and America, and therefore, in their darkest hours, they have glimpses of the heaven of hope. Careless and improvident as they are in their youth, they frequently provide for the future as years go on, and come to their end through confession and ecclesiastical forgiveness of all their transgressions.

THE LOWEST CLASSES.

The sixth class, the lowest and last of the semi-mundanes, are more nearly pariahs than any others of their kind. They rarely make any provision for to-morrow, since to-morrow is as dismal and as painful as to-day. Almost always in want, their wastefulness is such that they would be poor if every month were marked by a shower of gold. It is they who accost strangers at night on the Boulevards; ask loungers in the cafés to buy coffee and wine for them; make poses and smoke cigars in the streets; and are sometimes arrested for brawls, intoxication, and pilfering. When they have reached this grade of degradation they cannot go back; they cannot stand still; they cannot fall lower. They put formidable obstacles in their proper path, and are their own worst enemies. Such elasticity and endurance as they may have is soon spent. Before a great while, a damp cellar or dingy garret is broken open, a suffocating odor is perceived, the rude bed holds a corpse; a brazier of charcoal tells the story, and adds another to the countless tragedies which invariably keep the balance with life.

BALL AT MABILLE, PARIS.

The gardens of Paris, like the Mabille, the Closerie de Lilas, the Château Rouge, and many others reveal another feature of the under-world. The Mabille, to which strangers generally go, is the least indecorous, and, I may add, the dullest. There half a dozen couples, the women being generally of the lowest demi-monde class, are paid so much per night for dancing of the most extraordinary sort. What it lacks in delicacy is made up in energy. The greatest ambition of the cocottes is to kick the hats from the heads of their partners, and to throw their drapery into the wildest confusion. Their movements belong rather to gymnastics than the quadrille, [Pg 416] which they pretend to execute, and when their leaping and plunging begin to pall upon the spectators, they have recourse to the shamefully indecent can-can.

MABILLE, CHÂTEAU ROUGE, AND PRADO.

The Mabille draws strangers, as honey draws flies. Eminently respectable and altogether staid persons go there, and closely observe the dancers, without any apparent disapproval too, when they would be supremely shocked at home at the slightest intimation of such licentious conduct. I have observed pious matrons from New England watching the saltatorial goddesses through their spectacles, as they might watch the gambols of unknown animals. The Mabille soon grows wearisome, and few persons frequent it on their second visit to Paris.

The Château Rouge is a more extended, demonstrative, and free-and-easy place of resort than the Mabille. It is much more democratic also; the prices of admission for men (women are admitted without charge) being one franc, instead of three. To encourage attendance, prizes are offered to those who shall be present the greatest number of nights during the season, and the announcement of the prizes is placarded upon the wall, so that every one may see them. Silk gowns are the temptations for the gentler, and watches for the sterner sex. I should imagine that some of the girls expected a reward for lifting their gaiters in a direct line above their heads, so often do they attempt it, and so generally do they succeed.

The Closerie de Lilas, called the Prado in winter, is the place where the students and the grisettes go in crowds, and where they whirl and make merry for the pure love of the thing. The attendance is very large on Thursday and Sunday nights, when I have seen five or six hundred persons of both sexes, flushed with wine, and dancing like mad dervishes. The revels there are fast and furious enough. License reigns supreme, and Bacchus and Venus seem to inspire the orgies. Paris always limits its public exhibitions, and minions of the law are ever present to keep licentiousness within bounds. Without stimulants the grisettes and cocottes become wild [Pg 417] with excitement as the music of Offenbach pours out under the sky to infect them with its sensuous frenzy. Doubtless the students and their lemans enjoy themselves to the utmost; for they could not counterfeit enjoyment so excellently. They smoke, and drink, and laugh, and talk, and chat, and caper together without the smallest reserve or restraint, as if they had not, and never would have, any other thought than of the present moment and its absorbing pleasure.

A DELIRIUM OF DANCING.

When the weather is unfavorable, they have their balls in a large, covered space; and to see and hear them leaping, tumbling, screaming, and roaring in one confused and palpitating mass, impresses the self-contained and impassive Anglo-Saxon very strangely. Those French revellers have few concealments. They do their wooing in the presence of hundreds; they have their little quarrels in the midst of their carnival of glee. Elise appeals to Jacques with shrugs and starts, and streaming eyes; and Victoire complains of neglect, and emphasizes his jealousy to Marguerite before the giddy throng, as if they were in the privacy of their own apartments. They make up their differences with petting words and copious caresses, and enact their melodramas regardless of curious eyes and smiling lookers-on.

There are resorts, and not a few, in Paris, of a more private character, where decorum is not observed, and where restraint is not practised. All evil passions are there let loose, and vices revealed that would be repulsive to any but morbid minds. Such shameful entertainments are declared to be in imitation of ancient Grecian revels and Roman rites. The claim is noteworthy, for Paris, in its most revolting and secret sins, never forgets to assure itself and the external world that such entertainments are sanctioned by classicism. These may be imagined: they certainly cannot be described.

FAST SUPPERS.

The petits soupers of the under-world are reckoned by many among the attractions of the French capital. They occur at many of the restaurants, though at Peter’s and the Café Helder they are given with the most flavor. These little suppers begin after midnight, and continue until dawn, and [Pg 418] though the best of them are private, the public ones, or rather those in public places, have enticements for the masculine mind, on account of the eccentric women to be found at them. At Peter’s and the Café Helder are spacious saloons, provided with small tables; and about one o’clock in the morning, parties of gayly-dressed ladies, with their gallants, and often without gallants, begin to arrive. Many come in carriages, but some on foot, albeit the pedestrians are attired like stage queens. The majority of the women are lorettes, of different grades, but not a few of them are the inferior actresses of the Gaîté, Variétés, and Gymnase, and the ballet girls of the Vaudeville, Ambigu, and Folies Dramatiques. There they completely unbend, cast reserve to the breezes, take easy positions, chatter like magpies, blow small clouds of smoke at the frescoed ceiling, or keep time to the clinking of champagne glasses with their symmetrical feet. Those unescorted are entirely willing to be invited to partake of salads, ices, or wines by the gentlemen who drop in from mere curiosity, or from a desire to make feminine acquaintances.

Between two and three o’clock the sexes become adjusted to each other; everybody is eating and talking, drinking and smoking, at the same time. The handsome rooms resound with feasting and merriment. Glasses rattle, forks clatter, tongues wag, songs are sung, toasts given amid the highest glee and enthusiasm.

Standing in a chair, with a beaker of sparkling Clicquot, is the pretty soubrette of the Gymnase, making a mock-heroic speech; and at the end of every sentence she is greeted with the clapping of hands and loud huzzas. Near her the graceful danseuse of the Folies, encircled by the arms of the dramatic critic of the Figaro, is offering a toast in a goblet of Château Margaux, and at the other end of the saloon, two brunette deities are giving a bit of the can-can, in the midst of vociferous cheering.

Stretched on a velvet sofa, her heels elevated above her head, Marie Basquinette, a famous adventuress, who has just [Pg 419] come from London, is entertaining her listeners with a droll account of the awkwardnesses and stupidities of the English. (Whenever the French wish to be particularly funny, they always caricature John Bull; and many of them really believe that no Briton can, by any possibility, appear other than uncouth and ridiculous.)

The French prints of well-dressed carousals with which we are so familiar, might be actual photographs of the petits soupers and their surroundings at the Café Helder. As the night wanes apace, and as the east grows gray, the revellers begin to disappear. There is something ghastly in the daylight surprise after a debauch, and the Parisians flee from it as if it brought sermons and endless prayers.

THE DANGEROUS CLASSES OF PARIS.

What we should call the dangerous classes would seem, from the fair outside of Paris, to have no existence there; and yet, as the police well know, many of the most cunning thieves, audacious burglars, and desperate scoundrels are native and to the manner born. They keep out of sight by day, and are rarely seen in the fashionable quarters, unless they have some special mission of villany. These fellows have their organizations and their amusements, and herd together and hold nocturnal revel in out-of-the-way dens, where no one but the gendarme or government spy would think of looking for them.

Having some desire to become acquainted externally with French scoundrels, I mentioned my desire to a private detective, who promised to take me to the district known as the Batignolles, where, he said, many of the choicest miscreants of the city were in the habit of assembling on Sunday nights. He told me that, while there was not likely to be trouble or danger, it would be well to be armed; and so, with two revolvers each, we sprang into a calèche, one stormy Sunday evening, at the Grand Hôtel, and drove to our point of destination.

After nearly an hour’s ride through narrow and dreary streets, over rough pavements, and past malodorous neighborhoods, he stopped before a tall stone building, that looked like a deserted mill.

[Pg 420]

VISITING A DEN OF THIEVES.

Not a light was visible anywhere, and, as the night was dark, I asked my guide if he were not mistaken in the locality. He assured me that he was not, and, taking my hand, told me he would lead the way. I could see nothing; but after we had stumbled along for a few seconds, a flash of lightning revealed a long, narrow stone staircase before us, and down this we slowly crept. At the base was a heavy oaken door, which appeared as if it might withstand a battering-ram, and I was wondering how we were to open it, when the detective put his mouth to the key-hole, and gave a peculiar whistle. The door swung open at once; we stepped into a dismal vestibule, and were confronted by a huge figure, who grunted out, “Tout bien,” as he recognized my companion, slammed to the door, and bolted it securely. So large a Frenchman I had hardly seen. He was a giant in proportions, and I discovered by a few phrases, that he was an Alsatian. He knew what we wanted, and told us, pointing in the direction, to go to the main hall, where, to translate him freely, the boys were very lively, and having a good time.

A few steps brought us to the hall,—it should have been called a cellar,—and in it were some fifty of the most villanous-looking men and coarsest women I had ever had the misfortune to encounter. It was evident, at a glance, that they were thieves, robbers, and assassins; the slightest acquaintance with phrenology and physiognomy made that clear—that some of them were of the sneak, some of the burglar, and others of the desperado order. The place was dimly lighted with a few sputtering candles; the ceiling was low, and the air mephitic. A few of the men were standing and smoking pipes; but the greater part sat at rough tables drinking and talking in hoarse tones, with vile oaths, on subjects in which it was natural they should be interested.

A murder that had been committed a fortnight before in Marseilles, an account of which had been printed in the Paris journals, occupied much of their attention. They were very laudatory of the skilful manner in which the crime had been perpetrated, and of the adroitness displayed by the criminal in [Pg 421] getting away. They had not a particle of pity for the victim, an old and inoffensive man, whose throat had been cut while he was asleep in bed, that a trunk in his apartment might be broken open and plundered of a thousand francs.

The women, if they might be termed such, were more brutal and bloodthirsty in their dispositions, judging from their expression, than the men themselves. They were, as I was informed, either thieves themselves or aids and accomplices of the thieves. Some of them were what we should style shoplifters; others made it their business to obtain information from servants in regard to private residences, and imparted it to the burglars with whom they consorted.

LOOKING AT A MURDERESS.

One Amazon, who had a mustache and slight whiskers, had committed two murders, the detective said—one in Lyons, and the other in the arrondissement Vaugirard. She had been so adroit that she could not be convicted on trial, though there was not the least shadow of doubt of her guilt. She was a species of she devil in that tophet, and, as I perceived, was looked up to as something of an oracle. She planned many of the boldest robberies, and was herself regarded as absolutely fearless. She must have been very strong; for she was as broad across the shoulders as a grenadier, and her rolled-up sleeves showed that she had muscle like a black-smith. I would much rather have encountered a masculine ruffian and assassin than that virago, who seemed fierce and cruel, not from passion, but from nature. There was a tigress look about her which made my flesh creep and my hair bristle. She appeared so bloodthirsty that I should not have been surprised if she had sprung upon me and fastened her fangs in my neck.

The thieves and robbers in the cellar knew the detective of course, as they know detectives all the world over; nodded to him familiarly, and asked him in an argot—which had to be translated to me—if he had been successful in making any arrests recently.

I observed that they changed their tone of talk as we entered, determined not to give him any clew to their latest [Pg 422] crimes. They continued, however, to discuss the exploits of the members of their profession, and to express the warmest admiration for the greatest scoundrels. It hardly seemed possible that human beings could be so hardened and so vicious, and that they could find their chief gratification in disorder, violation of law, and revolting iniquity. These fellows were more like brutes than men in semblance. Their eyes had a fierce and lurid expression; their mouths were sensual and coarse; their jaws had a heavy, animal-like firmness; and their whole faces were dark and forbidding. I noticed that many of them drank spirits, which is uncommon in France, and that the largest potations did not sensibly affect them.

Three or four of the gang were so repulsive in feature that I felt a curiosity respecting their history, and made inquiry thereabout of the detective.

HISTORY OF A HOUSE-BREAKER.

“That chap sitting down with the short pipe in his mouth,” said the legal bloodhound, “is not more than thirty years old, though he looks nearly fifty. He was born and reared in or near this city, and has been a thief since his earliest child-hood. His father was a noted burglar, and died in prison at Bordeaux, where he had been arrested for an attempt to break into the vault of a bank. The man’s name is Pierre Boudrot; but he is called by his associates the Mad Bull, from his great strength and violent temper. Until he was fifteen or sixteen, he was a petty pilferer; but he afterwards aspired to highway robbery outside the barrières. He prospered in this for some time; but having, as it was suspected, shot and killed a merchant, he was forced to fly to England. Returning three years after, he was apprehended and tried for the crime. No direct evidence could be adduced against him, and he was acquitted. He has been involved in any number of personal encounters with his fellow-villains, and has stabbed and shot at least a dozen of them. Generally speaking, they have refused to testify against him, and he has therefore escaped punishment. He is now a house-breaker, and operates so skilfully that the police seldom have an opportunity [Pg 423] to interfere with him. Some sixteen months ago, he was living at Pantin with his mistress, a young woman of some intelligence and so remarkably handsome that it was strange she could fancy so ill-favored a wretch. Having become jealous of her, they had several boisterous quarrels. One morning she was found in bed with her throat cut from ear to ear, and he had disappeared. He was suspected at once, and publication of the fact was made in the newspapers, whereupon he surrendered himself, and during the examination which followed, several of his accomplices swore that the girl had committed suicide, giving many details that rendered their statements plausible. As his witnesses could not be impeached, he was acquitted, and returned to his old calling. He has frequently been seized by policemen while carrying out some nefarious design, but such has been his strength that he has almost always managed to get away. On one occasion he threw an officer of the law from a fourth story window, and broke his neck. Still nothing could be proved upon him, as no one had witnessed the deed. He must ultimately come to the guillotine, however, as he is growing bolder and bolder in his commission of crime, and more reckless of the means he adopts. Intemperance is telling upon him, as you can see by his bloodshot eye and bloated face.

A CRIME-STAINED SCOUNDREL.

“The gray-haired man,” continued the detective, “laughing so loudly, with a broad scar above his eye, has been in nearly every principal prison in France, and yet has never served out a single term. Professional thief as he is, he does not appear to be very vicious or malignant. He has never been known to do any one bodily harm, and is always as cheerful as he is now. He would not be such a bad-looking fellow except for that scar, and the fracture of his nose, which was caused, some years ago, by his jumping from a wagon conveying him to jail.

“The very dark man, sitting on that bench, and swinging his legs, is a Spaniard. He came here from Madrid, where he had been for some years a bull-fighter, and whence he had to fly for poisoning his father to get a little property. [Pg 424] Poisoning is his specialty, and he is believed to have disposed of a number of persons in that way. Whenever he takes life, he has, of course, a purpose in it, and he has come into possession of a good deal of money by the deaths he has brought about. A greater villain than he probably never breathed: he seems to have no more objection to committing murder than he has to smoking a cigar; and he is known as Pedro the Killer—a nickname of which he is really proud.”

THE GREATEST SCAMP IN PARIS.

“There is a young person I have not noticed before,” I said to my companion, pointing to the left. “Who is he? He can’t be a thief. He must have gotten into this company by mistake. Is he a gentleman seeking for acquaintance with underground life, like myself?”

The man I had designated could not have been more than twenty. He had a fresh, handsome face, and when he smiled, as he often did, his smile lighted up his countenance as sunshine lights up a landscape. It was hard to associate him with crime or vice of any kind, and hence my question.

The detective laughed, and said, “You mean the Badger. He is one of the greatest scamps in all Paris, and one of the most desperate scoundrels. There is nothing in the world he would not do for money. If I were not here, and anybody were to offer him five francs, he would walk up to you, salute you politely, and blow your brains out, regarding it as a capital joke. The Badger is well educated, and is reputed to be the son of a prominent lawyer by an actress. He ran away from home, and turned thief on instinct. He is absolutely without fear and without conscience. That crime is natural to him is proved by his enjoyment of it. He has had marvellous good luck, for, though frequently arrested, he has never been punished, and the fact of his getting off again and again is ascribed by some to the influence and wealth of his father.”

The detective would have told more; but by this time the thieves, all of whom had drank liberally, began singing a coarse and profane song, in which morality, religion, and decency were burlesqued, and which, rendered by the harsh [Pg 425] voices of the men and women, sounded, in that dreary cellar, like a chorus of infernal fiends.

GOING HOME.

Informing my guide that I had seen and heard enough, we went out of the stifling cellar, beyond the heavy oaken door, up the narrow stone staircase, reached our calèche, and as the fresh breeze welcomed us, and the clouds overhead broke away, revealing the stars, I seemed to have been transferred to another sphere, and I wondered that such dens of crime could exist and flourish under the beautiful exterior of Paris.


[Pg 426]

XXVIII.

THE EAST RIVER BRIDGE.

LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS UNDER WATER.—HOW THE WORK WAS PERFORMED.—THE CAISSON.—HOW IT IS MADE.—ITS MODE OF OPERATION.—WORKING UNDER WATER.—EXPLORING THE BED OF THE RIVER.—DESCENDING INTO THE BOX.—EFFECTS OF A GREAT PRESSURE OF AIR.—AN UNPLEASANT SENSATION.—A STRANGE SIGHT.—ACCIDENTS.—HOW A MAN’S ARM WAS CAUGHT.

A bridge to connect New York and Brooklyn has long been desired, and many plans for such a structure have been made. It was finally determined to erect a suspension bridge high enough to permit the passage of ships beneath it, and stretching, in a single span, from one side to the other of the East River. Work was begun in 1870, and continued, with occasional interruptions. The bridge, by comparison with similar structures, is the longest and largest of its kind in the world.

The Brooklyn Suspension Bridge—Now Building.
Length of River Span, 1616 feet. Length of New York Approach, 1441 feet. Total Length, 5878 feet.
Each Land Span, 940 feet. Brooklyn Approach, 941 feet. Total Height above High Tide, 268 feet.

The bridge rests on two piers, one on the east and the other on the west bank of the river. The eastern pier was begun some time before the other, and the work of laying its foundations was of a peculiar character. Ordinarily, where a pier is to be set in the water, a coffer dam is built around the place where it is to stand, and the water is pumped out. But in the present instance, this mode of working was deemed impracticable, and it was decided to lay the foundations by means of a caisson. This is quite a curiosity in its way, and well deserves a visit and a description. I did not visit the one on the east side, but deferred my caisson explorations till the work on the west side was under way.

On the invitation of Colonel Paine and Engineer Cottingwood, I was one of a party of four to descend into the [Pg 429] caisson to examine its workings and inspect its machinery. Arriving at the foot of Roosevelt Street, we found indications of the construction of a large building. There were numerous derricks, scaffoldings, and building materials in the vicinity, and every where there was activity. Just as we reached the works we found a gang of sixty men indulging in hot coffee, which is always served to them previous to their descending the shaft of the caisson. Their coffee drinking over, and the roll-call answered, they walked in single file to the mouth of the shaft, and there waited the arrival of those whom they were about relieving.

Most of the men wore nothing but their shirts and trousers, with water-proof boots reaching above the knees. At a signal given by the foreman of the gang, some of them entered an elevator, while others proceeded down a spiral staircase, and were soon lost to view. Before taking the reader to the interior of the caisson, it may be well to state that it is nothing else than a large box of iron and wood, the full size of the intended abutment. This box is turned bottom upward, and rests upon its edges.

DESCRIPTION OF THE CAISSON.

It is one hundred and two feet wide, and one hundred and seventy-two feet long, and nearly ten feet in height. Its immense weight is supported by several solid trusses of oak and iron, which run across the caisson; and in addition to this, it receives an upward support of forced air equal to forty thousand tons. The pressure of the air in the caisson is forty-four pounds to the square inch, being twenty-nine pounds more than the ordinary atmospheric pressure.

The air is sent down the caisson by means of pumps, there being fourteen engines, each of twenty-four horse power, constantly at work. In the centre of the caisson, an entrance is obtained by means of a shaft having a spiral staircase of over one hundred circular steps, and there is another entrance by an elevator, which, by the by, is the most agreeable way of descending, particularly if the visitor is inclined to corpulence.

It was down this entrance I went with the rest of our party. [Pg 430] Like the workmen, each of us swallowed a small quantity of hot coffee and biscuit, as we were told that we should suffer less from the effects of the descent. Under the direction of our guide, we took our stand inside the elevator, for the simple reason that we could not sit. There were no velvet-covered seats, as are generally found in hotel elevators.

GOING INTO THE INTERIOR.

At a given signal, we began our journey into the East River, and descended until we reached what our conductor termed the “lock.” Here we changed our stands again, and entered the lock by crawling through an opening at the bottom of the elevator sufficiently large for a man of ordinary size to pass easily. This lock is an oblong iron box, or boiler, of just sufficient size to allow half a dozen persons to stand erect. It is eight feet long, and six feet in diameter. At the bottom of the lock there is an iron door or opening, similar to that through which we entered, which gives admission to the interior of the caisson. These iron doors are fitted with rubber, so as to make them perfectly air-tight.

When we had all entered, the door was closed upon us. We looked at each other, wondering what would be done next, and we soon found out. Our conductor, previous to starting the lock, gave us what he termed a few useful hints, so that we might be able to make the trip as agreeable as possible under all the circumstances.

“Now, gentlemen,” said he, “in descending, you will find a disagreeable sensation, particularly about your ears. You will find great ease by closing the nostrils every few seconds,—as the pressure of the air will act upon the tympanum of the ear,—and also by inflating your cheeks to their full extent.”

These instructions were given that we might cause an artificial pressure upon the inside of the ear, and thus prevent its rupture.

Our conductor then proceeded to turn a cock, to admit the air forced from above. In a moment it rushed in with a tremendous force, making a noise similar to that of a locomotive [Pg 431] blowing off steam. The effect of this was anything but pleasant. A sudden deafness seemed to overtake us, as if a cannon had been fired under our noses; our voices were also changed, and appeared cracked, and we almost wished our curiosity had not led us so far.

A HEAVY PRESSURE OF AIR.

This feeling was caused by the air rushing too fast into the orifice of the ear. There was just sufficient light inside the lock to discern our faces, and that was all. It took five or six minutes to get the necessary amount of pressure into the lock, and then the air was turned off.

We seemed suddenly to lose our footing, and then to regain it; and no sooner had we righted ourselves than we had another sudden shoot, and this continued until we reached the bottom. The actual descent was made in about a minute and a half, or perhaps two minutes; but owing to the pain we suffered, it appeared to be three times as long.

The sensation we experienced was certainly very disagreeable and painful, and for a pleasure trip I certainly would not recommend any one to undertake the journey. Should a lady go down, however strong-minded she might be, I would not answer for the consequences. One of the party was so much affected by the pressure of the air that our conductor had to turn off the cock frequently. The stranger’s ears pained him greatly, and blood began to spurt from them.

Having reached the bottom of the caisson, where the workmen were digging out the earth and blasting rock, we were detained in the lock some minutes, to allow the admission of air of the same density as that below. This being done, I descended a short iron ladder leading into the bottom of the caisson, and speedily found myself standing on the bed of the river, seventy-eight feet below water-mark.

There were several men working in their shirt sleeves, with big drops of perspiration rolling off their cheeks. The subterranean vault was very well lighted with gas forced down the pipes in the same manner as the air; and it is a curious fact, that in the compressed air a foot burner gives as much light as a four foot one would in the ordinary atmosphere. [Pg 432] The caisson seemed to be full of steam, as if a hundred washerwomen were plying their avocation at the tub. The bottom of the caisson is divided into several chambers by means of iron and wood partitions, with entrances leading into each other. The air does not seem impure nor unpleasant. According to an examination made a few days before my visit, it was then found to contain a small percentage of carbonic acid, but not enough to do any harm.

OPERATIONS BELOW.

As soon as the sand is dug, it is sent up various pipes, four inches in diameter, which operate in the same way as siphons. It is odd to notice with what force the sand ascends to the top of the caisson, and it is all that six men can do to shovel it in fast enough. Boulders of trap rock were found embedded in the quicksand. These were broken up and hoisted out by an apparatus similar to a dredging machine, working in an immense shaft filled with water.

The shape of the interior of the caisson resembles very much the lips of an enormous bell, and in reality it is worked upon the same principle as an ordinary diving-bell, the water being kept out by the great pressure of air. As soon as the caisson is perfectly settled, and all the sand and debris down to the bed rock is removed, the interior is filled with concrete and masonry, and thus the pier obtains a foundation perfectly solid.

While making a tour through the various chambers, I found a pair of doves, which had been placed there for testing the effect of the compressed air. The birds appeared to have become accustomed to their new habitation, where they had been for several weeks. They looked, however, rather disconsolate and sickly, and I learned, a day or two later, that one had died from the effects of its imprisonment.

A black and tan terrier had also been taken into the caisson, but after it had been down a few hours it became paralyzed in its hind legs, and was taken up; and for more than a fortnight it did not recover from the shock to its system.

[Pg 433]

SCENES IN THE CAISSON.

The scene in the caisson is a very novel one. The water, seen through the gas jets, sparkles in the pools at the bottom of the river, the men are toiling and perspiring amid the rushing and rumbling noise of the sand siphons, and everything appears in confusion. While our party was making its tour, it was found that our voices had completely changed; each one appeared to stutter, and altogether the voice had a very unnatural sound, as if we spoke in a half screeching key.

An attempt was made to whistle, but whistle we could not. The lips might be puckered, and you might blow as hard as you pleased, but it was all in vain, as not a note could be heard. Some of us tried to whistle by our fingers, but were unsuccessful.

Communication is had with the upper-world by means of a movable iron rod and a couple of dials, one above and the other below. These form the telegraph. On each dial are printed, in plain letters, the words, “All right,” “Start,” “Faster,” “Slower,” “Stop,” “Less,” “More,” “Bucket is caught,” “Highest corner,” “Stopped,” “Come up all;” and the last is the most pleasing call of the entire number to the laborers below.

Adjoining the dial is a thermometer, which indicated the atmosphere to be eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit.

Accidents occur in the caisson, in spite of all precautions. A short time before my visit, a small stone caught in the pipe of the siphon, and one of the workmen came very near losing his arm while attempting to pull it out. His hand was drawn into the pipe, as if by a powerful magnet. The man was thrown upon his face by the great power of the atmosphere, and at the same time his arm was drawn up the pipe: had it not been for four of his comrades instantly pulling his arm down, the limb would have been torn from his shoulder. He received severe injuries, and is not likely to be so careless again. The skin of the arm looked as if a quantity of boiling oil had been poured over it, and it soon became blistered from his shoulder downward.

[Pg 434]

After a stay of nearly an hour, the party proceeded to return once more to terra firma. We entered the lock, as on making the descent, through the small iron door; then the compressed air was allowed to escape until the pressure of the air was equal to that of the atmosphere outside.

CHANGE OF ATMOSPHERE.—THE JAMS.

While this was going on, a peculiar sensation was experienced, but it was not as disagreeable as that of making the descent. It seemed as though there was a rush of water through the ears, and we were diving. Ascending to the top of the caisson occupied about ten minutes, as the physician in attendance recommends that the change from the high pressure should not be made rapidly. We were all glad to breathe the pure air and enjoy daylight again. Several of the workmen stated that nearly every day some of them suffered from the work below, and said one,—

“We have all had the jams.”

“What are the jams?” said I.

“Well,” said another, “they ain’t the jim-jams, brought on by drink, for we dare not take much, but a feeling like the flesh a tearin’ off of our bones.”

“We have the cramps in our legs, body, arms, and chest,” said another, “and at times it causes us so great pain that we cannot work; we do not notice anything amiss until we have been out of the caisson for some hours, sometimes not until the next day. These ‘jams,’ as we call them, go away as quickly as they come, but sometimes return after another visit to the caisson.”

The men are cautioned to abstain from drinking spirits, but with some the caution is not heeded, and those that will drink spirits in preference to coffee are generally the greatest sufferers.

The construction of the abutments of this bridge is a novel one. It was first introduced on the building of the St. Louis suspension bridge, and since then great improvements have taken place. When completed, the bridge will be a noble monument of engineering skill.


[Pg 435]

XXIX.

THE INUNDATION AT LALLE.

INUNDATION OF A MINE ON THE LOIRE.—HOW THE MEN WERE SAVED.—SONG OF THE PUPILS OF THE MINING SCHOOL AT ST. ETIENNE.—TERRIBLE FLOOD OF A MINE AT LALLE.—BREAKING IN OF A RIVER.—COURAGE OF AUBERTO, A WORKMAN.—SAVING SIX LIVES.—PLAN FOR RESCUE.—DISCOVERING THE WHEREABOUTS OF THE PRISONERS.—ONE MONTH’S WORK IN THREE DAYS.—OPENING THE DRIFT-WAYS.—SIXTY FEET OF TUNNELLING.—IN THE DARKNESS WITH A CORPSE.—STORY OF THE RESCUED.—THIRTEEN DAYS OF PERIL.—FINDING THE BODIES OF THE DEAD.—ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE MEN DROWNED.—SAVING A CHILD.—EATING WOOD AND LEATHER TO SAVE LIFE.—A HORRIBLE SIGHT.

In one of the mines on the River Loire, about thirty years ago, there was a terrible accident, caused by the sudden eruption of the water. The water came in like a torrent, and drove the miners up an inclined gallery, where there was no outlet. The people above ground rushed to their assistance; the engineers brought their plans of the mine, and determined where the enclosed men were to be found, if still alive. Workmen volunteered to go to the assistance of their comrades, and a new gallery was begun in the direction of the supposed place of refuge. The blows of the pick upon the wall were at first unanswered; but after a while, faint sounds were heard in response. The rock was hard, and progress was slow; but every man did his best, working night and day. Sound is transmitted through rock with great facility, and in a little while the workmen could hear the voices, as well as the knocking of their imprisoned friends. Six days passed in this way, and at length a hole was bored through the rock, and the colliers were found to be all living.

Though they were near starvation, and had eaten their candles, and even their leather straps, their first appeal was [Pg 436] for light, not for food. Prolonged darkness is distressing in the extreme, and these men had suffered the total absence of light nearly the whole of their time of imprisonment. Candles were passed through the bore-hole, and then a tin tube, through which broth was poured. The work of relief was pressed forward, and at the end of the sixth day the sufferers were released and brought to daylight, amid the cheers of the men assembled around the mouth of the mine.

SONG OF MINING STUDENTS.

The story of the release of these miners is familiar to all the inhabitants of that region. The pupils of the Mining School of St. Etienne composed a ballad, of which the following is the opening stanza:—

“Mineurs, écoutez l’histoire
De trois malheureux ouvriers,
Restés sans manger ni boire
Pendant six grand jours entiers.
Au fond d’une galerie
Serrés comme en un local,
Ils auraient perdu la vie
Sans la coupe verticale.”

This ballad was sung two or three times daily, at the beginning and end of lessons when the master was not present. One of the teachers of the school assisted at the rescue of the miners, and used to tell the story to his pupils. He added a moral to it, after the manner of Æsop with his fables, and endeavored to impress upon the school the importance of vertical shafts from all the principal galleries to the surface. Many lives have been lost in mines in consequence of the absence of these shafts, and in every locality where mining is conducted on an extensive scale, the law should compel the owners to make at least two openings to the outer world.

In 1862 an inundation occurred at the mine of Lalle, in France, by which one hundred and five persons lost their lives. The story is thus related by M. Simonin:—

On the 11th of October, between three and four o’clock in the afternoon, a violent storm visited the country, and it is asserted by some of the inhabitants, that a waterspout had [Pg 439] burst there. The waters of the River Cèze, as well as those of a stream and of a ravine, which is dry at ordinary times, both of them being tributary to the Cèze, rose higher than they had ever been seen before. It was a vast inundation, or, as the people of that region describe it, a deluge. The mine extended under the river, and its mouth was not far from the bank. The water made a whirl at one point, and then rushed into the mine through a large opening over the outcrop of one of the coal seams. There was a rumbling noise all through the mine; all hands were at work under ground, and there was danger of a terrible calamity. Some of the men managed to escape by the ladders, while others hastily ascended a shaft, and floated upwards on the surface of the water.

INUNDATION OF A MINE. SCENE IN THE MINE OF LALLE, FRANCE.

A noble act of courage and devotion was performed by a Piedmontese workman by the name of Auberto.

COURAGE OF AUBERTO.

He escaped up a shaft, and as he did so, he gave the alarm to a comrade who was at work in a lower level. Auberto then ran to another opening, fastened the tub to a rope, descended, and called, the water falling all the while in a perfect torrent. Five men came out; four entered the tub, and were saved; the fifth hesitated a moment, and was lost. As soon as they reached the surface, Auberto caused himself to be lowered again. Perceiving a man entangled in the timbering of the lower gallery, he drew him out, threw him into the tub, and was drawn up at the moment the water took possession of that part of the mine.

Auberto had saved six lives, and would have saved more, but no other point was accessible, the whole mine being then under water.

There was only one outlet remaining, and this had been formed by the breaking of the ground near the point where the waters were rushing in. Lights were seen shining there, and ropes were thrown in; but the violence of the waters increased, the ground fell in afresh, this last outlet became closed, and all the men in that part of the mine were drowned. In half an hour the interior of the mine was converted into a [Pg 440] lake. The air and gas in the mine were compressed by the weight of the water, and were forced out through fissures in the ground, producing the effect of gunpowder, throwing the earth to a considerable distance, and in some cases overturning houses.

Everybody in the vicinity rushed to the mouth of the mine, and an anxious and terrified crowd was speedily collected. The engineers and superintendents were first on the spot, and were speedily joined by the engineers and workmen from the neighboring mines.

PLANS FOR RELIEF.

No immediate relief is possible. Perhaps the colliery is only a vast tomb, for out of a hundred and thirty-nine men who entered the mine in the morning, only twenty-nine have escaped. A hundred and ten are scattered in the interior of the mine, some at one point and some at another, at different depths and in varying conditions. How are they to be found? and is it certain that even one of them is living?

A dike was made at the surface to keep out the water, and the engineers consulted the plan of the mine, in order to devise the surest and readiest means of relief. While this was being done, a young boy, who had previously been employed in the mine, entered one of the galleries, and, after knocking for some time on the walls, thought he could distinguish sounds answering to his own. He called his comrades, and repeated the experiment with the same result. The engineers were informed, and everybody hastened to the spot. M. Parsan, of the Imperial School of Mines, had arrived from Alais, to direct the work of salvage. He ordered everybody to maintain the most perfect silence, and then he made a signal by knocking with a pick at regular intervals of time. He has written an exciting account of these operations.

“With ears resting on the coal,” he says, “and holding our breath, we soon heard, with profound emotion, extremely faint, but distinct and timed blows,—in fact, the miners’ signal,—which could not be the repetition of our own, because we had only knocked at equal intervals.”

Between the prisoners and their rescuers there was a solid [Pg 441] wall more than sixty feet thick, which must be cut through; but the greater part of the miners were shut up in the mine. But volunteers were ready from the other mines, and soon the blows of the pick carried hope to the hearts of the prisoners. The work began at six o’clock on the evening of the 12th, at five differents points in the gallery where the sounds were heard.

PUSHING THE WORK OF RESCUE.

The five drift-ways were made towards the place where the sufferers were enclosed. One pickman at a time worked in each heading, and he was relieved at the moment when he began to feel wearied. He worked with all his energy, and the coal which he removed was carried away in baskets as fast as it was detached. The labor proved more difficult in consequence of a want of air, and it became necessary to put up ventilators. Sometimes the lamps would only burn in front of the air-pipe. At two o’clock on the morning of the 14th, the voices of the imprisoned colliers could be heard. “There are three of us,” they said; and they gave their names. The coal increased in hardness, and the heat became unbearable. All that day and the next the best pickmen went to the front, hewing the coal with all their strength, the prisoners all the while making themselves heard. Finally, at midnight of the 15th, one of the drift-ways was completed, and the three men were reached.

Only two were alive. The youngest was sobbing, the other was in a high state of fever, and the third, an old man, had been unable to survive the trying ordeal, and was found dead not far from his companions.

The two survivors were covered with blankets, refreshed with cordials, and carried to the hospital of the mine, where they were put in the care of the physician, who next day pronounced them out of danger.

The work of rescue had continued without intermission for seventy hours. On calculating the amount of rock and coal removed from the drift-ways, it was found that a full month would have been required, under ordinary circumstances, to do the work which had been performed in three days.

[Pg 442]

STORY OF THE SUFFERERS.

The most precise details of the circumstances of their confinement were given by the two rescued colliers. They were at work in a heading when the water was heard coming upon them. They then ran to the upper end of the gallery, where they were found—a narrow place with a considerable slope, and very slippery. With their hands and the hooks of their lamps they dug a little place in the shale to sit down in; the water was up to their feet, and they were in a sort of bell, in which the air was highly compressed. They felt a singing noise in their ears, and for a time they lost their voices. Their lamps went out for want of oil. They tapped with the heels of their shoes on the walls of the gallery to summon assistance. This sound was the one which was heard, but only after they had been imprisoned twenty-four hours!

Convinced that help would arrive, the eldest of the three, the one who was destined never to behold the light of day again, shed tears of joy. Another, mad with thirst, descended into the level with the water up to his armpits, in a vain search for a way through the rubbish; but he afterwards regained his place, being guided by the voices of his companions. The youngest, seventeen years of age, frequently fell asleep, and would have fallen into the water but for the help of his neighbor, who held him in his arms like a child, and thus saved him from death. At one time the noise of the ventilator connected with the operations of their preservers reached their ears, when they imagined that a new influx of water was about to occur, and they became discouraged. The old man was constantly active. Overcome by his efforts, he slid from his resting-place into the water, and was drowned without a struggle, and without uttering a cry. Frozen with horror, and held motionless in their places, the two others dared not move to his assistance, and they even refrained from announcing the accident to those who were working to relieve them. “There are three of us,” they cried, when in reality only two were alive.

IN DARKNESS WITH A CORPSE.

The one who suffered from thirst finally determined to move, but touching the dead body while drinking, he clambered [Pg 443] back again. Fatigue, bad air, and this fearful vicinity to a corpse, rendered him delirious, and he said to his comrade, “Come, let us leave this.” The other was frightened, and in order to divert his attention, suggested that he should go and drink again. He went, and returned, striking against the dead body in passing. “The darkness,” said he, “made the place more horrible than anything I had ever imagined.”

In the mean time the water got lower in the level, but it was cold there, and the two captives remained in their places where the air was dry and warm, though constantly growing more impure. At last they were recovered, and carried into the light by their comrades. By a strange phenomenon they had lost all notion of time, and thought they had not been in the mine more than twenty-four hours. Other instances of a similar nature are recorded. Some miners of Hainault, who lived twenty-five days shut up in a mine during an inundation, thought they had only been there eight or ten hours.

While the operations for saving the lives of these two men were in progress, other works were undertaken, with the view of penetrating the interior at other points. Pits were dug where the miners were suspended from ropes for fear of explosions, while other workings, which had been injured by the flood, were repaired. One of the old shafts was undergoing repairs at the time of the accident. In ordinary times, fifteen days, at the least, were required to refit the engine, put up the ropes, and get everything ready. In this instance everything was done in four days: the pumping began on the 15th of October, and was not again interrupted.

The workmen continued to bore and dig shafts. On the 24th of October, thirteen days after the accident, the men working at the bottom of the shaft heard shouts. Three men were still alive, only separated by rubbish and a vacant space of ground from the point where the workings were in progress. Disputes arose as to who should save them, each man desiring the honor of going down first. At last the favor was [Pg 444] given to one of the overmen, who descended and found two men, who clung to him, and begged for relief. He encouraged them, and fed them from a can of broth which he carried. In a little while the timbermen made the place secure, and the captives were brought out.

A CHILD BURIED IN THE COAL.

A third prisoner, a child, was still left. His comrades described the place where they had buried him in the coal to keep him warmer. The engineer hastened to the spot, and seized the child, who embraced him and wept; the three were taken at once to the hospital, where they soon found themselves in the company of the other two, who had already been saved.

FALLING IN OF A MINE.

Like their comrades whose story I have just told, the three last colliers had fled before the water from the first moment of its breaking in, and finding a rubbish passage stopped up, they despairingly made an opening into it. They afterwards clambered to the heading of the gallery as a last refuge. Their lamps were out, but they heard the water rise, and retreated before it. The noise occasioned by falls, and the breaking of timber, as well as the sound of explosions caused by compressed air, reached their ears distinctly, like a frightful tumult, which seemed to announce to them the last hours they had to live. One of them had a repeating watch, which he caused to strike several times; but it stopped on the morning of the 12th of October at a quarter to three o’clock. They heard the noise of the tubs plunging into the water in two adjacent shafts. They conceived the idea of reckoning the progress of time by means of the short intervals of rest caused by changing the gangs. They thus formed a very near guess at the period of their captivity, which they reckoned at fifteen days, instead of thirteen.

To satisfy their hunger, they ate the rotten wood of the timber supports, which they crumbled in water, and then devoured, having previously eaten their leather belts. They could quench their thirst at will, and that sustained them. Afterwards the water rose to where they were, and wet their feet. Subsequently it fell, and then they thought of fastening [Pg 445] one of their boots to a string and drinking out of it. Finding the water retiring, the child resolved to go in search of an outlet. Swimming or holding on by the walls, he groped his way along, but found nothing. Exhausted and chilled with cold, he returned to his companions, who lay close to him to warm him, and then covered him with small coal, in which position he was found.

THIRTEEN DAYS IN DARKNESS.

These men were liberated after being shut up thirteen days: the temperature, the pressure, and the composition of the air in which they were found, were favorable to life, and, moreover, they had the means of quenching thirst. Under such conditions, it may be possible to live a month. Our nature can endure a great deal when it is compelled to exert itself. The energy and tenacity of life are great, and few men know how much they can undergo until they are driven to make the experiment.

Only five were saved in this catastrophe at the mines of Lalle. All the rest of the one hundred and ten perished. Drainage of the mine was steadily pushed amid innumerable accidents, and the colliery was free of water on the 4th of the following January, fifty million gallons of water having been removed. During the interval the bodies were slowly discovered, and heart-rending was the spectacle which the mouth of the shaft presented as the bodies of the victims were drawn up, relatives and friends pressing forward and endeavoring to recognize or guess at some well-known face. And the scene in the mine, as the water slowly fell and the bodies were found floating on the surface with the light thrown upon them by the lamps of the searchers, is described as horrible in the extreme.

GOVERNMENT MEDALS.

From the managers to the humblest workman, everybody connected with the rescue did his full duty. Every man vied with his neighbor in doing what was needed, however difficult it might be. All the directors of mines in the Department of the Gard, assembled, and brought their overmen, surveyors, and workmen, who, in every instance, gave proof [Pg 446] of a courage and self-denial which never failed for a single moment. The government bestowed crosses and medals upon those who rendered material assistance in the rescue, and the sad occurrence will long be remembered in and around the mines of Lalle.


[Pg 447]

XXX.

PERILS OF THE MINER.

NARROW ESCAPE OF THE AUTHOR.—CAUGHT IN A LEVEL.—SETTLING OF THE ROOF.—BREAKING TIMBERS.—A PERILOUS PASSAGE.—FALLING OF A ROOF.—THREATENING DANGERS.—ADVENTURE OF GIRAUD, THE WELL-DIGGER.—CAUGHT IN A FALL OF EARTH.—THREE WEEKS WITH A CORPSE.—ONE MONTH WITHOUT FOOD.—HOW HE WAS RESCUED.—A MINER COVERED WITH COAL.—HIS RESCUE.—AN IRISHMAN’S JOKE.—INUNDATION.—CURIOUS THEORIES OF THE MINERS.—EFFECT OF STRIKING A VEIN OF WATER.—DRAWING THE MEN IN A MINE.—THE SEA BREAKING IN.—CLOSING THE SHAFT.—A TERRIBLE STORY.—EXPERIENCE OF A FRENCH ENGINEER.—CASUALTIES AND THEIR NUMBER.—SUFFOCATION OF THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-ONE MEN IN ONE MINE.

I was once in a mine in Colorado, when I fervently wished myself out of it. I had been there a day or two before, and found that in one of the levels I was just able to stand erect. At the visit in question I found I could not stand erect without hitting my head. I was certain that I had not grown six inches taller in the mean time, and I accordingly concluded that the roof had settled. All at once, while proceeding on my walk, I was astonished at hearing a crackling sound behind me; and on looking around, I discovered that some of the timbers were giving way.

Here was a predicament. The breaking timbers were between me and the entrance to the mine, and I knew that if they should fall, so as to close up the passage, I should be cut off from escape.

AN UNPLEASANT PREDICAMENT.

It did not take a long time for me to determine what to do. At the risk of being crushed by the falling timbers and rock, I darted backward, extinguishing my light in the rapidity of my movements, and becoming wrapped in almost complete [Pg 448] darkness. Luckily, however, there was a light burning in the level; and as I crept among the breaking timbers, it was as welcome to me as the polar star to a man at sea, when his compass has become unreliable.

Another and another of the timbers gave way as I walked, or rather crept, beneath them. When they were broken in the centre, they had partly, but not completely, closed the passage, their ends being held firmly in the rock. I managed to reach the other side, and as soon as I considered myself safe, I turned round to see what was going on. The timbers settled very slowly; there was no one on the level beyond them; and had any persons been there, the settling of the roof was so slow, that they would have had plenty of time for escaping.

When I reached the outside, I made a vow to avoid similar dangers in future, and it was some time before I again ventured where I should be liable to a similar accident.

Falls of the roof are a kind of danger which is always thought of when underground works are considered. In certain kinds of rock there is no liability to occurrences of this sort. The roof is as solid, and as well supported, as that of any house, and there is no danger of its yielding; but where the rock is slippery and loose, or where the ground is soft, the peril that threatens is constant.

Falls of earth are not unfrequent in digging wells. Many a man has lost his life in consequence.

An exciting story is told of a well-digger, named Giraud, who was excavating a well near Lyons, about twenty years ago.

TERRIBLE FATE OF A WELL-DIGGER.

The earth caved in, and Giraud found himself dashed to the bottom of the hole by the side of a fellow-workman. Luckily, the timbers fell in such a way as to form a sort of arch above their heads, and thus saved them from being crushed at once. Some men, who were above at the time of the accident, immediately set to work to save the sufferers. It was necessary to dig a new shaft near the first, and then connect the two by a driftway, which would reach the men at the point [Pg 449] where they were enclosed. Their efforts were constant, but in spite of them, a whole month was spent in reaching the spot, as fresh falls of earth were constantly occurring in the new workings. Giraud and his comrade could hear the noise of the pick, and could converse with the workmen, and assure them that they were alive.

At the end of a week, Giraud’s companion died of exhaustion and starvation. Giraud was a man of great strength, both of mind and body, and bore up as well as he could under his suffering. The dead body of his companion, which lay near him, poisoned the little air he had to breathe; but somehow he lived day after day for a whole month. Every moment his rescuers expected to reach him, when some fresh accident occurred, and much of the work had to be done over again. On the thirtieth day they reached the prison, and Giraud was saved.

He was wasted to a skeleton, and unable to stand. His body was a mass of sores; gangrene had attacked all his limbs, caused by the corpse which had been rotting at his side for three weeks. He was carried to the hospital, and every attention was given him; but he had suffered too much, and died within a month of the day of his rescue.

Occasionally masses of rock drop from the roof without the least warning, and fall upon the heads of the miners. Sometimes a man may escape with the loss of a limb, or he may be killed outright. In other cases, the walls and timbers give way, and men are crushed beneath their weight.

A story is told of a miner who was caught by the fall of some coal which nearly crushed him, but he had sufficient strength remaining to call for help. A comrade heard him, and gave the alarm. All the men who could work in the small space were immediately gathered; and a part of the coal having been removed from around the sufferer his head and one of his hands became visible. He was lying on his right side upon the floor of the gallery, with his legs doubled beneath him. There was a mass of broken timber above him, so that he could not move, but fortunately his chest was not [Pg 450] compressed. Air was supplied him by means of a ventilator and a tube. The rails and some of the other timbers by which he was enclosed were cut through, and a space was opened in such a way as to reach him from below. He did not lose courage a moment; he remained perfectly cool, and gave his preservers several useful suggestions. Finally, after six hours of suffering, he was removed.

In several instances miners have been enclosed in such a way that escape was impossible. All efforts to relieve them were unavailing, and those who remained uninjured from the fall of the rock died of suffocation or starvation.

AN IRISHMAN’S JOKE.

Let us change a moment from the horrible to the ludicrous. A few months ago, an Irishman, who was digging a well in Illinois, left his work, and went to breakfast. When he returned, he found that the earth had caved in. There was a clump of trees a few yards away, and after looking around to ascertain if any one was in sight, and knowing that some friend would be there shortly, he took off his coat, hung it upon a post, and then, taking his shovel and pick, retired to the shelter of the trees. He had just concealed himself, when his friends made their appearance. They saw the coat hanging upon the post, and they saw that the earth had caved in. Immediately concluding that their friend was buried below, they set at work to rescue him.

They worked with the greatest energy for two or three hours, and at the end of that time had removed all the fallen earth. But no Pat was there. Just as they were wondering what had become of him, he walked leisurely from his place of concealment, and thanked them for what they had done. At first they were inclined to be indignant, but finally concluded that it was a good joke, and a few drams of bad whiskey removed all differences.

The danger of underground inundations is as great as that of falls of earth. Water is constantly accumulating in a mine, and sometimes in such quantities as to defy all attempts to keep it under control.

Miners have curious theories about streams of water which [Pg 451] enter the mines. Some of the English miners believe the earth is alive, and they compare the veins of water in the earth to the veins and arteries of the human body. Sometimes they say, “When the water breaks into our working-places, it is the Earth which revenges itself upon us for having cut one of his veins.” The Belgian miners have the same belief, and they call the water which flows out of the coals, ‘le sang de la veine,’ that is, ‘the blood of the vein.’

FLOODING A MINE.

Inundations of mines are frequently fatal. Sometimes the water enters with great force. One day, in an English coal mine, the water fairly drove out the auger with which the workmen were boring a hole. It came as if from the nozzle of a fire engine. The workmen made several attempts to plug the hole, but could not, and were driven out. A few hours later the mine was flooded. Pumping machinery was set up, but it was not until the end of seven years that the water could be removed. It was only then stopped by means of banking, that prevented its further entrance.

In a mine near Newcastle, many years ago, there was an inundation which enclosed ninety men in a place where it was impossible to relieve them. Several persons, who were working close to the shaft when the water entered, managed to escape, but they were very few in number. The accident occurred in May, and it was not until the following February that the bodies of the drowned men were recovered. With one exception all were recognized.

At another coal mine, which was worked on the sea-shore, and extended a distance of fifteen hundred yards under the Irish Sea, the manager, in his anxiety to produce a large quantity of coal, recklessly cut away some of the pillars which supported the roof. One day the whole neighborhood was alarmed with the report that the mine had fallen in. The commotion was so great that many persons on the shore observed the whirl of the sea directly over the spot where the water entered. A few of the laborers escaped, but thirty-six men and boys were drowned. The accident happened more than thirty years ago. The coal mine is now, and always [Pg 452] must remain, under water, and the bodies have never been recovered.

DEATH BY SUFFOCATION.

Some of the most terrible mining accidents are those which occur in consequence of the closing of the shafts. Where a mine has two shafts there is little liability of such accidents; but where there is only a single shaft the danger is constantly threatening. The terrible calamity at Avondale, which is fresh in the minds of many readers, will be described elsewhere.

A similar accident at an English coal mine, a few years ago, was even more terrible in its results than the calamity at Avondale.

The beam of the pumping engine gave way, and killed five men who were at that moment coming up in the cage. One hundred and ninety-nine men and boys were then working under ground. The enormous beam of the engine weighed more than forty tons. In its fall it carried down all the timbers of the shaft, damaging the walls in several places. The rubbish and broken timbers accumulated in the shaft, and closed the only mode of egress for the miners. The beam and timberings cut off all connection between the interior of the mine and the outside world. The mine was furnished with ventilating furnaces, in which a large quantity of fuel was burning, and it was supposed that the imprisoned miners died of suffocation within twenty-four hours. Some of the men who were imprisoned tried to force an outlet, but they were unable to do so, and died in the effort.

Many accidents of this kind might be described. In the various coal-mining countries of the globe, they may be said, in the aggregate, to be of almost weekly occurrence. Where the owners of mines neglect or decline to provide their works with two entrances, it is imperatively necessary, for the protection of life, that the law should interfere, and compel them to do so.

ACCIDENT AT A FRENCH MINE.

A few years ago, at a mine in France, the engineer one day observed that the cages did not work properly in the guides. Fifty-six yards below the surface he discovered that the lining [Pg 453] of the shaft deviated from the perpendicular. The joints and displacements were visible at several points. All the men, three hundred in number, were ordered to leave the mine.

Men went down the shaft to cover the openings, but the result was only to create fresh ones. For the next two days the lining of the shaft repeatedly cracked.

The planks broke one by one, and the water rushed into the works. The consulting engineer of the mine was called in, and when he arrived he descended with the superintendent, both of them in fear that they were going to certain death. Their lamps went out while they were descending, but they carried a lantern, which was hanging to the bottom of the tub in which they descended. By the light of this lantern they discovered an enormous opening in the middle of the lining. Stone, and earth, and rubbish were continually falling, and a torrent of water ran through.

“Let us go up again,” said the engineer. “The water is master of the situation, and all hope of saving this working is gone.”

In relating this incident afterwards, the engineer said, “I lived ten years in half an hour. My hair turned white in that perilous descent, which I shall never forget as long as I live.”

A few hours afterwards, holes which began at the middle of the shaft extended from top to bottom. At the pit’s mouth, an immense opening had formed nearly forty yards in diameter, and ten yards deep. Engine, boilers, buildings, machinery, and scaffolding gradually fell into the opening. At each movement of the ground a fresh ingulfment took place. The sky was dark and covered with clouds. The timbering of the shaft gave out sparks under the enormous friction which was caused by the sudden fracture of the wood. A peacock, shut up in the neighboring court-yard, gave signs of alarm, and uttered loud cries at every movement of the ground, and at every fresh fall. “No poet could describe, nor painter represent, the desolating spectacle which we witnessed,” said the engineer, in concluding the account of the occurrence.

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STATISTICS OF ACCIDENTS.

In this country it is next to impossible to give correct statistics of the number of lives lost by these accidents. In Great Britain and France statistics are obtainable.

In those countries, according to the report of the inspectors of mines, about one half the mining accidents are occasioned by falls of the roof and coal. A third of the accidents are in the shaft in various ways. The remainder, or one sixth of the casualties, occur from blasting, explosion of fire-damp, suffocation, and, finally, inundation.

According to an English report, there was one death for every two hundred and sixteen persons employed in the mines. It was estimated that one life was lost for every sixty-eight thousand tons of coal obtained. In some districts of England the proportion was one life lost for every twenty-two thousand tons. In the year 1866, six hundred and fifty-one lives were lost from explosions of fire-damp. In the previous year there were only one hundred and sixty-eight deaths from the same cause. Altogether, in the year 1866, there were fourteen hundred and eighty-four deaths from mining accidents in Great Britain alone. The total number of deaths from all violent causes in the mines of Great Britain, in ten years, was nine thousand nine hundred and sixteen. Twenty per cent. of these were caused by fire-damp explosions.

The greatest number of lives lost at any one time through mining accidents was at the Oaks Colliery, in 1866, when three hundred and sixty-one miners lost their lives.

GREAT LOSS OF LIFE.

At the Hartley, Wigan, and Bury Collieries, many fearful accidents have taken place within the past few years, whereby many lives were lost. These accidents, in justice to the owners, or superintendents, let it be said, are not always due to the want of precaution on the part of the managers, but from gross neglect, or through non-observance of the rules under which the mine is worked. For example, the men were very careless in the use of the safety-lamps. Every lamp is locked before it is given out, and every care is taken to prevent its being opened. The men will occasionally amuse themselves by trying to pick the locks, and that, too, in places where the [Pg 455] air is full of explosive gas. So accustomed are they to danger, that they hold it in great contempt; and the result is, that fatal accidents were much more common than if men were cautious and obedient.

At the time of the Oaks Colliery explosion, great sympathy was manifested throughout England, just as was subsequently seen in the Avondale disaster in America. For days after the occurrence, the daily papers were filled with long details of the horror, the recovery of the bodies of the victims, the distressing scenes at the mouth of the mine, and at the graveyard, and the brave deeds of the men who were fortunately absent from the mine at the time of the explosion.

Subscriptions were opened in nearly every church for the benefit of the survivors, and at the suggestion of Queen Victoria, the then Lord Mayor of London and Common Council held a public meeting to raise money for the families of the victims. The appeals were liberally responded to through the whole country. Many of the wives of the dead miners received life pensions, and all the bereaved families were placed above immediate want.


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XXXI.

THE MAMMOTH CAVE.

ROMANCE AND MYSTERY OF CAVES.—THE FAMOUS CAVES OF THE WORLD.—THE GREATEST CAVERN ON THE GLOBE.—ITS IMMENSE FAME.—AMERICANS’ NEGLECT OF IT.—CAUSE OF THEIR INDIFFERENCE.—SITUATION OF THE MAMMOTH CAVE.—ITS MISERABLE MANAGEMENT.—ANNOYANCES AND IMPOSITIONS PRACTISED UPON TOURISTS.—JOURNEY THROUGH THE VAST TUNNEL.—WHAT ONE SEES, FEELS, AND DOES.—CONSUMPTIVE GHOSTS.—WONDERS OF THE STAR-CHAMBER.—DESCENT INTO THE BOTTOMLESS PIT.—CROSSING THE STYX AND THE LETHE.—MARVELLOUS ECHOES.—STARTLING ACCIDENTS.—WOMEN IN AWKWARD SITUATIONS.

Caves in all ages have been associated, not only with mystery and romance, but with sorcery and superstition of every conceivable kind. Fable and tradition have converted them into the abodes of demons and witches, and history shows that robbers and law-breakers have always made them places of refuge and shelter. Every mountainous or picturesque region I have visited has abounded in witches’ caves, robbers’ caves, murderers’ caves, and caves generally, in which supernatural rites and horrid deeds are supposed to have been celebrated or committed. The dark, dreary, and weird quality of many caves, added to their unique and fantastic formation and uncertain windings naturally awake a feeling of awe, and appeal strongly and strangely to the imagination.

The ancient priests, in order to influence favorably the minds of the ignorant, pretended that the divinities they claimed to interpret had their residence in deep and dreary caverns, and that thence they revealed their mighty purpose to their mortal agents. The oracles of Delphos, which princes and sages were wont to consult, were interpreted, as it was assumed, by a priestess sitting at the mouth of a cave, and [Pg 457] claiming to predict the future of nations, and tell the destiny of kings. The old Norsemen performed their barbarous rites in caverns; the Indian Brahmins devoted caverns to religious purposes, and from natural openings in the rocks constructed gorgeous temples. These subterranean chambers were doubtless the earliest abodes of men, and even now, in certain uncivilized regions, they are so employed. Petra—the Sela and Joktheel of the Bible—continues to be visited as a curiosity, because its ruins plainly indicate that its inhabitants dwelt in spaces hewn out of the solid stone. That caverns were used for the dead as well as for the living is evinced by the Catacombs of Thebes, Rome, Naples, and Malta.

MYSTERIES OF CAVES.

The greatest caves known—new ones are constantly being discovered—are of limestone, and of comparatively recent origin. Geology teaches that the primary formations of caves are many, though small, being produced by the action of water coursing through the strata, and that the continuation of this process for ages creates the vast and beautiful chambers, which all of us are so fond of exploring. Sweden and Norway boast of granite vaults, especially Marienstadt, of extraordinary dimensions, though some of them have been, as yet, but partially penetrated. The vicinity of Quito contains caves of modern porphyry, and the Isle of France caves of lava. Gurtshellir is a cavern of lava in Iceland, forty feet high, fifty broad, and one mile long. The caves of Agtelek in Hungary, and of Adelsberg in Carniola,—the latter noted for its transparent white pillars and brilliant stalactites,—are among the most remarkable in Europe.

Adelsberg has an unusual interest for naturalists, because a strange reptile, called the proteus, half a lizard and half an eel, has its habitat there. It has an extremely elastic constitution, and an extraordinary adaptability, as may be inferred from the fact that it subsists equally well on land or in water, imbedded in rock or buried in mud, requiring neither air nor light, food nor drink, for the sustainment of its existence. What an excellent littérateur the proteus would be as respects its limited necessities! If it happened to be an unappreciated genius, [Pg 458] like most literary men, it need not feel any concern, for it could afford to wait until the world had come round to it, and the age had grown worthy of its thought. Fame, being a bubble, and therefore air, could not injure the nondescript creature, nor could the throwing of mud, as is the custom of journalists, mar it in the least. Much as it might be in (hot) water, it would not be troubled, and as to detraction and misrepresentation, its house would be (occasionally at least) built upon a rock, and would therefore stand firm.

THE CAVE OF GUACHARO.

In Venezuela is the celebrated cave of Guacharo, among the loftiest precipices of the mountain range; the entrance being through a gloomy ravine, running above a subterranean stream, the banks of which are covered with luxurious vegetation. Guacharo, as the name implies, is the resort of immense quantities of night birds, and their harsh notes resounding through its dismal recesses gave it the reputation, with the ignorant natives, of being the abode of the devil and his imps. For generations they have had traditions of dreadful ceremonies and hideous orgies held there, and have believed that many wicked persons have been seized by the imps, carried into and tortured in those awful recesses. They would not enter the cavern for any earthly consideration, sincerely believing that to do so would insure the loss of their souls. Humboldt, so far as known, was the first man who ever set foot within Guacharo; and he then succeeded, after unwearied patience and perseverance, in inducing a certain number of natives to accompany him as guides. They had not proceeded far, however, when the clamor of the birds so terrified them that they fled, in spite of every effort of the great naturalist to calm their superstitious fears.

Near Iletski, in Russia, is a freezing cave, so called because, reversing the order of the seasons, it is partially filled with ice in the summer, and altogether free from ice in the winter. Not a few of the caverns of the old world have been found to contain the bones of extinct species of animals. One of these, at Kirkdale, in Yorkshire, was discovered about half a century ago, and in it were quantities of remains of bears, lions, tigers, [Pg 459] hyenas, and hippopotami, all of orders that had passed away. It is presumed that the Kirkdale cave was for a long while a vast den of hyenas, and that some great inundation destroyed them and their kind.

THE GREATEST CAVE IN THE WORLD.

The greatest cave known on the globe is the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky, situated in Edmonson County, near the Green River, ninety-four miles from Louisville, and nine miles from Cave City, the station on the Louisville and Nashville Railway where passengers get off when they wish to visit the celebrated cavern. The Mammoth Cave is world-renowned: I have found that the people of every nation, even our antipodes, are acquainted with it, though that may be the only thing in America of which they have any clear apprehension. I question if there be any other natural curiosity half so well known as that. Never have I travelled in any domain inhabited by intelligent people, who had not only heard of it, but who did not have something like accurate information respecting its extent and peculiarities. Famous as it is, and easy of access, comparatively few of our countrymen have explored it. Indeed, the very ease of its access has prevented a great many persons from going there who would otherwise have gone. What we can do at any time we are not likely to do at all; for any time is really no time. I have met residents of Naples who had never ascended Vesuvius, or seen the ruins of Pompeii. I am acquainted with citizens of Schaffhausen who have never set eyes on the magnificent Rhine Falls. There are Parisians who have never been in the Louvre Gallery, or the Park of Versailles; Romans who have never stood before the Apollo, the Laocoön, or the Transfiguration; Athenians who have never been within the Parthenon; Cairines to whom the pyramids are a dream; denizens of St. Petersburg unacquainted with Moscow; Viennese ignorant of the Belvedere and Schönbrunn; Berlinese unfamiliar with Potsdam, and cultivated Londoners who have never made a pilgrimage to Stratford, to the tomb of the most wonderful genius the world has yet shown.

It is not strange, therefore, that Kentuckians, liberal as [Pg 460] their state vanity is, should often die without “doing” the Mammoth Cave. I remember how often I went within a few miles of the cave before I took the trouble to visit it, and that, finally, dissatisfied with myself for its long neglect, I made a special journey from New York to carry out my much deferred purpose. For several years a branch railway has been talked of from Cave City to the Cave; but it has never been built, needful as it is in the saving of time. Eighteen miles of coaching, in these rapid and driving days, appear to the average traveller considerable of a task; and when to this is added the two full days required for an exploration of the enormous cavern, it is easy to understand why so many persons refuse to examine the subterranean chamber lying along the Green River.

A SWINDLING MANAGEMENT.

You cannot do the cave in much less than four days, owing to the determination of the coach-driver and the keeper of the hotel to delay tourists as much as possible. I still recall my first experience, and the second and third have not been in any essential respect dissimilar. The train reached Cave City at twelve o’clock, but the vehicle that was to convey me to the vast cavern would not leave for more than two hours, this arrangement being entered into by interested parties to secure each passenger for dinner at the railway station inn.

The conveyance takes its departure very leisurely, and before you are fairly inside or outside, as the case may be, you are obliged to pay not only your fare to the cave, but your fare back, even if you have no intention of returning for a month. This ruffles most people, and impregnates them with the notion that the astuteness of negotiations in that neighborhood is not far removed from swindling—a notion apt to be strengthened as they go on. Arriving at the Mammoth Cave Hotel, a great, rambling, ill-kept, uncomfortable collection of frame buildings, of the kind of which travellers in the South cannot be ignorant, you are informed that you are too late to enter the cave on that day.

There are two routes—the long, and short; the former extending nine miles from the mouth of the cavern, and the [Pg 461] latter three miles. The day following you can do either of these, but if you want to do both you must remain two days. There is no need of this, since a strong man, accustomed to exercise, can make the double subterranean journey in ten or twelve hours without difficulty. Were he to do so, however, the rustic Boniface would lose the price of one day’s board; and hence the tourist must be put to serious inconvenience and delay for merely mercenary reasons. Men frequently offer to pay twice or thrice the rate of the day’s board for the privilege of making the entire underground journey in a single day. This is refused, because it would fully expose the trick, and give an opportunity for victims to advertise the fraud.

You may grumble—that is the privilege of every free-born citizen—but you can’t help yourself. The public house employs the guides, and the guides will do nothing contrary to the annoying and cheating customs it has established. The hotel, the coachmen, and the guides, are in league one with the other, and as there is only one Mammoth Cave, and only one way of getting into it, if you are really determined to see it, you may growl and swear as much as you please, but you must conform to the rules that have been laid down for the private benefit of the little ring, and for your own disadvantage.

DISCOVERY OF THE CAVE.
A NARROW AND MISTAKEN POLICY.

The cave was accidentally discovered some seventy years ago by a hunter, and ten years later was worked for the purpose of procuring saltpetre; the company so engaged finding it unprofitable, and at last abandoning it to curiosity-seekers. The property belonged originally to a Dr. Croghan, who died some years since, leaving it to the heirs of the [General] Jessup estate. These heirs are so anxious to make money out of it, and so narrow at the same time, that they have adopted a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy. They will not lease the hotel for a period of more than five years, and, consequently, no lessee can be had who will make such improvements in the house and grounds as are needed. They are very fearful that a new entrance to the cave, beyond the [Pg 462] limits of their real estate, will be discovered; and for this reason all visitors are forbidden to carry compasses, or make topographical observations upon the bearings or directions of the great natural tunnel. They have purchased, since 1860, some three thousand acres in the immediate vicinity of the cavern, from their apprehension that on the land which they so acquire another gateway might be found. They realize, I have been told, from fifteen thousand dollars to twenty thousand dollars per annum from the fees (two dollars each for the short, and three dollars each for the long route) charged inflexibly to every tourist. They might make more than twice as much by putting up a good hotel, building a railway to Cave City, and dealing fairly with travellers. Numerous capitalists have tried in vain to buy the cave property; but its owners, or the executors, will not sell. They refuse themselves to do anything for the benefit of the public, even when their interest prompts, and they refuse to allow anybody else the desirable privilege. This cannot very long continue, however. Time removes hunkses as well as difficulties, and cures meanness by putting it under ground.

The region about the cave is very high,—four hundred feet above Cave City,—and is said to be superlatively salubrious. The neighborhood is very sparsely settled, but dwellers in it, according to popular report, are compelled to move away when they wish to die; and hence it happens that wealthy old uncles and disagreeable mothers-in-law are always informed that Edmonson County is one of the most unhealthy localities on this continent.

Game, such as quail, rabbits, wild turkey, and even deer, is abundant there, which, with the good fishing in the Green River, less than a mile distant from the public house, should recommend the vicinity to sportsmen, and would unquestionably, if the accommodations were what they ought to be. As it is, most visitors get so vexed with the obnoxious arrangements appertaining to the Cave that they hurry off after exploring it, and seldom go back. Even their memories of its grandeur are infected with the Little Peddlington spirit [Pg 463] of its management, and the poetry of the place overlaid with the prose of its accompanying sordidness.

Nearly all the old guides familiar to visitors before the War, when Bell’s Tavern was the starting-point for the underground journey, have yielded to nature and to circumstance. One of the ancient band, however, Sam Meredith, still lingers,—at least, he did a year or two ago—and is a genuine autochthon. He has been a guide for a quarter of a century; was born on the spot, and has never been twenty miles beyond the limits of the county. He is naturally intelligent, though he can neither read nor write; but he makes up for these slight defects of education by his skill with the rifle. He is regarded as one of the best shots in Kentucky; has a wife and children, and a small farm; receives fifteen dollars a month; does not know that the world is round; believes Paris, in Kentucky, is the capital of civilization, and is, on the whole, as contented a mortal as I have ever met.

TEMPERATURE OF THE CAVE.

In addition to the short and long routes already mentioned, the great cavern has a vast number of avenues and branches, many of which remain as yet unexplored. All these ramifications, taken together, would give a length to the cave, it is said, of nearly three hundred miles. Its temperature, all the year round, is 59° Fahrenheit. The interior air is believed to be much purer than that of the outer world, and, on account of its elasticity and sweetness, to be remarkably invigorating. There seems some foundation for this opinion, inasmuch as tourists can make much more exertion, and endure much more fatigue, in that underground region than they can on the ordinary surface of the earth. I have observed weak men and delicate women perform acts of pedestrianism which astonished themselves, and of which they would be incapable outside the mouth of the cavern. I know that I have done thirty miles in those sombre recesses in a few hours without being jaded in the least, and on one occasion I accomplished the last mile of the long route—the roughest and most difficult of all—in eleven minutes by a stop watch, which the guide pronounced the best cave time on record.

[Pg 464]

DRESSED FOR THE EXPEDITION.

My last visit to the cave was during the spring of 1870. Early as the season was, I found at the hotel about a dozen persons bent on the same errand. Seven or eight of them were anxious to traverse the long route, and as that was my purpose also, we rose betimes, and prepared ourselves for the journey. There were several ladies in the party, and they were obliged to part with their hooped skirts and city attire, and put on water-proof cloaks, with the simplest possible arrangement of their hair and toilet. We tyrants of the race donned some old clothes, heavy boots, and caps, each taking a lamp attached to long wires, so that we could hold it easily and swing it as we walked along. Our conductor, who was no other than Sam Meredith, looked very carefully after our lamps, to see if they were properly supplied with oil and properly trimmed, since the consequences of having one’s light go out in those desolate chambers, and of being left in awful solitude and darkness,—perhaps forever,—are in no manner pleasant to contemplate. At different parts of the cave, small tanks of oil are kept, from which the lamps may be replenished in case of accident, and these have proved to be invaluable in numerous instances.

Eight o’clock in the morning was our hour for starting, and though we had become acquainted the evening previous, we were so changed in appearance—thanks to our simple attire—that we were scarcely able to recognize one another when we assembled for the march.

The masculine excursionists had not undergone such a metamorphosis as our feminine friends, whose mothers would have been excusable for not knowing them in the Spartan severity of their costumes. One young lady, whom I had thought quite pretty, was anything but pretty in the absence of her usual chevelure and modish robes. Another girl, still in her teens, who had appeared decidedly plain, really shone with comeliness and grace in her water-proof and generally dishevelled state. Her common raiment so set her off that I was obliged to conclude that none of her personal charms depended on her wardrobe, and that the less she wore the lovelier she seemed.

[Pg 465]

A GROTESQUE COSTUME.

A bright and intellectual widow, to whom years had brought a breadth of figure in which Hogarth’s line of beauty could not be traced, looked positively grotesque in her unique garments. Agility acknowledged no kinship with her, and symmetry was unquestionably of alien blood. She expressed, from the beginning, her scepticism as to her endurance, and particularly inquired of our rustic fugleman if she could rest a little on the way, provided she should happen to be spent. As we set out, she evinced a lack of physical elasticity and clearness of movement that foreboded ill to her success. But for the gallantry due to all her sex, I should say she waddled, and presented such a figure that, if Cruikshank had caught a glimpse of her, he would have claimed her for his own.

We were off at last, and in a few minutes were before the mouth of the mighty Kentucky marvel. There is nothing remarkable in the mouth, which conveys the impression of a decayed and abandoned culvert, and such I should take it to be, had I not known otherwise. The path by which you enter is damp and slippery, unless in very dry weather, and the opening of the cavern promises none of the wonders that the interior reveals.

After going less than a hundred yards, we lost the spot of daylight which the mouth furnished, and were wrapped in such shadows as might have marked primeval chaos. Our little lamps displaced so small a part of the thick darkness that the vast volumes which remained grew blacker than ever. The air was so full of oxygen as to be sensible at once, and I could not help but notice an inflation of my lungs and a lightness of my limbs, such as one feels on mountain-tops. My spirits rose rapidly, and my mood grew involuntarily hilarious. I jested constantly, I laughed at the smallest trifle. Buoyancy was in every breath, and a mercurial quality, by a strange paradox, in the surrounding gloom. The cave, if not delightful, was exhilarating in the highest degree, and I fancied it would be agreeable to spend nights there. I should say days, if the word did not convey an impression of light. The effect of the place on me was entirely different from that [Pg 466] of the Paris Catacombs, owing, doubtless, to the oxygenated air. The peculiarity of my temperament, however, which, by a principle of antagonism, reflects the opposite of surroundings, must have had something to do with it. Society which is considered the gayest oppresses, and graveyards enliven me. It is not strange, therefore, that the Mammoth Cave, apart from its atmosphere, should animate my spirits.

A REFUGE OF BATS.

We noticed that the walls and roof of the cavern were frescoed with bats hanging by their claws, heads downward, though some of them were flying nimbly about in the darkness, evidently disturbed by the glare of our torches, and the noise of our speech. During the winter they assemble there in such quantities that the curves of the cave are black with them. Their flitting through the thick gloom, relieved only by the flare and glare of the lamps (added to the hollow and dreary echoes awakened by our voices, and succeeded every few moments by an oppressive stillness), made those vast limestone chambers appear so dismal that the women of the party declared they should go mad if forced to remain in them for any length of time.

Very soon we came to the remnants of a number of rude habitations erected in 1845, and inhabited by certain consumptives who had been recommended to try the equable temperature and pure air of the tunnel, with the hope that their lungs might be healed. The poor patients had high expectations from living there, and though their first experience was not favorable, they remained several months, unwilling to believe that they would not be ultimately helped. The longer they remained, the worse they grew. After a while their faces became livid; the pupils of their eyes expanded, and darkened until the iris was invisible, having the appearance of two spots burning above a deathly pallor. They lost every particle of flesh; crept gloomily about, coughing so hollowly as to suggest the sound of the first earth falling upon a coffin-lid; and added to the natural dreariness of the vault a hundred-fold. Everybody saw and knew that they were tottering on the brink of the grave; and yet, such was their hope—a distinct [Pg 467] and inseparable accompaniment of the disease—that they could not be persuaded to quit that purgatory. They even imagined they were improving, and insisted that they were stronger, when they could not drag their leaden limbs after them.

AN UNSUCCESSFUL SANITARY EXPERIMENT.

The preciousness of existence (to most persons) was strikingly illustrated in those poor consumptives who had no hold on life, and still could not be resigned to death. One would think that serious trouble with the lungs would disarm the grave of most of the terrors it is popularly supposed to have (those who have had much familiarity with death are aware that this is an error), since it destroys all physical comfort, and all mental peace. And yet quite the contrary is true. Generally, no man is so unwilling to order the undertaker as the man who has long suffered from consumption, which shows how inconsistent and unreasonable human nature is, especially after it has been badgered by doctors and dosed with drugs.

Finally three or four of the consumptives expired in the cavern,—there were nearly twenty of them in all,—and the remainder having it borne in upon them that neither consumption nor the Mammoth Cave could insure immortality, they consented to be removed. Every one of them died—if they could be considered to have been in any true sense alive—within a few weeks after their return to the sky and the sunlight. But the history of their residence in those dreary chambers will be remembered for generations, and in 4873 will have become one of the traditions of the cave, so altered and exaggerated that very few of the positive facts will be left or allowed to mar the poetic and romantic version then current.

The cavern varies greatly in width and height, and so many avenues branch off from it, that it would be almost impossible to thread your way without a guide. A large part of the passages have been explored at different times; but some of them are virgin yet. The majority of the branches end on the bank of the river, and it is very strange that new mouths to the tunnel have not been discovered. It is not improbable [Pg 468] that they have been; but the owners of the property, as I have said, are so fearful of suffering from a rivalry in the show business that they would be the last to disclose any such fact. Different quarters of the cavern are differently named, according to their actual or fancied resemblance to the titles they bear. It requires a deal of imagination to trace the similitude sometimes, though at others it is apparent at the first glance.

UNDERGROUND CHURCH.

The Methodist Church, one of the first localities of note, is a semicircular chamber, in which a ledge of a rock represents the pulpit. Theological service has been performed there, and the logs brought in for seats are still in perfect preservation, though they have been there more than half a century. More recently service has been improvised by enthusiastic itinerants of the Methodist creed, who, having heard that the groves were God’s first temples, may infer that caves have an equal fitness for divine worship. The imagination on which religious fervor so largely depends could not fail to be kindled by burning tapers, swelling music, and earnest appeals in those natural aisles and chancels, nor could they do other than remind the pious participants of the primeval Christians who fled to caverns and to catacombs that they might adore their Creator in secret, and be preserved from persecution.

Just beyond the church is a figure of gypsum on the roof, a sort of bas-relief called the American Eagle. Patriotism prevents me from indorsing this symbolic bird, which, whatever it may have been originally, is now sorely shorn and shattered. One leg, a wing, and part of the body are literally relieved, being no longer visible under the light of a dozen lamps; and the entire animal is so deranged that it might as well be styled a dromedary or a griffin. The American eagle is usually on such admirable terms with itself that I am confident this bird would be ashamed to pretend that it is what it is represented to be. If it be an eagle, I will be sworn it does not know it. I choose to consider it a unicorn, since a unicorn is a fabulous beast, and may be presumed to resemble anything, even that amorphous gypsum figure on the roof. If the likeness [Pg 469] cannot be traced by ordinary observers, they may be reminded that it consists in the—or more properly in a—horn.

Minerva’s Dome is remarkable for its fluted walls and a honey-combed roof, though why it should be devoted to Minerva, who is not herself present in any form of natural sculpture, is an enigma not to be solved. The probability is, that Kentucky orators have so constantly referred to Minerva springing full-armed from the brain of Jove, that the goddess, even if she once had her image there, has removed it, lest its sight might induce the five or six public speakers in the state who have not used the time-honored simile to force it into their next brilliant effort.

THE FAT MAN’S MISERY.

Near the Dome, those who wish to traverse the short route only, branch off, while the long route is continued until the cave contracts, and Fat Man’s Misery is reached. This is a passage through the rocks so very narrow that a man of average proportions is compelled to go sidewise. It must have been worn by a stream of water in the dim ages past; and now the only stream of water visible is that which flows down the sight-seer’s face, as he toils along, and crawls through the Valley of Humility, where the roof is so low that you are obliged to bend nearly double. Persons with weak backs, or inclined to lumbago, have to return here with the fleshy people who have surrendered at the Fat Man’s Misery. The Great Relief is a broad passage, a little farther on, where tourists bring themselves to an erect position once more, and mop their brows with their handkerchiefs, so frequently brought into activity during their arduous journey.

RIVERS IN MAMMOTH CAVE.

There are numerous streams in the cave, the chief of which have been christened the Echo and Roaring Rivers, the Styx and the Lethe; the last often called Oblivion, because the unclassical public is resolved to pronounce the Greek title as if it were a monosyllable. The Echo River is renowned for its echoes. It is much larger and more striking than the other streams, and when it is high, as it usually is in the spring, it is difficult to cross. When I last made the passage, I had to lie almost flat in the little boat to get under [Pg 470] the shelving rocks, and, only a few days before, the guides had to stop there in consequence of the swollen stream. After we had rowed out a little way, we shouted, and called, and sang, and had the pleasure of hearing our words come back to us again and again, with almost perfect articulation. Even the tone of the voice and the emphases are preserved, and I could scarcely believe sometimes that persons were not concealed, and repeating our phrases. The thick darkness, and the weird aspect of the cavern at that point, aid the fancy, and stimulate the feeling of superstition, said to exist, more or less, in every human breast. Two hundred years ago, countless witnesses might have been found to tell of hobgoblins and demons they had heard with their own ears, and seen with their own eyes, too, in the ghastly vault.

The Roaring River does not roar much,—indeed, not at all,—and is not especially noteworthy. It is a dark and turbid stream when it is high, though at its lower stage, it is as clear as any of the south-western waters. We rowed over it, as we had rowed over the Echo River, our little scow being as inconvenient, awkward, and dirty as its fellow.

The Styx flows about a hundred feet below the floor of the cave, and is passed by a rough wooden bridge. We could hear the murmur of the stream below, and tried, with the aid of our lamps, to see it. We did not succeed until the guide attached two or three of the lights to a long pole, and let them down over the bridge. Then we saw a great fissure in the rock (manifestly made by the water), the walls of which are tolerably smooth. The borders of the chasm were so slippery that great caution was necessary to prevent one from falling into the yawing gulf. Near the Styx is the Bottomless Pit—a nominal no less than an actual hyperbole, because it has a bottom not more than one hundred and seventy-five feet from the spot where we stood. We peered down into it as best we could, and concluded that it merited its title in point of gloom and dreariness.

DESCENDING THE BOTTOMLESS PIT.

Until within a few years the pit had never been descended; but several enterprising and rapid Kentuckians, who had done [Pg 471] nothing to distinguish themselves, thought they would render their names historic by becoming acquainted temporarily with the region which, they feared, they might know permanently in the future. They went to the spot well prepared with lights, ropes, hooks, and ladders; but the place looked so ugly that only one of them had the nerve to go down. He came within an ace of breaking his neck several times before he was lowered to the base, where, after groping about for half an hour, and finding nothing but rough rocks, he expressed a desire to be pulled up again.

This was easier said than done, in consequence of the difficulty of managing the rope. On his upward passage he was jammed against the walls, and cut by sharp ledges, until he was exhausted, more from terror and pain than from loss of blood; and finally he was dragged to the top, just as the rope, in several places, held only by a few slight strands. He did not recover from his wounds and the shock to his nervous system for a long while, and he frequently asserted that he would not repeat the excursion for any consideration under heaven. He never recovered, I may say, from the indirect effect of his exploit; for it gave him a certain local notoriety, and he nourished his fame on such generous quantities of Bourbon whiskey, known in the state as Kentucky wine, that, after several brilliant seasons of imbibition at Frankfort, the delirium tremens and two undertakers took him to his eternal home.

Since then, the descent of the Bottomless Pit has been made not unfrequently, one of George D. Prentice’s sons having performed the feat, and furnished a two-column article of sophomorical extolment thereon in the Louisville Journal.

The Lethe has steep and rocky banks, and as we floated down its current, through the almost tangible darkness, with our flickering torches and the hollow murmur of our voices, it really seemed as if we might be disembodied spirits on the sad Plutonian shore. When we ceased to chatter, the dropping of water through the roof into the stream, and the dip of the oars, broke the silence with strange impressiveness.

MUSIC ON THE LETHE.

Sam Meredith was not musical: but I remember on a previous [Pg 472] occasion, that our ancient sable guide treated me to a dirge on the flute, while we glided over the bosom of the river of oblivion. The effect was magical; the solemn strains were so in keeping with the sombreness of the surroundings, the flame of the torches was so weird and fitful, the faces of the tourists looked so pale and wondering, and the ebony player assumed such an impishness of form and feature, that I should not have been in the least astonished to meet, sailing along in another boat, spirits long departed from the world.

Would it had been Lethe indeed! How gladly I should have drank of its waters! how willingly have forgotten the earthly life and all its sorrows, including the bad breakfast I was to get at the hotel the next morning, and the boredom I was doomed to encounter for the fortnight to come!

On the long route the most noticeable localities are the passage of El Ghor, a long, narrow, covered causeway; the Brown Chamber, so called from the color of its walls, and its square, apartment-like shape; Martha’s Vineyard, the roof of which resembles clusters of grapes cut in marble; Snow-ball Grotto, showing a remarkable likeness to sculptured (floral) snowballs overhead; the Rose Chamber, a fine counterfeit of roses in rock; Silliman’s Avenue, a narrow gallery so regular that it might have been the work of engineers; and numerous chambers of different proportions, and marked by striking geological features.

The Maelstrom is an ordinary pool containing an eddy and a great disappointment at the same time. It is no more of a sham, however, than the famous (fabulous) whirlpool off the coast of Norway, which was supposed to carry down ships and whales, and which in reality is not perilous to vessels or even small open boats, except during winter and in time of violent storms.

The Rocky Mountains, the end of the long route, extend about a mile, and are nothing more than an extremely rough surface detrimental to the physical comfort and shoe-leather of those going over them. Women seldom attempt this passage, which has little to commend it except the difficulty [Pg 473] of its execution, and the probability of fatigue in its accomplishment.

EYELESS FISH IN THE ECHO RIVER.

I should have mentioned the celebrated eyeless fish, peculiar to the Echo and other rivers. They have been the cause of many scientific theories and speculations among savants, who have deduced from them either that Nature does not furnish organs which are of no use, or that organs unemployed cease to exist. Abundant as the fish are, it is difficult to catch them, and I was considered extremely fortunate because I secured three or four in as many minutes. I gave them to a man who had dabbled somewhat in science, and he was very grateful for the present. I told him he need not be, for I would rather have half a dozen brook trout or a Spanish mackerel for breakfast than all the eyeless fish the Mammoth Cave contained. These sightless little creatures, generally about four inches long, resemble ordinary minnows, though of a rather darker hue, and more inclined to translucency.

On the short route, the Giant’s Causeway, the Gothic Chapel, the Grand Dome, and the Star Chamber, especially the last, have the most reputation and attract the most attention. The Causeway receives its name from its likeness to the Causeway on the coast of Ireland, and the likeness is considerable, as I can testify by actual observation.

The Chapel is striking and picturesque, albeit there is no more reason to call it Gothic than Doric or Ionic. It closely resembles a chapel, and I should fancy Nature might have been in an ecclesiastico-architectural mood when she formed it.

The Grand Dome is seen through a large opening in the wall, and shows to great advantage, being about one hundred feet below the ordinary level, and one hundred feet above, and possessing a vastness and majesty to which few other parts of the cave can lay claim.

WONDERS OF THE STAR CHAMBER.

The amount of rhetoric the Star Chamber has given rise to is beyond calculation. It has supplied innumerable similes, and has been discoursed upon in every language. The Chamber is some seventy feet high, and the roof is composed [Pg 474] of crystal of gypsum, and black oxide of manganese. As soon as we entered the Chamber, the guide took several of our lamps, descended into a hollow in the rock, and threw the light therefrom upon the ceiling. The effect was wonderful. The light, striking upon the crystals of gypsum, made them look precisely like stars, and—all the lower part of the vault being in deep shadow—created so complete an illusion that I could hardly doubt but that I was standing under the evening sky. Never was space so elongated. Those seventy feet seemed immeasurable. The longer I gazed, the more the shining ceiling appeared like the heavens. I could scarcely believe that I was under ground, and that the green grass and trees were growing above my head. I was completely lost for a while, just as any one will be after a long and earnest contemplation of the stars; and when the guide stepped out of the hollow with the lamps, and changed the scene entirely, I felt as if I had been awakened from a dream. My companions were unreserved in their expressions of astonishment and delight, and “beautiful,” “splendid,” “magnificent,” “marvellous” were the adjectives that dropped momentarily from their lips. The Mammoth Cave would be well worth visiting, if its only wonder were the Star Chamber. I have seen it a number of times, and each time its beauty is greater, and its illusion more complete.

VIEWS IN MAMMOTH CAVE, KENTUCKY.

The dimensions of the cave find their extremes in the Fat Man’s Misery and the Grand Dome—the former not more than twelve inches wide, and the latter over a hundred feet. The height varies quite as much. The Valley of Humility, where one is obliged to make a crawling L of himself, is offset by the loftiest rocky chambers; and the frequently smooth limestone floor is diversified by streams, ledges, and roughnesses culminating in the so-styled Rocky Mountains. What the cave lacks more than aught else is stalactites and stalagmites, though these are found well represented in the Gothic Chapel. The great cavern is noted for its variety, having nearly all the remarkable features that characterize other celebrated caves. It is no less attractive to the ordinary [Pg 477] sight-seer than it is to the naturalist, the geologist, or the general lover of science. It appeals to every taste—to that of the poet and of the philosopher, of the curious and the enthusiastic, of the reverent and the sceptical, of the worldling and the mystagogue.

FATIGUES OF THE JOURNEY.

How did your party come out? The masculine portion of it very much as it went in, except that some members complained very bitterly of fatigue. The feminine portion suffered in various ways. The young woman who had been changed for the worse by the cave costume, grew homelier and homelier every mile she went, and so disenchanted her immediate companion—he was her lover, I think—that after the excursion he ceased to regard her with fond and favoring eyes.

The other young woman, who needed not the foreign aid of ornament, steadily improved with fatigue, drippings of water, and splashings of mud. If she had fallen into the Styx or Lethe, and then been drawn for half an hour over the floor of the cave, I have little doubt she would have appeared charming. I never knew one of her sex to make such æsthetic advances under adverse circumstances.

The plethoric widow gave out a dozen times during the journey, detained us materially, and was at last left behind, in company with a sympathizing friend, until the rest of us had retraced our steps, and literally taken her up again. She declared that she never would be able to get rested; and two weeks after her journey I heard she was still an inmate of the hotel, bemoaning her fatigue and disordered nerves.

Persons have been lost, from time to time, in the cave, but not nearly so often as has been reported. Some years ago, one of a party who made the exploration disappeared in the Star Chamber, and all effort to find him proved abortive. When they went back to the hotel, the greater part of the valuables belonging to the excursionists, which had been deposited with the landlord, had faded out of sight. Investigation established a close connection between the disappearance of the man in the Star Chamber and the watches [Pg 478] and jewelry. The fellow was, unquestionably, a professional thief, but had pretended to be a clergyman from St. Louis. After the party had set out, he hurried back to the house, and informing Boniface that the ladies and gentlemen had altered their minds, and preferred to take their valuables with them, the latter was unsuspecting enough to hand them over. The pretended divine rejoined the excursionists, kept his own counsel, and consulted his interests by disappearing from the Star Chamber when the lamps had been removed.

ACCIDENTS IN THE CAVE.

In 1835 two men from Bourbon County, Kentucky,—their appearance indicated that they had for a long time quaffed the fiery beverage of that region,—arrived at Bell’s Tavern, and declared that they could go all through the cave without a guide, and come out safely. They even laid wagers to that effect, and though they were warned against such folly, they started upon their expedition. They certainly went in, but they have never come out; and as thirty-seven years have elapsed, it is highly probable they have deferred their return indefinitely. It is supposed that they got lost in some of the windings off the main route, and starved to death.

In the summer of 1840, a middle-aged lady from Boston suddenly swooned from fatigue, while making the underground journey, and sinking to the earth in silence, the remainder of the party went on without missing her. On their way back, the guide observed her sitting on a stone, chattering to herself like a monkey. The poor woman had become insane. Recovering her consciousness, and finding herself in the darkness,—for in her fall she had extinguished her lamp,—she had believed herself lost, as it is supposed, and the terror had shattered her intellect. The excursionists had not been absent two hours; and yet that brief time was sufficient to destroy her reason utterly. She never recovered, and died two years after in the Worcester (Massachusetts) Insane Asylum, a raving maniac.

To be lost in the Mammoth Cave would be enough to overturn the strongest brain, since, with all its beauties and wonders, it has capacities for terrible tragedy and ineffable horror.


[Pg 479]

XXXII.

INSURANCE AND ITS MYSTERIES.

HISTORY OF FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE.—LIFE INSURANCE.—OBJECTIONS OF A CALIFORNIAN.—HOW HE ANSWERED AN AGENT.—FRAUDS UPON COMPANIES.—A DEEP-LAID SCHEME.—JOHNSON AND HIS THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.—OPENING A GRAVE.—A FICTITIOUS CORPSE.—PURSUIT BY DETECTIVES AND CAPTURE OF THE SWINDLER.—LITIGATIONS ABOUT INSURANCE.—CHINESE TRICKS ON AGENTS.—SUBSTITUTES FOR EXECUTION.

The system of fire and marine insurance has been in use for centuries. The Chinese claim to have invented it, as they have claimed nearly everything else; but the probabilities are, that it was of western origin. It is alluded to in the English laws about the middle of the thirteenth century. Its earliest form was in that of marine insurance; afterwards the system of fire insurance was invented. Still later came insurance against death, which has grown in recent years to very great proportions.

Many people are unable to understand how insurances can be effected against an event which is sure to happen. There is a story of a man in California who was approached by an insurance agent with a request to take out a policy on his life. The agent painted in glowing colors the advantages of insurance, and the man listened to him very patiently. When the agent had finished his story, the victim said with great deliberation, “Stranger, I have lived in this yere country twenty-five years. I have bucked agin nearly every game that they have ever brought out, but I’ll be hanged if I want to play at anything where I have got to die before I can win.”

OBJECTIONS TO INSURANCE.

The objection which this individual made against insuring [Pg 480] his life, was a very natural one, and is an objection made by many people, though in a different form. The insurance companies, some of them at least, meet this objection with a plan by which a man arriving at a certain age without dying, can draw the money that would come to his heirs in case he died before the specified age was attained. They have devised other plans to meet the objections of all classes of people, and it is safe to say, that the system of life insurance is about as near perfection as it is possible to bring it. It is a question whether, in many cases, the companies do not reap a much larger advantage than is their just due. It is noticeable that the companies, as a general thing, pay enormous salaries to their officers, erect costly buildings, pay heavy dividends, and have a good time generally. The conclusion is natural that the rates of insurance are altogether too high, and the advantages are much greater for the companies than for their patrons.

It is possible, sometimes, for dishonest men to defraud the insurance companies, though it is not always easy. The companies are generally on the safe side; they require the most positive proof of the death of a person whose life has been insured, and they throw a great many obstacles in the way of the collection of the amount of the insurance. I have known them to demand one certificate after another, and compel the person who was endeavoring to collect the insurance money to make ten or twelve visits to the office before meeting his just demands. Very often, after the death of an insured person, questions are raised which were never before mentioned. The premiums may have been paid for years, and the officers of the company claim to make a discovery that relieves them from all responsibility. In some cases their action in this respect is just, but in many others it is about as unjust as anything that can well be conceived. It would seem proper that where a person has been accepted for insurance, and the premiums on the amount of money called for have been regularly paid and received without objection, no objection should be raised after the person’s death.

[Pg 481]

NEAT FRAUD ON A COMPANY.

Some interesting stories are told of the way in which insurance companies are sometimes defrauded. One was told to me by the secretary of a prominent company in New York, which indicates great ingenuity on the part of the swindler.

“One day,” said the secretary, “a man called at our office, and said he wished to effect an insurance of ten thousand dollars on his life, and was ready to submit himself for immediate examination.

“The physician of the company was called in, and made a careful examination of this man, whom I will call Johnson. Johnson was pronounced a good subject. All sorts of questions were asked, and he answered all of them satisfactorily. He was closely inspected. His limbs were pinched, and his chest was thumped in the orthodox way, but no defect could be discovered. To all appearances he was good for three-score and ten, and possibly more. He gave us references, stated that he was a clerk in an up-town house, and his statement was fully verified. I called upon his employer, inquired about his clerk, and was told that his character was of the best, and that he was a very industrious and strictly temperate young man. We were satisfied, and insured his life for the full amount.

“In a little while he made a request to be permitted to travel west, and of course we granted it. His parents lived in a small town in Connecticut. He had married in New York, and had been married for three or four years. Occasionally he took his wife on a brief visit to his old home. He went west soon after his application, and we lost sight of him. His wife accompanied him, and he announced his intention of finding employment and settling in one of the western cities.

“Six or eight months after his departure, his wife telegraphed to her friends in the east that her husband was very ill with pneumonia. Two days later she telegraphed that he was dead, and that she would bring the body to Connecticut for burial.

“In due course of time she arrived, dressed in deep mourning, [Pg 482] and evidently suffering from deep grief. The funeral was held, his parents attended, the coffin was opened, and the features were visible through the glass plate, though they were much dimmed by the moisture which collected on the inside.

“A few days after the funeral, the widow, whose name had been inserted in the policy at the request of her loving husband, called at our office, presented the proper papers, and made the necessary application. We made an investigation, were satisfied that everything was correct, and paid over the money.

“We lost sight of the widow after that, but learned casually that after a short residence in New York she had gone to California.

AN EXTENSIVE SWINDLE.

“We happened to learn also, soon after, that the same man had insured his life for ten thousand dollars in another company, a Massachusetts one, having an agency in New York; and also in a Hartford company for the same amount. Of course this naturally raised our suspicions. The premium on thirty thousand dollars is a very heavy one for a man on a clerks salary, and we became convinced that all was not right; so we began an investigation.

“We saw the merchant that had employed Johnson while in this city, and learned that the young man went west at the time indicated. The merchant had heard of his death, but had no positive proof or knowledge of it. Then we went to the village in Connecticut whence Johnson had hailed, and though we made the most searching inquiries, we could learn nothing to confirm our suspicions. His parents were positive of his death. Had they not seen his widow? and had they not seen his features through the glass plate of the coffin? and had they not seen that coffin buried in the public cemetery? To their minds everything was perfectly straight, and they were indignant at our supposing that there might be something wrong.

“I had a suspicion that the body in the coffin might be a ‘dummy’ with a wax face, in imitation of the features of [Pg 483] Johnson. So I hired the sexton in charge of the cemetery to open the grave and allow me to examine the interior of the coffin. We did the work at night, and unknown to Johnson’s parents, as we knew they would be greatly offended if they learned what was going on. But I was doomed to disappointment, as the corpse proved to be genuine, and as good a one as ever was buried. Plainly I was on the wrong scent when searching for a body of straw and a face of wax.

“The three companies agreed to work in concert, and share the expenses of an investigation into the whole affair. We sent a detective to the city where Johnson had died, and after a little inquiry he ascertained that a man answering to the name of Johnson, and the proper description, had actually died in that city. His body had been sent to the east, and that was all that was known; but it was ascertained that instead of dying of pneumonia after a few days’ illness, the man had lingered some time with a disease strongly resembling consumption. Here was a clew which we determined to follow up.

PURSUING A WIDOW.

“As the widow had gone to California, we told the detective to follow, and trace her out. She had written no letters to the parents of her dead husband, except a single one announcing her arrival at San Francisco, and giving a brief description of her overland journey. She said she had friends living near San Francisco, and she expected to reside a short time with them; perhaps she might remain in that place through the winter, and perhaps not; could not tell; would write again.

“The detective had a long search for the widow, and visited every place around San Francisco, and even advertised for the missing Mrs. Johnson. His advertisement stated, after describing her in sufficiently explicit terms, that by sending a note to a certain address she would learn something to her advantage. This was not exactly true, as she would have learned something greatly to her disadvantage, had the detective been able to find her; but in the pursuit of criminals, it is generally considered proper to tell a few falsehoods in order to serve the ends of justice.

[Pg 484]

A SHARP EYE FOR MONEY.

“One day the detective visited a ship which had just come in from the Sandwich Islands. He went there with an acquaintance who knew the captain, and was invited on board. While they were in the cabin enjoying the captain’s welcome, the detective heard the ship’s steward telling a friend, who had called to see him, something about their last voyage out. He said there were a lady and gentleman, very nice people, who occupied a state-room, which he indicated, and who seemed to be very fond of each other. ‘They had a good deal of money with them,’ said the steward, ‘and they were pretty liberal with it, though they would never allow me or anybody else to go into their state-room, unless one of them was there. They had their money in a small trunk, which they kept under the lower berth; and whenever they were both out of the room at the same time, they always carried the key with them.

“‘When their room was fixed up in the morning, one of them always stood near the door; and if we wanted to steal ever so much, we would not have had a chance. To make everything sure, they had a spring-lock on the door—a lock they brought with them, and fixed there with the captain’s permission. They were not going to have anybody get into their room with a pass-key.’

“The steward went on to describe the couple, and the detective found himself interested. So he questioned him very closely, and became pretty well satisfied that the gentleman was the veritable Johnson who was supposed to be dead and buried some months before in Connecticut, and that the lady was the disconsolate widow who had drawn the money from the insurance company.

“Here was a dilemma; the captain and steward only knew that their passengers had gone to Honolulu. They sailed not under the name of Johnson, but under the very rare name of Smith. John Smith, I believe, was the gentleman’s name, while the lady was Mrs. John Smith. It is not easy, as everybody knows, to trace out a man bearing this name; and even if he could be traced, very little good could come out of it, if [Pg 485] the man were in one of the South Pacific Islands, or, in fact, in any place where our extradition laws could not reach him.

“While we were about it, we thought it would be well to know the whole truth of the matter; and so we sent the detective down to the islands, and told him to follow them up, but not to make it expensive. He went to the islands, and there found that the parties had gone to Australia. Then he went to Australia, and traced them to New Zealand, and in New Zealand he found that they had gone, according to the best of his information, in about three different ways; so he went back to Australia. After a long and vigilant search he found them in Melbourne.

“He had no authority for the arrest and detention of Johnson, though he made him believe that he had, and frightened him into giving up half of the money he had fraudulently obtained, on condition that he should not be further troubled, and on the condition also that he should tell the whole story of the accomplishment of his fraud. As long as we could not get the fellow, we thought his story would be an interesting one, and would serve to put us on our guard in future. The detective obtained what he believed the whole story, and with the money Johnson had returned he made his way as speedily as possible to New York.

HOW THE FRAUD WAS ARRANGED.

“The deception began at the very outset of the scheme. Bear in mind that the man’s name was Johnson, that he was from a town in Connecticut, had married his wife in New York, and was in the store of a merchant of the great metropolis. There was a clerk in that store by the name of Johnson, and he was from Connecticut; we will say Smithville. He had married in New York about four years before this occurrence. He was a steady, well-behaved man, and contemplated going west. His wife had a small amount of property in her own name, but she was not personally known to the merchant, and the merchant did not know that Johnson hailed from Smithville. There was another clerk in the adjoining store whose name was likewise Johnson. For convenience in designating the two men, I will call the second one Roberts. [Pg 486] He came from Brownsville, in Connecticut. He had been married about four years. He was a fast fellow, and rather unscrupulous, though his employer did not know that he was in any way dishonest. The two clerks had become acquainted by accident.

“When Roberts ascertained that Johnson conceived the idea of going west, he (Roberts) laid a plan for swindling somebody. His wife was as unscrupulous as himself, and so she entered into the scheme. Roberts was of vigorous health, and could pass an examination with a life insurance company without trouble. He was of the height, complexion, and general appearance of Johnson; and this fact, added to the other coincidences greatly favored his scheme. So he came to us, and obtained the insurance, as before stated. When we made the inquiry of the merchant, his answers were satisfactory, and all the references were exactly as he stated them.

“His plan worked completely. He waited patiently until Johnson went west, and then he went likewise. He did not, however, go to the same city.

“He explained that it was his intention, a month or two after his arrival out west, to obtain from a body-snatcher a corpse which would answer his description, and then his wife would send the proper telegram to her friends in the east, and proceed there with the remains, which would appear to be those of her husband.

FORTUNE FAVORS THE WICKED.

“Fortune favored his scheme more than he had anticipated. At a boarding-house where he was temporarily lodged, he found that a boarder named Johnson was in very bad health, and not expected to live. Affecting an interest in him, and claiming to discover a relationship, he tended him carefully until the time of his death. The detective had a suspicion that the sick man was helped along, but of that there was no proof. Immediately after the death of the invalid, the telegram was sent, and the wife proceeded east, as before related. She had been at one time an actress, and was very good at simulating grief. She deceived all the relatives of her husband in the most complete manner. They thought her bowed down and broken-hearted with grief, when all the time she [Pg 487] was doubtless laughing in her sleeve. The honest Johnson, whose name had been used without his knowledge or consent, was found, after the detective’s return, to have lived at St. Louis, the place to which he had first emigrated, and had gone thence to New Orleans. He was much surprised when he learned what had occurred, and positively denied ever having an insurance on his life, or on that of anybody else. I suppose the swindler Johnson is still in Australia, and trust that he will end his days there in peace and quiet—though I fear his success in this instance will embolden him to some other fraud. His operation was fairly, though not exceedingly profitable, as, after deducting the premiums for the first year of insurance, the expenses of his expedition, and the money he returned, he did not net more than ten thousand dollars by the operation.”

HOW POLICIES ARE VITIATED.

Some of the insurance companies insert in their policies an announcement that the policy becomes void if death results from execution on the gallows, or in any other legal way, or from suicide. On one occasion a man whose life was insured was killed in a duel, and the company refused to pay the policy, on the ground that the man died virtually by his own act. His adversary was known to be a dead shot. The lawyer of the company, after stating all the arguments to show that a man who goes a duelling is, for all practical purposes, a suicide, clinched his argument by declaring that a man who would go out with such an adversary might know beforehand that he would be killed, and therefore his death was voluntary. I believe the court did not sustain the claim of the company, but required the amount named in the policy to be paid to the heirs of the unfortunate duellist.

I have heard it argued by insurance men that, where a person insured takes to hard drinking, and dies from the effects of rum, he dies by his own hand, and the suicide clause exempts the insurance company. In some cases, I believe, this claim has been sustained; but it is now generally discarded. A few cases have occurred in the United States where men have insured their lives for the benefit of their [Pg 488] families, and have then deliberately killed themselves. The insurance companies, in those cases, have resisted the payment of the claims; but, I believe, they have been generally, though, not always, allowed.

POPULARITY OF SUICIDE IN CHINA.

There are some countries in the world where an insurance company would be ruined in a very short time, if it paid the insurance claims of men who kill themselves. In China, for instance, let a company start upon this basis, and it would do a flourishing business for a short time. Men in China are much more ready than others to die for the benefit of their families or themselves; and a Chinese who could make a good thing by killing himself would be sure to do it. A company doing business in the way I have just stated would find, some pleasant morning, that about half of its policy-holders were dead, and the other half were making their preparations for blotting themselves out of existence. The Chinese loves his family, and would think he was doing a nice stroke of business by insuring his life for their benefit, and then, quietly bidding them good by, “handing in his checks.” If he could effect an insurance for a thousand dollars, he would spend a hundred in having a glorious spree, and leave nine hundred dollars to his afflicted widow.

EXECUTION OF A CHINESE CRIMINAL.
CHINESE SUBSTITUTES.

The indifference of the Chinese to death may be well illustrated by an allusion to the substitute system, as practised in the Celestial Empire. Persons condemned to death for certain offences are allowed to die by a substitute. This would be utterly impossible in America, as one could nowhere buy a substitute who would be willing to die for a stipulated sum; but in the Celestial Empire it is easy enough to find a man who is ready to take the place of one accused of a crime and ordered to be executed. The real culprit sends a friend to make the negotiations. The broker can find a man for about six hundred dollars, half down, and the balance on the fulfilment of the contract. The cash is paid, and the time fixed for the execution, both of the contract and substitute. With the money in hand, the substitute assembles his friends, and they have a right royal spree. Everybody gets blind drunk [Pg 491] on samshoo or opium, and when the money is all expended, the substitute bids farewell to his friends, and delivers himself up for sacrifice. He is led to the place of execution, where he drops on his knees. His head is bent forward, the executioner’s sword whizzes through the air, and the substitute is a head shorter by the operation. The culprit, who has thus satisfied the law by proxy, pays over the balance of the money to the widow of the departed; everything is lovely, and everybody is happy.


[Pg 492]

XXXIII.

RAILWAY TUNNELS.

TUNNELS AMONG THE ANCIENTS.—HOW THEY WERE MADE.—MODERN TUNNELS AND THEIR LENGTH.—LAUGHABLE INCIDENTS IN RAILWAY TUNNELS.—THE TWO LOVERS.—THE ANXIOUS FRENCHMAN.—ROBBERS.—THE HOOSAC TUNNEL.—ITS HISTORY.—THE AUTHOR’S VISIT.—NATURE AND PROGRESS OF THE WORK.—AN EXPLOSION.—ACCIDENT FROM NITRO-GLYCERINE.—THE CENTRAL SHAFT.—THE TERRIBLE CALAMITY OF 1867.

Quite recently I picked up a newspaper about thirty years old, and read in it an account of the great engineering difficulties which had been overcome in the construction of the Boston and Lowell Railway.

This road, twenty-five miles in length, was among the earliest constructed in America, there being less than half a dozen railway lines which are older. The account proceeded to say that the great obstacle was the deep cut through solid rock, near the city of Lowell; and I can remember, in my boyhood days, riding over this road, and as we reached the cut, the attention of passengers was called to it, and at least half our number projected their heads through the windows to look at the wonderful work. Three times was the work let out on contract, and twice did the contractors fail, one of them failing not only to complete the work, but to pay the men he employed. The third contractor succeeded, but I believe he made no money out of his speculation.

This once famous cut through solid rock is only a few hundred feet in length, and I think about forty feet in depth. It has dwarfed into almost microscopic insignificance by hundreds of other railway cuts in this country and in Europe.

Railway tunnels were at that day unknown, though tunnels existed in Europe for other purposes, some of them of very ancient date.

[Pg 493]

LENGTH AND EXTENT OF TUNNELS.

Tunnelling, in civil engineering, is an underground passage usually constructed for conducting a canal or road beneath elevated ground. In mining the term is also sometimes applied to horizontal excavations. Tunnels are more common in Europe upon railways and canals than in this country. In the United States the total length of tunnels is not more than one mile for every thousand miles of road. In Great Britain it is considered cheaper to tunnel through rocks than to make open cuts deeper than sixty feet. In England the Wood-head Tunnel exceeds three miles in length; and there is another on the London and North-western Railway nearly three miles long. Twelve or fifteen others on different roads exceed one mile each. The Box Tunnel on the Great Western Railway, between Bath and Chippenham, is thirty-one hundred and twenty-three yards long, or rather more than one and three fourth miles.

On the canals of England there are five tunnels exceeding three thousand yards in length. The longest of these is the Marsden Tunnel, fifty-five hundred yards long. In France there is one tunnel on the St. Quentin Canal over thirteen thousand yards long.

Some of the tunnels of the ancient Romans were quite extensive in their character. One which was constructed by the Emperor Claudius was cleared out some years since by the Italian government. It proved to be about three miles long, thirty feet high, and twenty-eight feet wide at the entrance, and was nowhere less than twenty feet high.

The excavation seems to have been conducted, after the plan practised at the present time, by means of a number of vertical shafts first sunk on the line of the tunnel, and from the bottom of these shafts the work was carried on simultaneously in opposite directions.

Another tunnel, made in the early period of the Roman republic for the partial drainage of the Alban Lake, is more than one mile long.

TUNNELS IN AMERICA.

Most of the tunnels in America are on the lines crossing the Alleghany Mountains. There is one tunnel on the Pennsylvania [Pg 494] Railway thirty-six hundred feet long. It was built in two years, and cost half a million dollars. There are many short tunnels on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway? and there is a tunnel on the Blue Ridge Railway in Virginia forty-two hundred feet long. In South Carolina there are several tunnels, one of them nearly six thousand feet long. The Long Dock Tunnel in Bergen, New Jersey, opposite New York city, was completed in 1860. It is forty-three hundred feet long, twenty-three feet high, and thirty feet wide. On the line of the Central Pacific Railway, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, there are several tunnels, the longest of them exceeding a mile; and railway engineering was carried to such perfection in the construction of this road that its tunnels were completed in a shorter time than in works of the same kind and with an equal hardness of rock anywhere else in the United States.

A journey through a railway tunnel is always more or less interesting to a novice, but an old traveller soon gets accustomed to it, and pays very little attention. On most roads, when a long tunnel is approached, it is customary in the daytime to light the lamps but this is by no means the general rule. Some queer incidents occur in these dark journeys through tunnels.

The darkness is so thick that one could almost cut it with a knife. It affords opportunities for enterprise, either for entertainment or mischief. Enterprising robbers sometimes conduct their operations in railway tunnels. Half a dozen of them will jostle a passenger, pick his pocket, and carry away his satchel, and when he emerges from the tunnel the robbers will have disappeared. It not unfrequently happens that loving couples bestow attentions upon each other in passing through tunnels which they would hardly indulge in were they in open daylight, and under the eyes of their fellow-passengers.

Every one has read, and many have seen, demure couples sitting quietly in their seats as the train enters a tunnel. There would be heard the sounds of a slight struggle, and [Pg 495] also of less slight kisses. When the train emerges into the daylight, the pair will be sitting as demure as ever, but with reddened cheeks and a general appearance of disorder.

INCIDENT IN BERGEN TUNNEL.

On one occasion I was riding on a train approaching the Bergen Tunnel, near New York. The lamps were not trimmed and burning, and when in the tunnel we were as much in the dark as an ignorant newsboy attempting to read a page of Sanscrit.

In front of me was a young couple, and by their devoted attention to each other I concluded that they were not married, or, if married, were wedded to somebody else than to themselves. The gentleman was reading a newspaper; the lady was busy with a novel, and giving an occasional glance out of the window. As soon as the train entered the tunnel it was so dark that you could not see anything. I heard a struggle. There seemed to be a dislocation of hair, accompanied by a shower of hair pins. The gentleman’s hat fell to the floor, and I heard his paper crush as though it had been taken up by a clothes-wringer. Then there were several warm osculations, accompanied by ejaculations which sounded like, “You ought to be ashamed. Somebody will hear you.”

These utterances seemed to be more a matter of form than anything else, as the kissing went on like a company of infantry engaged in file-firing. You would have imagined that a whole flock of school-girls had met another flock of school-girls, from whom they had been separated at least six months.

By and by the train came out of the tunnel.

The gentleman recovered his hat and pretended to be reading his newspaper; he had it upside down, and it was torn, half through. The lady’s book was open at about the first page, though she had been reading it for three hours. Her hair had been loosened, and was falling down. Her lace collar was disordered, and quite in keeping with the collar of her masculine friend, one side of which was turned up like the toe of an old boot, while his neck-tie had lost its trim knot, and its ends were dangling like a pair of fish lines over the side of a ship. The gentleman and lady were very red in the [Pg 496] face, and somewhat exhausted, and altogether they looked like a pair of butterflies that had been run through a sausage machine.

AN UNHAPPY FRENCHMAN.

A story is told of a Frenchman travelling in a railway coach in England, who was very anxious to change his shirt in order to make a visit after the train had arrived, without taking the trouble to go to a hotel. His guide-book indicated a tunnel on the road, and he asked the guard or conductor how long the train would be in the tunnel. The guard mistook his question, and supposed he asked how long before the train would reach the tunnel. He answered briefly, “Half an hour.”

The coach in which the Frenchman was travelling was filled with ladies and gentlemen. The traveller got down his valise, unlocked it, and made everything ready for a change of apparel while they were in the tunnel. As soon as they entered it he pulled off his shirt, and prepared to put on a clean one; but imagine his surprise, and that of his companions, on discovering that the train remained only three minutes in the tunnel, instead of thirty. As they came out in open daylight he was standing in their midst in a condition quite unfit for a mixed company of ladies and gentlemen.

The longest railway tunnel in the United States, is the Hoosac Tunnel, in Massachusetts. Its total length is twenty-four thousand five hundred feet, or more than four and one-half miles. Its width is eighteen feet, and its depth fourteen feet. As long ago as 1825, the Hoosac Tunnel route was surveyed, and a legislative commission was appointed to investigate the practicability of building a canal from Boston to the Hudson River. They made their report, in which they recommended a tunnel through the mountain.

In 1828 another commission reported to the legislature of Massachusetts that they could get over the mountain with a railway more quickly and more cheaply than through it, and recommended the Boston and Albany line, which was opened for travel in 1842.

From Boston to the Hudson River the route by way of the [Pg 497] Hoosac Mountain is very feasible, with the exception of the mountain itself.

A story is told that Loammi Baldwin, the engineer who made the first survey for the canal, was very much in favor of this route. With a map or plan spread before him, he would say to the listener, “Why, sir, it seems as if the finger of Providence had marked out this route from the east to the west.” “Perhaps so,” said a listener, one day; “but what a pity it is that the finger of Providence had not been thrust through the Hoosac Mountain!”

THE HOOSAC TUNNEL.

In 1848 a company was chartered to construct a railway between Troy and Greenfield. Three years later the work was begun, and the directors voted to expend twenty-five thousand dollars in making experiments upon the proposed tunnel. An enormous machine was constructed and set to work in the winter of 1852. It was expected to perform wonders, and it did; but they were all the wrong way. The chief wonder was, that the machine, so carefully constructed, at such great cost, could do nothing whatever.

According to the description, it was “designed to cut a groove around the circumference of the tunnel thirteen inches wide and twenty-four in diameter, by means of a set of revolving cutters. When this groove had been cut the proper depth, the machine was to be run back on its railway, and the centre core blasted out by gunpowder, and split off by means of wedges.” This wonderful engine was not all that fancy painted it. It cut a very smooth and beautiful hole into the rock for about ten feet. Then it became deranged, and then—it never smiled again. Its cutting days were over, and when it was withdrawn it was quickly discarded and sold for old iron.

Another boring machine of the same sort, which was to cut a hole only eight feet in diameter, was tried at the other end. That, too, made a most glorious failure. Its failure was even more brilliant than that of the first machine, for it never succeeded in cutting a single inch of rock.

Different engineers have tried their hands and their skill [Pg 498] on the Hoosac Tunnel. In 1854, the legislature of Massachusetts appropriated two millions of dollars to the Troy and Greenfield Railway, and in the following year they were at work in earnest.

CROSSING THE HOOSAC MOUNTAIN.

General Haupt, who became famous in the late war as a bridge-builder, attempted to pierce the Hoosac Mountain; but after several years he abandoned the work, and the whole property of the company was transferred to the State of Massachusetts. When the state took possession it began work on its own account, and in 1868 the legislature appropriated five millions of dollars, and made a contract with Walter and Francis Shanly, of Canada, for the completion of the tunnel. They began work in the following March, and there is very little doubt of their completing the tunnel.

In 1870 I made an excursion up the valley of the Connecticut as far as Greenfield, and there took the railway train to the Hoosac Mountain. At the east side or end of the tunnel I abandoned the cars, and took to a six-horse coach. I managed to obtain a seat near the driver, a burly, moon-faced fellow, who collected fifty cents extra for the privilege of riding near him. He treated everybody on the outside as politely as though he were king of the Cannibal Islands, and we were his subjects. For downright impudence, with a good deal of rudeness to the bushel, I will back an American stage-driver against any other man in the world.

Soon after dinner we drove away from the station, and after the horses had given us a little circus exhibition on their own account, which threatened to overturn us and break half a dozen necks, we climbed slowly up the valley skirting the edge of a forest, whose leaves were tinged with the varying colors of autumn. Our progress up the eastern face of the mountain was slow, but when we came down the western side the case was different. On the upper part of the mountain there is a long and comparatively level stretch of ground, on which there are many fine farms, and a general appearance of prosperity. Approaching the western face of the mountain, we overlooked the flourishing town of [Pg 499] North Adams, and a region of country spread out before us like a beautiful panorama. I have looked from mountains in many countries, but rarely have I gazed upon a landscape more beautiful and more attractive than this. It is not grand—awfully grand—in its character, like many other landscapes, but there is an air of beauty about it which makes it charming in the extreme.

The road winds, in a sort of zigzag, down the side of the mountain, and our horses went at a good speed. The coach swung from side to side, and the baby of a feminine passenger screamed as if a dozen pins were being driven an inch or so, into its arms and legs. Down, down, down the mountain we went, and soon we were inside the busy town, and were driven up in front of the Wilson House. There I concluded to remain, and take my point of departure the next day for the tunnel.

On the following morning it was raining, not exactly cats and dogs, but a drizzly, misty, damp—very damp—sort of rain. I did not care very much for rain, though, especially as it made no difference, when once in the tunnel, what the outside weather might be. When breakfast was over, I started for the tunnel under the escort of the proprietor of the hotel.

VISITING THE TUNNEL.

The western portal of the tunnel is two miles south of the village. The road leading to it is among some small hills that appear trying to hug the mountain. Mr. Haupt began his work on this side of the mountain, in a limestone rock, from which he expected to pass directly into the solid primary rock, forming the base of the mountain; but to his surprise and mortification, his hopes were not realized.

DEMORALIZED ROCK.

Instead of reaching the solid rock, he entered into a mass that is known as demoralized rock, a sort of combination of mica, quicksand, water, and everything else that is disagreeable. It was perfectly unmanageable. As fast as they dug it out it flowed in. Imagine a mouse attempting to construct a tunnel through a barrel of swill, and you can form a very good idea of the difficulty of working in this rock. You [Pg 500] might as well attempt to make a tunnel through a thousand cart-loads of soft mud; in fact, you could get along easier in the mud than in this demoralized rock, because you could take precautions against the flowing in of the mud, which you could not take against this disintegrated mica. It is a sort of soft stuff which French miners denominate “moutarde,” and English miners allude to as “porridge.”

In order to escape this porridge, the engineer tried to make a tunnel farther up the hill-side; but it was of no use. There was the stuff again, and somehow it must be met. Not only was it impossible to prevent its caving in, but it was necessary to prevent its rising upward. Consequently an arch must be made below, as well as above; in fact, it was necessary to construct the brick-work in such a way that it would form, when completed, a perfect cylinder, as the pressure of the porridge would be exerted in all directions. As the work was put forward and completed, a casing of timber was made, and inside this casing of timber the brick arch of the tunnel was built.

EASTERN ENTRANCE.
WESTERN ENTRANCE.
THE HOOSAC TUNNEL, MASSACHUSETTS.—LENGTH 24,500 FEET. COST ABOUT $15,000,000. FIRST TRAIN OF CARS PASSED THROUGH APRIL 5, 1875.

Our first visit was made to the western portal, into which we penetrated several hundred feet. For about seven hundred feet, the tunnel is laid in brick seven or eight courses thick, and forms a complete arch. Beyond that the rock is quite soft, but sufficiently hard to sustain itself long enough to permit the construction of an arch. When this work is completed there will be some two thousand feet of brick arching.

We thought that in entering this western part of the tunnel, we should get out of the rain; but we found streams of water occasionally coming through the brick-work, and especially through the stone at the heading, where the work of arching was going on. Quite a stream of water ran through the bottom of the tunnel, and I managed, in the course of my walk, to get my feet pretty thoroughly soaked. However, I had been wisely encased in a suit of old clothes, and when I emerged, there was more mud than clothing visible about me.

Climbing out of the western portal, we took the open road [Pg 503] again, and went to what is known as the western shaft. The work through the demoralized rock and porridge was so slow that the engineers determined to sink a shaft farther up the mountain. It is about half a mile from the portal, and is three hundred and eighteen feet deep.

As soon as the shaft was sunk, the miners turned and worked outwards through the soft rock, cutting a small passage through to the western portal, so as to allow the water to drain off, and thus save the use of the pumps. In the other direction, that is, towards the east, the miners had found the solid rock of the mountain. At the time of my visit they were about half a mile from the bottom of the shaft.

FLOODING A TUNNEL.

Along our road forming the portal to the shaft, there was a small stream of water. My guide explained to me that in the great flood a year before, the water came down, tearing away the embankment which separated the brook from the tunnel. In a few minutes the embankment was all torn away, and the whole force of the stream was poured into the tunnel. An alarm was given as quickly as possible, and by running rapidly, the men who were working in the tunnel escaped, with the exception of one who was doing his first day’s work there, and was probably delayed by his unfamiliarity with the place. In a very short time the water completely filled the tunnel, and it was some weeks before the works were restored to their old condition.

Along this brook and around the west shaft there was quite a village occupied by the miners and their families. The town of North Adams provided a school-house and a school for the children, of whom nearly one hundred received instruction there during the week. For a part of the year the school-house was occupied at different hours, on Sunday, by two Sunday schools, one conducted by some of the Protestant churches, while the other is under the care of the Roman Catholics.

Around the shaft were the usual buildings and shops for the repair of tools, and for the ordinary machinery used about the mine. After a pleasant talk in the office of the superintendent, [Pg 504] I was requested to dress in an oil-skin suit and a lantern, preparatory to going below. When all was ready, we went to the shaft, entered a cage, and descended. From the bottom of the shaft we struck out along the tunnel to make our way to the heading.

Our guide explained to us that there would be a blast in, about twenty minutes, and that we must move forward at good speed in order to see it. “Step right out without fear,” said he; “there is no danger of falling through, as the bottom is perfectly solid. You need not mind splashing those boots with water and mud, as they are used to it.”

WALKING UNDER GROUND.

I obeyed his directions and followed him, and I did some very rapid walking. The lanterns gave out just about light enough to make darkness visible. Away in the distance we could see the lights of the miners, and hear the noise made by the machinery and the tools of the workmen. An iron pipe six inches in diameter lay at one side of the floor, and through this was forced the air which furnished the power to the drilling machinery, and at the same time ventilated the tunnel. A channel had been cut in the solid floor to carry off the water which flowed in from various seams in the rock.

A short distance from the foot of the shaft were the stables, containing several mules, which were used for hauling the cars. The mules seemed to look at us with a desponding gaze, as if connecting us in some way with the outside world, which they would never see again.

“Did these animals,” said I, “come down in the cage where we descended?”

“Certainly,” said the assistant superintendent. “How else could they come down? They were sent down in that box, not all together, but only one at a time.”

I endeavored to ascertain how it was possible to pack a live animal into that cage without killing him. The assistant said it was easy enough if you only knew how, and could induce the animal to do as you wanted him to. “They are good mules,” said he, “and with a strong rope you can [Pg 505] double them up any way, though they do not exactly like it. If they live two years longer, they will get out alive, otherwise they will die here. It does not pay to be hoisting live mules out, and lowering other live mules in. When they get here, they stay till we are through with them.”

About half way from the shaft to the heading we passed a couple of surveyors, who were making an alignment of the tunnel, to see that everything was correct. They had the ordinary instruments used for levelling purposes in the open air, but it seemed rather odd to find them using the same instruments by the light of lanterns, and laying out the track far down in the interior of the mountain. Every foot of the work of the tunnel had to be laid out with the utmost care, in order that the ends, when they met, could be made to join perfectly.

SUGGESTION OF A VISITOR.

There was a narrow track along the bottom of the tunnel, where cars drawn by mules, for the removal of the rock to the foot of the shaft, where it could be hoisted out. My guide told me that a recent visitor to the tunnel asked, with apparent innocence, why they hoisted out all that rock, and suggested that it would be much easier to dig a hole in the bottom of the tunnel, and bury it there; but he did not suggest what should be done with the rock which they removed to make the hole. We encountered several of these cars, and at one place were crowded rather closely against the walls.

Originally gunpowder was used for blasting purposes in the tunnel, but later in the work nitro-glycerine was adopted.

Several accidents with explosive materials occurred during the construction of the tunnel, one of the most serious being in 1869. The magazine where the nitro-glycerine was stored for operations on the eastern part of the tunnel, was about a quarter of a mile from the portal. Three of the miners went one morning to prepare the nitro-glycerine for the day’s use, and an explosion occurred, killing them all. Two of them were inside the building at the time, and nothing but a few pieces of them were found; the other, who was outside the building, was so badly disfigured that it was almost impossible to identify him, and the force of the explosion was so great that not a plank or a timber of the building remained.

[Pg 506]

THE GREAT EXPLOSION.

On the 19th of October, 1867, a terrible accident occurred at this shaft. A depth of nearly six hundred feet had been reached, and thirteen men were at work below. The gasoline apparatus used for lighting the works exploded, and set fire to the buildings. The engineer was badly burned, and driven from his post, and the men perished by suffocation. The shaft was soon filled with water, but it was not until next day that the fire was extinguished so that anybody could descend. A workman named Mallory was lowered, with three lanterns attached to him. Near the bottom two of his lanterns went out, and at a signal he was drawn up nearly insensible from breathing the foul air. He said there were fifteen feet of water in the shaft, and no signs of the men. It was necessary to erect buildings and machinery to clear the shaft, and it was not until a year after that the water was pumped out, and the bodies of the victims were recovered. They were all in a good state of preservation, but crumbled to pieces soon after exposure to the air.

WORK AT THE HEADING IN HOOSAC TUNNEL.

As we neared the heading the noise increased. The shouts of the miners and the sound of the drilling machines overpowered any ordinary tones of the voice. The drilling machine was an iron frame, resting upon trucks, and was pushed as near as possible to the face of the rock. The drills were fastened to it in such a way that they could be turned upon any designated point. They were operated by compressed air, and worked with great rapidity, striking as many as three hundred blows to the minute. The quality of the rock was generally so hard that the drills became dull and blunt in a short time, and required to be sharpened; but they worked much more expeditiously than hand drills. Under the ordinary process of hand drilling it would take six weeks to accomplish the distance made in a single week by them.

When the drill-holes had been sunk to the required depth, the machine was moved back, and some plank doors were closed in front of it to prevent injury by the flying fragments of rock. Just as we reached the end of the heading the noise ceased, and the machine was drawn back, preparatory to blasting. The holes were cleared, and then three men came forward with the [Pg 509] charges of nitro-glycerine in long tin tubes. These were put in the holes, the wires were fastened in their places, and then the men moved back; it is hardly necessary to say that I moved back at the same time, and quite as far as the workmen. Everything being ready, the signal was given.

“Look out that you are not blown down!” said my guide.

I did look out. There came a sound and a quick explosion, followed by the rumbling and crashing of the rock, and then a rush of air and smoke that almost threw me over.

The pressure of the air in the iron pipe for working the drills and ventilating the tunnel was about six atmospheres, or ninety pounds to the square inch. As soon as the blast was made, the air was turned on; the smoke from the blast was driven back, and the miners found themselves in a clear atmosphere.

After this blast it was intimated that there was nothing more to see, and we made our way out of the tunnel into the open air again, and back to the Wilson House.

On December 12th, 1872, the east heading was connected with the one driven east from the central shaft. The west heading was connected with the one driven west from the shaft on the 27th of November, 1873. This proved a splendid engineering feat.

The road bed was finished and the track laid early in 1875, and the first freight train passed through on the 5th of April of that year. The first passenger train was run through, July 8th, 1875.

ACCIDENT AT THE CENTRAL SHAFT.

Owing to the explosive action of nitro-glycerine the rock was broken for some distance beyond the limits planned in constructing the sides and arch of the tunnel, and there was constant danger of pieces of rock falling upon the track. The plan of arching it with brick was conceived of, and a contract was made in 1874, to do the arching and also to enlarge a portion of the tunnel at the eastern terminus. This work was completed, and the road is now in complete running order.

The cost of the work in the aggregate is nearly $15,000,000. The construction of the tunnel opens direct communication between Boston and Troy, and is of inestimable advantage to Massachusetts from a commercial point of view.


[Pg 510]

XXXIV.

THE MONT CENIS TUNNEL.

MOUNTAIN CHAINS BETWEEN NATIONS.—MONT CENIS.—CROSSING THE ALPS.—THE GREAT ALPINE TUNNEL.—LAYING OUT THE WORK.—THE ARC AND DORA.—DIFFICULTIES.—THE SURVEYS.—PENETRATING THE MOUNTAIN.—COMPLETION OF THE WORK.—THE CHANNEL TUNNEL.—ITS COST.—COST OF TUNNELS IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES.

It has been said with truth that “mountains interposed make enemies of nations.” In various parts of the world we find that mountain chains stand as barriers between different nations, and in many instances the boundaries thus formed by nature have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. On the map of Europe the most prominent mountain chain is that of the Alps, and it has stood as a separating line between nations for a long time. It is true that occasionally wars have been carried beyond these mountain chains, and conquests have been made in spite of them; but for practical purposes the chain of the Alps has been for centuries the separating line between France and Austria on the north, and Italy on the south. Sometimes the French possessions have extended to the south of the Alps, and sometimes Italy has extended her possessions to the north of that chain. Such possessions have never been held for a great length of time, and in one way or another they have fallen to the nation to whom they belonged by natural position.

Carriage roads were long since made across the Alps. In later years the railway has traversed these mountains, but the ascent is tedious and laborious, so that rapid communication was impossible. It remained for the science of the present day to overcome the obstacles which the mountains afforded, not by cutting away the Alps, but by piercing a passage through them.

[Pg 511]

More than twenty years ago the attention of the French and Italian governments was called to the necessity of a tunnel through the Alps by which France and Italy should be connected. The project was discussed for some time, and finally a convention was formed between France and Italy for the purpose of undertaking the work. Four or five years were consumed in surveys and in the contemplation of plans. All sorts of objections were made, and a list of these objections forms a humorous page. One man contended that the heat would be so great in the centre of the mountain that the men would be roasted alive while working in the tunnel. Another was positive that the noxious gases and vapors arising in the tunnel would suffocate everybody. Another contended that rivers of water would be found in the mountain so great that they would overwhelm the workmen, and convert the tunnel into an enormous spring. And so on, one after another, the objections were heaped up, and there was at one time a prospect that the work would not be undertaken.

COMMENCEMENT OF THE WORK.

The actual work on the tunnel was begun on the Italian side in 1857, and a little afterwards work on the French side also commenced. A great deal of labor had been performed in locating the tunnel. A mountain chain is not a single line of mountains, like a row of potato hills; but it consists of a central back-bone of mountains, with other and smaller mountains on either side, so that a chain may often be a hundred or more miles in width. Now, in piercing a chain like the Alps, it is necessary to find a way among the outlying hills on each side through the valleys of the rivers that flow from the central chain. In this way the open-air railway is brought to the foot of one of the mountains forming the great central back-bone.

But a difficulty arises in finding two of these valleys directly opposite each other. You may follow a valley until you get to the very base of one of the highest mountains of the range, but on looking to the other side you may find no corresponding valley.

It was this peculiarity of all mountain chains that greatly [Pg 512] hindered the location of the Mont Cenis Tunnel. After much search, the best location was found to be by following the valley of the River Arc, on the northern side, and the River Dora, on the southern. A great many surveys were made, and it was finally discovered that the Arc and Dora, in their windings, were, at a certain point, less than eight miles apart. At this point, it was evident, Nature designed—if she had any design about it—that the great work should be constructed.

VISITING THE MONT CENIS TUNNEL.

In 1867, while travelling north from Italy to France, I determined to pay a visit to the Mont Cenis Tunnel. It was said to be quite difficult to obtain a permit to enter the workings; but perseverance and letters of introduction will accomplish a great deal, and after a little delay I obtained what I asked for. I found it more convenient to visit the northern end of the tunnel for the reason that on the Italian side the workings were sixteen miles away from the regular line of travel, while those on the northern side were directly on the route of tourists.

A railway over Mont Cenis was then under construction, and nearly completed; but as it was not open for travelling, I made the transit in a carriage, just as many thousands of people had made it before me. The railway over the Alps is of itself a curiosity. In some places the ascent equals one foot in ten, so that great power was required for the locomotives to enable them to drag their burdens upward. The track was narrow, and it was peculiar in having three rails instead of two. The wheels of the carriages run on two rails only, just like wheels of carriages on other railways. The central rail was intended for the use of the locomotives, to assist their power of traction. The wheels were arranged on these locomotives in such a way as to grip the central rail with tremendous force, and the brakes were also so arranged that by pressing this central rail they could bring the carriages to a sudden stop in case of accident.

The line of the railway over Mont Cenis follows very nearly the carriage road, and occasionally crosses it. In some places [Pg 513] it passes through short tunnels, and in others it is roofed in to avoid injury by snow. In crossing the mountain by this railway very little time is saved over the ordinary carriage route, while the latter is very much to be preferred on account of its comfort and the advantage it gives for observing the scenery. We were a party of four, and after an unhappy night in a dirty hotel at Susa, an old town founded by the Romans, and containing some ruins dating from the time of the Romans, we started on our journey.

A ROW WITH A LANDLORD.

Our night had been unhappy. Our breakfast was still more unhappy, and our bill for what the landlord facetiously termed our “entertainment” was the worst feature of all. The discomfiture of his establishment was greater than the comfort of the best hotel in Paris, and he charged us about twice the rate that any Parisian landlord would dare to ask. We consoled ourselves and settled our breakfast by getting up a magnificent row with him, threatening to break his head, and talked at least fifteen minutes in mingled patois of English, French, Italian, Russian, and Chinese. We did not succeed in having our bill reduced, but I am confident if what we said to that landlord remained ringing in his ears for twenty-four hours, it must have driven him to hopeless insanity.

We wound slowly up the mountain, with the top of our carriage thrown back, so that we could enjoy the view.

The Mont Cenis Pass is the least interesting of all the great passes of the Alps. Tourists complain of its tameness, but there are points where it is picturesque.

At places during the ascent we had some fine views of that portion of Italy which stretches away from the base of the mountain, and we tried to imagine that we could now and then catch a glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. The rough mountains were piled above and around us, frequently in fantastic shapes, and we found the air getting steadily more and more cool as we made the ascent.

Finally on the summit, only a few hours after leaving a tropical temperature in Italy, we were riding amid fields of snow, and shivering in our travelling coats and thick shawls.

[Pg 514]

DESCENDING THE MOUNTAIN.

The ascent was slow, but the descent on the French side was rapid. As we passed the boundary between France and Italy, our driver gathered his reins, and the horses went at full speed down the magnificent road. We left a cloud of dust filling the air behind us, and were whirled along so rapidly that I sometimes thought we might be tossed over one of the precipices in some of the short windings of the road. At every half mile there is a small shed, or house, known as the “refuge.” It is intended for travellers who are overtaken on the mountain, during the winter season, by violent snow-storms.

As it was summer we had no occasion to seek these refuges, but it was easy to see that they were of great advantage in protecting and saving life during the severer portion of the year.

At Lans-le-bourg we stopped at the French custom-house to undergo an examination; but our baggage was so small in quantity, and we manifested such a readiness to submit it to inspection, that the officers of customs did not detain us. Behind us was a carriage, in which were two American ladies, and they drove up a few moments before we started. They had that enormous amount of baggage peculiar to their sex and race, and protested that their trunks contained nothing of value. But the custom officers were inexorable, and as we drove away, the trunks of the ladies were being unpacked, and were undergoing a rigid examination. If you wish to avoid trouble at custom-houses when travelling in Europe, never carry a large amount of baggage, and never show the least hesitation to open it for inspection. Many a time have I found my baggage passed without examination, while the next man’s would be overhauled, and, as nearly as I could judge, only for the reason that he urged the officers not to look at it, and assured them that it contained nothing contraband.

SURROUNDINGS OF MONT CENIS.

At Modane we found the base of operations for the northern part of the tunnel, and here we halted to make our investigations. By the way, I never have been able to make out why the name of Mont Cenis should be attached to the famous tunnel, [Pg 515] since that mountain is about twenty miles away from it. The tunnel does not pass under Mont Cenis, but under three peaks called Col Frejus, Le Grand Vallon, and Col de la Roue, the first being on the French, the third being on the Italian slope, and the second about half way between the two. I suppose, however, that the tunnel was named after Mont Cenis because it is better known than any other summit or range in this neighborhood, and because it would be better to give it a name which does not belong to it at all, rather than naming it after any one of the three peaks deserving equal distinction.

Modane, or, more properly speaking, Fourneaux, was the base of operations. Fourneaux is a miserable little village in a narrow gorge in the valley of the Arc, and its inhabitants are chiefly remarkable for their deformity and idiocy. The Grand Vallon is eleven thousand feet above the sea level, and crowned with snow. Its sides are steep, and it would be quite impossible to carry a railway over it. The other mountains on the route are equally rugged in character, but their height above makes little difference with the workings carried on in their interior.

The Mont Cenis Tunnel is the largest in the world, extending from Fourneaux, on the French side, to Bardouneche, on the Italian side. When it was begun, with the ordinary system, of hand drills, it was found that at the ordinary rate of progress, it would take thirty or forty years to finish the work. With an ordinary tunnel, where the elevation of earth or rock is not very great, shafts are sunk along the line, as before stated; but in this case it was impossible to sink these vertical shafts, on account of the great distance. A necessity arose for penetrating the rock much faster than by ordinary means, and there was also a necessity for supplying the workmen with fresh air.

SOMMELIER’S AIR COMPRESSOR.

These necessities led to Sommelier’s invention of drills worked by compressed air, and of the machinery for compressing the air. The machines have already been described in connection with the Hoosac Tunnel. A great many experiments [Pg 516] were made before the air could be successfully used; but finally, when they were completed, the work progressed rapidly. By means of the compressors that were worked by a stream of water from the mountain, the air was reduced to one sixth of its natural bulk, and thus, when liberated, it exercised an expansive force equal to six atmospheres. The compressing machines used at most tunnels to-day are simply enormous and very powerful pumps, but the machine of Sommelier used the weight of water. Twenty or more large iron tubes were placed in an upright position. The “head” of the supply was far up the mountain side, and the water was brought to the machine in an iron pipe. A piston perfectly tight was fitted to the tube, the water was turned on, and its weight, added to the head it had received, compressed the air in the tube. As it was compressed, a valve was opened, through which it could escape into a reservoir. From this reservoir the air was conveyed in an iron pipe into the tunnel, where it was used to work the perforators.

We found that the entrance to the tunnel was quite a distance up the side of the mountain, and it was evident that considerable engineering skill would be required to bring the railway track thither when the work was completed. Opposite the mouth of the tunnel, my attention was called to a large target, made of boards painted white, and securely fastened against the rock. The target was used for the proper alignment of the work. At every foot of progress into the mountain, bearings were carefully taken. At night a Drummond light was placed in the centre of the target, so that it could be visible from the middle of the mountain.

It will be seen that it was a work requiring the utmost caution to lay out the route and direction of the tunnel through the mountain. A variation of a hundredth part of an inch at any point in the surveys would have changed the course of the working on one side or the other, so that the two ends would not meet. Bear in mind that these surveys were carried from the valley of the Arc to the valley of the Dora,—the opposite points being eight miles apart,—and the route [Pg 517] lying, not through level fields and meadows, but over three rough and high mountains, where there was no path beyond that which the surveyors and their assistants laid out. And yet, so carefully was the work performed from the two sides, that the workings were brought together exactly, without a variation of a single foot.

RULES IN REGARD TO VISITORS.

The entrance to the tunnel is about twenty-five feet wide, and the same in height. To go inside the workings, you are clad with a rubber suit, and supplied with a lamp, and accompanied by a guide. For some time after the working began, almost any one could be admitted; but it was found that the workmen were greatly hindered by frequent visits, so that the rules became very strict. No one could enter the tunnel, unless employed there, without a pass from the management, though it was not very difficult for a journalist or a person of influence or prominence to obtain admission. As fast as the work progressed, a double railway was laid down to carry in the materials used in the working, and to bring out the broken rock. There was a narrow sidewalk of flagged stone on each side. The pipes for the air were ranged along the side of the tunnel, and between the lines of the rails, in a deep trench, were the gas and water pipes.

Like all tunnels this one was damp, from the streams of water coming through the roof; and if you wondered before entering, why you should be asked to wear a rubber coat, your wonder speedily ceased. At the time of my visit the workmen were nearly three miles from the entrance,—that is to say, the tunnel was finished for that distance,—while for about a quarter of a mile the men had cut the heading, but the upper part of the tunnel had not been opened.

The heading is the most difficult part of the work, and in all tunnel operations the workmen at the heading are kept sufficiently in advance of the enlargers, so that one party will not be in the other’s way.

The passage from the entrance through the finished portion was comparatively easy, but after you reached the newly-opened part you found it more difficult. There were wagons [Pg 518] and men moving to and fro, and fragments of rock were lying everywhere about. The space was narrow, and every little while you found yourself running much nearer a man or a mule than you wished to; unless you moved about very carefully, you were under the risk of being run over by a mule, or crushed by the wheels of a wagon.

The perforators kept up a perpetual din, and you could hardly hear yourself speak; and I have heard persons aver that you could not hear yourself think. The drill of the Mont Cenis machine stands on a carriage, which the Italians call the “Affusto,” and it strikes about two hundred blows a minute. Its force upon the rock is about two hundred pounds.

A stream of water is thrown upon the rock into the drill-hole, to facilitate the perforating process.

The wear and tear of machinery in the tunnel were very great, owing to the hardness of the rock. Every fifteen minutes it was necessary to change the drills, and a great many affusti were worn out.

DESTRUCTION OF DRILLING MACHINES.

It was estimated that by the time the tunnel was completed four thousand machines were utterly worn out. At the entrance of the tunnel we saw a great many of these disabled affusti, reminding us of worn-out carriages around a stable.

BORING MACHINES USED IN MOUNT CENIS TUNNEL, THE ALPS.—THE LARGEST TUNNEL IN THE WORLD, CONNECTING FRANCE AND ITALY.

With the exception that the workmen were clad in different costumes, and were shouting in French instead of English, the work was very much like that already described in the Hoosac Tunnel. Accidents were much more frequent in the Mont Cenis Tunnel than in the Hoosac Tunnel, for the reason that much less care was taken. It was said that nearly twelve hundred men lost their lives in the tunnel, or in connection with it, during the time of its construction,—at least, some of the workmen said so,—while the guides and directors insisted that the loss of life had not been more than one tenth of the number. Owing to the hardness of the rock the cost of the work was very great. Taking the average of the whole length of the tunnel, it was one thousand dollars a lineal yard, making a total, in round numbers, of fifteen millions of dollars.

[Pg 521]

The expense was shared between the French and Italian governments, and the tunnel will form a bond of union between the two nations greater than could be made by any other use of the same amount of money. By the terms of the convention between the governments, the tunnel is to remain uninjured should France and Italy be engaged in hostilities against each other. The tunnel shortens the route of travel very materially, and where the route of travel is shortened the work of peace and good will among men is greatly facilitated.

TUNNEL UNDER THE ENGLISH CHANNEL.

A tunnel has been proposed for the Straits of Dover, between England and France, and several plans have been considered. The London Times stated, early in 1872, that a company has been formed and funds subscribed to the amount of some one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, with the immediate object of making a trial shaft, and driving a driftway on the English side about half a mile beyond low-water mark, with the view of proving the practicability of tunnelling under the Channel. The completion of this work will furnish data for calculating the cost of continuing the driftway from each shore to a junction in mid-channel, and capital will then be subscribed for that purpose, or for enlarging it to the size of an ordinary railway tunnel, as the engineers may deem most expedient.

The tunnel will be made through the lower or gray chalk chiefly, if not entirely, and by the adoption of machinery, of which the promoters of this company have recently made practical trials, it is expected the passage from shore to shore can be opened within three years from the time of commencing the work, and at a cost very considerably less than any previous estimates.

COST OF TUNNELS.

The same paper, referring to the proposed enterprise, gives the following details about railway and other tunnels: “The cost of existing tunnels has been governed by such various conditions of locality and soil, that they can have little bearing upon the present question. It may be worth while, nevertheless, to cite a few prominent examples. The Mont Cenis [Pg 522] Tunnel has cost one hundred and ninety-five pounds per linear yard, which would amount, for a length of twenty-two miles, to seven millions four hundred and fifty thousand four hundred pounds. The three most costly tunnels made in England have been the Kilsby, the Saltwood, and the Bletchingley, each of which was executed in treacherous strata, giving out large quantities of water. In making the Kilsby Tunnel a hidden quicksand was discovered, by which the works were drowned out. For a considerable time all pumping apparatus appeared insufficient, but by the employment of one thousand two hundred and fifty men, two hundred horses, and thirteen steam engines, working night and day for eight months, one thousand eight hundred gallons per minute were raised from the quicksand alone. The cost of the work was raised from ninety thousand pounds, the original estimate, to three hundred and fifty thousand pounds, or one hundred and forty-five pounds per yard for two thousand four hundred yards. The same rate of expense for twenty-two miles would amount to five millions six hundred and forty-six thousand six hundred and twenty pounds. The Saltwood Tunnel cost one hundred and eighteen pounds per yard, the Bletchingley seventy-two pounds; or for twenty-two miles, four millions five hundred and sixty-eight thousand nine hundred and sixty pounds, and two millions seven hundred and eighty-seven thousand eight hundred and forty pounds, respectively.

“The cost of railway tunnels in France has varied from thirty pounds per yard—being that of Terre Noire, on the Paris, Lyons, and Mediterranean Railway, to ninety-five pounds per yard, that of Batignolles, near Paris, on the Chemin de Fer de l’Ouest. In Belgium, Braine le Comte Tunnel cost forty-six pounds per metre, and the tunnels on the Liège and Verviers line fifty pounds per metre. In Switzerland the very difficult Hauenstein Tunnel between Basle and Berne cost eighty pounds a yard.

ESTIMATE OF THE CHANNEL TUNNEL.

“In America, the Hoosac Tunnel, in Massachusetts, through mica slate, mixed with quartz, has up to this time cost one [Pg 523] hundred and eighty pounds per yard, and the Moorhouse Tunnel, in New Zealand, through lava streams and beds of tufa, intersected by vertical dikes of phonolite, cost sixty-eight pounds fifteen shillings per yard. It will be a convenient standard of comparison for these amounts if we remember that twenty-five pounds per yard would represent very nearly a million sterling for the twenty-two miles. Any estimate for the Channel Tunnel must at present be purely conjectural, and an estimate professing to embrace contingencies must be more conjectural than any other; but it is reckoned that the work, if practicable at all, could be completed within five years of time, and for five millions of money.”


[Pg 524]

XXXV.

THE PARISIAN SEWERS.

THE SEWERS OF PARIS.—THEIR EXTENT.—A JOURNEY THROUGH THEM.—THE START AND THE MODE OF TRAVEL.—DESCRIPTION OF THE GREAT SEWER.—ACCIDENTS OF SEWER TRAVEL.—HISTORY OF THE SEWERS.—THEIR FIRST GREAT INSPECTION.—BRUNESEAU.—INUNDATION FROM THE SEWERS.—A MAN LOST.—HORRIBLE DEATH IN THE SEWERS.—THE OLD AND THE NEW.—THE EXCAVATIONS.—NATURE OF THE WORK.—BREAKAGE OF THE CANAL.—JEAN VALJEAN IN THE SEWERS OF PARIS.—HIS FIRST SENSATION.—CAUGHT IN A LABYRINTH.—THE SEWERS OF ST. DENIS, AND THE MARKETS.—CAUGHT IN THE WATER.—THE POLICE IN PURSUIT.—FRIGHT OF THE FUGITIVE.—THE QUICKSAND ON THE COAST OF BRITTANY.—A HORRIBLE DEATH.—QUICKSAND IN THE SEWERS.—HOW IT WAS FORMED.—JEAN VALJEAN IN THE QUICKSAND.—HIS SUFFERINGS AND ESCAPE.

Paris, the gayest and brightest city in the world, has an underground life surpassing that of any other metropolis. Beneath the broad streets there are many miles of sewers constructed on a plan that furnishes a complete system of drainage. The total length of the Paris sewers is now about four hundred and thirty-four thousand yards, or three hundred miles. The length of galleries to be constructed in course of time is about two thousand yards more. To organize the network of sewers, the site of the capital has been divided into five basins, of which three are on the right and two on the left bank of the Seine.

Six great principal galleries, cutting the city nearly at right angles, and having for tributaries fifteen secondary galleries, out of which branch a multitude of galleries of less importance, constitute the principal arteries of the network. Three of the six principal galleries are on the right bank of the river: the first is that of the quays; the second descends the Boulevard de Sebastopol, and joins the first at the Place du Chatelet; [Pg 527] and the third runs from the Place de la Bastille to the Place de la Concorde, through the streets St. Antoine and de Rivoli.

On the left bank the first gallery includes the line of the quays from the Pont d’Austerlitz to the Pont d’Iéna; the second follows the Boulevard St. Michel from the Place de l’Observatoire to the Pont St. Michel; and the third receives the Bièvre, and at the Rue St. Jacques joins the long gallery into which the sewer of the Boulevard St. Michel falls.

IN THE SEWERS OF PARIS.

The sewers, or at any rate a portion of them, are interesting places to visit, though nobody would care to live in them. Only a limited number of permissions are granted, and these only on stated days. I experienced considerable difficulty in securing a ticket, and it was only after exercising patience and perseverance to a liberal degree that my wishes were granted.

PLACE DE LA CONCORDE, PARIS.

The ordinary route for visitors is to enter at the Place de la Concorde, or near the Madeleine Church, and come out at the Place du Chatelet. The sewer between these points is very broad and high, and is evidently the show-place of the whole system. In the centre is a canal about eight feet wide, and at its edges there are rails for the wheels of cars propelled by the workmen, who walk at the sides. The sidewalks are broad and carefully swept, so that one could walk upon them without difficulty. Visitors are generally seated in the cars and pushed along by the men to whom they are expected to give some money at the end of the journey. The car moves above the canal, and every visitor is surprised at the absence of foul odors and at the general cleanliness of the place. On each side of the larger sewers, and supported on iron posts, there are large pipes for the conveyance of water, and in some places the telegraph wires and gas tubes are visible.

LADIES IN A SEWER.

When everything is in order, there is very little to see, and a hundred yards or so are as good as the entire distance. The faint rumbling of the carriages can be heard overhead, but otherwise the silence is unbroken, save by the voices of the visitors and workmen, and the occasional sound of falling [Pg 528] water. The party to which I was assigned was a serious one, and made very little noise, compared to one a little way in advance, and containing several ladies. The presence of lovely women can add a charm to a sewer, though I should hesitate to take a feminine acquaintance into such a place until I had first made the journey. We had no incident of importance greater than the loss of a hat, which was crushed beneath the car wheels, and the narrow escape of the owner from a tumble overboard as he attempted to clutch the falling article. The place was well lighted with gas; but I think everybody was glad to see the light of day as it streamed through the opening at the Place du Chatelet.

The sewers of Paris were begun several hundred years ago. The exact date is not known; in fact, their history is not exactly known, and some of it is mixed up with a great deal of fiction. In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo has given a graphic account of them, though, like much that he has written, the account is not always strictly true. (I quote his language.) He says, “The sewer of Paris, in the middle ages, was legendary. In the sixteenth century, Henry II. attempted an examination, which failed. Less than a hundred years ago, the cloaca, Mercier bears witness, was abandoned to itself, and became what it might.

“Such was that ancient Paris, given up to quarrels, to indecisions, and to gropings. It was for a long time stupid enough. Afterwards, ‘89 showed how cities come to their wits. But, in the good old times, the capital had little head; she could not manage her affairs either morally or materially, nor better sweep away her filth than her abuses. Everything was an obstacle, everything raised a question. The sewer, for instance, was refractory to all itineracy. Men could no more succeed in guiding themselves through its channels than in understanding themselves in the city; above, the unintelligible, below, the inextricable; beneath the confusion of tongues there was the confusion of caves; labyrinth-lined Babel.

INUNDATION OF THE SEWERS.

“Sometimes the sewer of Paris took it into its head to overflow, as if that unappreciated Nile were suddenly seized with [Pg 529] wrath. There were, infamous to relate, inundations from the sewer. The inundation of 1802 is a present reminiscence with old Parisians. The mire spread out in a cross in the Place des Victoires, where the statue of Louis XIV. is; it entered the Rue St. Honoré by the two mouths of the sewer of the Champs Elysées, the Rue St. Florentin by the St. Florentin sewer, the Rue Pierre à Poisson by the sewer of the Sonnerie, the Rue Popincourt by the sewer of the Chemin Vert, the Rue de la Roquette by the sewer of the Rue de Sappe; it covered the curbstones of the Rue des Champs Elysées to the depth of some fourteen inches; and on the south, by the vomitoria of the Seine performing its function in the inverse way, it penetrated the Rue Mazarine, the Rue de l’Echaudé, and the Rue des Marais, where it stopped, having reached the length of a hundred and twenty yards, just a few steps from the house which Racine had lived in, respecting, in the seventeenth century, the poet more than the king. It attained its maximum depth in the Rue St. Pierre, where it rose three feet, above the flagging of the water-spouts, and its maximum extent in the Rue St. Sabin, where it spread out over a length of two hundred and sixty-one yards.

“At the commencement of this century the sewer of Paris was still a mysterious place. Mire can never be in good repute; but here ill-fame reached even fright. Paris dimly realized that she had a terrible cave beneath her. People talked of it as of that monstrous bog of Thebes which swarmed with scolopendras fifteen feet long, and which might have served as a bathing-tub for Behemoth. The big boots of the sewer men never ventured beyond certain known points. They were still very near the time when the scavengers’ tumbrils, from the top of which Ste. Foix fraternized with the Marquis of Créqui, were simply emptied into the sewer. As for cleansing, that operation was confided to the showers, which obstructed more than they swept out. Science and superstition were at one in regard to the horror. The sewer was not less revolting to hygiene than to legend. The Goblin Monk had appeared under the fetid arch of the Mouffetard [Pg 530] sewer; the corpses of the Marmousets had been thrown into the sewer of the Barillerie; Fagon had attributed the fearful malignant fever of 1685 to the great gap in the sewer of the Marais, which remained yawning until 1833 in the Rue St. Louis, almost in front of the sign of the Gallant Messenger. The mouth of the sewer of the Rue de la Mortellerie was famous for the pestilence which came from it; with its pointed iron grating, which looked like a row of teeth, it lay in that fatal street like the jaws of a dragon blowing hell upon men. The popular imagination seasoned the gloomy Parisian sink with an indefinably hideous mixture of the infinite.

THE MADELEINE CHURCH, PARIS.
THE BOLDEST MAN IN FRANCE.

“One day in 1805, on one of those rare visits which the emperor made to Paris, the minister of the interior came to the master’s private audience. In the carousal