Page images
PDF
EPUB

on; send the ship home, or sink it; we will abide here and roam no more."

At the end of the funicular there was still more hill to climb, and one could either do it afoot or be carried up in a hammock. Most of us young people did it afoot, allowing enfeebled men of eighteen and twenty the comfort of the hammocks. As they passed us we commented on their luxury, and made it otherwise interesting for them. It was pleasant enough walking and there was a good deal to see. The foliage was interesting, ranging as it did from the palm of the tropics to the pine of the northern forests. You can raise anything in Madeira, except money—there is not much of that, and things are cheap accordingly. No doubt it is the same in heaven, but I am getting ahead of my story.

We lunched at the top, in a hotel that was once a convent and still has iron-barred windows, but before luncheon we walked out for the view to a little platform which seems when you step out on it to be hanging in the air, so that you involuntarily hesitate and reach for something firm. All the distance you have climbed in the ox-sleds, by the funicular, and afoot drops away perpendicularly at your feet, and you are looking down, straight down, and still down, to what seem fairy tree-tops and a wonderful picture valley through which a tumbling ribbon of water goes foaming to the sea. It is the most sudden and dramatic bit of scenery I know.

We had delicious strawberries at our luncheonstrawberries that required no sugar-and a good many other kinds of fruit—some of which we could identify

and some of which the Reprobates discussed in their usual unrestrained fashion, calling one another names that were at once descriptive and suited to the subject in hand. There were pomegranates and guavas and comquats and loquats; also there was Madeira wine, of course, and hereafter I am going to know something about native wines in the lands we visit before I begin business—that is, wholesale business. But never mind let it go; it is a good deal like sherry, only it tastes better, and the Reprobates said-but as I mentioned before, let it go—it really does not matter now.

We descended that long, paved, greased hill in toboggans that are nice, comfortable baskets on runners. They hold two and three, according to size, and you get in and two men take you in hand, and away you go. You go, too. A distance of two miles has been made in three minutes in those things. I don't think we went as fast as that, but it was plenty fast enough for the wild delight of it, and if I had money enough and time enough I would go there and slide and slide away the eternal summer days.

It was a swift panorama of flower and sunlit wall and distant sea—the soft air rushing by. Now and then we would whirl past a carrier -a brown, bent man with one of those great sleds on his shoulders, toiling with it up the long, steep hill. They were marvellously picturesque, those carriers, but I wish they wouldn't do it. It takes some of the joy out of the slide to feel that somebody is going to carry your toboggan up the hill on his back.

We shot out on the level at last, and started on a little tour of the town. Laura and I wandered away alone, and stopped at little shops, and tried to transact business, and finally bought a clay water-jug for a hundred and twenty reis, which is to say sixpence, which is to say twelve cents. Money in Madeira is

[ocr errors]

TWO MEN TAKE YOU IN HAND AND AWAY YOU GO

calculated in reis, just as it is in the Azores, and the sound of the word suddenly recalled the visit of the Quaker City “Pilgrims” to those islands, and the memory of Blucher's disastrous dinner-party.

But they will take anything that looks like money

in Madeira, rather than miss a trade, and when a person who has been accustomed to calculating dollars and cents is suddenly confronted with problems of reis and pence and shillings and half-crowns and francs, he goes to pieces on his money tables and wonders why a universal currency would not be a good thing.

All the streets in Madeira have that dainty cobble paving, and all the sidewalks are laid in the exquisite mosaic which makes it a joy to follow them. The keynote of the island is invitation. Even a jail we saw is of a sort to make crime attractive. I hasten to add that we examined only the outside.

We were adopted by a guide presently—a boy whose only English was the statement that he could speak it—and were directed quietly but firmly toward places where things are sold. We tried to impress upon him in such languages as we could think of that we did not want to buy anything, and that we did not care much for a guide, anyway. We said we wanted to see bougainvillea—a lot of bougainvillea, in a great mass together, as we had seen it from the ship. He nodded excitedly and led us away, but it was only to a place where they sold embroideries which we did not care for, though they were cheap enough, dear knows, as everything is cheap here everything native at least.

When our guide grasped the fact at last that we did not want to do any buying, he became sad, weakened gradually, dropped behind, accepted a penny, and turned us over to another guide of the same sort. We wandered about Funchal in that way until it was time to embark, adopted by one guide after another, and abandoned to our fate when they realized that we were not worth anything in the way of commissions from the merchants and very little in any form. We did get a guide at last who knew where the bougainvillea house was, but it was too late then to go to it. It did not matter; there were flowers enough everywhere and bougainvillea on many walls.

The place did not lose its charm with close acquaintance. It seemed entirely unspoiled. We saw no suggestion of modern architecture or European innovation-no blot anywhere, except a single motor-car

-the only one, I believe, in Funchal. There is but one fly in the ointment of Madeira comfort—the beggars. They begin to beg before they can walk, and they call, “Penny! Penny!” before they can lisp the sacred name of “Mamma.” However, one good thing has come of our experience with them. They have prepared us for beggars elsewhere. We are hardened, now—at least, we think we are. The savor of pity has gone out of us.

But I was speaking of architecture. Without knowing anything on the subject, I should say that the architecture of Madeira is a mixture of Spanish and Moorish, like that of Mexico. Only it is better than anything in Mexico. From the ship, the stucco, tile-roofed city is flawless; and as we steam away, and night comes down and lights break out and become a jewelled necklace along the water's edge, our one regret is that we are leaving it all behind.

Good-bye to Madeira—a gentle place, a lovely place -a place to live and die in.

« PreviousContinue »