Page images

tunnel as soon as we started; then another and another. This was scenery with a vengeance.

We were out at last, and in a different world. Whatever was modern in Malta had been left behind. This was wholly Eastern-Syrian-a piece out of the Holy Land, if the pictures tell us the truth. Everywhere were the one-story, flat-topped architecture and the olive-trees of the Holy Land pictures; everywhere stony fields and myriads of stone walls.

At a bound we had come from what was only a few hundred years ago, mingled with to-day, to what was a few thousand years ago, mingled with nothing modern whatever. There is no touch of English dominion here, or French, or Italian. This might be Syrian or Moorish; it might be, and is Maltese.

We saw men ploughing with a single cow and a crooked stick in a manner that has prevailed here always. We mentioned the matter to our railwayconductor, who was a sociable person and had not much to do.

“You are from America,” he said.
“Yes, we are from America."
“And do they use different ploughs there?"

He spoke the English of the colonies, and it seemed incredible that he should not know about these things. We broke it to him as gently as possible that we did not plough with a crooked stick in America, but with such ploughs as were used in England. However, that meant nothing to him, as he had never been off the island of Malta in his life. His name was Carina, he told us, and his parents and grandparents before him had been born on the island. Still, I think he must have had English or Irish pigment in that red hair of his. His English was perfect, though he spoke the Maltese, too, of course.

He became our guide as we went along, willing and generous with his information, though more interested, I thought, in the questions he modestly asked us, now and then. His whole environment-all his traditions

-had been confined to that little sea-encircled space of old, old town, and older, much older country.

He would like to come to America, he confessed, and I wondered, if some day he should steam up New York harbor and look upon that piled architecture, and then should step ashore and find himself amidst its whirl of traffic, he would not be even more impressed by it than we were with his tiny forgotten island here to the south of Sicily.

We passed little stations, now and then, with pretty stone and marble station-houses, but with no villages of any consequence, and came to Citta Vecchia, which the Arabs called Medina, formerly the capital of the island. It is a very ancient place, set upon a hill and bastioned round with walls that are too high to scale, and were once impregnable. It has stood many an assault — many a long-protracted siege. To-day it is a place of crumbling ruins and deserted streets-a mediæval dream.

It was raining when we got back to Valetta, and our faithful guide hurried us toward the boat-landing by a short way, for we were anxious to get home now. Every few yards we were assailed by hackmen and beggars, and by boatmen as soon as we reached the pier. He kept us intact, however, and got us into our own boat, received the rest of his fortune-enough to set him up for life, by Maltese standards—waved us good-bye, and we were being navigated across the wide, rainy waste toward our steamer, which seemed to fill one side of that little harbor.

What a joy to be on deck again and in the cosey cabin, drinking hot tea and talking over our adventures and purchases with our fellow-wanderers. The ship is home, rest, comfort-a world apart. We are weighing anchor now, and working our course out of the bottle-neck, to sea. It is a narrow opening-a native pilot directs us through it and leaves the ship only at the gateway. Then we sail through and out into the darkening sky where a storm is gatheringthe green billows catching the dusk purple on their tips, the gulls white as they breast the rising wind.

We gather on the after deck to say good-bye to Malta. Wall upon wall, terrace upon terrace it rises from the sea-heaped and piled back against the hills -as old, as quaint, as unchanged as it was a thousand years ago. Viewed in this spectral half-light it might be any one of the ancient cities. Ephesus, Antioch, Tyre-it suggests all those names, and we speak of these things in low voices, awed by the spectacle of gathering night and storm.

Then, as the picture fades, we return to the lighted cabins, where it is gay and cheerful and modern, while there in the dark behind, that old curious island life still goes on; those curious shut-in people are gathering in their houses; the day, with its cares, its worries, and its hopes is closing in on that tiny speck, set in that dark and lonely sea.



N E are in classic waters now. All this bleak Sun

V day we have been steaming over the Ionian Sea, crossed so long ago by Ulysses when he went exploring; crossed and recrossed a hundred times by the galleyed fleets of Rome. We have followed the exact course, perhaps, of those old triremes with their piled - up banks of oars, when they sailed away to conquer the East, also when they returned loaded down with captives and piled high with treasure.

A little while ago Cythera was on our port bow, the island where Aphrodite was born of wind and wave, and presently set out to make trouble among the human family. She and her son Cupid, who has always been too busy to grow up, have a good deal to answer for, and they are still at their mischief, and will be, no doubt, so long as men are brave and women fair.

However, they seemed to have overlooked this ship. There is only one love-affair discoverable, and even that is of such a mild academic variety that it is doubtful whether that tricksy jade Venus and her dimpled son had any concern in the matter. It is rather a case of Diana's hunting, I suspect, and not a love-affair at all. I have mentioned that this is Sunday, but I acquired this knowledge from the calendar. One would never guess it from the aspect of this ship and its company. We made a pretty good attempt at Sabbath observance the first Sunday out, and we did something in that line a week later. But then we struck Genoa, where we lost the Promoter and took on this European influx of languages, and now Sunday is the same as Friday or Tuesday or any other day, and it would take an expert to tell the difference.

I do not blame it all to the Europeans. They are a good lot, I believe, some of them I am sure are, and we have taken to them amazingly. They did teach us a few new diversions, but we were ready for instruction and the Reprobates would have corrupted us anyhow, so it is no matter. The new-comers only stimulated our education and added variety to our progress. But they did make it bad for Sundaythe old-fashioned Sunday, such as we had the first week out.

Not that our "pilgrims" are a bad lot—not by any means. They do whoop it up pretty lively in the booze-bazaar now and then, and even a number of our American ladies have developed a weakness for that congenial corner of the ship. But everything is p. p., which is Kurfürst for perfectly proper, and on this particular Sunday you could not scrape up enough real sin on this ship to interest Satan five minutes.

Even the Reprobates are not entirely abandoned, and only three different parties have been removed from their table in the dining-saloon by requestrequest of the parties, that is-said parties being

« PreviousContinue »