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Title: The Danube - From the Black Forest to the Black Sea
Author: Millet, Francis Davis
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



              [Illustration: Alfred Parsons F. D. Millet]



                              THE DANUBE

                         FROM THE BLACK FOREST
                           TO THE BLACK SEA

                                  BY
                             F. D. MILLET
                  AUTHOR OF “A CAPILLARY CRIME” ETC.

                            ILLUSTRATED BY
                     THE AUTHOR AND ALFRED PARSONS

                            [Illustration]

                               NEW YORK
                  HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE

                Copyright, 1892, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

                        _All rights reserved._

                   “_Wenn ich dann zu Nacht alleine_
                    _Dichtend in die Wellen schau’,_
                    _Steigt beim blanken Mondenscheine_
                    _Auf die schmucke Wasserfrau_
                    _Aus der Donau_
                    _Aus der schönen, blauen Donau._”
                                           --BECK.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I

The Black Forest--The Brigach and the Brege--The Highest Sources
of the Danube--Journey thence from London--Villingen--Arrival at
Donaueschingen--The Canoes and Outfit--Arbitrary Source of the
Danube                                                            Page 1


CHAPTER II

The Start--Swans and Spectators--The First Weir and First
Luncheon--Society for the Preservation of the Banks of the
Danube--Tuttlingen and Max Schneckenburger--First Public Performance
at a Weir--First Night in Camp and a Spoiled Breakfast--Monastery of
Beuron and its Monks--Crags and Castles                               15


CHAPTER III

Sigmaringen and Hohenzollern--Nuns at Riedlingen--Haymakers and
Haymaking--The Last Weir--A Vigorous Current--The Confluence of the
Iller and the Danube--Ulm and the Danube Rowing Club--Start from
Ulm--Appointment of Camp-finder                                       32


CHAPTER IV

Lauingen; Its Architecture and its People--Blenheim
and Höchstädt--Donauwörth--Lumber-rafts and our Narrow
Escape--Virtuous Vohburg--Roman Remains and one of the Scenes in
the “Niebelungenlied”--Weltenburg Abbey--The Befreiungshalle and
Kelheim--In Sight of Ratisbon                                         46


CHAPTER V

Ratisbon; Its Architecture and its People--The Walhalla--The Plain of
Straubing--A Summer Squall--A Typical Bavarian Farm-house--Visit to a
Local Freight Flat-boat--Rowing Clubs at Deggendorf and at Winzer     59


CHAPTER VI

Fourth of July at Passau--The Austrian Frontier--Through the Gorge in
Rainy Weather--A Curious Ferry--A Brief Halt at Linz and a Camp at the
Mouth of the Traun--Shooting the Rapids below Grein--Melk and the Pass
below                                                                 74


CHAPTER VII

Dürrenstein, the Dungeon of Richard Cœur de Lion--Ruins and
Sentiment--A Gem of River Scenery--Canalization of the River--The only
“Blue Danube”--Tulln and its Antiquities--Active River Commerce--Our
Raftsmen Friends                                                      88


CHAPTER VIII

Vienna; Its History and Characteristics--The Lia Rowing Club--Our Stay
at Hainburg and Excursions in the Neighborhood--Theben, the Frontier
Town of Hungary--A Model Postmaster                                  102


CHAPTER IX

Pressburg and the River below--Monotony of Landscape and
our Introduction to Dust and Mud--Gran; Its Situation and
Attractions--Visegrád--Our Hospitable Reception--General Görgei--Our
Reluctant Parting--Approach to Budapest--The First Accident to the
Fleet--The Neptune Club--Gypsy Music                                 119


CHAPTER X

Budapest almost our Capua--The Bridges and Baths--The Great Hungarian
Plain--Cheery River Folk--Duna Földvár--A Surprise Picnic and a Severe
Storm--In the Heart of Hungary--Mohács and a Veteran of Two Wars--Tokay
and Patriotic Sentiments                                             133

CHAPTER XI

The Franzens Canal between the Danube and the Theiss--A Heterogeneous
Population--Monostorszég and a Peasants’ Dance--Curious Types and
Costumes--A Spectacular Sunday--First Signs of Oriental Life         151


CHAPTER XII

A Watermelon Metropolis--Our Fleet taken for Torpedo-boats--A Gypsy
Queen--Peterwardein and Carlowitz--Busy Life on the Banks--In
Sight of Belgrade--Evening in Camp--The Servian Frontier--Semlin
and Belgrade--Oriental Characteristics and Modern Improvements--A
Sculptor’s Paradise--An Unexpected Encounter                         164


CHAPTER XIII

Semendria and its Great Castle--Our Passports are Useless--Bazias
and the Entrance to the Carpathians--The Emperor’s Birthday on a
Gunboat--Castle of Golubáç--Drenkova and the First Rapids--Escape from
a Whirlpool and a Dash through the Cataracts                         184


CHAPTER XIV

Improvements to Navigation--Rapids of the Jur--The Kasan
Defile--Remarkable River Scenery--Trajan’s Tablet and Old Roman
Roadway--Orsova and the Herkulesbad--Ada Kaleh, the Turkish
Settlement--The Iron Gates--The Danube and the Ister--Origin of the
Name of the Danube--We Lose our Admiral--The Iron Gates--Captured by
Roumanian Soldiers--Under Military Supervision                       197


CHAPTER XV

We are Arrested in a Servian Militia Camp--Barbaric Soldiery and
Strange People--We Surrender to a Roumanian Picket--A Characteristic
Servian Village--The Frontier of Bulgaria                            211


CHAPTER XVI

Kalafat and Widdin--A Gale out of a Clear Sky--Bulgarian
Fishermen--Widdin and its People--Quaint Turkish Sailing Craft--The
River Landscape and the Bulgarian Villages--Custom-house
Annoyances--Our Passports save us                                    230

CHAPTER XVII

A Grazing Country--Wild-fowl in Abundance--Nicopolis and the First
Reminder of the War of 1877-78--Exodus of Turks at Sistova--Trip
to Plevna--Echoes of the War--Rustchuk and Silistria--Monotony and
Mud                                                                  247


CHAPTER XVIII

Squally Weather and Head-winds--The Dobrudscha--Trajan’s Great
Wall--Our Camp is Besieged, but Peace is soon Declared--A Roumanian
Village--Braila and Galatz--A Tribe of Gypsies                       267


CHAPTER XIX

The Danube Delta--The European Commission and its Work--Sulina, a Town
on English Soil--We Enter the Territory of the Czar--The River divides
and the Delta begins                                                 280


CHAPTER XX

We Fraternize with Russian Soldiers--A Night at a Picket
Station--Custom-house Formalities at Ismail--We Encounter the Police--A
Desolate Land--We Camp in the Mud--Kilia--Moldavian Peasants and
Russian Pickets                                                      295


CHAPTER XXI

We reach Vilkoff and Renew our Struggles with the Custom-house--A
Remote Town--The Sturgeon Fishery and Caviar--We Push on to the Black
Sea--A Gale is Blowing, and We make a Landing with Difficulty--The
Roumanian “Cordon”--A Paddle in the Black Sea--We dismantle our Canoes
and reach Sulina                                                     312



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                    PAGE

Alfred Parsons, Poultney Bigelow
and F. D. Millet.                                          _Frontispiece_

Peasant Girl of the Black Forest                                       2

A Haymaker                                                             3

Donaueschingen Girls                                                   5

The Sketch-book                                                        7

Black Forest Cow Team                                                 10

Spectators                                                            13

The Start--Donaueschingen                                             17

Pforen                                                                20

Hut for Duck Shooting--Neidingen                                      22

Max Schneckenburger, Author
of “Die Wacht am Rhein”                                               23

Below Mühlheim, Kallenberg                                            25

Wernwag                                                               28

Wildenstein                                                           29

The Monks of Beuron                                                   30

Sigmaringen                                                           33

Hohenzollern                                                          34

Nuns at Riedlingen                                                    35

Crossing the Weir--Rottenacker                                        37

Peasant Girls Mowing                                                  39

Bridge at Rottenacker                                                 40

Wood-sawyer at Ulm                                                    43

From Strasburg to Ulm                                                 44

The Bell Tower--Lauingen                                              48

Donauwörth                                                            49

The Ferry                                                             51

From Ulm to Straubing                                                 53

Between Weltenburg and Kelheim                                        54

An Early Visitor                                                      55

Ratisbon from the Bridge                                              61

Returning from Market, Ratisbon                                       64

Oberau, near Straubing                                                65

Local Freight Flat-boat                                               69

On the Tile-boat                                                      71

From Straubing to Dürrenstein                                         75

Grein, from the Camp, July 6, 1891                                    77

Pump at Pöchlarn                                                      81

The Benedictine Monastery, Melk                                       85

Early Morning Opposite Dürrenstein                                    89

Dürrenstein                                                           93

From Dürrenstein to Budapest                                          96

Lumber Raft                                                           98

A Little Girl of Hainburg                                            103

Peasant Wagon, Hainburg                                              105

A Hungarian Ferry                                                    107

The Wienerthor, Hainburg                                             108

The Town Wall, Hainburg                                              110

Hundsheim                                                            113

Gossips, Hundsheim                                                   116

The Watch-tower, Theben                                              117

Peasant Girl, Theben                                                 120

Hungarian Cattle                                                     121

Gran (Esztergom)                                                     123

Visegrád                                                             126

Swineherd                                                            127

A Family Wash                                                        130

An Ark-boat                                                          131

Country Market-boat, Budapest                                        134

Washer-women                                                         137

Duna Földvár                                                         139

Water-carriers, Duna Földvár                                         142

Fishing-station                                                      143

Peasant Girls at Mohács                                              146

From Budapest to Belgrade                                            152

Schokacz Types                                                       154

In Sunday Dress, Monostorszég                                        157

Hungarian Girls at Bezdán                                            159

Erdöd                                                                160

Current Mills                                                        162

Vukovár Watermelons                                                  166

A Pig-wallow                                                         167

A Gypsy Girl                                                         171

Threshing Wheat                                                      173

A Croatian Bivouac                                                   175

Ó Szlankamen                                                         176

Servian Women                                                        177

Fortress at the Junction of the
Danube and the Save--Belgrade                                        178

Bulgarian Bozaji, Belgrade                                           180

Fountain in the Square, Belgrade                                     182

Semendria                                                            185

Rama                                                                 189

Golubáç                                                              191

Roumanian Peasant Girl                                               194

The Kasan Defile                                                     199

Remains of Trajan’s Road
near Orsova                                                          202

From Belgrade to Rustchuk                                            204

Remains of Trajan’s Bridge,
Turnu Severin                                                        207

Roumanian Peasants                                                   209

Servian Fishing-canoes                                               210

Carrying Water for the Camp--Brza
Palanka                                                              213

“Our Guard,” Servian Militia
Camp                                                                 215

Massing of Servian Troops on
the Bulgarian Frontier                                               217

Drawing Water for the Camp,
Brza Palanka                                                         219

Servian Militia, Brza Palanka                                        223

Building a House in Servia                                           225

House at Radujeváç                                                   226

Roumanian Picket Guard                                               227

Bulgarian Fisherman Basket-making                                    232

Cann, opposite Kalafat                                               235

Bulgarian Peasant Types                                              237

Turkish Types                                                        239

Turkish Quarter, Widdin                                              241

Turkish Vessels                                                      243

Bulgarian Village                                                    245

Becalmed                                                             247

On the Bulgarian Shore, near
Rahova                                                               249

Turkish Flat-boat                                                    252

Turkish Women at Sistova                                             253

Old Mosque, Rustchuk                                                 257

Bulgarian Buffalo Cart                                               259

Market-place, Silistria                                              261

Mosque in Silistria                                                  264

From Rustchuk to Sulina                                              265

Roumanian Peasants Selling
Flowers and Fruit                                                    268

Hirsova                                                              270

Gura Ghirlitza                                                       272

Loading Grain at Braila                                              274

Gipsy Camp at Galatz                                                 277

Galatz                                                               281

Peasants of the Delta                                                284

Dredging the Delta                                                   287

Turkish Sailing Lotka, Sulina                                        288

Hills near Matchin                                                   289

Kilia                                                                290

Chatal Saint George                                                  291

Toultcha                                                             293

Windmills of Toultcha                                                294

Russian Picket Post                                                  297

Fishing-hut among the Reeds                                          303

A Late Camp                                                          307

Moldavian Peasants: A Windy
Day in the Delta                                                     309

Vilkoff                                                              313

Fishing Station on the Black
Sea                                                                  315

Roumanian Sailors at the
“Cordon”                                                             319

The Last Toilet in Camp                                              323

By the Black Sea                                                     327



THE DANUBE

FROM THE BLACK FOREST TO THE BLACK SEA



CHAPTER I


At the head of a pleasant little valley high up among the bristling
mountain-tops of the Black Forest, a tiny stream of clear water comes
tumbling down the rocks, and, gathering strength and volume from an
occasional spring or a rivulet, cuts a deep channel into the rich soil
of the hayfields, and dances along gayly over its bed of glistening
pebbles. To the north, west, and south the bold summits of the
water-shed, heavily clothed in dark masses of coniferous trees, make a
rugged, strongly accentuated sky line, and to the east delightful vistas
of sunny slopes and fertile intervales stretch away in enchanting
perspective to the hazy distance. This little stream, the Brigach, with
its twin sister, the Brege, which rises about ten miles farther to the
south, are the highest sources of the mighty River Danube, the great
water highway of Europe since earliest history, celebrated for ages in
legend and song, gathering on its banks in its course of nearly two
thousand miles to the Black Sea the most varied and interesting
nationalities in the civilized world, and unfolding in its flow the most
remarkable succession of panoramas of natural beauty known to the
geographer. The Black Forest Railway, which crosses the mountains from
the valley of the Rhine into the upper valley of the Danube by the way
of Triberg, mounts the western escarpment of the range by a series of
steep grades, curves, and short tunnels, in the midst of beautiful
scenery of a semi-Alpine character, and, after the divide is reached,
follows the course of the Brigach to Donaueschingen, a tidy little town
in the Grand Duchy of Baden, usually called the source of the Danube,
and, for the greater part of the year, the head of navigation for small
boats on the upper river. A mile and a half below Donaueschingen the
Brigach and the Brege join, and the stream here receives the name of the
Danube.

[Illustration: PEASANT GIRL OF THE BLACK FOREST]

Our party of three was made up of ideal elements. The accuracy of this
statement must be permitted for a moment to eclipse the habitual modesty
of that member of the expedition whose duty it has become to tell the
story of the trip. The originator of the enterprise was an expert
canoist who had steered his frail craft through breakers of various seas
and over shoals of countless rivers. On him was to devolve the literary
part of the expedition--an arrangement which would have been carried out
but for the ruthless interference of that all-powerful tyrant, Time. The
other two members of the alliance expected to take elaborate notes of
all attractive features of the landscape and all interesting types of
humanity, the one meanwhile joyfully anticipating the pursuit of his
favorite study of botany, and the other

[Illustration: A HAYMAKER]

indulging in the exhilarating prospect of explorations in the
fascinating field of philology, and looking forward with no little
interest to revisiting under the pleasantest of auspices old friends and
familiar scenes. We agreed to meet at Donaueschingen on June 22d, and
made all our arrangements to have the canoes reach that point on or
previous to that date. The experience of old travellers with canoes was
all against the successful consummation of this plan, particularly as
two of the boats had to be shipped from New York, and would not be
finished until the 3d of the month. The fate of the other canoe was more
or less certain, for the owner decided to watch it himself all the way
from London to the place of meeting, having learned after many
disappointments that this process of transportation, although irksome,
was the only one he could depend upon. On the evening of Saturday, June
20th, two of us left London in the wake of the Admiral of the fleet, who
had paddled his canoe down the Thames to the Flushing boat some days
before. Thirty-six hours later, on the morning of the 22d, refreshed and
cheered by the brisk air of the mountains after two feverish nights on
the journey, we saw between the showers of rain the brilliant sunlight
sparkling on a tiny mountain brook near the little hamlet of Sommerau,
on the eastern slope of the water-shed. Although we had no map or
guide-book, we knew at once that our acquaintance with the Danube had
begun. The long-dormant sporting corpuscles in our blood took on a
sudden and stimulating activity, and we were in a nervous quiver to
begin our long-dreamed-of cruise. The Rhine had failed to charm us with
its majestic scenery; we had seen only the hideous scars that modern man
has made on the fair face of nature there, with villas of carpenter’s
Gothic and summer hotels of repulsively mammoth proportions. Cologne,
Mayence, Strasburg, which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been
joys to us, had been on this journey aggravating impediments in the way
of our progress, for all the trains had seemed to combine viciously to
break connections at these points and to force us to delay our eager
flight. The charms of architecture and art, although always potent, had
been but a meagre consolation to us in our impatience to begin our
intimate communion with Nature. Even the wonderful railway journey over
the pass, while it had put us in a better mood and temporarily stirred
our emotions, had not given us a tithe of the sensation that the sparkle
of the rivulet caused as we caught sight of it after a great gray
curtain of rain had been driven away by an all-powerful flood of
sunlight.

The quaintest and strangest of costumes met our eyes as we leaned out of
the window of our compartment when the train stopped at the station of
St. Georgen, eager to see how the brook had widened there. The hurrying
peasant women, in queer skull-caps with immense ribbon bows, stiff
bodices, and short petticoats, seemed to be the supernumeraries in the
prologue of an exciting, drama now about to begin. The train rolled
slowly on with that peculiar settling-down motion that denotes a
descending grade, and we watched the yard-wide brook gradually expand
its channel and assume the proportions of a goodly stream. In the
fertile valley near Villingen, where the country opens out

[Illustration: DONAUESCHINGEN GIRLS]

and the landscape becomes more extensive, the stream was now fully a
half-dozen yards wide, and the recent heavy rains had filled it nearly
to overflowing with a yellow flood. We had a sudden and strong
temptation to stop and begin our cruise at this point, but the
uncertainty of the fate of our canoes, of which we had received no item
of information since they had been shipped at New York, made it
imperative for us to push on to Donaueschingen, and our ambition to make
the highest start on record in the Danube annals was forever crushed by
the considerations of transportation. Donaueschingen was still dripping
from a heavy shower when we arrived about noon-time, but the eloquently
beaming face of our companion would have dispelled the gloom of the
heaviest thunder-storm, and we heeded not the weather, for we understood
at once that the canoes had arrived and were all right. Indeed, contrary
to all precedent and all prophecy, they had turned up safe and sound the
day before; and when we saw them for the first time, all sleek and shiny
and dainty, resting on the flag-stones of the inn-yard as lightly as
bubbles on a pool of water, we felt that kind and quality of elation
that had been a stranger to us since the first happy day of school
vacation. Graceful as violins, with sails whiter than the fresh
whitewash of the tidy hostlery, with shining nickel fittings and every
detail highly finished, they combined in their construction beauty and
strength in a near approach to perfection.

Under the very wall of the inn-yard the Brigach, now quite a river and
much swollen by the floods, rushed and foamed and filled the air with an
inviting murmur. Donaueschingen has long been the starting-point for
boating expeditions to Vienna, but, as we rightly conjectured, no craft
similar to the American cruising canoe had ever before been seen there.
Curiosity to examine the novelties, coupled with the knowledge of our
plan to cruise as far as the Black Sea, which had been widely
disseminated by our advance agent in his brief stay, made a ripple of
excitement all over the town, and the inn-yard was constantly crowded
with visitors, many of them skilled mechanics, for the neighborhood is
widely famous for its clocks and wood-carvings. Only one of us, as I
have already confessed, was acquainted with a canoe of this kind, but we
were all experienced in the management of birch-barks and Canadians and
other small craft. We effectually concealed our ignorance from the
spectators, however, and in the guise of testing the apparatus after its
long journey, worked the sails, rudder, and centre-board, set up the
tents, shipped and unshipped the hatches, until we became quite familiar
with the working of them all. It may be as well at the beginning to show
the result of our examination of the canoes and to describe them
briefly, for the reason that our adventures will be better appreciated
and our river life better understood if some adequate notion can be
given of the craft that carried us by day and housed us for the night
for three happy months.

[Illustration: THE SKETCH-BOOK]

The three canoes were as nearly alike in dimensions, lines, weight, and
fittings as the skill of an old and famous builder on the banks of the
East River, New York, could make them. They measured 15 feet in length,
30 inches in width, and about 18 inches in extreme depth. A deck of thin
mahogany covered the whole with the exception of an oval opening about 6
feet long and 20 inches wide, which was surrounded by an oak coaming
about 2 inches high. A series of hatches was fitted to this coaming, and
these could be adjusted in various ways, so that the canoe could be
converted in a moment from an open boat into a modified _Rob Roy_, or
entirely covered up and locked as securely as a jewel-box. Like all
similar craft, a good strong oaken keel made the backbone, and a great
many small ribs of riven heart-of-oak were copper-riveted to this keel,
forming, with the stem--and stern-post and a few cross-timbers, a light,
strong, and not too rigid skeleton. The sheer-strake was of mahogany,
and the others of selected white cedar. All the fastenings were of the
best copper, and the trimmings and fittings of nickel-plated brass. One
peculiarity of the construction was that the deck-boards and all the
strakes ran from stem to stern without a splice. The weight of each
canoe, empty, was about eighty pounds, but with the nickel-plated drop
rudder, heavy brass folding centre-board, two sails with masts and
spars, paddles and general outfit, the whole weight in cruising trim
must have been fully 200 pounds, but we never verified this estimate,
judging only by the fact that at no time during the trip were they too
heavy to be lifted easily by two of us.

We were naturally quite as much interested in the practical working of
the canoes as in their appearance, for we knew that the brilliant
varnish would soon grow dim, the smooth surface of the mahogany become
dented and scratched, and that the lines and proportions would alone

[Illustration: BLACK FOREST COW TEAM]

remain to testify to the original perfection of the build. The two
sails, a large leg-of-mutton main-sail and a mizzen of similar shape but
much smaller, could be raised, lowered, reefed, and furled from the
canoist’s seat on the floor of the cockpit. The mizzen-mast could be
unshipped, the rudder raised out of the water or lowered below the keel;
the centre-board, which shut up like a fan into a long slot in the keel,
could be adjusted to any desirable depth; the hatches could be shipped
and unshipped, the canoe baled out, and all other necessary operations
of navigation performed with the greatest ease and rapidity. A
double-blade paddle 8 feet long, and jointed so that the blades could be
turned at right angles to each other, was to be depended upon for the
ordinary means of propulsion, but we anticipated using the sails as
often as wind, weather, and the run of the river would permit. When
paddling or sailing, the after-hatch of the cockpit was to be left on,
and a movable bulkhead, upon which the forward part of the hatch rested,
was intended to serve as a back-rest for the occupant, who also might
sit upon the hatch and thus change his position at discretion. The
length between the bulkheads was 8 feet, and on the cedar floor-boards
of this space we proposed to make our bed for the night, trigging the
canoe up on the shore for the purpose, and thus providing for ourselves
a dry, sheltered, and comfortable bed under all circumstances. A
box-tent of good duck was made to be slung between the masts and to
button securely along the gunwales. This was provided with flaps for
ventilation and entrance, and with mosquito-proof curtains. The
water-tight compartments fore and aft made excellent spaces for dry
storage, and during the day all articles for handy use were to be kept
behind the back-rest where they could be easily got at. The spare
paddle, unjointed for the sake of packing, the sketching apparatus, maps
and note-books, and the foot-steering gear and the fore-hatches, were to
be the only encumbrances of the cockpit proper. When we came to
experiment with our outfit we found that we had plenty of room and to
spare, and subsequent experience proved to us the accuracy of our first
plans for the stowage and arrangement of all our traps.

We naturally depended largely on the advice of the veteran cruiser of
the party for the selection of our outfit, and we two novices had a
consultation with him shortly after our expedition was decided upon.
Knowing nothing about the canoes, we asked him what we should take along
to make a bed with; whether we should carry an air-pillow or one of the
small cork mattresses we had seen advertised for such trips.

“Dear me, no!” he said. “You don’t need any blanket. Sleep in your
clothes!”

“But a pillow?” we urged.

“Just fold up your trousers for a pillow!”

“Then what do you cover yourself up with?”

“That’s simple enough. Pop your legs in the sleeves of your coat and
your feet and ankles will be as warm as toast.”

“What about your shoulders?”

“Oh, well; haul any old thing over your shoulders. You’ll soon get used
to that. The less you carry the better.”

This unique method of making one’s self comfortable for the night
appealed more to our sense of humor than it did to the practical side of
our nature, and we decided to carry a good thick woollen blanket, a
rubber one of extra quality, a canvas boat-bag with a suit of
shore-going clothes, a sleeping-suit, various spare flannels, socks,
boating-shoes, and other small articles. This bag would make, if packed
with that end in view, an excellent pillow; and we proposed to trust to
our constitutional endurance to become indifferent to the hardness of
the canoe floor. A bicycle cape, a sketching umbrella and camp-stool,
together with a sketch-bag full of materials, practically completed the
personal outfit of the majority of the party. Of all these articles we
found the rubber ones alone to be of no real use. The bicycle cape shed
water for a few minutes and then converted itself into a complicated
system of gargoyles which conducted the drip into the most intimate
recesses of our clothing, and soon made the canoe floor a perfect swamp.
As for the expensive rubber blankets, they were a fetich for many weeks.
The hours and hours we waited for those dew-dripping sheets to dry! The
care we took of them lest they should get burned or torn, and prove
worthless in the hour of need! The trouble we took to pack them by day
and to cover them up at night lest they should gather all the moisture
of the neighborhood and communicate it to our clothing! We never but
once used them to shed the rain, and that was the third night of our
expedition, but we conscientiously lugged them along with us the whole
distance, and got only our bother for our pains. The sketching umbrellas
and the camp-stools were, on the other hand, of the greatest use and a
constant comfort. When it rained we sat at our ease on the stools and
comfortably cooked and ate and smoked under the spreading expanse of
white linen. When a shower overtook us on the water we often hoisted the
umbrellas and drifted along as sheltered and as dry as could be.

[Illustration: SPECTATORS]

Our _batterie de cuisine_ consisted of three spirit-lamps of different
sizes and styles, a few plates and cups of white enamelled ironware, a
tin kettle, coffee-pot, teapot, and water-can, knives, forks, spoons,
and ladle. These necessary articles, together with the hatchet, a few
tools and copper nails, medicines and general stores, we soon learned to
distribute properly among the three canoes, and thus divide the weight
and amicably share the trouble of transportation. It was astonishing how
much the canoes would hold, and every time we unpacked them we always
marvelled at their loading capacity. In addition to the outfit described
we often had to carry fresh meat, vegetables, milk and wine, and a large
store of burning spirits, to say nothing of a great many canned
provisions. The limit seemed to be fixed only by the weight we were
individually willing to struggle with.

Our experiments with the canoes in the inn-yard and the rearrangement of
our luggage occupied us most of the whole afternoon of the long summer
day, but we had daylight enough left in which to see the town and stroll
through the extensive park with its lakes and its sociable swans, and to
gaze from afar on the inhospitable looking palace of the Princes of
Fürstenberg, who have arbitrarily declared for their own glorification
that a large spring in their pleasure-grounds is the actual source of
the Danube. They have surrounded the spring with expensive masonry, and
erected a stone tablet with an inscription giving the information, among
other things, that that spot is 678 metres above sea level and 2840
kilometres from the Black Sea by way of the Danube. The hotel where we
stayed is at the southern end of the fine stone bridge connecting the
two sections into which the Brigach divides the town. Conveniently near
to the hotel is a large flight of stone steps leading down to the water,
and here we proposed to launch the canoes early the next morning and
make our start, a few yards above the source of the Danube, according to
the prince’s tablet, and about 2000 yards above the junction of the
Brigach and the Brege, where the stream is first christened the Danube.



CHAPTER II


The final preparations for our cruise occupied more time than we
anticipated, and it was quite eight o’clock before the canoes touched
water at the foot of the slippery stone steps. A large proportion of the
inhabitants of Donaueschingen gathered on the bridge and near the
landing to see us off, and a dozen eager volunteers helped us carry our
boats and launch them into the yellow stream. A few minutes sufficed to
stow the traps, for we had sent the sails and tents and various other
articles by rail to Ulm, thinking they would be more trouble than use on
the upper part of the river, with its succession of dams and weirs.
Then, amid the “Hochs!” and “Glückliche Reises!” of the multitude, we
scrambled in, each in turn, and pushed off. We firmly believe that no
one in the great crowd of spectators detected that two of us were
handling a double-bladed paddle for the first time--not even the two
ladies from Massachusetts whom we met at the inn, for their hearty
interest in our trip, and their enthusiastic admiration for the canoes,
doubtless blinded them to the observance of our awkwardness. The
swelling, curling stream bore us merrily out of sight of the town, and
only an occasional paddle stroke was necessary to keep the bow in the
right direction. Boys and girls ran along the shady path trying to keep
pace with us, and we saw on the highway a carriage with our lady
friends, who loyally kept sight of us for several miles. A very short
time sufficed to familiarize us with the management of the canoes, so we
could thoroughly enjoy the beauty of the landscape and indulge in the
unalloyed feeling of satisfaction at our successful start, and we swept
on through the great alternating patches of sunlight and shadow, under
trailing boughs of large trees and past beds of tall rushes. In a few
moments the Brege came in with a volume of water about equal to the
Brigach, and then the real Danube rushed on, already quite majestic in
aspect, through fields kaleidoscopic with myriads of flowers, reflecting
in its pools the clear blue of the sky with brilliant summer clouds,
adding new charms to the landscape at every turn. A number of swans from
the park at Donaueschingen swam just ahead of us nearly to the first
village, Pforen, with its dominating church edifice and huge wooden
bridge. When they reached this self-imposed limit of their excursion
they rose into the air with great flutterings and splashings, wheeled
around and passed us so near at hand that we could feel the air from
their great wings, then sailed away in graceful flight to their home in
the secluded islands of the park. Large white wing-feathers danced along
down stream; and when, many weeks afterwards, we dismantled our canoes
on the shores of the Black Sea, we found one of these carefully stowed
away in an angle of the underpart of the deck, and, with mock ceremony
of a message from the Swan of the Source to the Sturgeon of the Sea,
threw it to the strong north wind.

The meadows were full of haymakers--men, women, and children--laughing
and chattering and bidding us “Grüss Gott!” as we passed. The odors of
the fresh hay and the perfumes of the flowers were almost intoxicating
in their strength. Nature on every side of us had that peculiar
freshness and depth of color which comes with the first clear weather at
the end of a long-continued rain, and the

[Illustration: THE START--DONAUESCHINGEN]

landscape, seen from the level of the water, had the increased beauty of
line and composition which so often comes from this point of view in the
perspective. In less than an hour we reached our first weir near the
little village of Neidingen, but the banks were easily accessible owing
to the height of the stream, and in five minutes we had dragged the
canoes across a grassy point and had launched them again. From the
accounts we had read of these obstructions to navigation of the upper
river, we anticipated much greater difficulties than we encountered at
any of the one-and-twenty weirs and dams we navigated between
Donaueschingen and Ulm, although the first one of all was by far the
easiest to pass, and should not be mentioned as a fair sample. The weirs
are far more numerous than the dams; indeed, there are but two or three
of the latter. These, of course, must be carried over because of the
sheer descent of the construction, whereas the weirs usually consist of
a long slope of masonry over which the canoes can be shot without
difficulty at the end of a long painter.

The delight of our first luncheon in the open air will never lose its
freshness in the memory of either of us three. After a struggle with a
weir at Geisingen, we landed in a pleasant meadow just below the village
among waist-high ranks of wonderfully brilliant flowers, and lay for an
hour basking in the balmy, perfume-laden, sunny air. At our feet the
Danube, not the “beautiful blue” of song, but a vigorous, rushing
stream, danced and sparkled in the sunlight. Before us were
heavily-wooded hills with cool and tempting shadows, behind us the
cluster of half-timbered houses and dignified church-tower of the
village, and everywhere around the glories of a perfect June day. A few
children, attracted by the sight of the canoes, interrupted our siesta;
but when the school-bell sounded they all scampered away, and their
prompt obedience to the call of authority made our independence seem
all the more real and desirable. Then and there at our first
landing-place we formed ourselves into a Society for the Preservation of
the Banks of the Danube, appointed a president, secretary, and
treasurer, and a board of management, and unanimously adopted one
regulation, which was to the effect that we should not disfigure in any
way the spots we might occupy as camps, but that all rubbish and
unsightly debrís should be carefully hidden or thrown into the stream.
To the honor of the S. P. B. D. let it be chronicled here that the
regulation was strictly observed to the very end of the cruise.

[Illustration: PFOREN]

Below Neidingen and past Geisingen, Immendingen, and Möhringen the river
winds through broad, fertile meadows, and in summer it is a panorama of
wild-flowers. In the quiet pools of the stream we startled many
water-fowl, and once caught sight of a deer feeding near the water.
Numerous huts along the bank showed us that this was a favorite
shooting-ground in the season, and there were many indications that the
game is carefully preserved. The whole of that perfect first day was one
uninterrupted succession of surprises and delights, both in landscape
and architecture. The frequent villages were all of them interesting and
picturesque both in construction and in situation, and as the houses
lost their alpine character and became more solid and settled in type,
they formed fascinating groups, and made a charming feature of every
view.

In the late afternoon we floated out of the sweet air of the meadows
into a stratum of effluvia from the tanneries of Tuttlingen, and but for
the fact that the town claims as its hero Max Schneckenburger, the
author of the words of “Die Wacht am Rhein” who was educated here in his
youth, and for the more cogent reason of hunger, we probably should have
paddled past the town without pausing longer than to admire some of its
architectural features. Tuttlingen is not all tanneries, although, as we
approached, we thought it must be, by the smell. It is a goodly-sized
place, with the usual castle, an unusual church, and red-tiled houses,
many of them elaborately half-timbered. Opposite the town, which
straggles along the right bank of the stream, a great open meadow is in
process of reclamation from the floods, and is being converted into a
park or public pleasureground. In this flat expanse of rough ground
stands a great square mass of masonry, which will sometime or other
support the statue of Schneckenburger, for the Tuttlingers are actively
engaged in gathering subscriptions for this monument.

Schneckenburger can scarcely be called a poet, for these verses are
probably the only ones of any account he ever wrote--at least, no others
have been preserved--and they came from his pen at the age of
twenty-one. Nine years later, in 1849, he died, having become
established as a small merchant, after several years’ experience as a
commercial traveller. From the accounts given of him by his widow, the
distinctive feature of his character was patriotic fervor, which found
its earliest expression in his choice of a motto, “Deutsch,” in his
school-boy days, and later in the sentiments of “Die Wacht am Rhein.”
The ever-active discussion in our camp, whether the extraordinary
popularity of the patriotic song is due to the verses or to the music,
is hereby passed on for final settlement to the readers of this
narrative. We never could agree about it.

[Illustration: Hut for duck shooting

Neidingen.]

As it was already late when we reached Tuttlingen, we proposed to hurry
our dinner so as to have plenty of daylight to shoot the great weir
which filled the air with its roaring. But the deliberate ways of German
landlords are not easily changed, and we only succeeded in getting off
in the late twilight. With some misgivings we paddled out into
mid-stream, towards the sound of the falling water, between the two
great bridges. The fame of our expedition

[Illustration: MAX SCHNECKENBURGER, AUTHOR OF “DIE WACHT AM RHEIN”

[From an old portrait]]

had spread far and wide, and it was the hour of leisure, so the
Tuttlingers had assembled by thousands along the banks and on the
bridges to see the mad strangers come to grief in the cataract on the
great weir. The sight of the black masses of people stimulated us almost
to rashness, and, without mutual consultation, we steered straight for
some snags which had caught on the angle of the weir, and jumping out
into the knee-deep water, each of us shot his canoe over at the end of
the painter fastened to the stern and, holding the line, scrambled down
the incline where the water was shallowest, jumped into his canoe and
swept away under the second bridge. All this was done in very little
longer time than it takes to tell about it. When the three canoes
appeared almost simultaneously in the smooth water below the second
bridge, shouts of “Hip! Hip!” and “Glückliche Reise!” echoed from the
hill-sides to the towers of Honberg Castle. We replied in chorus
“Schneckenburger soll hoch leben!” and dramatically disappeared in the
gathering darkness. A half-dozen youths, ambitious to discover where and
how we were going to pass the night, followed us along the bank, and we
were loath to make our first camp until we had gotten rid of them. We
accordingly paddled on and on, scarcely able to see the banks, and at
last found an apparently secluded spot and landed. We hauled up the
canoes into the dew-drenched meadow, made our simple preparations for
the night, and lay down in the snug, warm cockpits. The first night in
camp is never a very restful one, and the unaccustomed and somewhat
cramped berth with all sorts of sharp projecting corners and the hardest
of floors, did not assist our slumbers. Nor did the visit of a bevy of
peasant girls who had ventured out from a neighboring farm-house, which
we had not noticed in the darkness, help us to lose consciousness as
they stood for a long time in the moonlight chattering in soft voices
and repeating the story of our exploit at the great weir, which had
evidently been related to them by the youths whom we had successfully
dodged when we landed. The heavy dew obliged us to cover up our berths
in some way, and we tried the rubber blanket as the proper article for
such a purpose. This was far too hot. Then we tried the deck hatches,
which shut down so closely that they left no room for us to turn over
and, besides, were as hot as the rubber blanket. So we passed the night
between fitful naps and impatient struggles with temporary roofs. The
sun had not begun to dissipate the river fog before we had taken our
plunge and were ready for breakfast. By general understanding, the
experienced cruiser, or Admiral of the fleet, was expected to do the
cooking, and he had made elaborate preparations for this duty. The other
two hungry members of the expedition watched the operation of preparing
this first breakfast with eager interest, listening meanwhile to the
words of wisdom which came from the _chef_ as he sat in his canoe wedged
into the narrow cockpit by all the paraphernalia of his temporary
trade.

[Illustration]

“It’s no use to get out of your canoe to cook a meal,” he said, with a
tone of authority that silenced our incipient suggestions as to a tidy
spot on the flat surface of an adjacent rock. “It’s a thousand times
simpler and easier to cook in your canoe, for your things are so handy.
All you have to do is to sit just where you are and reach for whatever
you want. Besides, you never lose anything, for nothing can get far out
of sight in a canoe.”

All this time he was carefully arranging a towering, complex
construction of tin and brass, with a large spirit-lamp beneath. It was
a coffee-machine of his own invention, which, after having been charged
with the various materials, was expected to make a most excellent brew
at one operation. The water was to come to a boil at the same time with
the milk, and then be forced in some mysterious way through the coffee,
and come out _café au lait_ of a quality not to be found this side
Paris. Everything went on quite satisfactorily for a few minutes, and
then the spectators saw a cloud of steam and a fountain of milk suddenly
rise high into the air, and, simultaneously with the explosion, saw the
cook leap from the canoe all ablaze and roll wildly in the long wet
grass. The canoe was covered with flaming spirits, but the fire was
extinguished with little difficulty. The milk was all lost, the coffee
scattered into the remotest crevices of the cockpit, the eggs were
broken, the bread soaked with a nauseous mixture, and breakfast was in a
mess generally. Fortunately, the damage to the person of the cook was
slight, but the laceration of his feelings was far more serious and
lasting, and he gave up the position of cook of the expedition which he
had talked about for six weeks and had filled for six minutes, and
became second dish-washer and scullery-boy.

We were eager to be afloat once more, so we picked up a scratch
breakfast and launched the canoes while the ring of the scythe was
still in the air, and the busy spreaders had not yet begun their work.

[Illustration: Wernwag.]

We shot three weirs in as many hours, and passed Neudingen, Mühlheim,
and Friedingen before eleven o’clock. At the last-named village, a
sweetly pastoral place among the hills, we encountered our first rapids,
for the flood was so high that all the shallows in the river above had
been quite covered, and we had seen white water at the weirs alone. The
channel narrows at this point, the hills crowd close to the banks, and
great gray crags rise from the dark foliage on the steep slopes. Ruins
of castles crown almost every prominent summit, and the scenery grows
wilder and more beautiful at every bend of the river. Kallenberg,
Wildenstein, Wernwag, Falkenstein, and a half-score of other ruins,
equally wonderful in situation, tempted us to sketch them, and we found
the most delightful spots imaginable wherever we paused and exchanged
the paddle for the pencil.

About eighteen miles below Tuttlingen, in the midst of the
castle-crowned hills, we passed the monastery of Beuron, covering with
its extensive buildings a great flat point in the river, under sheer
towering limestone cliffs, surmounted by a grim black cross several
hundred feet above the chapel spire.

[Illustration: Wildenstein]

The monastery is imposing in extent but not in style, and the railway
bridge close by does not add to the charm of the landscape. The rapid
current hurried us on, not against our will, and we only paused to watch
the monks haymaking in the meadows, wearing a dress which looked like a
compromise between the costumes of a washerwoman and a Cape Cod
fisherman. They must have suffered in the hot sun, with their gowns of
heavy woollen stuff, but they suffered in silence, and did not deign to
answer our greetings or even to turn their eyes upon us.

We practically finished the day’s cruise at the little village of
Gutenstein, where we dined in the simple country gasthaus for a
ridiculously trifling sum, and listened to the droning gossip of a
lounging locksmith, who was minding his little child while the mother
was at work in the hayfields. With the exception of this descendant of
the Jan Steen type and the landlord and his wife, we saw only small
children and decrepit old people. The rest were all at work haymaking,
and we left before the population returned to the village. We selected
our camp-ground--with an eye to beauty of situation as well as
comfort--on a high point in a perfect paradise of wild-flowers. From
Alfred Parsons’s note-book for the first two days of the cruise I take
the following extract, which will give an idea of the wealth of the
flora of this district:

[Illustration: THE MONKS OF BEURON]

“From Donaueschingen downward the meadow flowers have a subalpine
character--masses of ragged-robin and bladder-lychnis (the calyx of
which is a delicate mauve), knotweed, various campanulas (one with
bright mauve flowers in a very loose panicle), buttercups, purple sage,
and grasses in flower. On the river banks for a long way down are masses
of yellow iris, and occasionally sweet-calamus. In one meadow a purple
variety of rocket; and generally the usual English meadow flowers. Lower
down _Campanula glomerata_ grows in fine purple masses with the sage;
and in the rocky parts about Beuron were bright pinks, like the
chedder-pink, _Geranium sanguineum_, and saxifrages. A bright blue
veronica grows plentifully as you go down (_Quære spicata?_). Other
plants on the rocks were a purple lactuca, dog-rose, systopteris,
wall-rue, and _Adiantum nigrum_.”

As long as daylight lasted we botanized and sketched; and when twilight
came on we watched the glowing hill-sides fade into a simple mass in
silhouette against the starlit sky, and then slept like tired children.



CHAPTER III


Our camp was pitched very near the boundary line between Baden and
Hohenzollern, and a short distance above Sigmaringen, the residential
town of Prince Hohenzollern. We were prepared to meet a certain degree
of stateliness in the tiny capital, and our anticipations were
strengthened by the sight of a well-kept park on the river-bank long
before the town came in view. There were summer-houses and
pleasure-boats and other indications that the place belonged to somebody
of importance in the neighborhood. Further, the natural scenery was
marred by the conversion of a large overhanging limestone cliff into a
mortuary slab in memory of a princess who died in 1841, and whose
virtues were set forth in metal letters a foot long. We expected, then,
to find the town distinguished by equal pretensions and bad taste,
knowing too well how much destruction can be wrought in these modern
times by the engines at command of every long purse. To our surprise and
delight, however, the panorama which spread out before us as we
approached Sigmaringen was one of great beauty, and the town, imposingly
situated on a high promontory, made an unusually fine focus in the
composition. We found on near acquaintance that the architecture, though
not unpleasing, was by no means particularly interesting, and we did not
delay there longer than was necessary to purchase a few stores.

About forty miles by rail and road to the north of Sigmaringen is the
great castle of Hohenzollern, the seat of the imperial family of
Prussia. The present castle is of modern construction, having been begun
by Frederick William IV. and finally completed in 1867. It is remarkably
bold in situation and commanding in appearance, and, although it has
seldom sheltered any of the imperial family of late years, is kept up
with great care and is garrisoned by quite a large force of troops.

[Illustration: Sigmaringen.]

Sigmaringen marks the lower limit of the series of rocky gorges into
which the river plunges near Friedigen, and soon after leaving the town
we came into a more pastoral region again, similar to that of our first
day’s cruise. The flora changed somewhat, and fewer varieties of plants
were noticeable. Alfred Parsons makes the following remarks in his
botanical note-book: “Below Sigmaringen the meadow flora becomes more
like that of England, but still with campanulas and purple sage; also
occasionally a bright crimson dianthus with clusters of flowers. In an
ash wood beneath which we camped was an undergrowth of _Spiræa aruncus_,
all in bloom, five or six feet in height; in the wood also were
Turk’s-cap lilies, Jacobs-ladder, tall, pale-yellow phyteuma, and
commonly, near the river, gelder-rose bushes and clumps of
forget-me-nots and white water-buttercups. The general impression of the
flora is a greater prevalence of purple and blue flowers.”

[Illustration: _Hohenzollern._]

Frequent villages dot the hill-sides on either side of the broad,
fertile valley, and the river begins to feel a new tyranny of man in the
partial canalization of its channel. The current now increased in speed
between the artificially straightened banks, and, counting the kilometre
marks as we swept along, we found we were making seven and a half
kilometres (nearly five miles) an hour without lifting a paddle. A more
satisfactory mode of progression never fell to the lot of any traveller.
Perfect summer weather, a comfortable canoe to lounge in, beautiful
landscapes on all sides;

[Illustration: NUNS AT RIEDLINGEN]

and a vigorous current under the keel which gave an exhilarating sense
of added strength, much like that felt when riding a spirited horse.
Nothing more could be desired except, perhaps, unlimited time in which
to enjoy such pleasant recreation. Haste was, indeed, a slight drawback
to our enjoyment. We did not dare delay, for the season was already in
its full prime, and we knew that the gales began in the lower river as
early as the first week of September; besides, one of the party had only
a limited number of weeks at his disposal. Under other circumstances we
would have spent a day or more at Riedlingen, where we found most
interesting architecture along the river-front and saw a party of nuns
at work in a hay-field. We had a little more social success with them
than we did with their coreligionists, the monks at Beuron, for they
turned their great, cool, flapping head-dresses in our direction, and
actually seemed temporarily interested in our canoes, and in us as well.

A threatening storm drove us to seek shelter at dinnertime in a rural
gasthaus in a little priest-ridden hamlet where a morose landlady gave
us excellent bread and milk in rude earthen bowls, and was prevailed
upon to part with some of her store of fresh bread and eggs. The
peasants came hurrying into the village to escape the rain, their
creaking carts piled high with hay and the sturdy little horses white
with sweat. It was a ready-made picture from “Hermann and Dorothea.” We
had occasion to regret in the night that we had not brought our tents,
for it rained steadily for hours, and the rubber blankets rigged on the
paddles made an inefficient shelter against the driving storm. But we
were none the worse the next morning, and as soon as the ring of scythes
of the women mowing in the next field woke us from our sound sleep we
were up, cooked breakfast, and were soon off down pleasant reaches with
overhanging rocks and occasional ruins frowning down from the pinnacled
crags.

Every mile or two we passed a village, each more picturesque than its
neighbor, and all with sonorous names that suggest places of great
importance--Rechtenstein, Obermarschthal, Munderkingen, Rottenacker.
Each village had its weir and its mill, and sometimes two of them.
Various accidents occurred, none of them of a startling nature, and none
resulting in anything worse than temporary

[Illustration: CROSSING THE WEIR--ROTTENACKER]

[Illustration: PEASANT GIRLS MOWING]

inconvenience. The Admiral of the fleet, trusting too much in his
knowledge of river navigation, swamped his canoe in a weir, and would
have been in a sad strait but for the timely assistance of some mill
hands. The canoes got some heavy bumping at times while we were shooting
rapids below the weirs; but there was little or no injury done to them,
and the only actual loss of property was one favorite brierwood pipe--a
loss which will appeal to the sympathy of every smoker who has tried the
pipes of central Europe. We happened to reach Rottenacker at noon, when
a great procession of rustics, armed with every imaginable kind of
haymaking implements, was crossing the bridge to their labors after the
mid-day meal. They halted on the bridge, looking for all the world like
a detachment from Monmouth’s army, and watched us run the canoes over
the weir. They gave a hoarse shout of approval of our skill, and after
we had dashed down under the great wooden bridge they marched off in
almost martial array, and scattered over the broad meadows like
skirmishers. An hour later we reached the last weir on the river at the
village of Oepfingen, and, confident from the appearance of the water
that the canoes would float on it with our weight, we triumphantly
paddled over the crest and shot safely into the boiling pool below. We
had counted in all only twenty-one weirs and dams, although the
different accounts of expeditions in the upper river give the number as
twenty-five between Donaueschingen and Ulm. In all probability the
unusually high water covered some of the smaller ones, and we
consequently failed to make a record of them.

[Illustration: BRIDGE AT ROTTENACKER]

Below the last weir the river is monotonous and the country not
particularly interesting. Turnip-topped church-spires rise above the
red-tiled roofs of villages clustered on the hill-sides, and but for
these features of the landscape the river might be the Thames or the
Avon. Soon, however, several vigorous streams add their waters to the
main current, its speed and strength rapidly increases, and its course
is regulated into a straight and canal-like channel. Not realizing the
speed of our progress as we floated along, we came in sight of the
village of Erbach on the hills to the left of the river much earlier in
the afternoon than we expected, and at the same moment saw, far beyond
in the blue distance, as faintly outlined as a delicate cloud-form, the
great tower of the Cathedral of Ulm breaking the low horizon line. We at
once took to our paddles and increased our pace, urged on by the sight
of our goal for the night and the beginning of our cruise in the
navigable river. In full sight of the city, some two miles away, we
passed the Iller, rushing in with a broad, pale-green flood and a
strange hissing noise like the escape of gas from soda-water, and then
the Danube, reinforced in strength and in volume, tore along with almost
angry speed, and showed great swirls where the pale waters of the Iller
wrestled with the opaque yellow of the larger stream. We saw by the
white waters at the buttresses of the railway bridge as we dashed past
that we had to deal with a current far more powerful than any we had yet
navigated, and accordingly approached the left shore with some caution,
as there was a high wall along the water’s edge and only an occasional
practicable landing-place. With all our efforts to stop our head-way we
found ourselves obliged to turn the bow up-stream and paddle hard to
keep from being swept past the town. In this way we came alongside the
float of the Donau Ruder Verein (Danube Rowing Club), and landed,
welcomed by a delegation from the committee of the club, who had heard
of our intended visit. They gave us a hand to carry the canoes up to the
boat-house and made room for them on the padded trestles.

The club boat-house is a fair-sized building, well enough constructed
for the purpose, and conveniently fitted up with quarters for the crews
and stowage room for the boats, which number nearly a score, several of
them from famous makers in England, but mostly of German build.
Notwithstanding the disadvantages of rowing in so rapid a current, and
the difficulties of launching and landing the boats, the members
practise with great enthusiasm, and the club has a remarkably good
record in the boating annals of Germany. The committee placed all the
resources of the institution at our command, and not only gave us every
assistance in repairing the slight damages which our canoes had suffered
in the rough treatment they had received at the weirs, but made other
generous offers of hospitality. The president, who is a mechanical
genius of considerable fame as well as an enthusiastic sportsman and a
traveller, was devoted to our interests, and made every moment of our
stay agreeable. Before we departed our ex-cook presented the club with
his famous coffee machine as a slight acknowledgment of their kindness
to us. We have never learned how much the ranks of the Donau Ruder
Verein have been decimated by the use of this dangerous invention.

Ulm, whether it be approached by land or by water, has the uninteresting
external appearance of any modern military stronghold, for it is
surrounded by great fortifications, and an elaborately constructed
citadel occupies the whole of a flat point opposite the town on the
right bank of the river. The old town itself, once the military barrier
is passed, is a marvel of architecture and a maze of narrow, crooked
thoroughfares, many of them scarcely worthy to be dignified by the name
of streets. The wonderful cathedral, next in size to that at Cologne,
with the loftiest stone tower in the world, is not to be adequately
described within the limits of this narrative, nor was it, indeed,
thoroughly examined by us on this hasty visit. The town offered so much
to occupy our attention and command our admiration that we could only
pause to study briefly each superb monument of ancient art and hurry on
to the next. The restless river with its rushing current had
communicated its nervous haste to our spirits, and within twenty-four
hours we had seen the town, repaired and repacked our canoes, adjusted
the appliances intended for use in the large river below, and were
waiting only for the farewell festivities in the boat club to come to an
end in order to launch our canoes to the “Hip! hip!” of our sporting
friends.

The president of the rowing club, with an enthusiastic young friend,
accompanied us in our start from Ulm, in one tiny, home-made canoe which
floated scarcely an inch above the water. Their scorn of the dangers of
the curling flood filled us with admiration, but we could not affect the
indifference which is born only of long familiarity with the Danube, and
proceeded with our usual care. Great yellow billows surged against the
stone piers of the old bridge as we shot with dizzy speed through the
shadow of the arch out into the broad stream below. It began to rain,
but we paddled all the harder in order to reach the village of Günzburg
as early as possible, so that we might have time to dine and afterwards
make camp before dark. The rain did not in anywise diminish our ardor
for sleeping in the canoes, for we had passed a feverish night in a
stuffy hotel bedroom and longed for the air and freedom of our camp.

[Illustration: WOOD-SAWYER AT ULM]

The stork’s nest on the highest gable of the interesting old town was
scarcely visible in the twilight when we paddled away after a jovial
dinner with our friends, who were to ship themselves and their canoe
back to Ulm by train. As we pushed out into the stream the distances
were so exaggerated by the dim light that the Danube now looked like a
broad lake or an arm of the sea, and the strongly eddying current
twisted our paddles with a vicious persistence that warned us to be
circumspect in choosing a landing-place in the uncertain light. Luck
more than judgment directed us to a pretty little secluded meadow where,
for the first time, we made camp in regular order, tents and all.

[Illustration: FROM STRASBURG TO ULM]

The question of choosing camp was, as we now fully understood, a more or
less difficult one, for, as the three canoes were seldom very near
together on the river, it would be practically impossible to fix on a
desirable place by common agreement at the time of camping. We therefore
appointed the most experienced camper a committee of one to choose the
camp in the future, and agreed to abide by his decision. A special
instinct, or at least an accurate and ready judgment, must be the
absolute qualification of the one who chooses halting-places along a
river like the Danube, for the current, running as it does from three
to six miles an hour, makes it impossible to make the selection at
leisure. Before there is time to weigh the reasons for and against the
spot the stream has carried the canoe past the landing-place, and return
is practically out of the question. We demanded of our camp grounds more
and at the same time less than the ordinary cruiser. First, they must be
in as agreeable a landscape as possible, for as we spent several hours
of daylight there we wanted to sketch and to enjoy the scenery. Then
they must be so situated that the canoes could be drawn up readily and
prepared for the night without carrying the traps too far. On the other
hand, sand, turf, or smooth surface of the ground, though desirable,
was, fortunately, not an absolute necessity, as they would have been if
we had not slept in our canoes. Further, as we used spirits for cooking,
we did not have to consider the question of wood, and the absence of
fire made our camps very little objectionable to the farmers. Indeed, we
were made welcome to temporary occupation in every instance but one, and
on that occasion the farmer evidently thought we intended to remain all
summer long, for he began to talk about the second crop of grass. A
largess of German coin of the value of ten cents made him waive all
objections and give us the freedom of his meadow.



CHAPTER IV


It was on Saturday, June 27th, at about five o’clock in the afternoon
that we left Ulm, and the following day about noon we reached Lauingen,
having spent most of the forenoon in camp rigging our sails, properly
adjusting the tents, and doing a hundred other odd jobs which the
ownership of every boat entails. The Admiral, who had preceded the rest
of the fleet by an hour or more, was in the centre of an interested
group of natives when we hauled alongside at the landing, and all
Lauingen in its Sunday best was lounging near by, happy in the
entertainment which the arrival of the strange craft offered. The old
town walls are half hidden by excrescences of modern construction which
cling to them for their whole extent, sheltering a notable proportion of
the inhabitants. With this exception the place is not materially changed
since the sixteenth century, and still has to a very remarkable degree
the character of an old Dutch town both in details of construction and
in the general character of the domestic architecture. Most of the large
buildings are warehouses and residences combined, and there are few
front doors which are not provided with a little side window or squint
set in at an angle so that the street can be seen without opening the
door. All distinctive costume has been modernized out of the place. The
people look cheerful, active, and prosperous to a degree unusual in such
a remote town, and we were fain to believe that this vitality was due
to the leaven of those of the inhabitants who had been to America, not a
few of whom greeted us with an exaggerated Hoboken dialect. But the
modern spirit has not obliterated all the queer old customs, and Sunday
was busy with parades of turnvereins and sporting clubs with all the
pageantry common to the ancient guilds. In the midst of the festivities
a stately carriage drove into the market-place where the statue of
Albertus Magnus, the famous scholar of the thirteenth century, was
erected ten years ago in the shadow of the great tower with its sixteen
stories. It was a wonderful old vehicle, with broad leathern springs and
great hood, a huge rack behind piled high with luggage, a seat in front
occupied by a servant--a buxom country girl--and with a long pole like a
single shaft, to which one horse was attached in a sort of casual
fashion by a harness of the most antiquated and peculiar pattern. Under
the hood sat a young man who held the lines and guided the horse across
the square towards the inn, while the servant-girl, with folded arms,
occasionally nodded and smiled at friends in the multitude. We fancied
this must be some local dignitary, such was the grandeur and stateliness
of the turnout, but we found on inquiry that it was only a conveyance
from a neighboring town bringing a commercial traveller with his packs.
Truly, even this much-derided occupation has its agreeable features in
Bavaria.

It was an exceedingly hot day, and the river for the next dozen miles or
so was not very interesting, as its channel had been confined between
dike-like banks through a great steaming marsh. Every two hundred metres
of the distance is marked by a numbered post, and from our low position
these were often the most prominent objects in view. The hissing of the
water, which began at the confluence of the Iller, was always plainly
heard, but the water was so muddy that we could not discover whether or
not the cause of the sound was, as it is said to be, the rolling of
pebbles on the river-bed. The reaction from our brief but busy visit to
Lauingen put us in rather a quiet frame of mind. The drowsy heat was not
stimulating to the ambition for sight-seeing, and we scarcely looked at
the hills where the battle-fields of Höchstädt and Blenheim are located,
they were so far away from the river and the events seemed so very long
ago. We had more interest, moreover, in the near foreground with its
occasional clusters of brilliant bloom. Alfred Parsons says of this
region: “For a long way above and below Ulm the banks are lined with
small willows and coarse grasses; occasional bunches of forget-me-not
and some iris and valerian are the only flowers. On a hill-side near
Donauwörth I saw bright pink dog-roses, campanulas, geranium, veronica,
epipactis, Turk’s-cap lilies, pink coronilla, which is abundant, and a
tall white composite with groups of daisy-like flowers and a leaf like
the tansy; also a white erigeron.”

[Illustration: _The Bell tower_

_Lauingen._]

The glorious, lazy afternoon was well on the wane when we came to
Donauwörth, a blaze of richly-colored roofs and lichen-stained walls and
with an enchanting skyline of gables and towers. We left it with
reluctance before we had seen half of its beauties. The restlessness of
the Danube had begun to eat into our souls and, without our knowing it,
had created in us a new appetite--a craving for constant motion.

[Illustration: Donauwörth.]

Not far below Donauwörth the Lech contributes its pale-green waters,
flowing northerly from the water-shed of the distant Alps beyond Lake
Constance, and it brought down to us for our entertainment several rafts
with cheery river folk, and we began the next day in their company. They
ran ashore at the upper end of the town of Neuburg, where the Danube is
crossed by a large stone bridge, and we stopped there as well. Finding,
however, that we were uncomfortably far from the centre of the town, we
soon paddled off again, shot the seething rapids under the bridge and,
hurried along by the current, landed after some difficulty and serious
bumping against the perpendicular stone wall, at a broad flight of
stone steps opposite a cheerful-looking hotel with a formal row of
standard roses all along in front, tied to neatly-painted sticks
surmounted by gilded balls. We had already gone ashore when our
attention was called to our canoes by the excited shouts of the crowd
hanging over the stone parapet. To our horror we saw one of the long
rafts swinging down under the bridge with irresistible momentum directly
upon our canoes, and the raftsmen making frantic gestures at us. We
understood that in order to check the raft they were obliged to beach
her in the shallow water near the steps, and, indeed, she was headed for
that point, and no human power could stop her. For a moment it seemed as
if our canoes must be ground to splinters, but we rushed down and
promptly dragged them a few yards up-stream, utilizing the noisome mouth
of a sewer for a harbor for one, and lifting the others bodily out upon
a narrow ledge of broken rock. Then, dashing into the water, we put all
our strength against the raft and she ground along within a foot of our
precious boats, and we were saved from our friends.

It took an unusual quantity of beer to cool us off after this exertion,
and our afternoon cruise was not further remarkable except for the sight
of various immense ferry-boats swinging across the stream attached to
wire guys and bearing two great loads of hay, cattle and all, and for a
visit to Ingolstadt, a military post of great importance and
correspondingly unattractive aspect. We camped that night on the
beautiful point of a low meadow where our shadows fell in long lines
towards the neighboring town of Vohburg, almost too picturesque to be
real, and were promptly and unwillingly introduced to our first Danube
mosquitoes, who kept us diverted if not very much amused during dinner,
and until we had crawled into our curtained berths and let them buzz and
pipe in futile rage against the impenetrable gauze.

[Illustration: THE FERRY]

Vohburg is said to be the most virtuous town in Bavaria, the reward of
virtue there being a dowry of 50 guldens ($25) to each maiden of
unblemished reputation when she takes the marriage vows. One of the
notable results of this bounty is the encouragement of intermarriage,
for the youths are of frugal dispositions, and fifty guldens are fifty
guldens here quite as much as anywhere. Our first visitors the next
morning were the storks of the town who solemnly sought the early worm
and the casual frog, and they took flight at the approach of a troop of
the ugliest children to be found where the German language is heard--and
that is saying a great deal. They stood a long time in a circle around
our camp, either too much astonished or too stupid to reply to our
volley of questions. We couldn’t help thinking, as we looked at their
unintelligent faces, that it would be much better for the race if the
dowry fund should be embezzled by the town-clerk and vice rule
triumphant for a while. Our curiosity was not satisfied by this slight
glimpse of the inhabitants of Vohburg, and besides, the ancient town
gates, the massive ruins of the burgh--which was destroyed, like
everything else about here, by the Swiss in 1641--and the old
church-tower, stuck full of great stone cannon balls, tempted us to
land. Possibly the impression gained from a brief visit was not a just
one, but although we found the architecture interesting and the people
friendly and courteous, we could distinguish nothing of the charm which
our imaginations had pictured to us as the result of generations of
prosperity, peace, and domestic virtue.

The Danube is never really monotonous, for, apart from the ever-changing
landscape, the life on the bank offers endless interest to the observer.
We had drifted for a couple of days through a broad, flat country, and
never had experienced a dull moment. Although we were not impatient for
a change of scenery, we began to look forward with pleasant
anticipations, soon after leaving Vohburg, to the chain of hills that
formed the horizon to the east and north, promising narrow gorges and
rapid water. Except for our increasing eagerness for progress as the
hills began to take definite shape in detail towards the middle of the
forenoon, we should have undoubtedly landed at Eining, a little cluster
of houses on the right bank, near which are the remains of the great
Roman frontier station Abusina, which, from its topographical situation,
and also from its geographical position near the most northerly point of
the river’s course, was chosen as the chief outpost of the Danube
provinces against the German barbarians. This station was maintained
with two or three interruptions from its establishment in 15 B.C. until
the end of the fifth century. Across the river are distinctly visible
the outlines of Trajan’s wall, which extended from this point to
Wiesbaden on the Rhine. We were much interested by what we could see of
these remains, for we knew that to be but the first in the long series
of similar monuments along the Danube to the Roman occupation, which
never fail to excite the wonder of the traveller at the enterprise and
persistent courage of the great Roman general. Near at hand, too, is
Vergen of the “Niebelungenlied,” where King Gunther and his Niebelungen
crossed the Danube on their way to Budapest and the court of King
Attila. It was at this spot that Hagen tried to drown the priest of the
expedition because the water witches had predicted that the holy man
alone out of the 10,000 in the expedition should return safe to Worms.
The facts of history and the fascinating figments of tradition seemed to
draw for us across this smiling valley a frontier clearly defined in our
imaginations, beyond which limit we were to enter upon a new phase of
our journey.

[Illustration: FROM ULM TO STRAUBING]

The Benedictine abbey of Weltenburg, with its crenellated walls and
extensive façades, placed in exactly the right spot on the river-bank,
like the composition of the theatrical drop-curtain, stands at the head
of a narrow, rocky gorge, about four miles in length, more grand and
impressive than any on the river above. Weltenburg is an easy excursion
from Kelheim, and divides the attraction of the neighborhood with the
Befreiungshalle, or Hall of Liberation, near the latter place. Knowing
this fact, we were not surprised to find in the midst of the mournful
relics of past grandeur the liveliest kind of a beer-garden, with a
half-acre of tables under shade trees in the court-yard, and regiments
of stone mugs waiting to be filled at the convenient tap of

[Illustration: Between Weltenberg Er Kelheim.]

a great brewery in one of the monastery buildings. The clock struck
twelve as we entered the enclosure. Every one rose and uncovered his
head, and stood like the scattered supernumeraries on the operatic
stage. The peal of the organ in the adjacent church added to the
dramatic effect, and if the whole company had burst forth in a chorus we
would have been little surprised at it. The gorgeousness of the church
interior contrasts painfully with the poverty of the establishment, only
too plainly indicated by the

[Illustration: AN EARLY VISITOR]

ill-kept grounds and the general air of neglect on all sides.
Excursionists frequently take the short trip through the gorge in small
flat-boats rowed by women, and there is another monastery on the left
bank, half-way down, so there need be no more than thirty minutes
between jorums of beer, the important adjuncts of these trips. The
river, narrowed to one-third of its width above, winds between
perpendicular limestone cliffs so smooth that it has been necessary to
attach iron rings to the rock at intervals near the water’s edge for the
use of boatmen, and the women rowers often tie up their boats to these
rings to rest during the upward trip. The heavily-wooded hills
overhanging the left bank at the lower end of the gorge are crowned by
the Befreiungshalle, a huge, circular building in classical style, begun
by Lewis I. of Bavaria in 1852, and inaugurated on October 18, 1863, the
fiftieth anniversary of the battle of Leipsic. This monumental structure
is of imposing dimensions, the dome rising nearly 200 feet above the
great stone platform, reached by a noble flight of steps. On the
exterior the different provinces of Germany are represented by eighteen
colossal female figures, with corresponding trophies and candelabra, and
the interior, which is lined with polished marble of various colors, is
surrounded by white marble angels symbolical of victory, with tablets
bearing the names of famous German generals, bronze shields made from
captured French guns, and inscriptions celebrating various battles.

Landing at Kelheim we toiled up the steep hill in the hot sun, and then
cooled ourselves in the twilight of the interior, skating in felt
slippers over the mirror-like pavement, and listening to the remarkable
echoes which magnified the slightest sound into thunder. We were waylaid
on our descent from the hill by a garrulous ex-citizen of Brooklyn,
whose fulsome praise of Americans and everything American finally drove
us out of the cool shelter of a river-side beer-garden and into the
blistering cockpits of the canoes. We set forth with the vague intention
of passing the night somewhere above and near Ratisbon. Even before we
came in sight of the town we looked everywhere for a camp ground, but a
high-road on either side left not an acre of ground at the water’s edge
where we could land without becoming the focus of observation from a
dozen farm-houses. We therefore pushed on until sunset, and just as the
beautiful twin towers of Ratisbon cathedral loomed up across a wide open
valley to the east, we landed on a quiet meadow, carpeted with sweet
grass, and there we slept until the peasants trudging to market along
the bank in the early morning awoke us with their voices.



CHAPTER V


The busiest part of Ratisbon is the twelfth-century stone bridge which,
from daybreak until dark, resounds to the tramp of heavy-footed
peasants, and to the clatter of farm wagons and other vehicles. A narrow
street plunges from the end of the bridge under the archway of an old
city gate into a maze of narrow thoroughfares with towering mediæval
houses and a jumble of small shops of all kinds. One of the houses near
the bridge has a startling decoration covering the whole of its front--a
colossal figure of Goliath painted on the stucco--and there are
preserved in some of the other streets the only specimens extant of the
fortified dwelling-houses of the Middle Ages. The Cathedral of St.
Peter, with its exquisite Gothic details, is one of the chief
architectural glories of all Germany, and in its solemn interior are
forgot for the time the Danube, its hurrying current, and the impatient
canoes. The fact that we were not in the ordinary costume of travellers
gave us immunity from the annoyances of guides, and this freedom added
wonderfully to our enjoyment of Ratisbon. We sat on the clean pavement
of the great market-place, in the shadow of church walls, and nearly
made ourselves ill with quantities of wild strawberries from the baskets
of the friendly market-girls close by, paying a ridiculously small sum
for a quart of the luscious fruit. We wandered in and out of the
churches, stood and gazed at our ease on the architectural beauties of
the town, and never were we once spoken to, or even, to our knowledge,
once stared at with curiosity. Even our presence in the crowded tavern,
where the crowds of market-people took their mid-day meal, did not
excite any comment, and during the few hours we passed in Ratisbon we
had the supreme satisfaction of passing unnoticed, which rarely comes to
any one in a foreign country. It is said that 17 per cent. of the 35,000
inhabitants of the city are Protestants, but we concluded that we did
not come in contact with any of the choice minority in religious belief,
for we saw on all sides shrines and crosses and other indications of the
strict adherence of the people to the observances of the Roman Catholic
faith.

The old stone bridge has been saddled with a bad reputation among
river-folk ever since some one started the legend, long ages ago, that
the devil had a hand in its construction. It crosses the river at the
upper end of a rocky island which divides the stream into two unequal
parts, the one on the town side alone being navigable. Four narrow
arches, springing from immense boat-shaped piers, confine the current
into a very narrow compass, and cause the water to rush under the bridge
with great velocity. We had listened to a long description by our
boating friends at Ulm of the dangers of shooting this bridge, and all
the river-side people we had talked with for the previous day or two had
warned us of the perils of the passage. But we saw from the parapet what
we had to encounter in the shape of rapids and whirlpools, and did not
hesitate to trust ourselves and our canoes to the mercies of the
current. The first of the series of bugbears which were in turn
presented to us by the Danube river-folk, and by the accounts we had
read, was disposed of in such an easy manner that the mention of it is
scarcely warranted by its importance as an episode of our journey.

[Illustration: RATISBON FROM THE BRIDGE]

Opposite the lower part of the town the Danube receives the turbid
waters of the Regen (hence the German name Regensburg) coming in from
the north, and then the great river settles down into a gently-flowing,
well-behaved water highway, at times lively with steam tow-boats,
barges, and rafts. It skirts the hills on the left bank for five or six
miles, and then lazily meanders away through the great plain of
Straubing, the chief grain-growing district of Bavaria. The point where
the river leaves the hills is the most northerly limit of its whole
course, and here it changes its general north-easterly direction--which
it has held with many minor variations since Donaueschingen--and bears
away in a south-easterly course towards Vienna. This angle is not far
from midway between these two places, which are 535 miles apart by the
river channel. On one of the great rounded hills, fully 300 feet above
the water’s edge, the great German Temple of Fame, the Walhalla, makes a
conspicuous landmark. Lewis I. of Bavaria, who, it will be remembered,
was the founder of the Befreiungshalle, saw the completion of the
Walhalla the very year he laid the corner-stone of its fellow monument,
thirty miles away, in 1842. It is a classical structure built in
imitation of the Parthenon, but of somewhat larger dimensions, and
occupies a most commanding position. We saw by the guide-book that it
contained Victories and Walkyries, busts of heroes, and friezes painted
to celebrate the early history of the German race. After the perfect
harmony of the Ratisbon cathedral we had no appetite for German
classicality, and paddled past, content to gaze from afar upon the noble
proportions of the temple.

Although we had rain the night before, it was hotter than ever as the
sun mounted high in the heavens, and before we had penetrated far into
the heart of the great plain we found the air so dead and the heat so
oppressive that we

[Illustration: RETURNING FROM MARKET, RATISBON]

were obliged to paddle in self-defence, and by this means create a
draught along the water. The glare of the sun was reflected into our
eyes with painful brilliancy; a few dazzling clouds hung in the sky,
apparently quite stationary. The pitiless force of the sun was never
once hidden by a veil of vapor during the hours we paddled down the
current, which scarcely rippled the surface of the water, as dense in
appearance as molten lead. The town of Straubing, plainly enough visible
when we left the hills, and

[Illustration]

seemingly only a short distance away, avoided us for a long time with
aggravating success. Now it would loom up in front of us, now on one
side and again on the other, and often hid away behind us. At last,
about noon, having quite lost our points of compass in the contortions
of the river, we sneaked up to the will-of-the-wisp town, and, dodging
around a point, came fairly upon it and landed there. We made it a rule
in this part of the river, and, indeed, wherever towns and villages were
frequent, to take our mid-day meal in some hotel or restaurant, for,
unless we did so, we saw absolutely nothing of the shore life. By this
time our standard for towns had become so high that we could not care
much for Straubing, although the stay there refreshed us and interested
us somewhat; but we were off down the sluggish stream, eager to reach
the hills where we knew the current would be faster and the landscape
more interesting. Near Bogen, a few miles below, at the hour in the
afternoon when the heat of the sun seems more intense even than at full
noon, the western sky was suddenly darkened, and a dense storm-cloud
rapidly raised its jagged edge towards the zenith. Opinions varied as to
the advisability of riding out the threatening squall, or going ashore
to wait for it to pass. We paddled on for a considerable distance
discussing this question, and finally decided to run ashore near a large
farm-house resembling in character a large Alpine chalet. We landed not
one moment too soon, for before we got our hatches fastened we heard the
roar of the wind up-stream, and the next instant the squall tore down
the river, lashing the water into a sheet of foam, and bending the trees
like switches. Our loose rigging stood straight out in the blast, and
the hastily-furled sails fluttered like clewed-up top-sails in an
Atlantic gale. We had all we could do to keep the boats from being blown
bodily along the rough beach. In a few minutes the violence of the gale
abated, and a heavy rain set in. We made our little fleet as snug as
possible and as safe as we could by lashing the masts together, and ran
to the farm-house near by, where the farmer and his family welcomed us
with dignified courtesy, and offered us the freedom of the house with
such hearty good-will that we could not help making ourselves at home.
It was a characteristic establishment of the better class, and the main
building was of some antiquity, as the date 1683 on the lintel of the
front door testified. This immense structure was mostly of wood, and a
great shingled roof covered not only a large living apartment, with many
bedrooms, but the stables for the horses and cattle as well. Most of the
farm-work was evidently done by girls, and the farmer told us he
employed them because they were almost as useful as the men, and their
wages were only fifty guldens ($25) a year. A half-dozen of these girls,
indifferent to the pouring rain, with short petticoats, tight bodices,
and with kerchiefs on their heads, were carrying manure in hand-barrows
when we arrived, and when they had finished this task, and had
materially increased the huge pile that occupied the only front yard
there was, they all had a vigorous scrub at the pump, and then came in
and ate bread and milk with us, and chattered away as freely as if we
were old friends. We were loath to leave this pleasant, pastoral
company, but as the sky was bright again at sunset we felt obliged to be
off. We did not succeed in persuading any one to take the money which we
felt was due for the food we had eaten, so we dropped it in the poor-box
near the forlorn little chapel, and paddled away to a camp on a dripping
hill-side, where we found a delicious cold spring and a mossy bed for
our canoes to rest on.

We had met at intervals since leaving Ratisbon great empty flat-boats
towed up-river by horses, and an

[Illustration: LOCAL FREIGHT FLAT-BOAT]

occasional one laden with shingles or other building material had
drifted down past our camp before we started in the morning. As high up
as Ulm we had seen these boats in process of construction, and had
learned all about the cheap flat-boats which in the spring-time carry
cargoes to the lower river, and are then broken up for the sake of their
timber. We had expected to see much more of this kind of river life than
we actually met with, but the fact is the competition of the railways
has practically killed this kind of river commerce, and its glories are
all in the past. The local business still continues to flourish,
however, for many of the river towns have no connection with the
railway, and depend almost entirely on the water highway for cheap
transportation of freight. The day after the storm we ran across several
of the great local freight-boats floating down with the current. These
boats are ordinarily about 20 yards in length, 5 or 6 in beam, and with
a depth of from 4 to 6 feet from the great flat, keelless bottom to the
rail. The bow is high, and the stern-post is often carved and otherwise
decorated. They are built of soft wood, the seams are calked with moss,
and since paint is seldom used except on the perpendicular black
stripes, which is the almost universal fashion for boats on the German
and Austrian Danube, the life of the best of these craft is not often
more than ten years. Each boat has a small, rude skiff for convenient
use, and a supplementary scow large enough to carry considerable cargo,
as well as afford open-air stabling for a pair of strong horses. On the
down trip the horses lead a lazy life in their floating stall, but on
the return they drag the empty boats up against the rapid current,
trained to know every yard of the way, for the varying heights of the
river and the conformation of the banks make a regular towpath out of
the question, and the horses splash along through the shallows for miles
at a stretch. The crew of these boats usually consists of an experienced
skipper with two men and a boy. They all take turns at the steering-oar,
and are constantly obliged to handle the immense sweeps to keep the
cumbersome craft in the best channel. The work of baling water is no
light one, and apparently goes on day and night with little
intermission. They use for this purpose a great wooden scoop, or shovel,
and throw the water out over the side from the floor of the rude little
hut which shelters the bunks of the crew.

Two of us accepted a cheery invitation to go aboard one of these boats,
and we spent the larger part of the forenoon lounging in the shade of
the deck-house and indolently watching the ever-changing panorama on
either side of the river. The skipper, a very fatherly old man, a shrewd
observer, with a great knowledge of river life, was busy part of the
time in tending a large tin kettle which was thrust, gypsy-like, into
the side of a fire which was brightly burning on the tiles with which
the boat was laden. As soon as we saw that the meal was almost ready to
be served we made a move to leave, not wishing to interrupt this
ceremony. But the old man detained us almost by force, and insisted on
our eating before they began. He placed

[Illustration: ON THE TILE-BOAT]

between us a large bowl of coarse, yellow-glazed pottery, gave us a
wooden spoon apiece, and a thick wedge of black bread, which we broke,
according to his commands, into the capacious vessel. When the soup was
ready he poured it over the bread, filled the bowl to the brim, handed
us each a bottle of beer, and bade us eat and drink until not a crumb or
a drop remained. We were hungry, the soup was delicious, and the beer
cool and refreshing, and we did not longer hesitate, but fell to at
once. The only thing which interfered with our full enjoyment of the
meal was the presence of a generous supply of beef in the soup, in
chunks as large as our fists. Our maxillary muscles were not
sufficiently well developed to enable us to masticate the phenomenally
tough fibre of this meat, and we chose our opportunity when the broad
back of the hospitable skipper was turned and slid it overboard. To our
relief it went to the bottom like a sounding lead, and did not, as we
feared, come bobbing up astern to bear witness to our insincerity. We
gave our host a tiny American flag as a souvenir of our visit. He would
take no money nor any of our stores, but was delighted with the Stars
and Stripes, more especially as we had explained that the following day
was Freiheit’s Tag, or Independence Day, in the great Republic of the
West. We left him diligently digging a hole with his knife in the high
stem-piece of the boat to plant the flag there.

Rowing clubs are numerous all along the river from Ulm to Vienna. Soon
after leaving the flat-boat we landed at one near Deggendorf, a quiet
old town with miraculous relics in the church, which attract many
thousands of pious pilgrims annually. Later on in the day, as we were
rounding a great bend in a solitary part of the river where we least
expected to see anything afloat, we suddenly met a single-scull boat of
the newest pattern shooting up the river like an arrow. A handsome
athletic young fellow was pulling with all his might, evidently in
training for a race. Our surprise was naturally mutual, for he no more
expected to see a fleet of graceful, polished canoes than we did to see
the Danube waters parted by the keen bow of a racing boat. He recovered
from his astonishment first, and shouted heartily, “Hip! hip! Hip! hip!”
We replied with the same salutation, for we had learned by this time
that this call was not, as we had at first supposed, a playful imitation
of the English cheer, but the common greeting in boating circles. We
needed no further introduction, and could, indeed, have had no better
one than our canoes, and we freely accepted the hospitalities of the
Winzer Ruder Verein, whose tidy boat-house stands on the river-bank a
mile or more from the village. The club has a membership of thirty-six,
all of them sturdy young fellows of the neighborhood, with an
enthusiastic love of water sports. A certain count, the local magnate,
is the patron of the club, and contributes largely towards the training
of the oarsmen, who compete with success in the regattas all over
Germany. The jolly young fellows made so much of us, and received us so
heartily into their brotherhood, that we had not the courage to explain
that we were not real boating men at all, but only temporary members of
the guild. Indeed, it is doubtful if they would have believed our
statement, for we were quite as sunburned as they were, and our five
days’ canoing had put us in first-rate physical condition. But on this,
as on several other similar occasions, we had a lingering feeling of
mental discomfort, because we could not help knowing that we were
passing for what we were not, and never expected to be--sporting men.



CHAPTER VI


The poplars of Passau came in sight early on the morning of the Fourth
of July, but we had no intention of celebrating the day, particularly as
one-third of our party took only a languid interest in the event.
Neither did we care to meet any more boating men, however agreeable they
might be, for, besides the consciousness of our false position, we had a
realizing sense of the value of our time, and almost begrudged the hours
spent at these boating entertainments. We avoided the rowing club at
Passau, and stole in behind a floating bath-house and hid our canoes
away there. This move did not save us, however, for as we were crossing
the bridge, two rowing men who had seen us come down-stream were on hand
to waylay us, and before we could enter a protest we were whisked off to
luncheon. The town is attractively situated on a high promontory at the
junction of the Inn and the Danube, and is, indeed, as far as natural
environments go, one of the most beautiful spots of the whole river. The
town itself, or at least as much of it as we were allowed by our friends
to examine, is full of interest, although not distinguished by any
remarkable monuments of art. The unruly Inn, which is always ready to
overflow at a moment’s notice, comes rushing into the Danube with a
dirty yellow, rubbish-strewn flood, and gives the larger river a sturdy
shouldering for a long distance down-stream. It is the contamination of
the Danube by the Inn that changes its color below Passau. Above this
town it is in ordinary seasons of a greenish color, and sometimes, in
the deep, shady pools, of an intense and beautiful blue; but the Danube
as we saw it from Villingen, near the source, to Vilkoff at its mouth,
was always of nearly the same monotonous, pale color of _café au lait_.

[Illustration: FROM STRAUBING TO DÜRRENSTEIN]

From Ratisbon down we had met occasional freight steamers and tow-boats,
and at Passau saw our first passenger steamers--comfortable little
craft, which make the popular trip from this place to Linz, fifty-six
miles below, in about four hours. The right bank of the Danube below the
mouth of the Inn belongs to Austria, and the left bank, for fifteen
miles or so, to Bavaria. The Austrian customs-station on the river is at
a little hamlet called Engelhardszell, and just above this place the
frontier line is marked by a peculiar isolated rock in mid-stream,
surmounted by a shrine and crucifix and the rude figure of a saint. We
were obliged to go ashore at Engelhardszell to pay river toll on our
canoes, and, notwithstanding our strange appearance, each barefooted and
sunburned, we met with the greatest civility and courtesy, and paid our
sixteen kreutzers (eight cents) apiece without a murmur. Below the
frontier the river narrows to half its width, and the speed of the
current increases in proportion. The average fall per mile is also much
greater in this part of the river than it is from Ulm to this point.
From Ulm to Ratisbon the average fall per mile is 1.5 feet; from
Ratisbon to Passau, 0.625; from Passau to Linz, 2.5, from Linz to Grein,
2.8, and from Grein to Vienna, 2.876. The flora has varied somewhat
since the last reference was made to the botanist’s note-book, and the
information on the subject is sure to be interesting:

“Below Weltenburg there are pinks and other rock flowers ... and at
Kelheim, climbing to the Befreiungshalle, I found a herbaceous clematis
with flowers like flammula, or erecta, and with glaucous leaves. The
river-banks are mostly devoid of flowers, but on a shingly beach below
Ratisbon, where we camped, I noticed a yellow sedum and a dwarf phlox,
not in flower. Lower down, when getting near the hills, there were large
patches of pink coronilla and a pale yellow mullen, also willow-herb and
a white cruciferous plant.

“The high, woody hills below Passau are almost entirely covered with
beech and pine, but round the houses near the river are walnuts, plums,
cherry, and other trees. On the rocks grows a genista with slender twigs
and a spike of yellow blossoms, and there are patches of
evening-primroses in the more open places. Though vines, hops, and other
tender crops grow well, the flora has quite a subalpine character, and
the houses are often like Swiss chalets.

“In the woods behind our camp, opposite Rannariedl, I noticed pyrola,
hepatica, lady-fern, and oak and beech fern, _Spiræa aruncus_,
Solomon’s-seal, lactuca, and a fine campanula. In a meadow where we
camped the next day were

[Illustration: Grein, from the Camp. July 6, 1891]

herbaceous clematis and lychnis with drooping white flowers and a
berry-like seed-pod, _Anthericum ramosum_ and loosestrife.

“By our camp at the mouth of the Traun (July 6th), I noticed purple and
yellow loosestrife, meadowsweet, meadow-rue, white convolvulus, and the
same flowers generally that grow by English rivers. Sea-buckthorn grew
among the willows. By wood opposite Grein saw cyclamen, pyrola,
hepatica, and various ferns, and monk’s-hood just below.”

A light rain, which began while we were in camp opposite the restored
Castle of Rannariedl, continued during the whole day we were passing
through the gorge, and, although we got a fair notion of the beauties of
the scenery, we deplored the absence of sunshine more for esthetic
reasons than for demands of personal comfort. We were cheered a good bit
by a jolly luncheon at the little mountain village of Obermühl, and
while the lowering clouds were still sweeping across the summits, and
ragged patches of vapor were trailing along the mountain flanks, we
paddled out of the gorge and past the town of Aschach, where we were
diverted by the difficulty of dodging a curious ferry, which, as we
floated down, seemed to blockade the river by an impassable line of
great flat-boats chained closely together. The uppermost boat of the
line we soon found to be moored in mid-stream a goodly distance above
the town, while to the lowermost one was attached a great double-decked
ferry-boat which, by ready adjustment of the angle of its side to the
current, was forced across the river by the rush of the water in exactly
the same way that a vessel is propelled at right angles to the wind. The
net-work of side streams and lagoons between Aschach and Ottensheim,
just above Linz, a distance of ten miles or more, is simplified to the
boatman by a line of fine stone dikes on either bank, which confine the
current to a comparatively straight and narrow channel, and we passed
this tangle, which appeared on the map to be very difficult of
navigation, almost without knowing it, certainly without recognizing any
resemblance to our chart. A narrow chain of hills concealed Linz from
our view until after Ottensheim was passed, and the sight of an ordinary
four-wheeled cab, with the usual rawboned horse and red-faced driver,
crawling along the level river-side road, was the first hint we received
of the flourishing, modernized, and somewhat commonplace character of
the prosperous city.

The rain still continued, and after a brief pause at Linz we paddled on
in search of a camp. The shores were marshy and uninviting, and as the
gray twilight deepened our prospects were far from encouraging. The
light had almost gone from the sky before the camp finder turned the bow
of his canoe across the stream in the direction of what appeared to be a
backwater with a pleasant grassy bank in the shelter of a wood. With our
eyes fixed on this goal we were paddling hard to stem the current which
threatened to sweep us past the chosen spot, when we suddenly shot from
the turbid flood of the main stream into the crystal-clear water of the
Traun, at the mouth of which we had fortunately selected our
camp-ground. We had become accustomed to the rain by this time, and as
we were snug and dry when once inside our tents, we were more or less
indifferent to the weather in camp. The next morning as we were cosily
cooking our breakfast in the shelter of the great sketching umbrellas, a
line of lumber rafts surged past the camp, scarcely a yard from the
bushes on the bank, the raftsmen giving us a cheerful greeting as they
went along. We were anxious to continue the acquaintance, but made no
haste to follow them, because, in our ignorance of the rapidity of the
current, we fancied we could easily overtake them. When we paddled out
into the stream a few minutes later, not an

[Illustration: PUMP AT PÖCHLARN]

object was in sight on the broad surface of the Danube except a hideous,
puffing tow-boat, which left a trail of black smoke behind it, and
churned the river into a sea of vicious waves. As it turned out, we
never once overtook the rafts while they were drifting down-stream. We
passed them several times after they had tied up to the bank for the
night, and they as often floated along near our camp in the morning
while we were still at our toilets or at breakfast. We learned to know
all the raftsmen by sight, but never succeeded in spending a moment in
their company until we happened to land at the same village, their last
station above Vienna, and within sight of that city.

After leaving Linz we began to look forward to the great bugbears of
this part of the river, the Greiner Schwall, the Strudel, and the
Wirbel, famous rapids and whirlpools whose very names are sufficient to
strike dismay to the heart of the boatman, and bring confusion to the
mind of the philologist. Friends of ours who had more than once made the
trip from Donaueschingen to Vienna had given us dramatic descriptions of
the terrors of this passage, and the oldest cruiser of them all had
confessed that he had never ventured to run these rapids, but had always
intrusted himself and his canoe to a native flat-boat. The long-shore
people wherever we had stopped for the last day or two had volunteered
warnings of the dangers that were awaiting us, and we made an unusually
early camp the day we left the Traun in a delightful spot opposite
Grein, so as to be prepared to take our chances with the river monster
in the early morning. Accordingly, after storing our traps with unusual
care, and diligently studying the map, we boldly paddled forth bright
and early the next day, and rapidly approached the gorge just below the
town. As we came near we saw before us a narrow chasm, scarcely a
hundred feet wide, where the river forces its way between precipitous
cliffs on the one hand and a lofty, rocky island on the other, with
piled up ruins of old castles frowning from the crag on either side. We
had no time to hesitate, and no power to stop the onward rush of the
canoes, and were in the surging sea of yellow billows before we realized
it. The canoes behaved like a charm, shipping not a teaspoonful of
water, and riding the waves like water-fowl. So far as our experience
went, we were unable to distinguish the Greiner Schwall, the Strudel,
and the Wirbel apart, for they seemed like one long rapid. Half-way
down, finding that the canoes kept their course with very little
guidance, we whipped out our sketch-books and made hasty notes of the
scenery in a spirit of bravado which might easily have had unpleasant
results.

Long, straight reaches between wild hills carried us to Ybbs--the old
Roman Pons Isidis--at the mouth of the river of the same name, and
thence to Pöchlarn where we landed for our mid-day meal at a river-side
inn with pretty waitresses who made our stay a joy, and on our departure
decorated our coats with nosegays in souvenir of our visit. It was at
Pöchlarn that Kriemhild, on her journey to Hungary, was so brilliantly
entertained by Rüdiger, one of the heroes of the “Niebelungenlied.” Our
experience proves that the traditional hospitality of the time has lost
none of its charm in the lapses of many centuries.

It was but a short run from here to the heavily-wooded heights where the
Benedictine monastery of Melk dominates the surrounding landscape with
its magnificent pile of buildings, the most imposing edifice along the
whole course of the Danube, and celebrated in song and story since its
foundation in the eleventh century. From its grand terrace the full
majesty of the river is disclosed to view, as the broad, shining sheet
of water extends from the plain far beyond Pöchlarn to the shadowy
reaches of the pass below,

[Illustration: _The Benedictine Monastery. Melk._]

where it forces its way between rugged heights, serrated with huge crags
and castle ruins. There is no grander and no more romantic stretch of
the river above Vienna than the few miles below Melk, for the summits
are higher and bolder in outline and the rocks more wild and savage in
character than in any other gorge. Ruins of old robber castles are
perched upon every dizzy pinnacle, deep ravines with tumbling streams
score the mountain-sides, and great walls of jagged rock rise above the
dark foliage, often forming impassable barriers along the steep
declivities. A whirling current carried us all too quickly through this
enchantingly beautiful reach, and when at sunset we saw the great ruin
of Dürrenstein lift its noble towers against the violet-colored sky, we
chose a camp on the opposite bank and watched the last golden gleam of
warm sunlight fade from its shattered battlements.



CHAPTER VII


The harmonizing mists of early morning silvered the tawny surface of the
Danube, and softened the jagged outlines of Dürrenstein, on the crowning
pinnacle of the rocky spur which thrusts its shoulder boldly out from
the wooded flanks of higher summits behind, and stands sentinel over the
little village at its base, and the sunny hill-side vineyards and valley
beyond. Our camp, in a little glade by a backwater nearly opposite the
ruin, was so peaceful and quiet that something of the repose of the
place crept over our restless spirits, and, for the first time since we
began to coquet with the nervous currents of the whirling stream, we
felt a keen desire to pause in our onward rush, an ambition to extend
our horizon, to climb above the river-bank, to explore the gorges that
fascinated us with their mysterious gloom, to linger yet a while in the
great defile where every peak bears the ruins of a noble castle, and
every hamlet has a history crowded with tales of minstrelsy and
chivalry, and enriched by familiar legends and interesting traditions.
Our eyes, keen to observe vigorous outlines of mountain forms, had
discovered in this defile the most impressive landscapes the river had
yet unfolded before us, and it was with a sense of proper dramatic
climax that we found that Dürrenstein--the very name of which set free a
flood of childish memories of Cœur de Lion, of Blondel, of ladies fair
and chivalrous knights, of robbery and ransom--was the very outpost of
the chain of ruins which had serrated the skyline through the whole
defile, and looked down upon the gem of all the river reaches. I may as
well confess that my idea of the geographical situation of the castle
had hitherto been in the region of hazy uncertainty, if not actually in
the humiliating penumbra of utter ignorance. Its position, then, had the
added charms of surprise and novelty.

[Illustration: EARLY MORNING OPPOSITE DÜRRENSTEIN]

The towers and arches, high on the bare summit of the rock; the
half-ruined walls, skirting each projecting spur, and straggling away
down the steep, rough declivity, embracing with diverging ramparts and
frequent projecting towers the little town on the ledge by the river
below, with its castle, its Gothic church edifice, disfigured by
utilitarian restoration, and defiled by stores of grain, and confining
within the mediæval limits the quaint and crowded jumble of shops and
dwellings--the charm of this unique situation, and the vivid memory of
the traditions connected with the spot, were stronger even than the wily
arguments of the beautiful effects on the river, and the fascinations of
the exhilarating, throbbing current that, in spite of paddle, almost
swept us past the landing we had chosen. But we conquered both the water
and the impulse bred of its restless power, and clambered, broad-chested
and full of pride at our victory, up a narrow cañon, with dark, frowning
rocks overhead, shale and shingle underfoot, and the refreshing,
half-forgotten odors of pine and warm, dry earth in our nostrils. Some
distance up the gorge a steep, slippery grass slope extends upward
between two rough pine-clad crests to a little depression in the ridge
behind the ruin, and to the lower gate of the castle itself.
Multicolored butterflies hovered in the sunlight, the grass and rock
crevices were gay with flowers, and our botanist gathered, as we went,
wild pinks, columbine, and anemone, and panted out to our eager ears the
Latin names of scores of mountain plants. Our steps, retarded by these
botanical delights, not to say delayed by the unaccustomed exercise, and
our lungs expanding with a vigor unknown in the lazy life in the canoes,
we were long in reaching the first point from which we could look down
upon the wonderful panorama of mountain and river, valley and scattered
towns. Our world had indeed been too narrow, our horizon much too low.
The giantess of a river from whose tyranny we had just escaped lay like
a shining narrow lake below us, its beautiful curves contrasting with
the harsh lines of the mountains, which met in an apparently
impenetrable wall beyond. From the height at which we stood we could not
see its eddies nor hear the hiss of its rapid flow. We were for the
moment quite beyond the power of its spell.

The castle ruin bears so many traces of the destruction of successive
sieges and consequent restorations that as it now stands it makes an
architectural and archæological puzzle which we felt quite unable to
struggle with. In general plan it is not unlike other mediæval
strongholds, with yard and keep, watch-towers and gates, banquet-hall
and chapel, and with extensive outworks intended to protect the little
town of Dürrenstein, at once its weakness and its strength. Utterly
neglected by the owner, whoever he may be, the perfection of its masonry
and the wonderful quality of the mortar have alone prevented it from
becoming long since an ugly mass of worthless rubbish. Most of the later
constructions have, indeed, fallen down, or have served so long as
convenient quarries that they have almost disappeared. We did not find
without some difficulty the traces of the grand old stairway that led
from the lower enclosure on the town side up into the pile of buildings
at the top and the older part of the castle. Scrambling up a moraine of
small stones and mortar, an unsightly avalanche, where the noble flight
of steps once mounted the ledge, we came to an irregular open space, now
roofless, but with doorways almost perfect and well-preserved window
penetrations. From this passages lead into towers on the edge of the
precipice, and into a small vaulted chapel, where rows of Byzantine
saints cover the walls with dim visions of red and yellow, their halos
now but circlets of rough holes where jewels were once embedded in the
mortar, and their rigid countenances disfigured by the weathering of
centuries of storms and frosts that have fought nature’s battle on this
bleak and dizzy crag. The northern wall of the open space just alluded
to is a solid ledge of rock hewn square and true, and in this wall is an
opening like a doorway, but bearing no traces of hinges or of any other
contrivance to close it, which leads into a spacious room cut out of the
hard stone. If this was the place where Richard Cœur de Lion was
confined, not only could no minstrel song ever have reached his ears,
but no sound of the world outside the castle less startling than the
crash of thunder ever have broken the hateful quiet of this rock
dungeon. The summit of the ledge is reached by a narrow stairway,
casually twisting and turning as the inequalities of the surface
dictated to the builder, and bears traces of a much-worn passageway and
of huge floor-beams. This was once enclosed by walls of great height and
exceptional solidity. From the ordinary indications of construction it
is proper to assume that here was the original building, enlarged and
altered a good deal since the twelfth century, but still preserving much
of its old shape. Portions of huge towers and jagged edges of apartment
walls, where immense pieces were blown out and down into the chasm below
when the Swedes destroyed this stronghold in the Thirty Years’ War, now
alone remain to give a meagre idea of its grandeur and unique strength.
Unapproachable except across the narrow depressed ridge behind the
summit, and this entrance defended by overhanging towers and a series of
walls, it withstood many sieges, and no doubt harbored many a robber
baron whose descendants now enjoy the titles and wealth which throw a
dazzling glamour over the methods of their acquisition.

For a long time we enjoyed to the full the view up the defile and down
the broad valley where the river, spreading out into a net-work of small
streams, disappears in a screen

[Illustration: DÜRRENSTEIN]

of wooded islands. Away to the south-east the great Benedictine
monastery of Göttweig shows an imposing mass of white on the rounded
hills that bound the Tullnfeld, and stretch off to mingle their summits
with the broad, dark patch of the Wienerwald in the extreme distance.
Far beyond the low islands lies Tulln, one of the oldest towns on the
Danube, the Comagenæ of the Romans, referred to in the “Niebelungenlied”
as an important place, and of historical interest as the point where the
great army assembled in 1683 to deliver Vienna from the hands of the
hated Turk. Dotted along the hill-sides and in the broad valley on the
left bank of the river are many prosperous little towns.

The insidious influence of the guide-book stole upon us unawares as we
began to ponder over the history of the region within the range of our
uninterrupted vision. Our imaginations, stimulated now by the mention of
these names, wandered from the realities of the Napoleonic campaigns,
through the dim traditions of crusading days, back to the times when the
Roman fleets crowded the narrow channels at the busy stations on the
river-bank. The germ of latent restlessness thus grew like a noxious
fungus in our minds; contentment and peace vanished like a faint odor.
This history was but stale, and the study of it unprofitable. Myths and
legends were like poetry and music, to be taken only when the spirit
yearns for them. Reality is now before us; teeming modern life awaits us
beyond those distant hills. A new nervousness and a new ambition of
progress are upon us--new because there opened to our mental vision, at
the mention of Islam, broad and fascinating vistas of the Orient, of
strange lands and stranger peoples, of types new to our pencils, of
colors to tempt the strongest tints on our palettes.

Vienna, hidden from us by the dark mass of the Wienerwald, is, for us at
least, the last station before that mysterious East towards which the
resistless current rushes below us, and whither our impatient canoes
shall carry us through bewitching plains of Hungary, wild Carpathian
gorges, and savage regions of Servia, Bulgaria, Roumania, and Russia, to
the shores of the Black Sea. What a force the very mention of these
names has upon us, and how we chafe at a moment’s delay! Castles and
churches will keep, but what of that great mysterious land beyond those
distant hills? Railroads have scarred the fertile plains, and have made
the remote valleys and mountain gorges hideous with iron and raw stone.
Customs have changed and costumes have disappeared. Even the Turk, so
long the master of the lower Danube, has now sullenly withdrawn to the
Bosporus and the Dardanelles. We must get on, for in our impatience it
seems as if these changes are but the work of a day, not of a
generation, and unless we hasten we shall be too late.

[Illustration: FROM DÜRRENSTEIN TO BUDAPEST]

Many and many a time had we roundly cursed the canalization of the river
which gave us for a water-line only the dull angle of a stone dike. But
after leaving the village of Dürrenstein, which at the last moment we
found, to our surprise, to be a favorite resort of Viennese artists, and
after a brief pause for luncheon at Stein, with its obnoxious river
improvements, we found ourselves very glad to follow the stone dikes
through the maze of channels, and later in the day to utilize the
stone-work in a way we had never anticipated. We were swept along by a
current so rapid that our pace permitted no hesitation in the choice of
route among the monotonous willow islands. Through openings in the trees
along the bank we occasionally saw pleasant villas and clusters of
houses reflected in the glassy lagoons, and here and there a sportsman
in search of wild-fowl paddled along behind the dike. Sudden wind and
rain squalls swept across the river in the late afternoon, rudely
interrupting our sentimental meditations, and approaching darkness
forced us at last to land. Under the friendly lee of bushes growing in
the crevices of the masonry embankment we at last succeeded in checking
our too willing canoes, and drew them up reluctantly, and only after it
was evident that we had to choose between the ragged platform of the
dike and the sodden swamps which extended for miles away from the main
stream. It must be understood, by-the-way, that the embankments follow
the large curves of the main channel, not forming a continuous dike like
that along a canal or a polder, but leaving here and there an opening
where the stiller water from the artificial lagoons joins the flowing
stream. In these side branches or lagoons the water is frequently clear
and pellucid, and in them, indeed, we found the first and only “blue
Danube” we had seen from the start. Our visions of the sunny East had
been forgotten in the struggle with the violent squalls and at the
prospect of a night on the water, and as we hauled the canoes up on the
firm stone-work of the dike and explored the snail-infested morass
behind it, we accepted the unæsthetic situation on the well-drained
platform, and were even grateful to the engineers who had spoiled the
river for sketching, but had improved it, at this point at least, for
camping purposes. In the alder swamp behind our camp a great gushing
spring of clean Danube water, filtering through the dike, abundantly
supplied this the most desirable luxury of a bivouac. There is more than
one compensation, we thought, for this annoying desecration of the river
scenery.

[Illustration: LUMBER RAFT]

With the brilliant sunshine and drying air of the next morning returned
the eager anticipations of the day before. The river was full of life.
Great flat-boats and rafts, old friends from the river Traun, drifted
past us as we prepared to start. The raftsmen laboring at the great
sweeps gave us the morning greetings with a true ring of hearty and
honest good-will, and shouted “Auf baldiges Wiedersehen” as they swung
along down the reach. We had long since learned that the old adage that
the race is not always to the swift might be as well illustrated by the
active canoe and the cumbersome raft as by the hare and the tortoise,
and we knew that while we were giving our boats their morning toilet the
rafts would be surging along at the rate of three or four miles an hour,
and would reach their destination near Vienna long before we should.

Tulln, seldom visited by the traveller on account of the superior
attractions of Vienna, has more than one relic which repays careful
examination and study. Adjoining the much-restored church stands a small
decagonal Byzantine baptistery, with circular interior not over twenty
feet in diameter. An Early Gothic doorway grafted on the original
edifice, and a complete restoration of the whole as late as 1873, have
not essentially altered its general appearance, for the naïve
irregularity of its plan, the noble proportion of its sides, and the
purity of its characteristic ornamentation survive all the
eccentricities of ancient as well as modern tinkering. The great church
has been distorted by successive additions and rebuildings during
several centuries, and little remains of its original Byzantine dignity.
As for the little dull town itself, the name, familiar to us in poetry
as well as in the recorded events of history, is the chief proof to the
casual observer that it is one of the oldest, and was for a long time
one of the most important, towns on the Danube. Many of the houses are
probably built out of material quarried from the ancient palaces and
fine old mediæval churches which, ruined in the severe sieges and
conflagrations, had yielded up the treasures of stone and marble which
the wanton destruction of Roman temples had contributed to their
erection. Little of the spirit of that ancient architecture has survived
the change and destruction, for modern Tulln is as plain and meagre of
invention as stone and mortar can make it. Of all the great Roman
buildings which once stood here, a single broken altar, moss-grown and
neglected, in the shadow of the baptistery, remains as a monument to the
early splendor of this provincial town. By what chance it has escaped
the stone-mason’s hammer no one can tell. Perhaps the delicate lines of
its mouldings and the grace of its shattered figures may have secured it
a place among the paraphernalia of the Byzantine church, and thus it had
lost its identity as a relic of heathen worship. Would that the mute
eloquence of its pathetic beauty had the voice of a brazen trumpet to
denounce the modern restorer, whose touch is death to the charms of all
art!

The commonplace aspect of the river-front let us down gently to the
ugliness of the railway bridge, which stretches its rigid arm across the
fine reach of the river just below Tulln, and screens with its hideous
framework the beauties of the landscape below. The up-river navigation
became hideously mechanical as well. Puffing, crawling, wheelless
steamers groaned and clanked as they pulled their ugly black hulks
against the current by a long chain lying in the bed of the stream. Huge
iron barges, the most helpless of monsters without the partnership of a
tug, added their shapeless masses to the procession of mechanical freaks
that indicated the proximity of a large manufacturing city. Distracted
by these new dangers to our navigation, and by the vigorous opposition
of a strong head-wind, we had scarcely time to notice the great
vine-clad hill which crowds the river on the right bank, and shelters
under its towering declivity the extensive Augustinian abbey of
Klosterneuberg, before we found ourselves slipping along a high
stone-faced quay, and saw in the smoky distance the great rotunda on the
Prater in Vienna, and the straight lines of the numerous railway bridges
there. In the little village of Kahlenbergerdorf our waterman instincts
led us to a humble inn, where we found, to our delight, all the raftsmen
we had been meeting since the camp at the mouth of the Traun, assembled
for their mid-day meal, and for a final friendly glass before returning
up-river to start again on another downward voyage. We needed not to
know their names; they did not even ask us ours, nor desire to learn
about our customary occupation; the masonic bonds of kindred experiences
and similar trials and dangers of the long journey made us friends
without further introduction. They were old water-rats, they said, and
though we could claim to be but the tiniest mice of aquatic tastes, our
parting with them in the flickering shadows of the garden, surrounded by
brigades of beer-glasses, was tinged with a genuine regret that we
should no longer hear their cheery voices of a morning, nor see their
honest faces again.



CHAPTER VIII


Vienna offers an unsightly water-front to the Danube navigator. A
succession of huge passenger and railway bridges span the river, and but
for the constant busy traffic seen upon them would appear unnecessarily
numerous in full proportion to their ugliness. At one end they touch the
marshy, desolate shores of the great plain of the Marschfeld, which
stretches away to Hainburg and Theben at the Hungarian frontier, and at
the other their solid piers and embankments either stand isolated on
waste ground, or are supported by ragged and scattered settlements along
the bank, with here and there a huge manufactory. From the level of the
water a broad veil of smoke rising above the trees is the only visible
indication of the proximity of the great city, except it be the bridges
themselves and the numerous tow-boats and excursion steamers. The city
lies in a semicircular valley between the hills of the Wienerwald and
the Danube on both sides of the little river Wien, which drains the
hills to the west and empties its muddy flood into the Danube three or
four miles below the city. The northern angle of this little stream, in
the very heart of Vienna, is connected by a canal with the Danube at
some distance above the town, and the Wien has been canalized and
enlarged from its junction with the canal to its mouth, so that there is
a practicable waterway through the town. The large Danube passenger
boats cannot enter the canal, however, but are waited upon by small
steamers which connect with them at the mouth of the Wien. The great
park, the Prater, where the International Exhibition of 1873 was held,
and a broad flat of rough land adjoining, separate the city from the
broad Danube, which, with wonderfully rapid current, rushes off to the
east towards the distant hills which mark the Hungarian frontier.

[Illustration: A LITTLE GIRL OF HAINBURG]

Vienna was originally a Celtic settlement called Vindobona, which the
Romans seized in the second decade of this era and made into a military
post. From the end of the Roman occupation at the close of the sixth
century until the beginning of the eleventh century, the town
practically disappeared from history. During the Crusades, however, it
increased in size and wealth with great rapidity, and since that time
has frequently been the scene of important historical events, not only
in the wars with the Mahometans, but in more recent times. The
Marschfeld, close at hand, has been a favorite tilting ground for
hostile nations from earliest history down to the Napoleonic campaign,
when the battles of Aspern and Wagram were fought here. Vienna has its
share of stock sights--the beautiful Cathedral of St. Stephen, numerous
historical buildings, including the little house where Richard Cœur de
Lion was captured, seldom visited by travellers; extensive and
monumental public edifices; immense collections of historical relics;
superb galleries of works of art, ancient and modern, and places of
entertainment and amusement more numerous in proportion to its
population than in any other city in Europe. Its citizens comprise a
score of nationalities, most of whom represent distinct and important
elements in the composition of the empire.

The casual traveller will notice first in Vienna the great speed of the
cabs and the skill of the drivers, the wonderfully adorned dray-horses,
the prevalence of the kerchief as a head-covering among the women, the
shop signs in a dozen languages, the perfect system of tram-ways and
omnibuses, and the sudden contrast between the broad and spacious
thoroughfares outside the fine boulevards, the Ring Strasse, and the old
town within this limit. Even more than Paris, Vienna is essentially a
city of apartment-houses and restaurants. These have always been
distinct features of Viennese life, and the great rage for building
which culminated in the panic at the time of the International
Exhibition was induced by the popularity of new apartment-houses which
seemed to foretell a great demand for them during the exhibition and
later. In consequence of this fever for building, numberless immense
caravansaries of apartment-houses were erected in all the new quarters,
and the advantages of cheapness and comfort offered by these houses have
effectually stifled any tendency among the people of the middle class
towards separate residences. One peculiarity of the apartment system in
Vienna is the long-established custom of closing the main door at ten
o’clock in the evening. After that hour the concierge has the right to
collect ten kreutzers (5 cents) from every occupant or visitor who
enters the door. He seldom or never waives this privilege. How long this
relic of social life of the Middle Ages will last is a much discussed
question in Vienna itself.

[Illustration: PEASANT WAGON, HAINBURG]

Acquaintance with the common people in Vienna is made difficult by the
atrocious dialect of German they speak there. The popular resorts of the
artisan classes, with their musical and theatrical entertainments by
local performers of talent, are always amusing, but the wit and humor of
the programme is entirely lost to any one who is unfamiliar with the
patois. The prevalence of the harsh sound of the letter “X” is one of
the most noticeable features of this patois, and a story is told which
illustrates the use of this sound and also the manner in which the
adopted citizens of the town acquire the common speech. A Hungarian was
overheard giving a compatriot assistance in German, and in the course of
his lesson he said: “You’ll have to learn a new letter before you can
speak German as well as I do. For example, when you drink a glass of
beer in a party you must say ‘Xundheit! (Gesundheit) an die ganz’
‘Xellschaft! (Gesellschaft).’” The Viennese are famous for their keen
enjoyment and appreciation of humor, a reputation which is borne out by
the popular support given to numberless comic papers, profusely
illustrated, and all of them full of local hits. The life of the people
is best seen on a holiday in the Wurstel Prater, a sort of Viennese
Coney Island, or Crystal Palace, where all sorts of out-of-door
entertainments are in progress. Here may be studied the characteristic
costumes of many nationalities and of many districts, and a more
interesting collection of types cannot be found in Europe. The environs
of Vienna are particularly attractive. The great formal park and palace
of Schönbrunn and of Laxenburg, the rural beauties of Kahlenberg, and
the charms of the vine-growing district along the southern slopes of the
hills near the town, all attract crowds of merrymakers on every pleasant
holiday.

We did not attempt to enter the Danube canal with our canoes, but
paddled down to the boat-house of the Lia Ruder Verein near the third
great bridge over the main stream. Here we found a delegation of the
club to welcome us, for our probable arrival had been announced to them,
and the whole establishment was put at once at our disposal. Our canoes
found shelter and healing varnish for their wounds and were stored in
the company of forty-eight racing boats, from the eight-oar to the
single-scull, while we were carried off bodily by the members of the
club and comfortably installed in a hotel. The inexhaustible hospitality
and cheery companionship of the members of the Lia Ruder Verein would
never tire our muse were we to start the song agoing. This hospitality,
not only general, but particular and special, so gilded our stay in the
city that the bitterness of parting from Danube and canoes gave but a
flavor to the joys of congenial society. One perfect summer morning we
saw the last of the club-house as we shot the railway bridge and cast a
hasty glance past the bellying mizzen of the bounding canoe. No less
absorbing feeling than the glorious sense of freedom and
irresponsibility as we found ourselves again on the river would have
excused to our consciences the joy we felt at leaving Vienna. But the
memory of its kindness and courtesy has survived all ephemeral
sentiments.

[Illustration: A HUNGARIAN FERRY]

After a short half-day’s paddle down a tossing current, past scores of
floating mills and along miles of stone embankments, we came to the
point where the hills again close in from both sides and form a wall
along the eastern horizon. Though less imposing than some other mountain
ranges we had passed, and, indeed, very narrow where it touches the
river, this is the barrier where for many centuries constant and
successful resistance was kept up against the advance of the Mahometans.
Here for a long time was the extreme eastern bulwark of Christendom, the
advance outposts of the West; and here, after countless campaigns, the
hereditary enemy suffered the crushing defeats which, a little over a
century and a half ago, marked the beginning of the decline of his power
in Europe. This gateway to the great Carpathian plain, and the
political as well as geographical frontier of Hungary, is as perfect a
natural rampart as could be imagined. At the very river’s edge rise, on
either bank, high isolated hills, covered now with masses of ruins, but
formerly part of a complete system of fortifications perfectly
commanding the river from both sides. These fortifications enclosed, as
the ruins now plainly show, the little town of Hainburg, on the right
bank, and Theben, a few miles below on the other side of the river, the
highest Danube town in the Hungarian kingdom.

[Illustration: THE WIENERTHOR, HAINBURG]

The sentimental spirit generated in us on the occasion of the happy
visit to Dürrenstein, though veiled a little by the distractions of
Vienna, was now stimulated afresh as we landed in Hainburg. We had
accidentally chosen it as a place for a few days’ quiet work, and found
that we had stumbled unawares into a little walled town full of
archæological and historical interest. Through an ancient arched gateway
near the railway station, Blutgasse (blood lane) winds steeply up
between crowded whitewashed houses to a broad open square, where a
large church with intricately ugly copper-covered spire throws a shadow
over rows of peasant women squatting on the pavement beside their
baskets of market stuff, their blue dresses and bright kerchiefs adding
an agreeable note of color to the blond tones of the surrounding
architecture. Blutgasse! No stretch of the imagination is required to
picture the carnage when the Turks, hunting the inoffensive citizens
through the streets with fanatical ferocity, left only one alive to tell
the tale. This narrow lane, offering a possible escape to the river, was
piled high with headless corpses, and the blood ran in streams under the
oaken gate into the turbid river, which washed the foundations of the
town walls. Tradition says that the one survivor was a woman, who hid
herself, with a small store of provisions, in a disused chimney, where
for three days she listened to the horrid sounds of the massacre.

During the long centuries while history is silent this little town, with
the neighboring region, has been the theatre of many another thrilling
and dramatic episode now only faintly echoing in the murmur of
tradition. On the whole length of this great water highway there has
been no busier spot than this from the time when the goaded slaves first
towed the ponderous Roman galleys against the rushing stream up to its
docks until its complete destruction in the struggle against the Turks.
Indeed, the whole neighboring country bears abundant witness to the
importance of this point. Extensive Roman remains are scattered all over
the fertile plateau a short distance above Hainburg, near the village of
Deutsch-Altenburg and Petronell, where Carnuntum once stood. Military
engineers, since the earliest mediæval days, have burned the shattered
marbles for lime, and have built into hastily constructed defences tiles
and mouldings, capitals and cornices; and in times of peace the local
masons, with more deliberation and less excuse, have completed the work
of destruction. Recent archæological explorations have uncovered the
ruins of an amphitheatre, of villas and baths, and latterly a
commendable local interest has been taken in these relics, a proof of
which is the popularity of the little museum where are stored a
multitude of objects of Roman origin. The farmers now point with pride
to the crumbling ruins of the great triumphal arch, which they but
recently considered an unsightly excrescence on the fair surface of a
broad wheat-field, and speak of Carnuntum as familiarly as if its
glories were but of recent date.

[Illustration: THE TOWN WALL, HAINBURG]

Nearer Hainburg the hill-sides are scored with grassy mounds of ancient
earthworks, and on the high, isolated peak behind the town the extensive
ruin of a mediæval castle is a landmark visible for many miles both up
and down the river. Immense Government tobacco factories and a school
for military cadets have somewhat disturbed the mediæval aspect of the
streets, and a railway has ruthlessly cut through the walls, and trains
crunch and rumble high up on a row of ugly arches that disfigure the
quay. The old side walls, with frequent towers of irregular shape and at
various angles, converge from the water-front, and, narrowing the town
limits as they go, join by a solid cross wall at the foot of the hill,
and then clamber up the precipitous, rugged declivity to the angles of
the great château which covers every yard of the summit. The hill itself
is gay with numberless varieties of wild-flowers and shrubs--a
botanist’s paradise. In Alfred Parsons’ botanical note-book is the
following information concerning this region:

“The Schlossberg behind the town of Hainburg is very rich in plants--one
large rock garden. On it grow several kinds of sedum and campanula,
dwarf iris, coronilla, genista, two species of dianthus (one of which
has white fringed petals and a very strong scent), a yellow and a pink
allium, wall-rue, thalictrum, and many other plants and shrubs. In the
woods around the town are pyrola, hepatica, Turk’s-cap lily, and there I
also noticed a very handsome leaf of an umbelliferous plant. The
bladder-nut is a common shrub, and on the borders of the woods grows a
melampyrum with yellow flowers which turn orange when older, and have a
tuft of bright mauve leaves above them. Masses of this, with the slender
white spikes of the small St. Bruno’s lily (_Anthericum liliastrum_)
growing up through it, had a very beautiful effect. In the cornfields
grow poppies and daisy-like flowers, also a beautiful annual larkspur
with purple and blue flowers, and a pale, bluish-white nigella. On the
stony slopes at Theben I first saw an everlasting flower with
pinkish-mauve blossoms, which grows abundantly east of this point. The
commonest flowers on the sandy patches near the river are the yellow
snap-dragon (butter and eggs), pink ononis, and a pale-green eryngium,
very prickly. In the meadow at the mouth of the Raab I saw _Eryngium
amethystum_, and a herbaceous clematis, drooping flowers with blue
petals and a yellow centre.”

From the ruined walls, high above the quiet town and the glittering
expanse of the river, threading its intricate way through the flat and
fertile plain to the shadowy heights rising above the smoke of Vienna,
we could look far beyond the castle-crowned rocks of Theben and the
great hill of Pressburg, over the rich plain of Hungary checkered with
growing crops, stretching away to a mysterious horizon distant as the
sky itself. The wooded hills of the boundary range tempted us with their
shady paths and wealth of wild-flowers, and we found new beauties at
every turn, new delights in every glimpse of the fertile valleys, where
whitewashed villages shimmered in the sunlight among the yellow fields
of ripening corn. On rare occasions we met Hungarian peasant men with
queer hussar jackets and breeches, round hats with cockade of badger
hair, and wonderfully high-heeled boots, and sturdy peasant women with
stiff, outstanding short skirts, and high riding-boots like the
men--skirmishers of the host of novel types and costumes the Danube had
in store for us. Steep and narrow footways lead over the hills three
miles or so to the nearest village of Hundsheim, which, quite off the
highway, and therefore as yet unspoiled by the touch of the modern
architect, is so perfect a specimen of a rural hamlet, practically
unchanged since mediæval times, that we made it the goal of our evening
expeditions. Here, as in all the neighboring villages, it has been the
custom, dating from the early days of conflict with the Turk, to build
the houses each like a tiny castle, with court-yard and arched gateway,
with few and often no windows on the street, and solid high walls on all
sides. At Hundsheim two parallel irregular streets straggle down
opposite sides of a stony stream which serves as a public washing-place,
and furnishes abundant water for all purposes. Each house is like its
neighbor in main lines, differing only in unimportant details. All are
whitewashed with scrupulous care, and although the streets are little
more than rough gullies, there is a refreshing air of

[Illustration: HUNDSHEIM]

prosperity about the place. The inhabitants cultivate the rich fields
for miles around the village, pasture their countless sheep and cattle
on the adjacent mountain-sides, and at night gather live-stock and farm
wagons into the enclosure of each tiny castle and retire behind its
ponderous gates as if the Turk were still a threatening enemy.

One bright morning--the 27th of July, to be accurate--a crowd of
new-made friends assembled to see us pack the canoes and launch them in
the eddying stream. The hospitable miller, who had housed the delicate
craft for us in an empty shed, had not kept secret the hour of our
departure, and there were hundreds watching us as we hoisted sail to
cross the frontier with speed and in sporting style. A short half-hour,
past bold cliffs and picturesque ruins on one side and a wooded bank on
the other, brought us to the muddy March, pouring a sluggish, muddy
flood into the yellow Danube. In another moment we landed in Hungary,
under the overhanging ruins of the great Castle of Theben, which, with
its fellow at Hamburg, guarded the entrance to the wealthy kingdoms
along the great water highway. In the little whitewashed town, crowded
into a narrow valley behind the castle, the musical accent of the Magyar
tongue confirmed to our ears what our eyes had readily discovered--the
presence of another type of face, of figure, and of character. The
aspect of the village, too, was new to us, and suggested a warmer sun,
longer summer, and habitual out-of-door life. We saw little gardens
filled with bright flowers, tiny court-yards, with tables and benches
shaded by trellises of grape-vines and gourds, and met a cheery
hospitality at the rude inn, where Maria, the shy beauty of the village,
soon forgot her coyness in her delight at our enjoyment of the spicy
viands new to our palates. In kerchief and short petticoat, she had no
rival between the ruins of Petronell and the château of Pressburg; but

[Illustration: GOSSIPS, HUNDSHEIM]

when she hesitatingly yielded to our importunities for a sitting, and
appeared, after a brief absence, in black silk frock, booted and gloved,
and with parasol in hand, our pencils were too loyal to her peasant
charms to attempt the caricature. No visitors of our nationalities had
left any impressions on the minds of the simple folk here, but the
mention of England and America was, as it always is in Hungary, our best
introduction. The active sympathies of these two countries with the
people struggling for freedom in ’48 are still gratefully remembered by
the whole nation, and the traditions of that sympathy are handed down
loyally to the rising generation. At the post-office, where we went to
buy our first Hungarian stamps, the gossiping old postmaster and his
wife--characters not unfamiliar in the rural offices in other
countries--were so overwhelmed by the extent of our requirements and the
number of our letters that the wheels of official machinery refused to
work at all. After they had carefully read all the addresses, and had
marvelled long at the range of our correspondence, we succeeded in
communicating to their dazed senses the fact that we wanted to buy a
stock of stamps of various denominations.

[Illustration: THE WATCH-TOWER, THEBEN]

“What! so much money for stamps? Impossible!” protested the old man and
his echoing wife. “You are already sending away florins’ and florins’
worth on these letters!”

“But we want a stock of stamps to keep for our convenient use,” we
urged. “Yes, yes, you want to use them; but why don’t you buy them as
you need them?” was the reply, as he shut the drawer under his elbow,
apparently loath to part with any of its precious contents.

Arguments were useless, and we gave up the notion of securing a variety,
and tempered our demand to a humble request for a few ten-kreutzer
stamps for foreign postage.

“Ah, no!” he said. “I can’t let you have any ten-kreutzer stamps, for
the sheets haven’t been broken into yet, and it is near the end of the
month, when I make up my books, and I can’t have my accounts confused by
selling ten-kreutzer stamps to any one.”

We compromised on a double number of five-kreutzer stamps, the ones in
use for local postage, and ornamented our envelopes with effigies of
Franz Josef until they looked like the walls of a chromo-dealer’s shop.



CHAPTER IX


Sturdy girls, returning from market with veritable Eiffel towers of
empty tubs on their backs, strode up the steep banks from the landing as
we fled from the enervating luxuries of the inn at Theben and hastened
to paddle towards the busy little town of Pressburg, boasting a new
railway bridge, as ugly a château as man has ever devised, and as
pleasant parks and gardens as ever soldier and nursery-maid chose for
their public flirtations. It claims as its chief historical distinction
the honor of having crowned within its walls the Hungarian kings since
the dynasty was founded. It is a gay little place, with tastefully
decorated shop-windows, and signs everywhere in the Hungarian language.
In a brief two hours’ paddle we had passed beyond the limit of a
distorted dialect of German, and now heard only the soft music of the
Magyar speech. No phase of our journeying was more interesting than the
experience with this abrupt philological frontier.

Below Pressburg the Danube branches into three sinuous arms, cutting the
great low plain into two long irregular islands, little better than
swamps for the most part--at least, as far as our horizon extended. The
canalization of the river, which practically comes to an end in this
territory, makes the channel quite plain, and diverts the flow of water
from the tortuous branches where the villages cluster on the muddy
banks. On the first day after leaving Pressburg the

[Illustration: PEASANT GIRL, THEBEN]

active arguments of hunger persuaded us to explore one of these lagoons
in search of an inn, and after a while we came upon a straggling
collection of low shingled houses gathered into the semblance of a
village by low fences of wattled willow. With a microscopic vocabulary
of Hungarian words we succeeded in getting food to satisfy our colossal
appetites, and in holding the friendliest relations with the bronzed
peasants, who were fast courting oblivion through the medium of strong
wine in the Italian-like hostlery. Here we first made acquaintance with
Hungarian dust and Danube mud, an intimacy which ripened as we went on,
until at last no adjectives would fitly apply to the one or describe the
disgusting characteristics of the other. The willow, too, in this first
great flat stretch forced itself on our notice, and began to aggravate
us with its monotony, turning an otherwise agreeable landscape into a
series of object-lessons in simple perspective. But even the willow came
to an end here after a while, and for an agreeable change we welcomed

[Illustration: HUNGARIAN CATTLE]

an open country, with broken mud banks, where we heard the plaintive
music of shepherds’ pipes, saw stalwart swineherds against the sky, and
startled, as we drifted past, great droves of wild-looking cattle
cooling themselves in the shallows. The life on the bank became at
intervals more busy, and all sorts of domestic operations were carried
on in the open air along the muddy shores. Whole families splashed about
in the shallow water as little heedful of our presence as if we belonged
to them. The River Raab sneaks into the Danube in the guise of a lesser
side lagoon, and but for our delightful flower-carpeted camp in sight of
the group of barges at its mouth and within the sound of the tattoo of
many mills, we should scarcely remember it as a feature of our trip. A
brief pause at Komorn, regular and uninteresting architecturally as most
Hungarian towns are, did not increase our desire for exploration, and we
voted, since our time was limited, to land in the future only at places
which, smaller and less Germanized by the commerce of the river, would
probably be more characteristic and picturesque. But the great Cathedral
of Gran--Esztergom is the sonorous Hungarian name--rising above the
ruins of a great brick fortress on a prominent height among vineyard
slopes, made us accept a speedy amendment to this resolution, and under
the lee of its bridge of boats we drew up alongside of one of the great
arks which recall the naval architecture of the pre-deluge period. We
sampled the characteristic cookery of its famous restaurant, and passed
an hour or two of wild excitement over the wonderful colors in the
market-place, where shoulder-high heaps of scarlet paprika (big sweet
peppers) set the key for a combination of rich and varied tones that
would have exhausted the palette of an old Venetian painter; and when at
last an inviting breeze rippled the water, we forced ourselves away and
sailed down the beautiful reaches among grand hills, our eyes still full
of the kaleidoscopic sparkle of enchanting Esztergom.

Our frisky boats lost the breeze in the narrow, crooked defile below,
and we settled ourselves to a quiet drift under the great ruins of
Visegrád, where villas, bath-houses, and a level road, gay with ladies
and children, marked the little village as the first sybaritic outpost
of Budapest. Preoccupied with the beauties of the scenery, we did not at
first notice the frantic waving of the Union-jack in the hands of some
one on the shore, but we soon turned our bows in the direction of this
unmistakable invitation to land, and were welcomed on shore by an
English gentleman, a summer resident there, who explained that, having
read of our trip in a Vienna newspaper, he and his family had been on
the watch for us for many days. Such hearty hospitality as he offered us
could not be refused, although it was the Delilah to our Samson strength
of purpose, and we went ashore. A party of ladies and gentlemen was
speedily formed, and we made an excursion up the hill, through pleasant
groves and along shady paths, to the ruins of the old castle of the
Hungarian kings, who resided here as early as the eleventh century.
Matthew Corvinus enlarged and improved the castle, and it was long the
chief stronghold of this region. The royal

[Illustration: GRAN (ESZTERGOM)]

crown of Hungary was once concealed in a deep pit cut in the solid rock
under one of the towers, and there are various other notable historical
legends connected with the place. Another castle near the water’s edge,
although it is partially restored, had a sentimental interest for us
because we were informed that it had been intended for the summer
residence of the unfortunate Prince Leopold. The former
commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army in the revolution of 1848,
General Görgei, lives quietly in a pleasant villa high above the river.
Surrounded by his family and busying himself with all sorts of
mechanical operations, to which he is devoted, the old general appears
to have secured the greatest blessing known to man--contentment. The
weight of the forty odd years that have passed since he gave up his
sword has not bowed his straight figure, and his dark eyes still have
the fire of youth in them. At his own request we went to call on him,
and found him, like all the men of Kossuth’s time, enthusiastically fond
of America, and grateful for the sympathetic aid and comfort of the
whole English-speaking race. Lingering long in his company, the summer
twilight stole upon us before we knew it, and warned us to seek a camp.
The tempting offers of hospitality so heartily given, the fascinations
of the people and the place, and the unique charm of society which is
peculiar to Hungary alone, all these and many other delights made it
next to impossible for us to take our leave. But at last we hardened our
hearts, pushed off, waved a last farewell to the young ladies who
accompanied us a short distance in a wherry, and paddled out into the
glowing twilight.

The frequent villas that dot the shores below Visegrád we now looked
upon through glasses of different color. Only twenty-four hours before
we would have named them landscape-spoilers, and would have turned our
faces from them as we passed. But we had caught the infection of the
happy land; the microbe which, once in possession, never leaves the
willing victim, had begun to attack us, one and all, and we saw possible
friends in every pretty garden and in every luxurious pleasure-boat. At
this moment less than ever did a great city have any attraction for us,
and we wildly planned to cut Budapest altogether, and continue our
joyful cruise down into the great wild region beyond, where the river
life is active and varied, and where our days should be a succession of
pleasant experiences and surprises--where, indeed, we might learn to
know, with an intimacy that only such a free life makes possible, the
people in their unaffected, simple existence.

[Illustration: VISEGRÁD]

Just above Waitzen, a good-sized town with prison and manufactories and
busy quay, with barges and peasant market-boats, the river bends
gracefully around to the south, divides past a long flat island covered
with fertile farms, and then loses itself in the distance where the
grand old fortress on the summit of Blocksberg overhangs the suburb of
Ofen (Buda in Hungarian) on the right bank, and looks down upon the
imposing façades of Pest on the opposite shore. An accident, happy in
its result, but threatening for a moment a painful disaster, made a
pause at Budapest a necessity. Sudden summer thunder-storms swept

[Illustration: SWINEHERD]

over the river from the cloud-compelling summits in the west, and then
cleared away with a strong wind, which, blowing across the current, soon
stirred up what the ocean pilots would call a “nubbly” sea. The
temptation to hoist sail and triumphantly dash past the populous
waterfront of the great city was not long to be resisted, and soon the
sparkling river was enlivened by three pairs of snow-white sails.
Open-mouthed millers stared at us as we swept past their groaning
floats, throwing up spray like so many yachts. Suddenly a polished
rudder gleamed in the air, following the total eclipse of one of the
canoes, crew and all. A multitude of objects tossed on the waves and
bobbed away down-stream, while the humiliated canoist came up, shining
like a seal, and righted his water-logged craft. A landing was made, not
without difficulty, more soaked and ruined articles were recovered than
it would have been thought possible to stow under the mahogany hatches,
and we were glad to seek refuge, after the canoe was baled out, in the
hospitable boat-house of the Neptune Ruder Verein, a mile or two below
the scene of the accident, among the pleasant groves of the
Margarethen-Insel (Margitsziget).

We had often remarked that in our independent way of travelling constant
variety was the rule, and monotony of incident never possible. If we
could have had the choice, we certainly would not have introduced
ourselves to the rowing men of the Neptune Verein until our fleet could
have passed inspection with credit. But the unexpected event of a
capsize forced us to swallow our pride, and we accordingly bundled the
wet things out upon the float, and stowed the canoes away among the
slender racing craft in the boat-house. Not only had the accident taken
the bloom off our self-confidence, but it had upset many pet theories
which had from the start been quite undisputed. Our blind faith in the
value of india-rubber as a water-proof material had hitherto not been
disturbed, but on this the occasion of the first real test elaborate
rubber boat bags and air-tight hatches only seemed to aggravate the
disaster; for all these contrivances seemed not only to actually suck
the water in, but to hold it perfectly when it was inside. We hereafter
limited our belief in water-proof receptacles to the ordinary
well-corked glass bottle of commerce in which we kept our matches.

[Illustration: A FAMILY WASH]

What a medley of gypsy music, song, and csárdás, of beautiful women and
cheery, sympathetic men, of abundant

[Illustration: AN ARK-BOAT]

hospitality and general good-fellowship, Budapest now remains to us in
our memory! It wellnigh proved our Capua, for, being only human, we
could but yield to the enchantment. Who shall adequately describe the
fascination of the native gypsy music, with its throbbing, wailing
strains and its intoxicating rhythm? What writer’s pen or artist’s
pencil shall picture the csárdás, with its Oriental action and its
exhilarating intensity? It would be easier to convey by words or by
lines the sense of a strange perfume than to analyze and explain the
charms of the music or the attractions of the dance. Prosaically
described, the csárdás is a dance for one or for any number of couples,
and is performed in a great variety of ways, the partners sometimes
dancing apart and sometimes together. The common fashion we observed
during our brief experience, and the one we naturally indulged in as the
nearest allied to the dancing we were familiar with, is for the lady to
rest her hands on the gentleman’s shoulders, who, in his turn, places
his hands on her waist. A long-cherished admiration for the dance
forbids me to attempt to give any notion of the step or of the vibrating
action of the body, truly interpreting in motion the spirit of the
music, which, with sweet insinuating melodies, wild and ever wilder
bursts of mad chords, lends the contagion of its tireless vigor to the
dancers, and sways them like reeds by the power of its savage
harmonies.



CHAPTER X


There is the same indefinable charm about Budapest that there is in the
gypsy music. This charm is a spiritual one. The situation of the city is
delightful, the streets are clean, the architecture agreeable, and all
the comforts of life are at the traveller’s command. In these respects
the city is not unlike many others, but in its people it is unique and
always will be as long as the Magyar tongue exists, or a drop of the
rich Eastern blood remains in a descendant of the race. Our experience
in Vienna was but the prologue to the hospitalities at Budapest. Under
the guidance of a host of friends, chief of whom was Mr. Louis Gerster,
the resident Vice-consul of the United States, we saw the town in the
most agreeable manner possible. Visits to the museums of art and of
antiquity, with their stores of treasures; inspection of the famous
wine-cellars, with the miles of wine-butts and millions of bottles;
drives in the parks; an excursion up the river in a special steamer with
ladies and gentlemen, when we danced the csárdás for a day and a night
almost without intermission; a trip down-stream to eat the delicious
sterlet, fresh from the Danube and cooked with paprika, after the
fisherman’s taste--our stay was one round of jollity. But for the
frequent sight of the great river with its hurrying current which urged
us to depart, we might have prolonged our stay until snowfall, such were
the fascinations that encompassed us.

[Illustration: COUNTRY MARKET-BOAT, BUDAPEST]

The water-front of Budapest, with its masses of extensive buildings and
its populous quays, is the noblest spectacle of similar order in the
whole course of the Danube. Within the last few years the city has made
marvellous strides in the direction of enlargement and improvement.
Three bridges now cross the river between Pest on the left bank and Buda
on the right, the two principal sections of the town. The upper one is
of iron, on huge stone buttresses, the middle one a graceful
suspension-bridge, built about forty years ago, and the lower of iron,
and built to carry a railway and to serve for foot-passengers as well.
Large hotels have been built, a fine new park laid out, new
parliament-houses on the river-front almost completed, the squares and
public places adorned with fountains and statues, and entire new
quarters covered with fine buildings, all within the past fifteen years.
These improvements have worked the modernization of the people as well
as the town, and the native costumes once so common in the streets are
almost a rarity now. The sulphur springs at Buda and on
Margarethen-Insel, famous since Roman times, form one of the chief
attractions to visitors, and afford an uncommon luxury to the residents.
The bathing establishments are of unparalleled extent and great
splendor, particularly on the island, where the delights of the
beautiful park enhance the popularity of the baths. Up to within a few
years there was a large cheap public bath where people of both sexes and
all ages, after having been cupped by an attendant as many times as they
could afford to pay for, according to the old faith in the efficacy of
blood-letting, huddled together, often nearly if not quite naked, in a
large common plunge-basin of steaming sulphur-water, where they remained
for hours, looking like the lost souls in Dante’s “Inferno.” This
promiscuous bathing is now no longer permitted, for this with many other
old customs among the common people has disappeared before the advance
of civilization.

The sun was well down behind the hills before we launched the canoes on
the day we left Budapest. The strains of the csárdás still echoed in our
ears; our minds were confused by the succession of novel experiences we
had enjoyed during the past four days; the river seemed to rush on with
a giddier swirl than ever before, and a strong head-wind did its best to
discourage our progress. It was not until we had lost sight of the hills
near the city, late on the following day, that we realized we were now
at length fairly afloat in the heart of the vast open plain which
extends to the Carpathians. The corner of this plain which we had
crossed below Pressburg had given us a hint of what we might expect in
the way of monotonous scenery, but it had disclosed to us little of the
charm of the great river which now enchanted us. High bluffs of firm,
hard earth alternated with stretches of densely-wooded low banks.
Tree-embowered villages nestled long distances apart, under
vineyard-clad slopes, or among fields rich with maize and ripening
wheat. The river began to be the focus of rural activity. Wherever mills
were anchored in the strongest currents, the peasants camped on the
adjoining banks, with ox-carts full of freshly-winnowed corn, awaiting
their turn for the grinding. Women vigorously beating clothes with
wooden mallets enlivened the scene with their laughter and gossip, and
formed fascinating groups, with every combination of rich color.
Everywhere were sunshine and laughter and song. Cries of “Eljen!”
(hurrah!) and “Hova megy?” (where are you going?) greeted us constantly
as we passed, shouting in reply, “Fekete Tengerig” (to the Black Sea).
The cheery vivacity of the people, their unfailing courtesy and
agreeable manners, had won our affectionate admiration from the first,
and the more we came to know them, the more we found reason to honor our
earliest impressions of them.

The tyranny of limited space forbids lengthy description of more than
one of the many interesting villages we explored in the first day or two
below Budapest, and Duna Földvár of cheerful memory may be taken as a
type of all. The village itself is, like most Hungarian places, a
collection of low houses along broad streets, laid out in rectangular
plan, gullied and dusty, and shaded by rows of small acacia-trees. A
great barren market square forms the usual

[Illustration: WASHER-WOMEN]

prominent feature of the village, and from this arid waste straight,
wide thoroughfares lead out into the open country behind, and casually
end there, like the streets of the great shanty cities in the Far West.
The architectural examples found in Duna Földvár are not notable;
indeed, the inscription over the church door,
“Isten-Gondviselésnyujtottdiszújalakotrám,” was the only detail in
relation to architecture that fixed our attention. A few sleepy
market-women sat in the broad shadow of the ugly town-hall, and, except
for the constant coming and going of many graceful maidens bearing tubs
of Danube water on their heads, there was little or no movement on the
streets. All the life of the village concentrated itself under the sandy
bluff by the river-side. A procession of barefooted girls continually
passed along the shore. Peasant men stripped to the waist, with their
divided-skirt-like trousers rolled up into the narrowest compass, washed
their cattle and wagons in the shallow water, while a busy army of men
and women unloaded the barges and carried the heavy freight to the
warehouses. At every available point of the crowded river-front
washerwomen, with their petticoats wet to the waist, stood knee-deep in
the stream, and accompanied their lively chatter with the vigorous
tattoo of their active mallets. In the shadow of the houses near the
landing great piles of watermelons were the centres of groups of all
ages, every individual busy with the luscious, juicy fruit. On all sides
we saw flashing rich color, beautiful types, picturesque costumes,
graceful action, and the bustle of ceaseless activity. The sparkling
river, the brilliant colors glowing in the bright August sun, and the
multitude of figures tempting the pencil fairly dazed us at first, and
we could only rush enthusiastically from point to point, finding each
new group and each new incident more fascinating than the other.

While we were busy sketching on the river-front a young gentleman
approached, introduced himself, and said he had been sent as the
emissary of a party of ladies and gentlemen who were about to go on a
picnic excursion, and desired the honor of our company. They had heard
all about our cruise from the Budapest papers, he added, and were
anxious to show us some attention. We felt obliged to decline the
invitation, for the day was fast advancing, and the subjects before us
were both fascinating and numerous, and the young man, with proper
apologies for disturbing us, withdrew. Towards the end of the afternoon
we paddled off, much depressed by the necessity of leaving practically
untouched the wealth of picturesque material in the little river town,
and, indeed, very loath to seek a camp. Just after we rounded the point
below the town we heard the

[Illustration: DUNA FÜLDVÁR]

strains of gypsy music, and soon caught sight of a large boat filled
with ladies and gentlemen, apparently waiting for us in mid-stream. In a
few moments we were alongside, and were very much pleased to find that
it was the same picnic party which had begged for the honor of our
presence some hours before. Indeed, it came out that the polite emissary
had lingered about and watched our departure, and then had hurried on
horseback to warn the party of our approach. We suffered ourselves to be
piloted ashore, where, in a pleasant grove by the water’s edge we found
a large table spread, a dancing-floor arranged, and everything in order
for a genuine Hungarian festivity. A band of ten gypsies furnished the
music, a dozen young ladies, with as many young gentlemen, a few men of
middle age and a proper number of chaperons, made up the party, and it
comprised, as we soon found out, the professional men of the town--the
lawyers and doctors with their families and intimate friends. We lost no
time in becoming acquainted, for all formalities of introduction were
soon over, and then the feast began. Like every similar entertainment in
Hungary, speech-making was a great feature of the dinner. Every one had
to do his share of this, and when the last toast was drunk, a mixed
Hungarian-American sentiment, we all took partners, and the csárdás
began.

Hours passed like magic, and the fast-waning afternoon light warned us
to be off. We had scarcely shouted the last “good-bye” across the
shining water when a violent wind arose, drowning with its rushing sound
the tinkle of the music in the grove, and changing the placid stream
into a turbulent sea of dashing waves. Night settled down with unusual
haste, and in the increasing darkness we were tossed and buffeted along,
sometimes half swamped, unable to find a landing on the steep, high
banks, not daring to

[Illustration: WATER-CARRIERS, DUNA FÖLDVÁR]

venture out into the raging stream, nor yet to approach too near the
shore. The distorting gloom so changed the usual landmarks that we could
not distinguish trees from bushes, and could only judge of our distance
from the shore by the sound of the angry water beating against the bank.
On we went, driven by the wind, which seemed to increase with every
fresh gust. Wherever we tried to land, the breaking waves warned us that
unless we found a sheltered spot we should pound our canoes to pieces
before we got them ashore. The noise of the storm made it difficult for
us to hear each other shout, and it was only by constant piping on our
shrill whistles that we kept our little fleet together. The situation at
last became so serious that we were about to give up all attempt to
land, and were on the point of

[Illustration: FISHING-STATION]

scudding down in mid-stream until the storm should abate, preferring to
risk capsize there rather than to endanger the canoes by further trials
at landing on a lee shore. Just as we came to this decision, however, an
unusually heavy squall struck us, and at the same moment we heard the
unmistakable swash of the water among willow bushes close at hand. We
knew then that we should find temporary shelter and shallow water among
the willows, for the unusual height of the river had covered all low
places. We also knew we could manage to land from the shoal water on a
flooded meadow; so we pushed boldly on, and passing the yielding
barrier, which fortunately was but a rod or two wide, found ourselves in
a quiet shelter behind the screen of slender bushes, and at the edge of
a grove of large trees with solid turf underneath. By the light of our
lanterns we hauled up the canoes, arranged them so as best to shelter
our camp-fire from the blast, rigged our tents, and then cooked our
supper in comfort. The storm continued the greater part of the night,
and we slept to the howling of the wind in the trees and to the dull
roar of the Danube billows.

Now, as we advanced, the river rose higher and higher, flooding all the
swamps and low-lying woodlands, and spreading out into broad lakes over
the meadows. Once only, in a whole day’s paddle, did we find a
fishing-station, and this was kept by men from a village fifteen miles
inland, who take regular turns in visiting their homes during the long
months when fishing is profitable. Their great wigwam had bunks for a
dozen men, and miles of nets were drying in the sun. As we had been
accustomed to land at a village at least once a day to replenish our
larder with fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, and wine, we found our
cupboards rather empty after a day or two in the wilderness, and we
welcomed the sight of the fishing-camp, for we knew we could procure
there an abundance of sterlet, the best fish found in the Danube. Our
arrival was a great event in the camp, and, mutually interested in each
other’s boats and mode of life, we spent an hour there, and then
departed, with a generous supply of sterlet taken from the fish-car
which was anchored in the stream, and covered with the stings of
mosquitoes, which hovered in a cloud over the whole point.

The steady current and favorable winds did not long permit us to fancy
ourselves explorers in an undiscovered country, but carried us easily
on, at the rate of thirty or forty miles a day, out of the swamps and
forests to the region of vineyards and dry hills and villages. In a
measure, as we went along and the landscape varied, so did the costumes
change in character, the types differ, and new peoples hail our fleet
with cries in strange languages. Drifting along within a yard or two of
the shore, we entered into temporarily intimate relations with the
villagers at their customary occupations, and were always welcomed by
them with unobtrusive but hearty familiarity, which filled our days with
pleasant little episodes and delightful experiences. The long-populous
town of Mohács, with extensive and ugly coal-yards, did not at first
tempt us to land, but groups of beautiful children and young girls, who
assembled to watch us as we stayed our all too rapid course along the
shore at the very door-steps of the houses, suggested such possibilities
there that we had perforce to go ashore and see what the place was like.
At our accustomed refuge in all these villages--the public
bath-house--we found among the crowd of people gathered at the landing a
boy of about a dozen years of age, who, to our great astonishment,
addressed us in English, with an unmistakable American accent, and said
that his grandfather hoped we would call on him before we went away. A
few moments later we were

[Illustration: PEASANT GIRLS AT MOHÁCS]

toasting America, England, and Hungary in the purest of Tokay from the
original bottles, sealed in the memorable year of ’48. Our host, Colonel
Fornét, was a fine type of the Hungarian patriot, who, like so many
others, had returned to his native country, after years of exile, to end
his life among his kin. After the heroic struggle for independence in
’48 he fled to the United States, became a naturalized citizen, and,
after a year or so, went back to Paris to meet and marry the lady who
had been betrothed to him before the revolution broke out. On his return
to America he was unable to resist long the fascinations of the
adventurous life in the great West, and for a time he followed the
fortunes of General Fremont and other explorers of the wild regions.
When the rebellion offered a still more tempting field for his restless
ambition, he joined a New Jersey regiment, and served with distinction
as its colonel until he was disabled in the field and incapacitated for
active life in the future. Shortly after the close of the war he
returned to Hungary with his family, and for a quarter of a century has
kept his memory bright, his gratitude warm, and his loyalty to his
adopted country still as pure as when he won the silver eagle on his
shoulders in the trying days of ’61. His children and grandchildren
regard America with such reverence, and speak of it with such genuine
affection, that our poor patriotism was put quite to the blush. With
tears in his eyes, the noble old soldier modestly gave us a short
history of his life there, and lived over again for a brief moment the
scenes of his younger days, his blood still boiling at the memory of the
martyrs of Arad, his voice still keeping its martial ring as he spoke of
his comrades in the great rebellion in his adopted land. There are few
countries where the utterance of such intense sentiments would not sound
strained and dramatic, and the expression of such feeling appear a
little out of tune. But in Hungary patriotism is not considered
old-fashioned, nor do the dictates of society demand that studied
indifference and coolness which is characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon.
Our visit to the grand old patriot left an impression on us which
neither time nor distance can efface.



CHAPTER XI


A few miles below Mohács is the upper mouth of the Franzens Canal which
joins the Danube with the Theiss, giving an easy outlet for the produce
of the great fertile plain, facilitating the transportation of grain and
lumber from the interior to the chief water highway. The construction of
the canal dates from the last century, and, in all probability, it was
projected even as early as the Roman occupation. It is only within a few
years, however, that, by the aid of English capital, it has been
finished and put in active operation. The wonderfully rich farming
country through which it passes has attracted, since earliest times,
settlers from all surrounding regions, and of all the Hungarian kingdom
it has the most varied and heterogeneous population. Almost anywhere
within the narrow limits of the low horizon may be counted between the
Danube and the Theiss a dozen villages, sheltering representatives of as
many different races, and a more attractive field for the philologist or
for the artist cannot be found between the Black Sea and the Baltic. The
traveller who rushes down the Danube in a steamer, or yawns at the
monotonous plain from the window of a Pullman-car on the Orient Express,
gets no more idea of the people than if he saw them from a balloon. Even
studied intimately and at leisure, this unique mixture of races is
confusing and perplexing, and only those who have long been familiar
with them can thoroughly

[Illustration: FROM BUDAPEST TO BELGRADE]

understand the conditions of their existence. In all Hungary the Magyar,
or pure Hungarian, does not number over four out of the fifteen millions
of inhabitants. They are the dominant race intellectually and
physically, and, of course, the governing race. But frugal, industrious
immigrants have on all sides taken possession of the land, have
established manufactories and built up trade, and have often left to the
Magyar little beside that pride of race to which even the lowest among
them cling as their most precious birthright. It is this pride which has
bound the nation together all through the dark centuries of constant
warfare with an implacable enemy, and it is this pride which is the
Magyar’s best support in his present struggle for a place in the
foremost rank of civilized nations. There can be no question of his
intellectual superiority over the races who crowd him on the east, the
south, and the west. That he is not yet in the same plane of
civilization as the nations in the west of Europe is due to the fact
that while the west was civilizing, the Magyar was keeping the frontier
against advancing Mahometanism; and it is only now, after many centuries
of discouragement and oppression, that he is in a position to advance
along the road of peaceful development and culture. To such a nature as
his all is possible, and his marvellous progress during the past twenty
years is gratifying proof that he is making the best of his present
possibilities.

We had the great good-fortune to be personally conducted through this
interesting region by Mr. Louis Gerster, the vice-consul of the United
States at Budapest, who met us at the mouth of the canal and who, from
long acquaintance with the population, was able to steer our course
successfully among the manifold ethnological and philological shoals on
which we should certainly have been wrecked had we been travelling
alone. He placed a small propeller at our disposal, and we made the
journey as far as the Theiss, shooting the wild-fowl with which this
region abounds, visiting all the villages, and studying the natives,
their customs, costumes, and modes of life. The few days we spent in his
company along the Franzens Canal would make a volume in itself, and it
is only because we must not pause in the tale of our Danube voyage that
we are obliged to keep the log-book of this side trip closed. Russians,
Bulgarians, Saxons, Servians, Jews, Gypsies, Schokaczs, Bunyvaczs, and
other known and unknown races and tribes, each with distinctly different
dress, language, and customs practically unchanged by transplantation
into Hungarian soil, so bewitched us with the charms of constant variety
and novelty that our trip was one round of exhilarating and delightful
impressions. Thanks to the excellent management of our friend, we were
able to spend a Saturday afternoon and part of Sunday in the Schokacz
village of Monostorszég, situated on the banks of the Danube, but so
hidden away behind islands that it would not have attracted our
attention from the canoes, and even if we had seen it, we would

[Illustration: SCHOKACZ TYPES]

not have suspected the existence of the treasures it held for us. The
village itself is not unlike many others we visited, with broad streets
shaded by acacias and mulberries, low whitewashed houses, a large barren
church edifice, and a few unobtrusive shops. In the daytime,
particularly in the harvest season, the whole place is deserted except
by a few old people and children. With the peep of day the entire adult
population rattles away over the plain in springless wicker wagons to
the cornfields, often miles distant. As the sun gets low in the
afternoon the dusty streets are again lively with laden carts and wagons
full of chattering, singing girls as brown as Indians. The village
swineherd, who has watched his unsavory flock on the muddy shores of the
Danube through the heat of the day, now drives them to the village
again, and as they approach their homes they scamper away, each to his
own sty, adding the harsh notes of shrill squeals and grunts to the
chorus of general congratulation that the hot day is past and the
coolness of the night is at hand.

Like three Tartarins of Tarascon, we found everything at Monostorszég
arranged for our amusement and entertainment as if by a stock company.
In the court-yard of one of the well-to-do farmers’ houses, where we
stopped to examine the stock of home-made embroideries and fabrics for
which the housewife was justly renowned in the neighborhood, we soon saw
assemble quite a large party of youths and maidens, many of them in
holiday dress, and all ready for a dance. From somewhere, we never knew
how or whence, a group of strange-looking musicians and stranger
instruments appeared casually in the crowd, and the inspiriting tinkle
of native dances set every bare foot patting time on the smoothly
trampled earth. There were a bass-viol, a guitar, a medium-sized
mandolin, and one, the tamboura, no larger than a lady’s hand, all of
them strung with wire, and played with a bit of bone or horn. On the
last-named instrument, which had a neck out of all reasonable proportion
in length, a tall, brawny native picked the most intricate and
encouraging melodies, and the feet must indeed have been heavy which did
not rise to the rhythm of this music. Out of deference to the visitors
the csárdás was for some time the only dance, but as the excitement
increased, and the presence of strangers was forgotten, their own dance,
the kollo, took its place, and we all participated in this, with more
zeal than skill. The kollo, which is the common dance all through
Croatia, Slavonia, and Servia, is more solemn and stately than either
the Hungarian csárdás or the Roumanian hora, but, like these, comes to
an end only with the strength and endurance of the participants. A ring
is formed, usually of an equal number of dancers of both sexes. Each
maiden places her hands on the shoulder of a youth on either side of
her, giving both the strings of her girdle or the ends of a kerchief,
passed behind her back, to twist around their forefingers, thus binding
the circle firmly together. The dance consists in stepping one measure
by a rhythmic patter with the feet, and then the next measure by a
movement to the left, with now and then a few steps backward and
forward, as the caprice of any part of the circle may decide. In this
dance, as in the csárdás, the performers are swayed and directed by the
leader of the orchestra, who alternates a slow, almost mournful, strain,
with wild and passionate bursts of music, which, like shocks of
electricity, set every figure in spirited action.

The ordinary costume of both sexes at Monostorszég is simplicity itself.
The women wear a high-necked, ankle-long chemise of white homespun
linen, with full sleeves gathered at the elbow and richly embroidered,
usually with blue. Bands of narrow embroidery decorate the waist and the
skirt also. This chemise is girded to the body by a thick woollen belt,
binding tightly to the figure the upper edge of a narrow apron of
striped woollen homespun, very brilliant in color. A kerchief is usually
worn on the head, and the feet are habitually bare. On Sundays and
fête-days the girls exchange the coarse garments for others of choicer
texture, the chemise being fine and carefully plaited, and the apron of
mull or muslin delicately embroidered with white. Tall red morocco
boots, with yellow heels and soles and curious pointed toes, adorn, or
rather disfigure, the feet, and around the neck are hung many rows of
gaudy glass beads. The hair is elaborately braided in a broad band,
which is brought over to the forehead and then turned back again. This
is held in place by dozens of pins with ornamental heads; and all along
the edges of the braid behind is a thick row of bits of a fine green
aromatic herb, while in the hair itself at the back, as well as around
the face,

[Illustration: IN SUNDAY DRESS, MONOSTORSZÉG]

bright-colored geraniums, marigolds, and other flowers, are skilfully
arranged. On their wedding-day they cover their heads with a wonderful
square structure, more like a pastry-cook’s _pièce montée_ than a
bonnet, wear an ample white lace shoulder-cape, a brilliant scarlet
petticoat, with white lace apron and tall red boots. This dress is
preserved with jealous care, and is never produced except on Sundays and
holidays. The men’s costume consists of loose linen trousers, like a
divided skirt, a full tunic, a waistcoat with silver buttons, hussar
boots, and a small round hat. Both sexes have for an outer garment
either a sheepskin cloak or a great-coat of very thick, felt-like, white
woollen, with broad, square collar, and sleeves either sewed up at the
bottom, or else in short, rudimentary form. These coats, and also the
sheepskin cloaks, are often richly and gaudily embroidered.

When we came into the village bright and early Sunday morning everybody
was in holiday dress. The red petticoats of the matrons flashed along
the sidewalks, but half-shaded by the small trees; groups of gay
maidens, each with wild-flowers in hand, hurried along to church, where
companies of men in immaculate linen and stiff embroidered coats stood
in solemn rows like supernumeraries on a stage. The church was already
partly full when we entered, and there was a bustle of many people
settling themselves in their places, and a constant stream of
worshippers coming in at different doors. We sat there marvelling at the
strange dresses, enchanted by the brilliant colors, all the while unable
to realize that this was the customary weekly ceremony, not a dramatic
pageant arranged for our benefit. The sexes sat apart, and the married
and the single each had a portion of the pews reserved for them, and
each entered the church by a different door. Near the altar the
marriageable maidens came clumping in with their red boots, always in
parties of three or more, each with a little bright-colored rug, a
prayer-book, and a bunch of flowers. Spreading out their rugs on the
stone floor, they kneeled down in rows facing the altar, and, after
carefully arranging their plaited Sunday chemises so as to cover their
feet, remained a few moments in the attitude of prayer, and then rose
and took their seats. Of all that great congregation there was not one
who did not wear the costume, and, with the exception of some of the
ornaments and finer textiles, all the articles of dress were of home
production. Every thread of the linen and wool had been spun on the busy
distaff as the women went to and from the fields to their work, and
woven in the winter-time, when the clatter of the loom is heard in every
house.

[Illustration: HUNGARIAN GIRLS AT BEZDÁN]

During the sermon we hurried away to be present at the close of the
church-service in the neighboring village of Bezdán, inhabited by
Magyars. It was a few miles away, and we arrived only in time to see the
quiet streets enlivened with people totally different in type and dress
from those we had just left. In the flickering shadow of the trees,
under the noonday sun, the women strode off homeward with an

[Illustration: ERDÖD]

energy of action that made their stiff petticoats balloon out still
more. Near the church the men gathered in silence to listen to the
crier, who was announcing various articles for sale. The unmarried girls
of the village wear white linen dresses, with short sleeves and
embroidered waists, wreaths of flowers in their hair, bright red ribbons
down their backs, black stockings, and dainty red and yellow slippers.
The matrons wear colors, sometimes green or black, but usually red, and
the men are chiefly noticeable for their loose linen garments and
elaborate boots, often with a survival of the spur in the shape of a
brass ornament on the side of the heel. Even as we stood watching the
people the streets became quite deserted again; and so we hastened on to
another village, where, in the populous Servian quarter, we caught our
first glimpses of Oriental life in the groups of women sitting flat in
the road in the shadow of the houses, disdaining, like true Orientals,
all such luxuries as chairs and tables, and disturbed by no horror of
dirt. Our Sunday’s excursion also included a gypsy settlement--not a
common sight, for these people are seldom permitted to occupy houses. It
disagreeably contrasted in its squalor and filth with the perfection of
neatness and tidiness among the Schokaczs and Magyars, but gave us a
notion of the range of types easily studied in this one neighborhood.

When we left the mouth of the canal, one breezy morning after our
excursion, and shot down the turbid stream with all sail set, the
soothing regularity of the tree-covered banks, and the utter absence of
anything to study or to sketch, was not without a calming influence on
us, and but for this little respite we probably should not have had the
heart to land at the long straggling village of Apatin, which promised
new beauties and fresh interests. Almost the first person we saw was a
little old German woman spinning flax on a tiny wheel, looking exactly
as if she had been transported bodily from the Black Forest. Farther
along the street we met unmistakable Germans, and heard again the
familiar language of the upper river. At the nearest corner was a
brewery, with tables under the trees, and guzzling sluggards devouring
strong sausage and stronger cheese. Everything was of the most
commonplace German order, from the architecture of the houses to the
beer mugs. Our parachute had burst, and we came to earth with a heavy
thump.

About half-way between Apatin and the village of Erdöd, with course as
straight as a canal, the river Drave pours in a muddy flood, and far up
the shining stream the foot-hills of the Tyrolean Alps lie all faint in
the distance. Fertile hills now skirt the west bank, and their sunny
yellow slopes looked agreeably bright and warm after the heavy greens of
the forest and swamp. The river has washed away the hills into
perpendicular bluffs, which are of earth almost as hard as sandstone.
Rude steps cut along a cleft were lively with girls carrying jars of
Danube water to the village above; and once, under a vineyard, where the
vines trail over the very edge of the bank, we saw a rude cave dug in
the earth, where a long pole with a dangling bush projecting far

[Illustration: CURRENT MILLS]

beyond the rough bough shelter at the door of the cellar announced to
the river men that wine was for sale. Our old friends the current mills
still clustered at frequent intervals, where the stream ran the
swiftest. Since the first time we saw them--far up the river, above
Vienna--they had not changed their general shape or construction; but
the owners’ names, painted in large white letters on the sides, had
marked with accuracy the limits of the different nationalities we had
passed in our journey. Now, before the curious combinations of letters
on the mills near the Hungarian shore had ceased to puzzle us, Croatian
and Slavonian names in a new and unfamiliar alphabet stared at us from
the weather-stained sides of the mills along the opposite bank, and
something of the crudity of Oriental taste was seen in the unskilful
attempts to decorate the wood-work near the door and window. From the
right bank we heard hails in an unknown language, and by the water’s
edge saw peasants with fiercer mustaches than even the Magyar boasts,
and women of a heavy, unsympathetic type. The costume, too, had
undergone a decided change. Both men and women wore clumsy wrappings
around the ankles, and uncouth sandals and shoes. The loose trousers of
the men were strapped to the calf by the thongs which bound the thick
woollen cloths or coarse socks to the ankles, and red sashes took the
place of belts. Servia was beginning to show herself to us long before
we reached the political frontier.



CHAPTER XII


We had crossed the line of active melon consumption soon after leaving
Budapest; we had for days revelled in a superabundance of them, and,
indeed, had quite become accustomed to the sight of every human being,
old and young, either carrying a melon or preoccupied with eating it. We
had contributed our generous share to the flotsam of melon rinds which
bobbed down the current, and had sampled every unfamiliar variety of the
delicious fruit which had met our notice. It was chiefly, then, from the
unæsthetic motives of appetite that we proposed to land at Vukovár,
which had long been held up to us by melon-eaters as the one place on
the Danube where the fruit was found in perfection. As we came near the
town, remarkable mainly for a new synagogue of doubtful taste, we saw
piles of huge round objects ranged along in the shade of small trees on
the bank, like cannon-balls in an arsenal, and we needed no further
identification of this metropolis of the melon trade. Our approach
seemed to cause an unusual commotion at the landing, and we naturally
attributed this to the activity among the merchants, induced by the
arrival of possible purchasers of the abundant stock in hand. But we
learned from a German-speaking policeman who met us as we went ashore
that the market-women had taken our fleet for the torpedo-boats of which
they had heard, and were in a great fright, believing we were about to
attack the place. We begged him to assure them that we had no use for
the town, but only for some of the projectiles we saw piled up there
under the trees, and feminine terrors were slowly forgotten in the
excitement of trade. Whoever has seen the Southern negro busy with a
watermelon may be able to imagine our satisfaction at the quality of the
fruit we found, and any one familiar with the capacity of a canoe may
appreciate the size of the melons from the fact that we were unable to
take in the monsters. But Vukovár is not all watermelons and timid
market-women, as we found when we strolled up into the town, puzzled
over the signs in the Cyrillic alphabet, and marvelled at the
embroidered garments festooned at the shop doors, at the pretentious
cafés, and the Franco-Italian architecture--the most imposing we had
seen since leaving Budapest.

The heat was intense and the streets almost deserted as we paddled away
directly after mid-day, and floated down past great bluffs, with hot
gullies filled with herds of swine seeking to avoid the heat by frequent
baths, and scarcely distinguishable in color from the baked mud on which
they slept. Late in the day, having joined company with some lumber
rafts we had been passing and repassing for the last day or two, we drew
up the canoes on a pleasant park-like meadow, only a foot or two above
the water, with great trees and firmer turf than we had seen for a long
time. The rafts tied up to the shore just above us, and the smoke of our
several camp-fires soon curled up among the trees, and floated away in
the clear air of the perfect summer evening. Our first visitor was a
Croatian, who, having served in the Austrian army, had learned a little
German, and was only too anxious to air his knowledge. He prepared us
for the visit of a band of gypsies who were camping in the vicinity,
cautioned us to watch all our loose articles, and loudly sang the
praises of one of the gypsy women but lately married,

[Illustration: VUKOVÁR WATERMELONS]

who, he declared, was as beautiful as a queen--probably meaning the
Queen of Servia. To be sure, the next morning, shortly after dawn, a
motley crowd straggled up to our encampment, among them the gypsy belle,
with the bearing

[Illustration: A PIG-WALLOW]

and gait of a duchess. Tobacco stood in the place of a formal
introduction, and even the conscious beauty asked for a cigarette, and
puffed away like a veteran smoker. The keen-eyed old rascal who, by
virtue of advanced age or superior cunning, was recognized as the chief
of the party, took the liveliest interest in our attempts to sketch the
beauty, and when the sketch was done, calmly proposed to give us the
model to carry away with us. As the offer was made in Roumanian, a
language not then familiar to our ears, we did not at first comprehend
the generous nature of the gift.

“Take her with you,” he said. “You’ll go, won’t you?”

“Indeed I will,” replied the dusky beauty, “if they’ll take me to
Bucharest.”

“But if she goes away with us it will make a scandal, and the husband
will have something to say about it,” we timidly suggested.

“Not at all,” insisted the old heathen; “he’s away now, and if he finds
her gone when he comes back, he’ll easily get another wife.”

This morality of the Red Indian order so astonished us that we did not
readily offer the excuse that our boats could carry but one person
apiece, but we sweetened our refusal of the gift by an abundance of
tobacco and a few old clothes, hastily launched our canoes, and
retreated down the river.

The railway from Budapest to Belgrade crosses the Danube at
Peterwardein, little less than a day’s paddle from Vukovár, and the iron
bridge is the last one of the ugly series that disfigures the river at
intervals from its source. Peterwardein, the Gibraltar of the Danube, is
a great fortress, elaborately intricate in construction, towering high
above the stream, and overlooking the modern town of Neusatz opposite,
at the mouth of a branch of the Franzens Canal. A bridge of boats
connects the fortress with the town a short distance below the railway,
and is actually the last bridge over the Danube. The commercial life of
the river seemed to revive again at the mouth of the canal, and as we
sailed past the vine-covered hills of Carlowitz and the town of that
name, our old enemies the freight steamers puffed up-stream, leaving a
dangerous wake, and fouling the sweet air with noisome smoke.

On the perfect summer morning when we left our lovely camping-ground on
a meadow below Carlowitz, and drifted down into the silvery light of
morning which glorified the river, the hills, and the distant landscape,
we were in the mood to enjoy exactly what the Danube offered for our
entertainment. On one bank peasants gathered in large parties at every
convenient spot, and were engaged in various domestic operations, quite
as frank and unconscious in their actions as if they were in the shelter
of their own homes. From the villages at some distance back from the
river whole families migrate at frequent intervals to temporary camps by
the water’s edge, bringing with them their live-stock, cart-loads of
corn, and their accumulated washing. While the women are busy with soap
and mallet, the men winnow grain, and carry it to the current mills to
be ground, and the children watch the pigs and fowls, who are enjoying
in their way this brief outing. On the opposite shore may sometimes be
seen, on a level piece of public land, great collections of ricks of all
sizes and shapes, when the neighboring farmers assemble to thresh their
harvest in common, each according to his own means and methods. Some
beat it out with flails and pitchforks, others drive horses around on
it, and a few make use of the improved machinery of English manufacture.
Here it is readily loaded on lighters, to be towed up to Budapest or
Vienna, or perhaps to be floated down-stream to the English steamers on
the Black Sea. From one group to another, from one shore to the

[Illustration: A GYPSY GIRL]

other, we went as slowly as the resistless current would let us,
fascinated by the cheerful busy life, and always finding each new scene
more attractive than the last. Here the Servian women were beating their
coarse garments, and hanging them untidily to dry on the framework of
the carts. A few rods lower down, at a bivouac of Saxons, piles of
beautiful white linen and the freshest of blue garments contrasted
agreeably with the squalor of the neighboring camp. These peasants we
found polite but reserved; the Servians were usually noisy and
talkative, and the Magyars cheery, sympathetic, and communicative.

Far down the glassy reach beyond Ó Szlankamen to the east a long range
of flat hills now appeared, marking the course of the sluggish Theiss,
and on the opposite bank we saw great rocks, scarcely distinguishable
from the hard mud bluffs, but marking a distinct geological change in
the landscape. Here on the scorched hill-sides frequent villages were
baking in the hot sun, and copper-covered monstrosities of church-spires
flashed and glistened in the brilliant light. A ruined castle towered
high above the river where the hills crowd the stream out of its course,
and then the river broadened into a lake-like expanse, and stretched
away until the left bank, always flat and without a break, lost itself
entirely in the distance, and sky and water seemed to meet as at the sea
horizon. Far away to the south bold blue peaks, the sentinels of the
northern range of mountainous Servia, showed where Belgrade stands; and,
in pleasant perspective, high bluffs on the right bank, with here and
there a church spire, were reflected with all the glories of the
midsummer sky in the perfect mirror of the majestic stream. A wonderful
sunset glow colored all the landscape as we encamped under a high bluff,
in full sight of Semlin and the Servian capital beyond. We fancied we
could see in the glowing distance slender minarets behind the great
fortress which guards the frontier, and in the perfect quiet of the
lingering twilight imagined we could hear the hum of the busy towns. The
song of the shepherd on the opposite meadows echoed sweetly as we lay by
the camp-fire that

[Illustration: THRESHING WHEAT]

beautiful evening and enjoyed for the first time in our wanderings an
hour or two of delightful leisure in the open air.

[Illustration: A CROATIAN BIVOUAC]

It was now nearly eight weeks since we launched our fleet in the
head-waters of the Danube, and, with the exception of a few days spent
at Vienna, Hainburg, Budapest, and on the Franzens Canal, we had passed
the greater part of our time, day and night, in the canoes. On the upper
river, where we cooked over spirit-lamps because we were never able to
have a fire, we had no great inducement to sit up after dark, and
consequently sought our snug beds in the canoes very soon after dinner.
After we reached Hungary, however, we found it not only practicable but
more convenient to use wood for cooking, and from the frontier downward
we always had the proper and agreeable accompaniment of every
comfortable bivouac--a cheerful fire. But it also happened that all
through Hungary we found so much to interest us we could never manage to
stop for the night before dark; and since it always took us two hours or
more to make camp, cook and eat our dinner, and tidy up afterwards, we
were obliged to continue our custom of turning in (literally) as soon as
possible, in order to be able to rise at daybreak. The evening we camped
in sight of Belgrade, the dewless, balmy air of the river so soothed our
nerves, and the glowing landscape was such a pleasure to our eyes, that
we lay in the firelight and, regardless of the morrow, watched for a
long time the glittering constellations as they slowly came in sight;
and when at last we slept, we dreamed of Turks and sieges and the
turmoil of belligerent races, whose territory now lay within reach of a
few paddle strokes.

[Illustration: Ó SZLANKAMEN]

The happy chant of Servian girls marching down the steep paths in the
bluffs, laden with jugs for Danube water, was our accompaniment as we
paddled along in the early morning towards the steamer-landing at
Semlin, the last Hungarian town on the right bank of the Danube, a busy
little commercial place with all the fascinating characteristics of a
frontier town. A populous market-place, numerous cafés of the Turkish
order--the first we had seen--and a population largely Servian, with
more barbaric types, and wearing costumes plainly transitional between
the Hungarian and the Turkish, kept us interested longer than we
anticipated, and well repaid the delay.

[Illustration: SERVIAN WOMEN]

From Semlin to Belgrade is but a half-hour’s paddle down a bend behind
the Krieg’s Insel and across the clear, green stream of the Save. Above
the great fortress which occupies the whole area of a high promontory at
the junction

[Illustration: FORTRESS AT THE JUNCTION OF THE DANUBE AND THE
SAVE--BELGRADE]

of the rivers, where a church and other edifices are half hidden among
bastions and parapets, an immense cream-colored Government building
extends an imposing mass, and, as seen from the river, divides the town
into two parts. To the left is the old Turkish quarter on the Danube, in
recent years almost depopulated of Mahometans, and with only one
insignificant mosque still preserved; and to the right, Belgrade proper,
along the Save and the heights which extend back into the country.
Lumberyards and the usual motley collection of buildings hid the town
from us as we slowly paddled up the sluggish current of the Save to a
great bathing establishment, all gay with flowers, where a large
contingent of the youthful population of the city were disporting
themselves, naked, in canoes of simple construction and gaudy color. Our
arrival caused very little flutter on the shore. We saw one fez on a
small boy, and fancied that on landing we should find everything
suggesting the East, and fierce officials haughtily demanding our
passports. But we moored our canoes alongside the bath-house and went
ashore without a question, found everybody in European dress, and met a
polite soldier-policeman who volunteered to look out for our craft, and
immediately busied himself with boxing the ears of the inquisitive
youngsters who ventured too near the dainty vessels. We were not long,
however, in finding novelties of dress and architecture, for at a short
distance from our landing-place we entered the outskirts of the city,
and passed through a street quite as Eastern in aspect as any in the
heart of Stamboul. Wretched wooden hovels with shattered tiles and
crumbling plaster; dingy low cafés with pallid Turks inhaling with
indolent sighs the stupefying smoke of nargiléhs; open air
cooking-places where unsavory messes sizzled on gridirons; and general
squalor, mustiness, and filth everywhere. From this quarter, steep,
ill-paved streets mount to the higher part of the town, where the
hotels, theatres, and palaces are, and pleasant avenues lead out to the
luxurious residential suburb on the heights beyond. But all Belgrade, at
the date of our visit, was much like the normal condition of Broadway,
and New York in general. The streets were everywhere torn up for
water-pipes and sewers, sidewalks were being widened and levelled, and
there was every indication of a serious attempt to improve the city, or
some job in the control of the City Fathers. The heat was intense and
almost unbearable as we explored the streets and park and wandered
through the fortress. When the sun reached the zenith, all Belgrade was
as quiet as Pompeii, for the inhabitants withdrew in-doors, and left the
streets void of life and movement. Even the hissing of frying fat in the
numerous cook-shops seemed hushed for the time; the vender of kukurutz
(green corn on the ear) slept in a shadow; and

[Illustration: BULGARIAN BOZAJI, BELGRADE]

the Bulgarian bozaji, selling slightly fermented maize beer, alone broke
the drowsy silence with his mournful cries. There was absolutely nothing
to see, and therefore we also sought shelter, and sleepily waited for
the town to come to life again. In the middle of the afternoon a few
hurrying peasant women, their brilliant dresses quite out of harmony
with the commonplace aspect of the streets, flashed along in the
sunshine; one or two men with effeminate lace-trimmed tunics, plaited
like imitations of the Albanian fustinella, strode proudly past,
unconscious that hats of London make and elastic-sided boots made them
look extremely ridiculous; and so the streets gradually resumed their
normal activity as the afternoon coolness came on. We soon yielded to
the tempting invitation of a fresh breeze and sailed away into the
Danube again, escorted by a fleet of Servian canoes with naked crews.

We began to think that in crossing the frontier we had passed the limit
beyond which the modern invention of modesty has not yet been
universally accepted. It certainly seemed so, for the bronzed figures of
the naked youths excited no comment on the shore as we passed. Rounding
the water-battery and drifting along the old Turkish quarter, we came to
a large pleasant meadow, glowing in the rich light of the afternoon sun.
Here scores of men, as unclothed as the horses they bestrode, were
riding their animals out into the shallows, bathing with them in the
yellow stream. Like so many figures from the frieze of the Parthenon,
they sat their horses with perfect grace, saddleless and bridleless, and
now dashed along, throwing up clouds of spray, and again disappeared in
a golden cloud of dust on the meadow. A party of young men and boys,
equally in Spartan attire, were having an exciting foot-race along the
level turf, and this little spot was for the time a sculptors’ paradise.
We drifted slowly along, watching the athletic figures in the wonderful
light, all unconscious in our preoccupation that the current was
carrying us into a scene of still more surprising simplicity and
innocence. Our canoes, if left to themselves, would always turn round
and float down-stream stern foremost; and that afternoon, as on many
other occasions, we found the trick to be of advantage, for we could
longer watch the unusual spectacle on the meadow. When we could see no
more in the direction of the dazzling sun, we paddled the canoes around,
and found ourselves, to our surprise, quite near a number of Servian
families, who were taking a refreshing bath--old and young, men, women,
and children--in the sandy shallows. No bath-house had given them refuge
on the bank, nor had they considered it necessary to disfigure
themselves with drapery, except a few of the women, who wore an apology
for an apron tied around the waist.

[Illustration: FOUNTAIN IN THE SQUARE, BELGRADE]

It was a sudden change from the contemplation of figures of classical
grace to the unwitting interruption of the bath of a dozen unlovely
families, and it was a parallel plunge from the accustomed luxuries of
pleasant camp grounds above Belgrade to the mud flats on the river-side
below. We had drifted along the meadow so slowly that we found the
daylight already waning and a threatening storm close at hand before we
thought of camping. Then we hastened to the first spot where there was a
possible landing. Here we slept until the ring of scythes at the very
bows of our canoes brought us to consciousness again, and we opened the
tents to see a sunny meadow among the trees, all dotted over with the
white figures of peasants slashing at the ranks of coarse grass that
fringed the sun-baked shore.



CHAPTER XIII


From the heights of Belgrade we had seen the blue summits of mountains
far away to the south--the outlying spurs of the great Carpathian
range--and having threaded a tortuous way through the great Hungarian
plain, we now looked forward with exhilaration to the rugged scenery we
were soon to enjoy, and were eager to welcome a change in the horizon.
We saw on the map no town of importance between the Servian frontier and
Orsova, at the Iron Gates; and since we were not unwilling to have a
little quiet after so many days of excitement among novelties of type
and costume, we noticed with satisfaction as we went along that the flat
shore on the Hungarian side and the low hills opposite offered us no
temptation to land. To be sure, we were still in some doubt as to our
probable reception in a Servian village, for Belgrade was the only
Servian place we had visited, and we could not judge from our experience
at the capital what might happen if we went ashore in a remote town. We
had heard many tales of the difficulties of travelling in the remote
districts of Servia, and had provided ourselves with passports properly
viséd in many languages. As we had no occasion to show them in Belgrade,
we now began to have some curiosity about their usefulness, and we
contemplated going ashore at a Servian village for no better reason than
to test this question. But, before we found an attractive landing-place,
we saw far below us in the distance,

[Illustration: SEMENDRIA]

about noon on the day after leaving the frontier, what appeared to be a
curious row of buildings on the low Servian shore, stretching out into
the river like piers of a great railway bridge, or a line of grain
elevators.

At first we thought it was mirage, which had hitherto often deceived us
by its distortion of forms and exaggeration of heights, but as we
paddled on against the wind we soon saw it was a collection of solid
architectural forms. It was, however, only when we were within a mile or
so of the town that we recognized in what we had taken to be a modern
landmark the huge towers and walls of the great mediæval citadel of
Semendria (Smédérévo, in Servian), rising in all their ancient dignity
from the very waters of the Danube, and overtopping with their masses of
solid masonry the little town modestly nestling in the shadow of the
great fortress. Of recent years Semendria has become of commercial
importance as a shipping port for grain, and when we entered the town
its narrow streets were blocked by hundreds of laden ox-carts, all
patiently waiting their turn at the public scales, where the weight of
the grain is guaranteed by the town officers before it is delivered to
the lighters. Through a motley crowd of Servians in barbaric fur caps,
red sashes, rawhide sandals, and the coarsest of homespun garments, we
made our way to the fortress. The great walls enclose a triangular space
of ten or twelve acres, occupying the whole of a low point between the
River Jessava and the Danube. The apex of the triangle at the junction
of the rivers is a citadel of great strength, built in 1432 by the
despot George Brankovitch. It is still in wonderful preservation.
Indeed, the walls of the whole enclosure and the twenty-three great
square towers show remarkably few signs of decay, and, with the
exception of the destruction of the wooden platforms, are almost as
sound as the day they were built. Here and there an inscription, or a
fragment of a statue built into the walls, proves that the importance
of the town dates as far back as the Roman occupation, when this was
undoubtedly one of a series of strongholds along the river.

The barracks of the Servian garrison which stand in the great enclosure
appear like huts in comparison with the immense towers and high walls of
the mediæval structure, and a regiment of infantry may be quite lost
sight of among the tangled bushes and the thick foliage of the trees
which cover a large part of the ground. From the top of one of the great
towers we saw below and before us a panorama of varied beauty, extending
from the heights of Belgrade to the Carpathian range, faintly shadowed
in the distance beyond the glittering expanse of the Danube, which
spreads out into great broad reaches, with numerous islands, and, like
its smaller self among the mountains of Baden, pauses and gathers volume
and strength for the dash into the great gorge that cleaves the jagged
mass of mountains for fifty miles or more before again resuming its
quiet flow.

As we went away from Semendria the chief of police was among the party
assembled to see us off, and here, we thought, was the opportunity to
see whether our passports would be honored. We offered them to the
official, modestly at first, but he would not even look at the
envelopes.

“But they are our passports,” we urged. “They cost us a lot of money and
trouble, and if no official looks at them they will be wasted, for they
are only good for one year!”

But he resolutely declined to have anything to do with them, although we
increased the urgency of our request almost to the strength of a demand,
and we left, quite ready to believe the statement of a scoffing friend
in Budapest, who declared that any one could travel the whole length of
the Danube with no more of a passport than a restaurant bill of fare,
which would satisfy the officials as well as the best parchment with
signatures and seals.

[Illustration: RAMA]

At Bazias, on the Hungarian side of the river, the terminus of the
railway from Temesvár, and the point where the tourist usually takes a
steamer for the trip through the Kasan defile and the Iron Gates, there
is nothing on shore more interesting than a railway restaurant; but the
landscape is very grand and beautiful. The hills completely mask the
course of the river as the traveller approaches them from up-stream, and
the fine ruin of Castle Rama, on the Servian side, seems to stand on the
shore of a large lake with a southern boundary of great mountains. From
Rama the river sweeps majestically around to the south past Bazias, and
narrows somewhat as it winds among the first great foot-hills of the
mountain range, spreading out again after a few miles into another
lake-like reach, which in turn has on its southern horizon an apparently
impassable chain of mountains--this time the real Carpathians.

As we crossed the river from Rama towards the cluster of houses on the
water’s edge at Bazias, we observed that the little village, dwarfed to
insignificance by the towering hills above it, was all gay with flags.
On closer approach we distinguished near the landing the form of a low
gray vessel quite unlike any craft we had hitherto seen. This proved to
be an Austrian gunboat, and the occasion of the display of bunting was
the birthday of the Emperor Francis Joseph. As we drifted down towards
the man-of-war we hoisted all the flags we had, and, as we were passing
in review with all the dignity we could command, we were startled by the
loud report of a champagne cork pointed in our direction, and fired, as
it were, across our bows. We surrendered at once and unconditionally,
and exchanged cards with a group of officers celebrating the Emperor’s
birthday on the quarter-deck. We found our captivity so little irksome
that we willingly prolonged it until we were admonished by the position
of the sun in the heavens that we must be off if we would reach the
entrance to the Carpathian gorge before dark. Our haste was due to no
more cogent reason than ambition to begin the fight with the river at
the so-called cataracts. These obstructions had been described to us by
friends who had made the journey in a steamer as extremely dangerous,
and, as we neared the mountains, all the river-men we talked with warned
us of the perils of the stream below, and advised us on no account to
attempt the passage of the cataracts without a pilot. But we could not
forget the collapse of the Strudel and Wirbel bugbear in the upper
river, and could not bring ourselves to apprehend any great danger in
rapids where steamers are constantly passing up and down with loaded
lighters in tow. Even our new-found friends on the gunboat, who had just
made the trip, cautioned us not to attempt the passage in our frail
canoes, and took great pains to show us the dangerous points on their
charts. Of course, the more we heard of these terrors to navigation the
more eager we became to look upon them ourselves, and, while we did not
propose to spoil our trip by the loss of our canoes, we also did not
intend to take anybody’s testimony of the dangers, which were, after
all, only relative. The last words our naval advisers said to us, as we
regretfully left them, was to be sure to take a pilot at Drenkova, the
last steamboat-landing above the rapids.

[Illustration: GOLUBÁÇ]

From the broad reach just below Bazias the whole horizon to the south
and east appears to be a solid wall of rocky heights, and is without a
break visible to the eye. For about twenty miles the river winds gently
across a pleasant valley, divides around a large island, and then sweeps
straight down towards the huge barrier, which extends to the right and
left as far as the eye can see. As we paddled along in the quiet current
past the Servian town of Gradistje, and came nearer and nearer to the
mass of rugged peaks which cut sharply against the sky, we grew more and
more impatient to discover the course of the river through the chain,
and unconsciously increased the rapidity and the force of our stroke
until we sped along as if paddling a race. Suddenly, as we were passing
the end of the large island, the landscape opened to the eastward like
the shifting scenes on a stage, and the river, sweeping past a high
isolated rock in mid-stream, was seen to plunge with accelerated speed
directly into a narrow cleft between immense limestone cliffs, and to
disappear in the depths of the gorge. Guarding the entrance to this
defile, the ruin of the Castle of Golubáç, on the Servian shore, piles
its towers high on a spur which juts out boldly over the river, and
shades a pleasant little green meadow by the water-side. The foundations
of the castle are said to be Roman, and there is a tradition that Helen,
the Empress of Greece, was imprisoned here; but the ruins now visible
are those of the fortress built by Maria Térésa in the middle of last
century. Along the Hungarian bank the famous highway of Count Széchényi,
leading from the town of Moldova just above to Orsova, at the Roumanian
frontier, shows the straight line of its cuttings and embankments but a
few feet above the water. The smooth, perpendicular cliffs are
perforated by numerous caverns, one of which tradition has marked as the
place whence issue the swarms of vicious flies which persecute the
cattle in the summer-time. A local legend attributes the origin of these
flies to the body of the dragon killed by St. George.

The green meadow under Golubáç invited us to a pleasant camp, for night
was fast coming on as we finished our sketching, and we were loath to
leave the charming, romantic spot. But one of our party, unable to
resist the impulse to penetrate the gathering gloom of the defile, had
drifted on and was lost to sight. The whole sky was tinged with the
coppery red of sunset when we set out to overtake him. The river whirled
and rushed and wrestled with our paddles as we floated on into the
deepening twilight. Now and then a great boiling under our very keels
would throw us out of our course, and make the light canoes bound along
with an unfamiliar and disturbing motion. On and on we went, unable
longer to see a map, and with no means of determining where and when we
should come upon the dangerous rapids and whirlpools that lay somewhere
in our path. Frequent camp-fires sparkled at the water’s edge, and from
one to another we paddled, waking the echoes with the shrill notes of
our whistles, until at last, just as we had concluded to give up the
search, certain that we had passed our companion in the darkness, we
heard his welcome hail, and were soon in camp.

The plaintive song of a peasant girl, spinning from a distaff as she
walked through the rustling maize-field behind our camp, brought us to
our feet long before we had slept off the effects of our sixty miles’
paddle of the day before; and, eager to be at the rapids, we ate a hasty
breakfast and were off down the reach, very like the Hudson in scenery,
to the little coaling station of Drenkova, where we had been told to
take a pilot. We trimmed our canoes with unusual care, tested our
paddles, stowed away all loose articles, and put everything in fighting
trim. Although we did not propose to undergo the humiliation of
following a pilot through the rapids, we thought it best to take all
reasonable means to find the best channel, and we therefore landed at
Drenkova, and consulted the agent of the steamship company there. He
could give us but very few directions which were of any use, but offered
us a pilot, and advised us strongly not to attempt the passage alone.
But the sight of puffing steamers slowly dragging loaded barges up the
stream was to our minds satisfactory proof of the nature of the
obstructions, and, a little impatient at the delay, we pushed off,
followed by repeated cautions and confused directions. From our long
experience with the Danube, we had come to believe that it was a
thoroughly well-behaved and well-regulated river, whose mild tricks were
easily understood, and whose current would not endanger the veriest tub
that ever disgraced a navigable stream. We were only too anxious, then,
to see what the river could really do in the way of making navigation
difficult and dangerous; and, besides, never having tested our canoes
except in the choppy seas of the sudden wind-storms, we were ready to
risk a good deal to find out how they would act in the baffling currents
and waves of a real rapid.

[Illustration: ROUMANIAN PEASANT GIRL]

Just below Drenkova the Danube bends to the south, and makes its first
angry dash over the ledges of rock that stretch between the sheer cliffs
on the Servian side and the rocky, wooded heights opposite. The river
was about its average height on the day we went down, and no rocks
showed above the surface. A strong head-wind so disturbed the water that
we were unable to judge of the run of the currents, nor exactly tell
where the rapids really were until we were in the midst of them. To add
to our difficulties, several steamers were towing up-stream, and the
wash from their paddles, necessary to be avoided at all times, increased
the turmoil of the rushing waters. There was nothing to do, then, but to
take our own course far enough away to avoid the steamer wash, if
possible, and still near enough the main channel to escape the
whirlpools, which we had been told were the greatest dangers of the
passage. Between this Scylla and Charybdis the way was not easy, but we
paddled steadily forward, breasting the waves, throwing spray
mast-high, and plunging along with great speed. Suddenly, between two of
the canoes a great vortex appeared, and with giddy revolving motion
seemed to rush on viciously in chase of the foremost boat. Never were
paddles used with greater vigor or better skill, and the dainty crafts
swept gracefully around on the outer ring of the whirlpool, just out of
reach of the resistless clutch of the swirl, until the yawning vortex
gradually closed up again and its force was idly spent. The Danube had
given us a notion of what it might do if trifled with.

A second rapid followed the first, not far below it, at the end of a
broad reach surrounded by high mountains, and although we were not
conscious of any great increase in the speed of the current, we heard in
a few moments the roar of the Greben rapids--the longest and most
difficult of navigation above those at the Iron Gates. As we came near,
we saw a line of white water reaching across from shore to shore,
apparently without a break. We were speedily approaching this rank of
tossing waves, where jets of glittering spray flew high in the air, when
we fortunately saw a steamer passing up near the Servian shore, and
paddled rapidly across to find the channel, where we would be less
likely to meet the only enemy we feared--the whirlpools. Before we had
time to deliberate on the best passage among the rocks we were in the
midst of the tumbling, dashing waters, and almost before we caught our
breath again we were in a comparatively still pool under the immense
crag of Greben, which, pushing far out into the stream and narrowing the
channel, causes the current to flow with great swiftness over the jagged
ledges of rock that dam the river at this point. In our exhilarating
dashes through the waves we had not shipped a spoonful of water,
although our decks had been constantly awash, even to the very top of
the coamings. As we neared the last pitch of the river at this point,
we had acquired such confidence in our canoes that we dashed boldly into
the roughest of the leaping waves, fired with enthusiasm for the
unaccustomed sport, and filled with the excitement of our adventure. The
canoes fairly leaped from crest to crest of the billows, and we could
not see each other for the screen of dashing spray. A moment or two of
active dodging and very hard paddling and we came out breathless at the
landing of a temporary station where the international corps of
engineers are quartered while the great work of improving the navigation
is in progress.



CHAPTER XIV


The rocky shoulder of Greben is all scarred and torn by the cuttings
which are gradually eating off its rugged and dangerous spur. Farther
down-stream a breakwater is in course of construction, intended to
divert the current from a shallow; and at some distance below, the great
black masses of drilling machines, all chains and iron posts and
funnels, are seen anchored in mid-stream, where they are constantly at
work blasting out a great ledge of rock which causes the rapids of the
Jur.

The cheery engineers, who had watched our descent of the rapids with
great interest, welcomed us when we landed with offers of substantial
hospitality, and over a good dinner we discussed the one topic which had
for us a common interest--the moods and caprices of the great river.
When we left them, at two o’clock, we had still a paddle of some
twenty-five miles before we should reach Orsova, where we proposed to
pass the night, not thinking it would be possible to camp in the gorge.
There would be no shelter from the violent up-stream wind until we
reached the entrance of the defile, so there was need of haste. Below
Greben the river sweeps around in a great curve from the south to the
north-east, a mile or more in width, then suddenly narrows, and takes a
remarkably straight course through a deep cleft in the mountains, until
it bends sharply towards the south again at the Iron Gates. The gorge
through which it passes is called the Kasan defile, and is far and away
the most impressive and wonderful feature of the scenery along the whole
river. Sheer limestone precipices many hundred feet in height rise up in
grand simple masses on either side, and as we approached the gorge it
looked as if some great convulsion of nature had wrenched the solid
rocks asunder, leaving the deep and narrow chasm for the passage of the
river. Before Count Széchényi built his road along the Hungarian bank,
in 1840, there had been no practicable pathway through the defile since
the great road built by Trajan for his soldiers and his army trains
during his Dacian campaign. At the entrance, where the river is
constricted to a width of only 180 yards, the straight cutting of the
modern highway and the great score in the cliffs left by Trajan’s road
are both prominent features in the landscape. Here the river rushes
violently past a high rock in mid-stream, which causes a dangerous
whirlpool just below, then plunges into the narrow cleft with a volume
of water 200 feet or more in depth, and swirls and boils and throbs with
great pulsations all along its swelling flood. Narrower and narrower
becomes the gorge, higher and higher the cliffs, and strange currents
and ominous whirls break the surface of the dark torrent. In the depths
of the chasm there is almost twilight gloom, and in the impressive quiet
the murmur of the impatient river sounds dull and low, like the breakers
on a far-off sea-shore. Still closer and closer crowd the giant cliffs,
until they almost touch. At last they force the mighty river into the
narrow compass of 120 yards; and then, as if fatigued with the effort of
strangling the resistless flood, withdraw again, and little by little
the current gains its familiar breadth, and spreads out into a pleasant
reach with high wooded hills, enclosing on the north a fertile valley
with ripening cornfields, and piling high on the south their rugged
summits almost perpendicularly

[Illustration: THE KASAN DEFILE]

over the water’s edge. Here the Roman road is almost practicable in
parts, and under a great towering precipice, where a projecting rock
pushes out boldly into the deep channel, the great general caused, in
the year 103, a tablet to be carved in the solid rock, on which may
still be read the inscription:

                       IMP·CAESAR·DIVI·NERVAE·F·
                        NERVA·TRAIANVS·AVG·GERM
                       PONTIF·MAXMVS·TRIB·OT * *
                          ***** RIAE·CO *****

commemorating his victory over nature as well as over man. Nature has
not forgiven Trajan the desecration of this, one of her sublimest works,
and in the lapse of centuries she has gradually eaten away the hard rock
tablet, threatening it with utter destruction, in spite of the
projecting stone above it, until solid masonry supports have been
erected to hold the shattered inscription in its place. As we were
sketching the spot, with its interesting traces of the Roman road
showing where the posts were fastened to the rock to support the
platforms necessary to widen the path, two natives came paddling up
under the edge of the cliff in a dugout canoe, and moored their boat at
the corner, where, on the old Roman road-bed, they had a little fishing
camp. Canoe, implements, dress, were the same as in the days when their
remote ancestors piloted Trajan’s galleys through the dangerous eddies
of the defile. Dacia Felix is now only a name, and a shattered tablet
and crumbling traces of the first great highway along the Danube alone
remain to remind us of the great general’s conquests of this remote
region, and to suggest something of the civilization he founded there.
But the peasant is still unchanged in type and costume, speaks a
language closely allied to the old Roman dialect, tills the ground and
catches fish with the same rude implements that Trajan found in the
hands of the happy barbarians of Dacia Felix.

It was long after dark before we steered our canoes by the twinkling
lights of Orsova to the steamboat-landing there. The tinkle of gypsy
music in the garden restaurant by the river-bank echoed across the
silently-flowing stream, now silvered by the moon, which tardily rose
above the great mountains. We heard again the soft accents of the Magyar
tongue and the intoxicating strains of the csáardás. The wild gypsy
leader poured his music into our eager ears, drawing his nervous bow
under our very hat-brims, lest we should lose some quaver of the
stirring chords. Long into the night we sat there, captive to the music
and the beauty of the moonlit landscape, loath to lose one moment of the
few precious hours that remained to us in bewitching, beloved Hungary.

[Illustration: REMAINS OF TRAJAN’S ROAD NEAR ORSOVA]

Like all frontier towns, Orsova has a heterogeneous population, which
gives interest to an otherwise dull and unattractive place. Besides its
commercial importance on the river, and also on the through railway line
from Budapest to Bucharest, it is, in summer-time at least, the
halting-place for the great multitudes of Roumanians and Hungarians who
resort to the baths of Méhadia, or the Herkulesbad, as it is usually
called, from the old Roman name, Thermae Herculis, a most picturesque
and luxurious establishment of sulphur baths a few miles inland, in a
wonderful gorge of the Carpathians.

Among the motley collection of peasants seen in the streets, the Turk in
all his squalor is met here for the first time on the Danube. By the
Treaty of Berlin, the small fortified island of Ada Kaleh, three miles
below Orsova, was ceded to Austria, and the citadel was ordered to be
razed. But as the whole population consisted of Turks, and there seemed
to be no humane method of getting rid of them, they were allowed to
linger on, not acquiring rights of citizenship in Austria, nor yet
responsible to the Sultan in any way, paying no taxes to either
Austro-Hungary or Turkey. The wily Turk makes the most of his position,
and drives a thriving trade in all sorts of knick-knacks, picks up a
good income out of the crowd of tourists who visit the island for a
sight of a real Turk in his own home, and sells the best tobacco that
can be bought north of the Balkans, and at prices which argue against
his assurance that he has paid duty for it at the Austrian customs. Just
beyond this island the Danube bends sharply to the south-east, and three
or four miles below the Roumanian frontier tumbles its full, broad
current over a great ledge of rocks, which for a mile and a half in
width extend across the river, and leaving only a narrow and intricate
channel for steamers near the Roumanian shore, always dangerous to
navigation, and at low-water impassable except by boats of shallow
draught. In this mile and a half of rapids the river falls sixteen
feet, and the broad defile at this point is known as the Iron Gates.

[Illustration: FROM BELGRADE TO RUSTCHUK]

The Turks originally applied the name Iron Gates (Demir Kapou) to the
rapids just below Drenkova as well as to those near Orsova, calling them
respectively Upper and Lower Iron Gates. The name, which signified
obstructions to navigation rather than natural gateways in the
mountains, is now commonly applied to the lower rapids only, and the
traveller who has passed through the Kasan defile usually expects to
find a still more wonderful gorge at the Iron Gates below. He is sure to
be disappointed, for the Iron Gates are only a series of dangerous
rapids at the point where the river broadens out after leaving the
mountains, and the scenery there is, by comparison with that of the
Kasan defile, tame and uninteresting. With the Carpathian ends the
series of remarkable gorges and defiles which has marked the course of
the river at intervals from its source down, for the vast plain of
Roumania extends from the foot-hills here to the shores of the Black
Sea. The Iron Gates have been since earliest history of great military
and political importance, forming as they do a natural barrier on the
great water-way between the East and the West. According to Strabo, the
Danube ended here and the Ister began, for the lower river was known to
the Greeks as the Ιστρος. There is no record of any mention of the upper
Danube before the first century B.C., when it was discovered by the
Roman armies under Cæsar, who probably gave it the name Danubius. Max
Müller, in his study of the origin of the name of the Danube, says that
the Latin name is probably a translation of the Aryan word _danu_,
which, in the védas, means moist, or an adaptation of the old Persian
word of the same spelling which means a river. It is scarcely necessary
to add that the river has now a different name in several of the
countries through which it flows. The Germans call it the Donau, the
Hungarians the Duna, the Roumanians the Dunari, and the Servians,
Bulgarians, and Russians the Dunai.

The Iron Gates marks in the history of our trip the loss of the Admiral
of the fleet who, having exhausted all the time at his disposal, was
obliged to leave us here, to the regret of all of us and his own intense
disappointment.

The International Corps of Engineers, who are carrying out the
improvements of navigation on all the rapids of the Carpathian gorge,
have begun to cut a canal through the rocks at the Iron Gates along the
Servian bank. The work has been in progress since the autumn of 1890,
and will be completed in 1893. Trajan’s engineers actually completed
part of a similar canal a few rods farther inland, and the material of
the ancient enbankments is now employed in the construction of the
modern dikes. Like the conscientious travellers we were, we inspected
the works, and at the invitation of the engineers, spent a pleasant
half-day there. In common with so many other undertakings the world
over, the labor is mostly in the hands of the Italians, who look exactly
like so many workmen on the Croton Aqueduct. At noon they gathered at
the doorway of the ГОСТИОНИЦА НЕВ ЈОРК--GASTHAUS NEWY JORK--quite the
same as at the corner groceries of the One-hundred-and-something Street
above the Harlem River, and only left the spot during the hour of rest
to watch the futile rage of a flock of Servian and Roumanian geese at a
sleepy Hungarian eagle chained to a perch--an active symbol of a
possible political situation which appealed strongly to the ready
Italian wit.

We had our usual enemy, a violent head-wind, on the day we trusted our
fleet to the mercies of the Pregrada rapids at the Iron Gates, and we
had a busy quarter of an hour escaping the whirlpools and avoiding the
cross-seas. Unable from our low position to judge of the best channel in
the surging waves, we kept as straight a course as the angry and
baffling currents would permit, and came out safely in the comparatively
smooth waters below, where we had a moment to look at the landscape from
mid-stream, and to vote it disappointing after the grand scenery of the
Kasan defile. For a mile or two farther on we found we must steer with
care, for vicious swirls would suddenly appear and almost snatch the
paddles from our hands. Great sturgeon weirs near the Servian shore
marked the end of the violent currents, and after passing these we
floated tranquilly away down a reach dotted all over with gourds marking
the nets and sturgeon lines, which here are set on every side. A
pleasant open country was now before us, with hot yellow hills and a
town on either hand--Kladovo, with brick fortress and modern earthworks,
on the Servian shore, and Turnu Severin high up on a bluff across the
river just below. As we had not yet landed in Roumania, we decided to
coast along the left bank and see if the landing-place was more
interesting than the long straggling modern town which looked so
commonplace and unattractive. As we drifted down close to the groups of
quaint craft, studying

[Illustration: REMAINS OF TRAJAN’S BRIDGE, TURNU SEVERIN]

these novel vessels, the first we had seen with masts and sails, we
noticed, on the river-bank below, the ruined pier of Trajan’s bridge,
and thought we would land there and make a sketch of it. As we passed
the town we saw a soldier in a white linen uniform trying his best to
keep pace with us; but as he made no sign, we did not dream he had any
other motives than those of curiosity. Just above the ruins a party of
soldiers was bathing, a sentinel stood guard in front of a sentry-box,
and a few rods farther down men were washing horses, and women were
beating clothes on the rocks. We turned our bows towards the bank at the
ruined pier, when a sharp hail from the sentinel caused us to look up.
“Keep off!” he commanded in vigorous Roumanian. But we, seeing no
fortifications anywhere, and having no more sinister intentions than the
mild pursuit of art, knew no reason why we should not go ashore where
the natives were at work, and continued to paddle slowly towards the mud
bank. “Keep off! keep out in the stream!” he yelled again. “Is there a
war here?” we asked, with an attempt at humor. “No; but you sha’n’t
land! Keep off, or I’ll shoot!” “Shoot away; you can’t hit!” we
retorted, believing it to be the idle threat of a soldier only half in
earnest. But he grew more and more excited as we approached, and,
drawing a cartridge from his pouch, showed it to us, and pushed it into
his rifle. Just at this moment the soldier whom we had seen running
along the shore came up breathless, and took command of the military
force, promptly ordering the sentry to cover us with his rifle, until
the bathing soldiers might seize our canoes. We held off for a few
moments, just out of reach, and then, thinking the farce had gone far
enough, went ashore and surrendered ourselves to the corporal, the
sentry, and the dozen half-naked soldiers. Armed with two expensive and
hitherto useless passports, we followed the corporal a long distance
into the town to the headquarters, showed our papers to the officer of
the day, who immediately gave us our liberty, with polite apologies for
the annoyance his men had caused us. When we reached the canoes again,
we distributed cigarettes to the bathing party who had guarded our
fleet, and sent a few up the bank to the belligerent sentinel, who did
not scorn the gift from his recent enemy. A little Jew boy standing
near, not having received his share of the cigarettes, remarked, with
some feeling and unconscious humor, “If the sentinel had fired at you, I
suppose you’d have given him cigars!”

Floating down a great loop of the river in a dry and yellow landscape,
we recovered from the excitement of our first adventure with the
military, and, as we went along, watched the chattering Servians
harvesting on one shore, and the Roumanian women, in the simple costume
of white linen chemise, and long woollen fringe hanging behind from the
girdle which binds a brilliantly colored apron to the waist, drawing
water in classic-shaped jars, or spinning

[Illustration: ROUMANIAN PEASANTS]

from the distaff as they walked. Now and then groups of men so
resembling the old Dacians, with loose tunic and trousers, sandals,
broad belt, and sheepskin cap, that they almost looked like
masqueraders, wandered over the arid slopes, spots of brilliant white on
a background of sunny yellow. Even the soldiers we saw at the little
huts which now stood on the bank at frequent intervals, were as barbaric
in appearance as the peasant, and could only be recognized as military
by the accoutrements they carried. Along one placid reach we came upon a
great fleet of dugout canoes, each with two Servians, floating down with
the current, dragging clumsy nets as they went. Landing below the little
village, whose red-tiled roofs peeped out from among thick foliage, they
drew in their nets, towed their boats up against the stream, and,
chattering all the while with incessant vigor, drifted down again as
before. Almost the only houses to be seen on the Roumanian shore were
the huts of the pickets, which occupied every point, and guarded every
possible landing-place. We realized the fact but slowly, and only after
some experience, that we were now under the eye of military supervision,
from which we were not to escape until we should paddle out into the
Black Sea.

[Illustration: SERVIAN FISHING-CANOES]



CHAPTER XV


At noon of the day following our introduction to the system of keeping
the frontier in Roumania, we heard the sound of rifle-firing and the
beating of drums in the Servian village of Brza Palanka, and, on landing
there, found the place in the liveliest commotion. Scores of men and
women were filling gourds at the wells, and hurrying away up the
hill-side back of the town. Besides the burden of water, most of the
women and a great crowd of children were carrying baskets of bread and
cooked food, and kerchiefs full of grapes. The hot and dusty streets
were alive with peasants, mostly in white linen garments, with brilliant
red sashes on the men, and richly colored aprons on the women. Both
sexes wore very clumsy sandals and heavy woollen socks, or
leg-wrappings, bound to the ankle by thongs. While we were wondering at
the extraordinary activity of the village, we heard the beat of a drum
coming nearer and nearer, and soon a militia company of the
wildest-looking men who ever carried a rifle came marching up at quick
pace, and wheeling into a narrow lane, tramped along in a cloud of dust,
and disappeared over the brow of the hill. Another and then another
company, each more savage-looking than the last, went through the same
manœuvres, and the whole population followed them, we among the rest.
When we came out on the hill-top we saw before us the strangest and most
barbaric encampment imaginable. The broad, arid plateau was covered
with shelters or great huts made of oak-boughs, ranged around in a sort
of quadrangle, enclosing a level space of twenty-five or thirty acres.
In the shadows of these rude shelters were seated hundreds of men eating
their mid-day meal, which was brought to them by the women and children,
who, after the men were served, squatted on the dry turf a little
distance away, and ate their own frugal dinner. Across the great
parade-ground were two long heaps of straw in parallel lines, which were
evidently the beds of the men at night. We understood, of course, that
we were in the annual camp of the Servian militia, and were not
surprised that our appearance caused some little interest and curiosity,
as we were the only ones in European dress anywhere in sight. Besides,
our costume would doubtless have excited comment anywhere, for Danube
mud had so changed its tone, and hard usage had so distorted its shape,
that it was now decidedly unique in general appearance. The camp guard
halted us, and inquired our business, which we, for want of a better
answer, stated to be a visit to the captain, trusting to the probability
of there being a number of officers of this rank. The guard seemed
perfectly satisfied with our reply, and did not even ask which captain
we wanted to see, but let us pass at once. We made the same explanation
to various inquisitive militiamen, who seemed to resent our sketching,
and we slowly made our way into the enclosure. We had eaten nothing
since sunrise, and had paddled twenty miles or more, therefore, after
our first curiosity was satisfied, we thought we had better return to
the village for luncheon, and come back again to see the afternoon
drill. But the moment we began to move away, the suspicions of the whole
camp were aroused at once, and from all sides came a chorus of shouts
and cries in what seemed to us very violent and angry tones. In another
instant we were the centre of an excited

[Illustration: CARRYING WATER FOR THE CAMP, BRZA PLANKA]

throng of fierce-looking rascals all armed with knives, and several of
them with rifles and bayonets. Explanations were now futile, and,
indeed, quite impossible, for our small stock of Servian words was soon
exhausted, and, after making several attempts to push past the men who
blocked our path, we finally yielded, and were marched off to the hut
which was apparently the headquarters. Here we found two officers of the
regular army, a captain and a lieutenant, who had charge of the
encampment, the former being, as we now understood, the only captain in
the camp, and therefore the one whom we had declared we were about to
visit.

[Illustration: “OUR GUARD,” SERVIAN MILITIA CAMP]

The officers were naturally astonished at seeing two men in boating
dress appear at the door of their hut, for the militiamen stood off at a
respectful distance and sent us ahead to announce ourselves; however,
they received us with great courtesy, gave us the only two chairs they
had, and tried to conceal their bewilderment by urgent offers of
hospitality. We produced our passports, displayed the great water-mark
of the eagle and shield and the arms of the British Empire, and made
ourselves as agreeable as possible, all the while wondering what was
going to be the result of the interview. They seemed to be in no great
hurry to get rid of us, and were evidently puzzled what to do with us
anyhow; for there could be no question of the validity of our
credentials, and they undoubtedly had received no orders to cover this
unexpected episode. The difficulty lay in our inability to explain our
business; for although we could understand the greater part of what they
said, from the resemblance of the language to Russian, we had a very
limited stock of Servian words to use in this emergency. Even if we had
successfully managed the philological feat of explaining the object of
our trip in comprehensible Servian, we should have found the same
difficulty here as at every other place since the beginning of our
voyage in convincing them that we were engaged in no commercial
enterprise, but were simply on a pleasure excursion. The captain sent
men in various directions to find some one who spoke German or
Hungarian, and at last a gypsy was brought who was supposed to be a
linguist. His German was limited to one phrase, “Was wollen Sie?” and
not a word of Hungarian did he know, so he was promptly kicked out
again. While they were scouring the camp for another interpreter, it
suddenly occurred to us to say we were engineers, believing that this
must be a recognized profession along the Danube. The word “Ingenieur”
acted like a charm. The captain immediately apologized for his stupidity
in not understanding our position sooner, and called a guard to conduct
us safely to the lines, saying that he could not let us remain in the
camp, for the orders were against it; besides, there would be nothing to
see, for the soldiers were going to have their after-dinner nap, and the
parade would not take place until evening. We shook hands cordially with
both officers, and followed the brawny chested peasant towards the road
to the village. As we marched across the parade-ground we could not
resist the

[Illustration: MASSING OF SERVIAN TROOPS ON THE BULGARIAN FRONTIER]

temptation to make a little note of the encampment in our sketch-books,
but before we could draw a line an excited party of soldiers rushed
towards us, the leader brandishing a long knife. It was evident they had
all the Oriental fear and aversion to being sketched, and we saw they
were disposed to make it unpleasant for us. We promptly put away our
books, and one of us, drawing a penknife from his pocket, deliberately
opened the smallest blade and flourished it in the air as if in a
mocking challenge to the giant with the long dagger. The ridiculous
situation was appreciated in an instant; the whole crowd stopped
shouting to laugh; the weapons were put up, and peace was declared on
the basis of mutual mirth. Once beyond the camp lines we did not attempt
to enter again, but waved our adieus from the canoes as we floated off.

Our adventure had been a most interesting one, and the result had not
been disagreeable. We could not help thinking that these people were
very little understood by those correspondents who are continually
fermenting the Eastern question and making it a nauseous topic of
ignorant discussion in the Press of the civilized world. Such an
encampment, we thought, would be sure to be described as a massing of
Servian troops near the Bulgarian frontier, and a similar experience to
ours would furnish text for interminable letters on the belligerent
character of the people of the Balkan provinces. For our part we could
readily picture the excitement in an encampment of militia in the United
States or of volunteers in England if two Servians, in native costume
and carrying sketch-books, should succeed in penetrating the lines,
unable to excuse or explain their presence. It is curious to note that a
few days after our visit to the camp we saw an English newspaper, and
almost the first paragraph we observed in the column of telegraphic news
was headed, “Massing of Servian Troops on the Bulgarian Frontier.”

We did not care to come in contact with the military any more, for the
reason that, now the novelty was worn off, we should scarcely find
future experiences interesting enough

[Illustration: DRAWING WATER FOR THE CAMP, BRZA PALANKA]

to compensate us for the great loss of time which they were sure to
involve. But we were not far beyond the sound of drums at Brza Palanka
before we unwittingly fell into a Roumanian trap by drifting, as we
sketched, too near that shore. A hail from the water’s edge caused us to
look up, and we saw three men, dressed like ordinary peasants, as well
as we could judge, beckoning us to come ashore. Thinking they had fish
or some other desirable commodity to sell, we paddled nearer, intending
to land just below. As we came up to them we saw they wore military
belts, and at the same time we noticed a hut like those at other picket
posts under a tree on the bluff above. Our first impulse was to turn our
bows down-stream and paddle away, but, on the first move we made to
escape, one of the men ran up to the hut, appeared instantly again with
rifle and cartridge-boxes, and proceeded to go through significant
exercises in the Roumanian manual of arms. We were rather tired of this
game, and surrendered with bad enough grace. The soldiers, however, were
ready enough to discontinue hostilities the moment they met us on the
shore; the corporal examined our passports, declared them all right,
and, with the present of the silver effigy of King Charles of Roumania,
we stifled effectively what little enmity still lurked under their
coarse linen tunics, and paddled away, friends all round.
Notwithstanding our efforts, we had not by any means finished with the
military yet, for, as darkness came on, and we tried to find a
camp-ground, we could discover no practicable place on the Servian side,
nor escape the pickets on the opposite bank. At last we decided to make
a counter-move against the enemy, and boldly landed and stalked up to a
group of pickets before they had time to run for their one rifle, and
asked for guidance to a good camping-ground. They advised us to stay
where we were, and avoid difficulties with the posts below in the
darkness, so we hauled up the canoes close by their shallow well, where
the Danube water filtered in through the sand, and soon forgot soldiers
and passports and the Eastern question.

On this part of the river villages are infrequent, uninteresting, and
almost all on the Servian side. The native architecture is neither
imposing nor tasteful, but the houses are comfortable, and often very
neat inside and out. The frame is made of roughly hewn poles nailed or
pegged together, and skilfully wattled all over with sticks about an
inch in diameter, which serve to hold the mud with which all the walls
and the ceilings are thickly plastered. An open porch or veranda, often
occupying nearly the whole front of the house, serves as a nursery,
work-room, and general sitting-room for the women in summer, and there
is often a raised platform at one side, where the men sit in Turkish
fashion and smoke, and drink coffee. This latter feature of native
architecture is found at all country inns, and becomes an indispensable
adjunct to most houses a little farther down, within the limits of
former European Turkey. The Servian houses, as well as the Roumanian
structures, which are built on much the same plan, are generally
whitewashed, and either roofed with red tiles, or thatched with reeds or
straw. Tiles are more commonly used in most parts.

The Roumanian bank had now become flat, monotonous, and apparently
deserted by everybody except the pickets. For many miles we saw not even
a fishing hamlet on either shore, and when, after rather a dull
forenoon, we came to the great, white, straggling village of Radujeváç,
on the right bank, we found it to be the last Servian river town above
the Bulgarian frontier, and, fortunately for us, the most picturesque
and characteristic place we had seen for days. Few shops, and those of
the most primitive order, disturb the rustic simplicity of the streets.
Farm-houses

[Illustration: SERVIAN MILITIA, BRZA PALANKA]

with great court-yards enclosed by high wattled fences are half hidden
among the trees on either side the broad, dusty highways, and the part
of the village near the river is still surrounded by an oaken stockade
eight or ten feet high, a relic of the days when such a defence was
necessary.

[Illustration: BUILDING A HOUSE IN SERVIA]

On every veranda and in every farm-yard the women sat

[Illustration: HOUSE AT RADUJEVÁÇ]

in the shadow spinning and weaving wool, and their lively gossiping
voices mingled cheerily with the clatter of the looms and the whir of
the reel. Large-eyed, gray-coated oxen lay and peacefully chewed the cud
at the very elbows of the women as they worked. Bright scarlet peppers
and great piles of husked Indian-corn made rich splashes of color
against the cool shadows of the whitewashed walls, and everywhere
brilliant touches of red in the peasant costume flashed among the
foliage or gleamed in the sunshine. A few idlers were assembled under
the rude awning in front of the wine-shop, to drink the rank plum brandy
or thin acid wine; but, with the exception of these drones of the busy
hive, everybody was actively engaged in harvest-work or in some domestic
manufacture. The bi-weekly Danube steamer touches at the landing at
every trip up and down; freight is delivered, produce shipped and sent
to some convenient market; but the little community is as far away from
civilization as if steamers did not exist, and life there is still quite
as primitive as in the days before the enterprising

[Illustration: ROUMANIAN PICKET GUARD]

scouts of modern commerce began to corrupt the native taste of the
peasantry with the crudities of modern productions.

In the long reaches below Radujeváç a wider landscape meets the eye. Far
to the north the high Carpathians raise their noble heads in grand
array, and stretch away to the eastward until their forms are lost in
the shimmering distance across the Roumanian plain, while to the south
the bold outlines of the Balkans may be faintly distinguished, half
hidden by summer clouds. The river takes longer and more stately curves,
and flows with somewhat sleepy current. No obstacles now impede its
course, no cliffs and crags narrow its channel, and it winds peacefully
along without a check until it pours its great flood through a dozen
outlets into the Black Sea. Nor is this peaceful stream without its own
peculiar charm and beauty. The sunny, smiling landscapes never tire the
eye or fatigue the mind, for the majestic stream opens new vistas at
every bend, and discloses ever-varied combinations of shore and stream
and distance.



CHAPTER XVI


On one of the pleasantest reaches, a short way below the mouth of the
magnificent stream which marks the Bulgarian frontier, the Roumanian
town of Kalafat, with its great church and public edifices, shows an
imposing mass along a high bluff, and looks down with the conscious
pride of newness on the old town and fortress of Widdin, among the green
meadows on the opposite shore. From the earthworks of Kalafat, Prince
Charles fired his first shot against the Turks in 1877, which found an
answering echo until Bulgaria was free and Roumania became a nation. The
grim old stronghold of Widdin still shelters a large Turkish population,
and above the rigid lines of its half-ruined parapets the slender points
of numerous minarets still rise, mute symbols of a faith that lingers
even now on the banks of the Danube. It was a pleasant, quiet afternoon
when we slowly paddled down the beautiful reach, enchanted by the
peaceful landscape and the pastoral beauty of the river-banks. Kalafat,
dominating the great bluff, was accurately reflected in the mirror of
the stream, and below, the slender minarets of Widdin and a cluster of
masts, showing high above a wooded island, carried the eye away in
agreeable perspective. A storm of wind and rain which swept over the
country an hour or two before had cleared away, leaving the sky blue and
cloudless. Dreaming of the time when the smoke of hostile cannon drifted
across the meadows and veiled the face of the high bluff, we floated
down towards the distant fortress, scarcely moving a paddle, lest we
should sweep all too soon past the charming spot. The sound of dashing
water like a cataract suddenly startled us, and we saw just below us,
only a short distance away, the whole surface of the river violently
agitated, as if a line of rocks or a rough shallow stretched across from
bank to bank. Hastily consulting the map, we found there was no such
obstruction marked at this point, and we were puzzled to know what was
in our path. Our ignorance was of brief duration, for even before we had
taken up our paddles again a sudden gust of wind struck the canoes, and
we were in the midst of tossing, angry surges. The willows on the bank
bent down like corn in a summer gale, and showed their leaves all white
in the sunlight. The pure dome of the sky was unbroken by a single
cloud, but the wind came tearing up the stream like a cyclone. From the
bluffs of Kalafat to the meadows of Widdin the great sleepy river had
suddenly become a seething, foaming waste. Our only shelter was under
the low mud banks on the Bulgarian side, whither we slowly fought our
way, obliged to keep our bows to the wind, and at the same time to draw
shorewards with all possible speed. For some moments we were buffeted by
the waves and beaten about by the vicious blast, but at last we managed
to gain the shelter of some large willows, and landed in the mud
opposite Kalafat. We got ashore not a moment too soon, for the river,
threshed by the flail of continuous gusts, grew rougher and rougher, and
the waves broke with crests like ocean billows. At the spot where we
landed was moored a rude fishing-boat, and two young Bulgarian fishermen
sat under the trees on the bank above busily weaving rough baskets out
of unpeeled willow twigs. Their camp was a bed of boughs under the
gnarled, crooked trunk of a tree; their outfit

[Illustration: BULGARIAN FISHERMAN BASKET-MAKING]

consisted of a small kettle, a dish, and two wooden spoons, and, stowed
away in the shade of a convenient stump, a small stock of green corn, a
few watermelons, and a fish or two wrapped up in leaves comprised their
whole stock of provisions. In this simple bivouac they cooked and ate
and slept all summer long, fishing by day and by night, and selling
their catch at Kalafat or Widdin. A cloak of thick rough woollen cloth,
like the mantle of the ancient Dacian, was their covering by night, and
their chief protection against the weather. As simple in their tastes as
the Indians of the plains, and with no better appliances for use and
comfort than may be found in the wigwam of the savage, they live a happy
and contented life, their only enemy the mosquito, their only society
the solemn herons that wade along the shore in the very smoke of the
camp-fire.

They had watched our struggle with the storm, and welcomed us ashore
with hearty good-will. Out of their rustic larder they chose the best
melons, and insisted on our eating them, and for our supper they
selected the freshest and best fish. They firmly refused the money we
hesitatingly tendered them as we launched the canoes after the violence
of the gale had abated; and when we left them at twilight, they shook
hands, and wished us “godspeed” as heartily as if we had camped with
them for a season. Some distance below their bivouac, and in full sight
of the glimmering lights of both Kalafat and Widdin, we passed the night
among the wild-flowers and tangled grasses of a dry bank in a sheltered
spot quite enclosed by a dense growth of trees and underbrush, with no
more unpleasant intruders than startled water-fowl and drowsy,
unambitious mosquitoes.

The great brick fortress of Widdin has a strangely aggressive look in
the pastoral landscape along the river. The high walls, enclosing with
their protecting bulwarks the populous Turkish quarter of the town, with
its numerous mosques, rise directly out of the water at the river-front,
and tower far above the trees scattered over the broad green meadows,
and, although neglected and fast crumbling to pieces, are grandly
imposing in height and extent. No bunting now flutters from the
tottering flag-staff, and the yawning embrasures are half filled with
rubbish, but the great citadel still dominates with arrogant pride the
rambling commercial town in the shadow of its walls, and maintains its
dignity as the extreme important outpost of Mahometan faith in Europe--a
noble monument to the former military and political supremacy of the
Turkish Empire. On the narrow landing-places by the water-gates, as we
drifted past in the early forenoon, crowds of Turkish women and children
were busy with their washing, and men in variegated jackets, baggy
trousers, turban, and sash waddled idly about, or lazily rowed the
clumsy boats laden with merchandise. The indescribable squalor and filth
of the Orient characterized every feature of the scene, and we now
realized, what Belgrade and Ada Kaleh had only hinted to us, the nature
of the gulf that separates Mahometan from Christian, not only in
religion, but in type, dress, and costume. Widdin is not only one of the
most important towns of northern Bulgaria, but is the real head of
navigation for sailing-vessels, and in many ways distinctly marks a new
phase of river life, and an abrupt political, ethnographical, and
philological frontier as well.

When we drew up our canoes on the shore just above the steamer-landing,
we were interviewed at once by a smart-looking young officer in white
Russian cap and tunic, and red-trimmed brown trousers of Bulgarian
homespun, and armed with sabre and revolver, who politely requested the
temporary loan of our passports, and, after we had given them up, told
us we were free to go where we chose. We were not long in finding our
way to the busiest thoroughfare of the town--a long street with low
houses, and a continuous line of small shops and cafés, mostly like deep
alcoves slightly raised above the level of the pavement.

[Illustration: CANN, OPPOSITE KALAFAT]

[Illustration: BULGARIAN PEASANT TYPES]

Hundreds of country people, having disposed of their produce in the
great market-place near the citadel, were now busy shopping. The women
in this section of Bulgaria wear a short, scant chemise of homespun
linen, with full, long sleeves, often richly embroidered, a
bright-colored woollen apron reaching to the hem of the chemise in
front, and another of similar stuff, but very full and stiffly plaited,
hanging no lower than the bend of the knee behind. They braid their hair
in one long piece down their back, and fasten an embroidered white
kerchief around their heads, with fresh flowers and ornaments of various
kinds. Uncouth rawhide sandals and thick shapeless socks, often
brilliant orange in color, protect their feet and ankles. The men here,
as in most other districts, wear what may best be described as a clumsy
imitation of the Turkish dress, usually made of brown woollen homespun,
trimmed with black braid, and, in place of fez, a black sheepskin cap,
often varying in shape, but seldom in color.

Among this gay and bustling crowd, sad, pallid-faced Turkish women, and
mournful, dejected-looking men, stalked like spectres, or haggled
wearily with apathetic shopkeepers. Mounted policemen, very like
Cossacks in appearance, galloped recklessly through the multitude, and a
numerous force of men on foot, in neat brown uniforms, watched with
active vigilance every unusual stir among the people, and quelled with
rough-and-ready authority every incipient disturbance caused by too much
slivovitz (plum brandy). We strolled across the market-place and over
the moat into the great citadel, and passing the inner gate, were in a
quarter as characteristically Turkish as the remotest corner of
Stamboul. The huddle of people in the narrow, crooked streets; the
curious shops, and the open manufactories of all sorts of articles; the
latticed windows, tumble-down fountains, and half-ruined mosques; the
close, musty smell, and general squalor and worn-out appearance--all
were unmistakably Turkish, and everything indicated extreme poverty and
a condition of life which excited our heartiest sympathies. Intense love
of locality binds this people to the place, and, isolated by religion,
language, and customs, with no rights of citizenship and no common
interests with their neighbors, they endure with the patience
characteristic of their race the aggravating tyranny of the Bulgarians.

[Illustration: TURKISH TYPES]

Three fresh languages assailed our ears in Widdin, and we plunged
without preparation from the tangled maze of Roumanian and Servian into
the quagmires of Bulgarian, Turkish, and modern Greek. We expected to
hear two new languages here, but were surprised when we took our
luncheon in a restaurant to find the bill of fare written in Greek, and
to hear the waiters shouting orders in this lisping speech. We were now
well across the line that separates the Orient from the Occident, and
within touch of Constantinople and Athens. The markets gave us abundant
evidences that we had reached a milder climate. Grapes were delicious,
plentiful, and cheap, the best varieties costing less than two cents a
pound. Tomatoes, egg-plant, and sweet-peppers were larger and better
than we had seen before, and melons and green corn were almost out of
season. Fresh meat was about five cents a pound, and caviar, for which
delicacy Widdin is celebrated, was readily obtained, but at a price very
little lower than in any other market. Knowing that we had a rather
desolate part of the river before us, we laid in a good supply of stores
of all kinds, except wine, which, we learned, was easily to be obtained
at any village, and when the town had gone to sleep at noon, sought our
passports at the police headquarters; but the official in charge of this
department had gone home for his dinner and siesta, and we were obliged
to kick our heels in idleness and impatience until he returned, an hour
and a half later.

Just below Widdin, at the Bulgarian town of Arčer Palanka, the general
course of the Danube changes from the south to the east; and to the town
of Cernavoda, in the Dobrudscha, about 300 miles below, the river keeps
the latter direction with few and slight deviations. The long, straight
reaches were here enlivened by many sailing-vessels of the
fifteenth-century type, with high ornate sterns, and single mast set
midway between the bow and stern. Sometimes

[Illustration: TURKISH QUARTER, WIDDIN]

[Illustration: TURKISH VESSELS]

we met them gayly ploughing their way up-stream, with every bellying
sail drawing full, and again we saw them dragged slowly against the
current by a long line of patient Turkish sailors harnessed to a
tow-rope; or else we came across them tied to the trees in some quiet
spot awaiting a favorable wind, the decks covered with sleeping sailors,
no man on watch. The Roumanian shore from Kalafat down for scores of
miles at a stretch is as straight and level as if drawn with a ruler,
and the landscape on that bank of the river is reduced to its simplest
terms. The Bulgarian side is seldom monotonous, and never for any long
distance flat and marshy. High grassy hills approach the river, and
recede again at intervals, enclosing between their spurs great fertile
meadows covered with farms. Here and there on the bare slopes of the
rounded hills quite extensive villages are seen, usually at some
distance from the river. Many of these are only great irregular
collections of hovels dug in the ground and roofed with earth, and even
the best of them can boast no more than one or two buildings of a better
type than the ordinary hut of sun-dried bricks or of wattle and mud.
Most of the habitations, together with the great straw and hay
ricks--always the prominent feature of every village--are enclosed by
walls of mud or by wattled fences, and the streets, which ramble along
casually between these boundaries, are seldom better than gullies or
watercourses. The interiors are often surprisingly neat and tidy, even
in the rudest hovel, and whitewash is used with freedom.

About three hours’ paddle below Widdin we came to the flourishing town
of Lom Palanka, famous for the purity of its water, and somewhat
renowned for the quality of its wine. We ran ashore, intending to fill
our wine-bottles and then to move on to an early camp. We fancied that
the Lom Palankians would be eager to welcome us when they saw us land
prepared to trade, but the delegation who met us as we floundered out of
the mud looked uncommonly hostile, every man wearing a uniform, and all
more or less heavily armed. Escape was impossible, so we began to
parley, and asked the way to a wine-shop with as much politeness as our
meagre vocabulary allowed. The only response to this question was a
stern demand for our passports. We promptly produced them, and, to our
chagrin and astonishment, saw them disappear in the capacious pocket of
the chief officer of the little army. The Custom-house people at Widdin
had told us that we could land anywhere to buy stores without giving up
our papers, and we explained this as well as we were able, and demanded
our passports again, preparing to leave without making our desired
purchases. Remonstrances were worse than idle, for they soon led to our
arrest, and we were marched off to the police-station, a long way up the
main street. The chief was not in his office, and he

[Illustration: BULGARIAN VILLAGE]

was unearthed from his hiding-place only after a half-hour’s search by a
large scouting party of policemen. The usual series of questions was put
to us, and we sandwiched our replies between bursts of indignant
language, which perhaps it would be unwise to chronicle here. The
pachydermatous young man, bristling with authority, and assuming the
indifference of immeasurable superiority, paid little attention to our
explanations or our expletives, and after slowly spelling out the words
from our passport, “We, Robert, Arthur, Talbot, Gascoyne Cecil, Marquess
of Salisbury, Earl of Salisbury, Viscount Cranborne, Baron Cecil,” and
from the other, “Robert Lincoln,” copied the numbers in a book, ordered
us to sign our names, and then let us go. Hot with wrath at the delay,
we paddled off, determined to leave Lom Palanka out of sight if we had
to sleep in a swamp. We had the good-fortune, however, to discover just
after dark a reasonably good camp-ground on a low bank of sun-baked mud
covered with coarse grasses, and the next morning found we had chosen
the spot where the natives had their summer clam-bakes, for great heaps
of fresh-water clamshells, the well-picked bones of a sheep or two, and
traces of recent fires were scattered all around us.



CHAPTER XVII


[Illustration: BECALMED]

Between Lom Palanka and Sistova, a stretch of about 150 miles--which,
by-the-way, we paddled in less than two days and a half--there are only
three towns on the river, Cibar Palanka, Rahova, and Nicopolis, and
these are all Bulgarian. There are two or three busy grain-shipping
stations on the Roumanian side, however, and we could see on the edge of
a low plateau, miles back from the river, frequent prosperous-looking
places, and, opposite Nicopolis, the church-towers of Turnu Magurelli,
one of the most important towns in southern Roumania, rising above the
trees. This shore of the river is, for almost the entire distance
referred to, a broad, low marsh, intersected by numerous lagoons and
shallow, irregular lakes, often ten miles or more in length. The lonely
picket-stations are the only human habitations along the bank. In
agreeable contrast to this dull and desolate waste of marsh and willow
swamp, is the rich pastoral country of Bulgaria opposite. Although
villages and farm-houses are not numerous, we saw everywhere abundant
signs of life. The meadows were dotted with hay-stacks, and great
net-works of deeply-worn cattle-paths scored the smooth slopes of the
hills, all burned yellow by the summer sun. Before the greatest heat of
the day came on, immense herds of cattle and buffaloes, driven by
Turkish cowboys, rushed panting down the hill-side in a cloud of dust to
cool themselves in the stream. The buffaloes wallowed in the muddy
places, and then lay down with the tops of their heads alone visible
above water, like uncouth amphibious animals. Great flocks of sheep
stood on the shore by the water’s edge, crowding together in a solid
mass, and holding their heads close to the ground to escape the heat
from the direct rays of the sun, and multitudes of goats were scattered
all over the steep and arid slopes. The shepherds dig little shallow
caves in the mud bluffs, with steps leading to them, where they lie and
sleep for hours in the daytime; others curl up in the gullies, so that
every yard of shade on the rough bank has its human or its animal
occupant, and sometimes men and goats, both seeking to avoid the sun,
lie down peacefully together in the same narrow cleft or in the shadow
of the same projecting corner.

In the broad straight reaches of the river the frequent

[Illustration: ON THE BULGARIAN SHORE, NEAR RAHOVA]

sand-banks were covered with water-fowl. Thousands upon thousands of
noisy wild-geese, hosts of ducks, plover, and other game birds, rose
into the air as we approached, almost deafening us with their cries.
Wheeling round in broad circles, they settled down again before we had
fairly passed them. Ranks of solemn pelicans awkwardly flopped into the
water, and swam ahead of us in stately dignity scarcely out of
pistol-shot, turning their huge, ill-balanced beaks from side to side,
and if we came too near, flew up with a tremendous splashing and
fluttering. Tall herons soared away out of the shallows on every side,
and swans and storks sailed overhead in graceful flight. Sometimes we
paddled in the full light of noonday up to within a few yards of
slender, white cranes wading among the water-grasses, and once
approached within a paddle’s length of a large gray heron standing on
one leg and blinking in the brilliant glare of the sun. The flora of the
river-bank in this region is best described in a quotation from Alfred
Parsons’ note-book: “By the camp opposite Kalafat was a very handsome
sedge with brown flowers, a mass of blossoms of the flowering rush, and
plenty of excellent dewberries. A flat below Lom Palanka was covered
with a thorny, leguminous shrub, tufts of small purple flowers and
prickly red seed-pods, small yellow asters, tall scabious with pale
blossoms, and chiccory, which has been a constant flower for a long
distance down the river. The slopes above the limestone cliffs below
Rahova were covered with feather sumac and lilac bushes. Wild-grape
vines grow all over the willows on an island above Sistova, and the
marshy lake near there had great yellow patches of villarsia. On the
edge of this lake grow arrow-head and flowering rush, and where the land
is drier are seen purple and yellow dwarf thistles, a small scentless
heliotrope, and a white scutellaria. Tamarisk grows on the sandy
flats.”

[Illustration: TURKISH FLAT-BOAT]

The river life was mostly confined to the larger craft; very few small
boats were seen, and almost no fishermen. The great clouds of canvas on
the Turkish vessels gleamed above the trees behind the islands far in
the perspective, and the black smoke of tow-boats with their trains of
loaded lighters was a constant feature in the ever-changing landscape.
Occasionally a huge flat-boat of the roughest build, piled high with a
cargo of red and yellow earthen-ware, melons, sacks of charcoal, and
other miscellaneous merchandise, floated down in the gentle current,
steered by Turks in costumes of varied hue, the whole reflecting a mass
of glowing color in the stream. Each of the river towns we passed was
the centre of great activity. Crowds of peasants’ carts laden with grain
covered the broad strand in the vicinity of the steamboat-landing,
waiting their turn to discharge their loads into the lighters. When the
grain is harvested and threshed, the farmers load their rude carts, and
lead the slow and stupid buffaloes, often several days’ journey, to the
nearest river town, where they find a certain market for their produce.
The whole country is covered with trains of creaking carts, and
peasants’ bivouacs are

[Illustration: TURKISH WOMEN AT SISTOVA]

scattered all over the scorched hill-sides and everywhere along the
dusty highways. They carry no tents nor shelters of any sort, and only
the simplest food for themselves and their beasts. When night overtakes
them they lie down on the ground beside their carts, and, wrapped in
their rough coats, sleep as peacefully as their tired oxen. Their whole
outfit is as rude and uncouth as it was centuries ago, and the native
carts have not improved in build since they transported the supplies of
Trajan’s armies. The only iron used in their construction are the
linchpins and the rings which bind together the great hubs; the
roughly-hewn felloes, the different parts of the body of the cart, and
of the yoke as well, are all held together by wooden pegs.

We noticed at Nicopolis the first of the series of Russian monuments
along the river which commemorates the bravery of those who fell in the
late war--a plain stone shaft on a hill-top just above the town; and
when we landed there found every evidence of increasing prosperity and
enterprise in new buildings, public squares and promenades, and general
improvements. A friendly young soldier-policeman piloted us about, acted
as our cavass or special guard, saw that we were not cheated at the
shops, and at the same time busied himself with keeping order in the
drinking-places, and cleared the streets when they became congested with
traffic. He did not so much as ask to see our papers, and we began to be
more hopeful about our trip along the Bulgarian frontier, and looked
forward to landing at Sistova, twenty-five miles below, with no
disagreeable anticipations.

The large biweekly passenger steamer on its downward trip reached
Sistova a few moments after we did, and we were just in time to witness
the exodus of twenty-five Turkish families who were leaving the country
for Asia Minor by way of Chernavoda, Kustendji, and Constantinople. The
whole remaining Turkish population of the town had turned out to see
them off, and veiled women in solemn rows along the shore looked from a
distance like so many queer river birds. We were assured by the agent of
the steamboat company that similar emigrations are of frequent
occurrence, but that most of the families sooner or later wander back
again, after having found that their condition is not bettered by change
of residence. Sistova has improved since the war in much the same way
that Nicopolis has, but the river-front remains unchanged, and looks
to-day very much as it did when, after the crossing in June, the
Russians built their pontoon-bridge from the low island opposite and
marched their armies through the town to Plevna and the Balkan passes.

We made an interesting excursion of three days to the battle-fields of
Plevna, fifty miles distant from Sistova, across a rolling country,
sparsely inhabited, but producing a great deal of wheat and Indian-corn.
The heat was intense and the dust terrible, but every moment of the
excursion was crowded with interest and novelty. Travelling, as the
natives do, by private conveyance, and stopping at the khans, which are
still the only houses of entertainment in country places, we were thrown
into intimate relations with the people, and, it must be confessed,
found little in their character to encourage the belief in their
capacity for immediate improvement. It is undoubtedly a fact that the
peasants between the foot-hills of the Balkans and the Danube are the
least agreeable specimens of the race to be found in the country, and it
would be unfair to judge of the young nation by the inhabitants of a
particular district. Their most curious characteristics are their
emotionless expression and their habitual silence. We seldom saw them
smile, and almost never heard them laugh. All the river people we met
until we crossed the Bulgarian frontier were

[Illustration: OLD MOSQUE, RUSTCHUK]

cheery and more or less communicative, and we heard singing, laughter,
and constant merry chatter among the people as we passed. But in
Bulgaria these cheerful sounds no longer came to our ears; villages near
the river were as silent as the grave; the peasants at the
landing-places stared at us stupidly as we went along, and no one ever
hailed us pleasantly or showed any intelligent interest in our fleet.

[Illustration: BULGARIAN BUFFALO CART]

Russian monuments are seen on several hills between Sistova and
Rustchuk, about thirty-five miles below, and scarcely a mile of the
river but has some interesting history in connection with the struggle
along the Danube in the early part of the summer campaign in 1877. By a
curious coincidence, we happened to camp the afternoon we left Sistova
near the very place where, fourteen years before, on the same date, the
writer had crossed the river at the end of a long courier’s ride,
described in the pages of HARPER’S MAGAZINE not long since. It is not
strange, therefore, that as we paddled down the beautiful calm reach the
following morning the familiar lines of the landscape stimulated a flow
of reminiscences of the campaign. Nearing Pyrgos, and in sight of the
monument on one of the great rounded hills where the battle was fought
in which young Sergius Leuchtenberg, the cousin of the present Czar, was
killed, we were startled by the unmistakable sound of the grunt of a
Gatling-gun and the rattle of small-arms. We could not at first believe
our ears, each of us thinking this dramatic and suggestive accompaniment
to the tales of the war was a mental distortion of ordinary noises
brought about by our preoccupation with the subject. However, as we
paddled along, increasing our stroke in our growing excitement, we
discovered that the sounds came from the hills near Rustchuk, and
although we could see no smoke, we could accurately distinguish the
reports of rifles in irregular scattering succession, like the prelude
of a great battle. Our mystification increased with every moment, and we
hastened on past the low willow-fringed shores on the Roumanian side,
studying the rocky bluffs across the river and the billowy summits of
the bare hills to find a solution of the enigma. The sounds ceased as
suddenly as they began, and as we rounded a wide bend full of islands,
and came in sight of the minarets of Rustchuk and the great buildings in
Giurgevo on the low hills far across the marshes opposite, we met a
small Bulgarian gunboat with a machine-gun at the bow and discovered at
the same time, on a broad plateau under the old Turkish redoubt back of
the town, the summer encampment of the garrison. What we had heard was,
undoubtedly, the morning target practice on land and the trial of the
machine-gun on the river.

Rustchuk is the most important Bulgarian town on the river, and situated
as it is on the main route to Constantinople, _via_ the Rustchuk-Varna
Railway and the Black Sea, and only two hours by rail from Bucharest, is
one of the best-known cities on the lower Danube. It is at present in
the disagreeable phase of transition from an old Turkish town to a
modern trade centre, and has neither the picturesqueness

[Illustration: MARKET-PLACE, SILISTRIA]

of an old place nor the comforts of a new one. Imposing shops, with all
sorts of Viennese and Parisian goods, chiefly neckties and ready-made
clothing, crowd the shanties where native rawhide sandals are made, and
the street butcher slaughters his animal before the plate-glass window
of a large grocery, filled with English, French, and German delicacies.
Some of the streets are well paved and kept in repair, while in others
the passer often stumbles over the half-buried shells thrown into the
town by the Russians in 1877.

For about thirty miles below Rustchuk both shores are flat and devoid of
life. We had our old enemy, a head-wind, against us; and, indeed, from
this point to the end of our journey--about 300 miles below--we scarcely
had an hour’s relief from this persistent opposition to our progress. We
had fought our way for a few miles, when we overtook a tow-boat with
several large Greek grain lighters steaming down-river at less speed
than we were making. As we ran alongside, the captain of one of the
lighters cordially invited us to tie up and take it easy. Perhaps it was
not a very sporting thing to do, but it appealed to us as an excellent
scheme to defeat the efforts of the head-wind and to see the landscape
at our leisure, and we therefore promptly accepted the invitation, and
fastened our canoes to the lighters. In this way we slowly went on for
several hours, until we came to the town of Turtukai, on the Bulgarian
side, where the hills again crowd the river. There we cast off, and
instinctively avoiding the Roumanian pickets, whose unwelcome attentions
we had escaped for several days, paddled down to a beautiful
camping-ground in the middle of a group of islands covered with poplar,
wych-elm, willows, and brambles, and a tangle of wild-grape vines
growing to the tops of the highest trees.

From the important part the town and fortress of Silistria

[Illustration: MOSQUE IN SILISTRIA]

has played in the history of European Turkey for the last hundred years,
we anticipated finding a stronghold far more grand and imposing than any
on the river, with the possible exception of Belgrade and Peterwardein.
Whatever may have been in past times the strategical importance of the
place, it certainly gave us little notion of its strength. It occupies
the whole of a low point projecting far into the

[Illustration: FROM RUSTCHUK TO SULINA]

river, which here spreads out into a broad shallow reach, filled with
long low islands. Along the greater part of the water-front of the town
are two walls, one within the other, more resembling embankments to
protect the town from inundations than constructions for military
purposes. Behind these walls, as seen from the river, domes and minarets
rise above the roofs of the town, which rambles back from the river to
the great bare slopes behind. All over the tops of the hills are visible
the lines of great earthworks, rounded and softened by the weathering of
many seasons. After the usual passport formalities, we wandered about
the town for an hour or more, waiting for it to wake up, and had
sufficient leisure to examine the extensive improvements in progress
here, which bid fair to reduce at no distant date the picturesque old
town to the commonplace level of a modern city. We could not help,
however, being interested in the building of an enormous school-house,
which will be, when finished, the most imposing modern structure in the
town--a gratifying indication of the successful enforcement of the
compulsory education law in Bulgaria.

After the hundreds of miles of uninteresting scenery on the Roumanian
shore, it seemed as if monotony could go no further, but opposite
Silistria the far-off hills recede still more, the bank grows flatter,
and at last degenerates into a swamp, with nothing but the wretched
picket huts to break the interminable line of small willow-trees.
Sluggish branches of the river straggle off to the left and cut the
morass into two large islands, honey-combed with lakes and intersected
by lagoons. High grass-covered hills skirt the right bank, and here and
there, at long distances apart, villages make irregular brown patches on
the yellow slopes. The long reaches become more and more desolate, and
in the narrow channels among the numerous islands there is the solitude
of an unexplored wilderness, and the banks are a tangle of great trees
and undergrowth. Black mud everywhere covers the shallows, and the banks
are lined with a sticky, fetid deposit, and sometimes, after sunset, the
odor emanating from this mass of river scourings is almost overpowering.
We often landed on what appeared to be a hard beach, only to find it a
jelly of mud, with a thin crust of sand on top, through which we broke
at every step. All the river men we met were suffering from the Danube
fever, which, in the lower river, is the constant scourge of the
population.



CHAPTER XVIII


Ten miles below Silistria the Roumanian frontier crosses the river, and
the district of the Dobrudscha begins. To our surprise, the line of
pickets still continued along the left bank, although we were fairly in
the Roumanian kingdom, and now and then a soldier would appear in sight,
take a lively interest as we passed, and sometimes order us to come
ashore. We treated these summonses with scorn, and paddled along
heedless of the shouts which followed us.

The river life was fast becoming more active as we went down. Numerous
tow-boats with lighters passed to and fro, and every open reach was
lively with gaudily painted sailing-vessels, manned by Turks dressed in
all colors of the rainbow, and looking as little like sailors as the
craft they were in looked like modern civilized ships. On one occasion
we were watching a large fleet of these quaint vessels merrily careering
up-stream with a favorable wind, when a sudden squall struck them and
scattered them like leaves with the violence of its blast. One succeeded
in gaining the land in deep water, and made fast to the trees there, and
through the dense showers of rain which followed the wind we could see
the remainder of the proud fleet, all scattered and dilapidated,
stranded along the shore in every direction. We now had our own boats to
look after, for there was no shelter in which to land! A group of
friendly Greek lighters in tow gave us but temporary protection from
the squall, for, as the storm increased in violence and the wind veered
round, we found ourselves on as ugly a lee shore as could be
imagined--the iron sides of a loaded barge. However, we managed at last
to moor the canoes under the overhanging stern of one of the lighters,
and, in company with a native boat full of men and women, rode out the
storm in safety.

[Illustration: ROUMANIAN PEASANTS SELLING FLOWERS AND FRUIT]

From Silistria to Chernavoda the topography of the country near the
river alters very little in character, but we noted various other
changes which interested us. The type of small boat was now entirely
different from the rude skiff farther up-stream, resembling the Turkish
caïque, with high pointed bow and stern; and our old friends, the
current-mills, no longer had a supplementary scow to support the axle,
but, with a wheel on either side, made a sort of caricature of a
steamboat anchored in the stream. On the hills above the villages
numerous windmills waved their long arms, testifying to the prevalence
of wind, and everywhere ancient tumuli broke the rounded contours of the
grassy summits. Here, too, Trajan has left an imperishable monument to
his mighty conquest--an immense wall of earth, which extends across the
Dobrudscha from Chernavoda to Kustendji on the Black Sea, and the high
rampart is plainly visible on the great rolling hills, apparently as
well preserved in shape after the lapse of so many centuries as the
Russian earthworks constructed a decade and a half ago on the
neighboring summits. A fine railway bridge is now building across the
river at Chernavoda, to connect the Kustendji Railway with the Roumanian
system, and immense stone piers on the north bank are already finished.
The construction-shops and workmen’s quarters in connection with this
enterprise have transformed the simple little village of Chernavoda into
a hideously commonplace settlement. At this point the river sweeps round
in a wide curve, changing its course from a general easterly to a
northerly direction, and at Hirsova, thirty miles below--a long
straggling town at the foot of a bold spur of rocky hills--it divides
into a number of small branches, which enclose and intersect with
sinuous windings a great irregular marsh, twelve or fifteen miles in
width, and extending to the River Pruth, at the Russian frontier, fifty
miles to the north.

As we left Hirsova, near the end of the day, and saw the

[Illustration: HIRSOVA]

grand outlines of the hills grow all purple in the afternoon light, we
were slow to realize the fact that our route would no longer lead us
past these pleasant slopes, which from the distant Carpathian range
downward had shown us an ever-varying and ever-beautiful panorama along
the river-bank. The shortest of the sluggish branches of the river
skirts the eastern limits of the Roumanian plain, and paddling into this
narrow channel, we found ourselves in a brief half-hour in a region
quite unlike any we had yet seen. Both banks are low, and covered with
tall reeds alternating with willow patches. The only habitations are
little fishing-stations, and these are miles apart. Even the line of
picket-houses is no longer seen along the shore, for it follows the
branch that flows along the eastern boundary of the marsh under the high
land there. The fishermen’s dwellings are hovels of the rudest kind,
built of mud, thatched with reeds, and surrounded by fences of the same
material. How human beings can exist in these fever-infested marshes
will always remain a mystery to us.

We found a reasonably solid landing-place on a little island near one of
these stations, and a short distance above the little hamlet of Gura
Ghirlitza. The botanist, whose duty it was to gather drift wood, brought
back from his rambles a great bouquet of wild-flowers--melilot,
loosestrife, convolvulus, blue veronica, chiccory, tamarisk,
snap-dragon, and many others: and we were both so much engaged, one with
his botanizing and the other with his pots and pans, that we did not
notice the approach of a great lotka full of people until it ran ashore
in the mud near our camp two or three yards from the bank. They shouted
to us to come and pull them up; but, seeing among the crowd in the boat
two soldiers fixing their bayonets, and several other men armed with
guns, to say nothing of an officer in full uniform, we did not propose
to assist this hostile force to disembark, and paid no attention to
them. Finally one of the party jumped out into the mud, helped the rest
to land, and the small army bore down upon us in martial array. When
they came near enough to see the canoes, the officer in command, an
intelligent young fellow of agreeable manners and cultivated speech,
suddenly threw aside all show of hostility, and asked us politely what
kind of craft these were, and where we had come from in such frail
boats. This was a prelude to friendly relations we had not anticipated,
for we looked with distrust on every man in uniform. Of course we were
only too glad to explain who we were and what we were after, and arms
were at once laid aside, and the whole party instantly began to inspect
our canoes from bow to stern, enchanted with the polished rudder,
astonished at the folding centre-board, and delighted with every detail
of the finish. In a half-hour or less, with many apologies for
interrupting the preparation of our dinner, they withdrew, after making
us promise to return their call at the village the next morning. We
heard the grocer and the butcher fire off the guns they had loaded on
the way to assist in capturing the suspected smugglers, and we were
interrupted no more that night.

[Illustration: GURA GHIRLITZA]

Early the next forenoon we landed at the village, and had quite a
reception by our friends of the evening before. The whole population
gathered around the canoes, and studied them with intelligent curiosity.
They were the first natives since we passed the Bulgarian frontier above
Widdin who had shown any particular emotion at the sight of the novel
craft, and our hearts warmed to them in consequence. Perhaps it was
partly on this account that we liked the village, for, after all, it was
only a small collection of low, whitewashed, roughly-thatched cottages,
straggling along crooked, dusty streets partly shaded by small trees,
and everywhere enclosed by fences of dry reeds. But there were a good
many bright flowers in the tiny gardens, luxuriantly-growing squashes
and gourds were climbing all over the thatched roofs, the clean white
linen garments of both sexes were refreshing to look upon, and the
brilliant aprons and elaborate red embroidery worn by the women made
rich spots of color in the warm sunlight. It was well for us that we
went away from Gura Ghirlitza in an agreeable frame of mind, for a
persistent head-wind blew straight up-stream, no matter how the river
turned and twisted. We passed scores of Turkish vessels dashing along up
the choppy current with a great splashing at the bows, and others trying
to work down-river by the force of the stream. For several hours we
struggled against the gale and the rough sea, between banks with few
signs of human life and scarcely a rod of cleared land, and in the
afternoon passed through miles of unbroken forest, extending in every
direction as far as we could see. From this the most desolate and
deserted reach of the whole river we had navigated, we at last emerged
quite suddenly into a sunny open country, with a high bluff a short
distance below, where tall chimneys showed above the dense foliage on a
large island, and in a few moments we were in the main stream again,
opposite the bustling town of Braila, where the straggling arms of the
river unite, and it again assumes its normal width and majestic aspect.
The stream was crowded with vessels of every description, from the
native lotkas to the great English freight propellers, whose ugly iron
hulls towered high over all local craft. On the shore opposite the town
scores of Turkish vessels were made fast to the bank, miles of loaded
lighters were anchored along the channel, and great steamers were moored
to the quay several ranks deep, all receiving their loads of grain.
Thousands of men of every nationality and in motley dress were swarming
like bees all over the cargo boats, carrying sacks of grain from the
army of carts on the shore and pouring it into the

[Illustration: LOADING GRAIN AT BRAILA]

open hatches. The English flag fluttered from many a mast, the names of
familiar ports could be read on almost every great rounded stern, and
the English language distinctly reached our ears in the babel of several
other tongues. We had paddled a long forty miles against a heavy wind
and sea, and preferring the quiet of camp to the confusion of the busy
town, landed on an unoccupied meadow in full view of Braila, extending
far along the bluff and looking down upon the forest of masts on the
river, and with the spires and domes of Galatz distinctly visible on a
high point of land a few miles below us.

Braila is at the head of navigation for sea-going vessels, and as it is
only about 125 miles from the mouth of the river, is practically a port
on the Black Sea. A few years ago it was of secondary commercial
importance to Galatz, a larger town similarly placed on a bluff fifteen
miles farther down-stream. Since the Turkish war, however, the grain
trade has been gradually transferred to the former city, until it has
now absorbed the whole of this commerce, and has become the chief
shipping port for all the produce of the grain-growing regions of
Roumania and northern Bulgaria. Extensive docks and immense grain
elevators have been built there, and will soon be in active operation.
We had seen at various places below Rustchuk indications of the
proximity of Russia, chiefly in the architecture of churches, with their
green domes and bulbous spires, but also in various details of costume,
carriages, and harnesses. At Braila all the carts which carry grain to
the steamers have the Russian bow over the horses’ withers, and many
Russian signs are seen on the shops. All the public carriages of Galatz
are driven by Russians, members of a peculiar religious sect, who wear
their national costume, consisting of a long black velvet coat with full
skirts, plaited at the waist, and two rows of silver buttons on the
breast, tall boots, and the characteristic flat-topped cap. The fashion
of employing Russian coachmen, once prevalent all over Roumania, is fast
dying out now, however, and is said to continue in full force in Galatz
alone.

The army of the Czar made the first crossing of the Danube in 1877 from
Galatz, across the marsh to a spur of the bold hills near the village
of Matchin, and it was in one of the narrow arms of the river here that
the Turkish monitors were entrapped and destroyed. Galatz covers much
more territory than its neighbor above, spreading far out over a level
plateau, along highways which are deserts of dust in summer and sloughs
of mire in winter. Part of the town is laid out with some regularity,
and there are a few streets well cared for and with new buildings; but
the thoroughfares on the slope of the plateau near the river are narrow,
crooked, and steep, and most of the pavements are simply atrocious.
There is no gas manufactured, but an abundance of water is brought into
the town, and a fountain is in constant operation in the tiny park,
where a military band plays light French airs every evening to a motley
crowd of many nationalities. The better class of Roumanians have a
deeply-rooted admiration for France and for everything French, and in
all the cities there are curious and often ludicrous attempts to imitate
Parisian architecture and to follow the customs of that capital. This is
the result, of course, of the French education of the youth of the
leading families for generations past, and here, as in all countries
where civilization has reached only the second stage--the purely
commercial one--the few who leaven the mass do not always judiciously
winnow the wheat from the chaff in the foreign seed they plant at home.

The larger part of the town consists of houses only one story in height,
with stucco façades and tiled roofs. There is almost nothing to interest
the sight-seer in the way of architecture or relics of antiquity, and,
indeed, the most notable object of interest in town is the tomb of
Mazeppa in the Church of St. Maria. In certain quarters the population
is very dense, and the streets and dwellings there are in a state of
indescribable filth. The crowded market-places are in the morning
perfect museums of types and costumes. Albanians

[Illustration: GYPSY CAMP AT GALATZ]

in fustinellas like ballet-dancers’ skirts jostle Slovac raftsmen in
their skin-tight woollen trousers; smart marines from the naval station
at the upper part of the town haggle with peddlers of Turkish tobacco;
and florid-faced cooks of English steamers shoulder their way to the
meat-shops, regardless of Roumanian, Bulgarian, Russian, Greek, or Jew.
In the outskirts of the town several large bands of gypsies camp on the
hill-sides; for here, as in most other places in Roumania and Hungary,
they are not allowed to occupy houses. Of all the specimens of this
remarkable race we saw in our trip, those at Galatz were by far the most
savage and repulsive in appearance. As we approached their squalid camp
on the bare slope of a great hill, exposed to wind and sun, hundreds of
half-clothed howling maniacs swooped down upon us, wildly gesticulating
and shrieking for alms, tearing open their garments to show their
emaciated bodies, and holding aloft naked children shivering in the cold
breeze. Raven black hair falling over their faces in tangled masses half
hid their small cunning eyes, and sun and dirt had given their skins the
color and texture of long-tanned leather. Everything about
them--clothes, blankets, and tents--was of the same suggestive brown
hue, and this monotone was only relieved by gaudy trinkets in the matted
tresses of the women and by an occasional ornamental knife handle in the
girdle of the men. We were unable to endure for any length of time the
filth of the camp and the proximity of the evil-looking, ill-smelling
crowd, which at every moment became more and more difficult to avoid;
and we soon retreated, followed for a long distance by a number of
urchins, all limbs and rags, who turned somersaults in the dust and
yelled frantically for money. We did not feel purified from the contact
with these gypsies until we were seated again in the canoes and facing
the brisk east wind on the broad reach below Galatz.



CHAPTER XIX


The navigation of the Danube from Galatz to the mouth is controlled and
regulated by an international commission, which was called into
existence by the importance of the commerce with the corn-producing
countries along the lower river. Forty-five miles below Galatz the river
divides into two branches, the left-hand one, the Kilia arm, taking a
general north-easterly course, with many turns and subdivisions, past
the Russian towns of Ismail and Kilia, and, a short distance beyond the
fishing-village of Vilkoff, flows into the Black Sea through seven
narrow channels. The right-hand branch, actually the main stream,
divides again ten miles below the first fork, the former running in a
general easterly direction to the port of Sulina, on the Black Sea, and
the latter arm winding sluggishly on towards the south-east under the
extreme eastern spurs of the great range of Dobrudscha hills. Each side
of the irregular equilateral triangle bounded by the Kilia and Saint
George’s arms and the sea-coast measures about fifty miles in a straight
line, and the larger part of the tract thus enclosed is marsh and
swamp-land, covered with a dense growth of tall reeds, interspersed with
numerous lakes and cut up into countless islands by narrow lagoons. In
the whole of this great delta there are only a few square miles of
ground higher than the general level of the marsh, and these are two
broad ranges of sand-dunes running north-east and south-west several
miles inland, marking the line of

[Illustration: GALATZ]

the ancient sea-coast when the waves and wind raised this barrier long
before the memory of man. These sandy elevations are now covered with a
forest of oak-trees, and support a sparse population. With this
exception the delta is uncultivated, and the few natives who inhabit the
great marsh are almost all engaged in fishing. They build themselves
rude huts out of the tall reeds, make their beds, and even their
net-floats, out of the same useful plant, and during the summer months
set their nets in every lake and lagoon, preserving their catch in salt
or carrying it at convenient times to the distant markets. This great
waste is at all seasons most impressive, and in summer, when the reeds
have grown to their full height and are in blossom, the landscape,
although monotonous in the extreme, often has great elements of beauty.
Narrow waterways, seldom more than a fathom broad, intersect the marsh
in all directions, and only the natives who are familiar with the
intricate windings of these thoroughfares can find their way from one
point to another of this labyrinth. Some of these waterways are known to
have existed in the period of Roman occupation, and the race of
fishermen who now make use of them have preserved their type, their
dress, their boats, and their implements practically unchanged since the
time when Ovid was exiled to the shores of the Euxine. Myriads of
wild-fowl breed in the solitude of the broad morass, and fish abound in
its quiet waters. In the autumn, when the frost has killed the reeds,
great tracts of the delta are often swept over by fires, consuming all
the vegetation above the level of the mud, but clearing the way for a
new and vigorous growth in the spring. Only during the winter months is
the marsh passable for vehicles or even for pedestrians, and when the
whole region is frozen hard the mails and the few passengers who are
obliged to travel are carried on sledges straight across from one
station to another over the level surface of land and water.

[Illustration: PEASANTS OF THE DELTA]

Russia took possession of this region after the capture of Ismail, in
the early part of the century, and, in order to help commerce at home,
put various restrictions on the Danube trade, which almost annihilated
it for a time. The adoption of free-trade by England naturally
stimulated the export business in the corn-producing countries of the
Danube, and great pressure was brought to bear to induce Russia to
remove the hampering restrictions on the navigation of the river.
International disputes arising from this cause finally culminated in the
Crimean War, and it was not without reason, therefore, that the treaties
of peace contained articles intended to place the navigation of the
river in control of the countries most interested in the corn supply.
One clause of the treaty created a riverian commission, whose duty was
to regulate the general navigation of the river, and another clause
established a European Commission of the Danube, “to clear the mouths of
the river, as well as the neighboring parts of the sea, from the sand
and other impediments which obstruct them.” The first of these
commissions found its task impossible on account of the conflicting
interests of the small countries along the river, and has never done
anything, although it is still recognized diplomatically. The Powers
represented in the active commission are Great Britain, Austro-Hungary,
France, Germany, Italy, Roumania, Russia, and Turkey. Owing to a
misunderstanding of the nature of the work to be done, the commission
was established for a term of only two years. This period was extended
at various times, and at last it was settled by the Treaty of 1878 that
the functions of this body should continue until it should be dissolved
by the Powers. It has been constantly at work since its first meeting in
1856. A few statistics will give an idea of the effect on English trade
of the improvements to navigation brought about by the commission.
Before 1847 from 3 to 52 English vessels entered the Danube annually.
Between 1847 and 1860, 2648 English ships entered the river,
representing a net tonnage of 509,723. Between 1861 and 1889 these
numbers were raised to 12,363 and 9,842,260 respectively. In 1861, 214
English sailing-vessels and 35 steamers came to the port of Sulina, and
in 1889, 842 steamers and not a single sailing-vessel. In 1890 the total
number of vessels of all nationalities entering the Danube was 1519,
including many steamers of 1400 to 1600 tons. The commission began in
1860 to collect tolls to maintain the improvements, and in that year the
revenue was 256,583 francs. In 1889 this sum was increased to 1,348,552
francs. British ships have paid from 71 to 82 per cent. of the whole
dues levied during the past ten years. The exports from the river
consist chiefly of wheat, barley, and Indian-corn, but oats, rye, rape
and linseed, petroleum, tallow, hides, salt fish, wines and spirits,
cheese, lumber, and wool are also shipped in large quantities.
Machinery, coal, bar and sheet iron, and articles of clothing form the
bulk of the imports. In general terms, the work of the commission has
consisted in the construction of groynes and revetments, straightening
the river-banks, shortening the channel by cuttings, and dredging the
shallow places. The whole delta has been surveyed, and accurate maps
made. A great part of the Sulina arm has been canalized, and the channel
deepened from 8 feet at extreme low-water to over 16 feet, or to 20½
feet at average low-water. Under the direction of Sir Charles A.
Hartley, the consulting engineer of the commission, and the able
supervision of Mr. Charles Kühl, since 1872 the resident engineer, the
improvements are carried on with constant regularity and great energy,
and every year the navigation of the Sulina branch becomes less
difficult and dangerous. Vessels of 2000 tons may now steam up as far as
Braila with perfect safety.

The longest cutting yet undertaken, which will shorten the channel by
four and a quarter miles, is now in active progress, and the operation
of cutting through the marsh is extremely interesting. Far out of sight
of any human habitation the black funnel and grimy framework of an
immense dredger are seen rising high above the waving mass of reeds
which stretches away on every side as far as the eye can reach. A chain
of steel-shod iron buckets working on a movable arm which projects in
front of the dredger cuts its way through the spongy mass of which the
marsh is composed, and the mixture of roots, mud, and shells is shot out
upon the bank of the cutting through a long adjustable iron trough.
There the material is worked by hand into a dike, strengthened by the
ingenious use of reeds and roots, and finally protected by a revetment
of broken stone. This cutting will be five miles and a quarter in
length, and 6,500,000 cubic yards will have to be dredged before the
work is completed in 1895.

[Illustration: DREDGING IN THE DELTA]

The headquarters of the commission are at Sulina, on the Black Sea. As
early as the time of the Irish famine in 1847-48 hundreds of English
sailing-vessels came to the Black Sea for grain. Most of them anchored
in the mouth of the Sulina branch, discharged ballast there, and loaded
with corn to supply the urgent demand for bread-stuffs at home. A
squalid little settlement rapidly sprang up among the heaps of gravel
deposited on the marshy banks, and as years went on the constantly
accumulating ballast was spread farther and farther up along the stream,
and inland over the morass, and streets and houses followed the

[Illustration: TURKISH SAILING LOTKA, SULINA]

expanding area of solid ground. The establishment of the European
Commission of the Danube gave a fresh impulse to the growing place, and
a busy commercial town soon covered the deposit of ballast, having its
foundations, literally, on English soil. Commodious offices, large
warehouses, and repair-shops were built; churches were erected by
followers of various creeds; a life-saving station was established; a
fine stone quay was constructed on the south bank of the stream; and two
jetties with light-houses were pushed far out into the shallow waters of
the Black Sea. Few travellers ever visit Sulina, because the passenger
boats usually touch there in the night. Its cosmopolitan character and
its peculiar situation in the marsh make it an interesting spot. Types
of a score of nationalities may be studied on its quay, and there is a
great deal of picturesqueness, of a squalid order to be sure, in its
narrow streets. No long walks or drives are possible, for the
wilderness of reeds crowds up to the very back doors of the town, but
there is a unique fascination in its isolated position, and a special
charm in the character of its surroundings.

We made up our minds long before reaching Braila that we would follow
the most northerly arm of the delta, both because it marks the frontier
between Roumania and Russia, and would consequently let us have a
glimpse of the latter country, and also because that branch is not
navigable by large craft, and we would escape steamers and tourists, and
really see something of native life. The busy, bustling port of Braila,
where English is heard at every step, and the river is almost blocked by
great iron grain steamers, gave us an indication of what we might expect
between that point and the Black Sea, and we determined to escape if
possible all these signs of civilization and enterprise, and steal out
to the sea-coast through a comparatively deserted channel. How we
carried out this plan will soon be related, and I have alluded to the
work of the Danube Commission, and described Sulina, because we visited
the one and investigated the other on our way back from the real goal of
our journey.

[Illustration: HILLS NEAR MATCHIN]

We set out from Galatz late one windy afternoon, and camped for the
night on a low sandy flat nearly opposite the River Pruth, which forms
the boundary between Roumania and Russia, planning to make a fair start
by

[Illustration: KILIA]

daybreak into the territory of the Czar. A banker friend in Galatz had
strongly advised us not to attempt the voyage to the Black Sea by way of
the Kilia arm, insisting that the Russian Custom-house regulations were
extremely rigorous, and that we would probably be prohibited from
landing anywhere along that shore, while the Roumanian bank was marshy
and deserted, and did not offer any possible camping places. We had no
desire to make the acquaintance of any more autocratic system than that
with which we had become unwillingly intimate, but the advice of our
friend did not deter us from carrying out our plan, and we profited by
his warnings so far as to lay in three or four days’ store of provisions
in case we should be obliged to defy both Russia and Roumania, and
paddle down mid-channel to the Black Sea without touching land on either
side. We were rather late in getting afloat the next morning, for the
wind had risen to a gale in the night, and had drifted the fine sand
over everything, half burying the boats, and penetrating every crevice
and cranny in them. This added a great deal to the labor of packing up,
and the only way we succeeded in getting rid of this nuisance was by
carrying everything down close to the water’s edge where the sand was
wet and hard. The Pruth is a narrow, deep stream winding under the
western slopes of a range of low hills which divert the course of the
Danube sharply from

[Illustration: CHATAL SAINT GEORGE]

[Illustration: TOULTCHA]

the north-east to the south-east at this point. The first Russian town,
Reni, with its turnip-shaped church-spires and ugly warehouses, stands
on a high bluff overlooking this bend of the river, and offers nothing
of interest, not even at the water-front, where there is little or no
activity, and few craft of any kind. The hills abruptly recede again
just below the town limits, and the river sweeps majestically round
towards the east, and takes an almost straight course to the first
branching in the delta. Both shores are now quite flat and well
cultivated, and on either side frequent picket stations are the only
houses in sight. To the south and east, across a narrow strip of meadow
land, the great hills of the Dobrudscha, dotted with ancient tumuli,
extend far into the distance, where a range of mountains cuts sharply
against the sky with bold, jagged outlines; to the north, the irregular
base spurs of the line of low hills which touch the river at Reni are
seen jutting out over the great marsh at intervals until they vanish in
the perspective. The wind veered round in the middle of the forenoon and
almost died away, and as we alternately sailed and paddled down the long
straight reach towards the delta, past the red-roofed town of Isaktcha
on the Roumanian shore, half hidden behind a wooded island, and the
great Russian monastery of Saint Theraspont across the river, we heard
not so much as a single hail from the soldiers on either bank, although
we often passed close to their stations. In the early afternoon we saw
before us a stone jetty with a spindle on the end, and soon found that
this marked the place where the river divides and the delta actually
begins, forty-five miles below Galatz. The fork is known as the Chatal
d’Ismail, and the embankment was built by the Danube Commission to
divert the strength of the current from the Kilia arm into the main
stream. Three or four miles to the south the white houses of Toultcha
shone brightly among the dark green foliage of the trees, and numerous
windmills were waving their arms on the rocky promontory below the town.
A half-dozen miles farther to the eastward is the Chatal Saint George,
where the stream divides into the Sulina and the Saint George arms.

[Illustration: WINDMILLS OF TOULTCHA]



CHAPTER XX


We did not hesitate to follow the left-hand branch at the Chatal
d’Ismail, and, rounding the sharp bend to the north, we soon entered a
great wilderness of reeds and willows. For some distance not even a
picket station was visible on either shore, but as we paddled steadily
along in the sluggish current we occasionally saw a Russian soldier in
white uniform in the dense undergrowth among the willows. In a little
more than an hour’s time we came in sight of Ismail, picturesquely
situated on a gentle slope of ground beyond pleasant meadows, where the
ruins of a great Turkish fortress stand. Great cultivated fields on the
same side of the river, where scores of peasants were at work, stretched
far back to the distant hill-sides, yellow with cornfields and dotted
with villages. A large Russian picket station on an open point tempted
us to land and see what would happen, so we ran the bows of the canoes
into the mud and asked the soldiers assembled on the bank for a light
for our cigarettes, at the same time preparing to go ashore. One of them
went to the quarters for a live coal, while the others helped us out of
the canoes in a very friendly manner, and we spent a sociable hour with
them. We did not hurry away, because we planned to camp just above
Ismail, and it was nearly sunset when we floated away towards the
glittering domes rising above the dense masses of willow-trees in the
distance. The peasants rattled across the fields in their farm-wagons,
leaving behind them a cloud of dust all golden in the evening light. A
mounted officer cantered along the bank, paused a moment to look at us,
gave a sharp command to a sentinel, and went on again. Now we noticed
that a soldier was stationed at every furlong of the shore, and we began
to be anxious about finding a secluded camp-ground. The Roumanian side
was absolutely impossible, for the mud was not only of the blackest and
most adhesive variety, but it extended so far out into the river that it
was quite out of the question to try to effect a landing. We kept to
that bank, however, examining every foot of ground at the water’s edge,
until we came to the corner of the last bend above Ismail. It was not
possible to camp at this place, and if we went farther we should have to
pass the town, a proceeding which might result in our being delayed
there for the night. After some hesitation we made up our minds to
paddle across the stream to a gravelly beach under a meadow bordered by
a row of willows, and to land there in face of the sentinel whom we saw
pacing to and fro. The soldier challenged us as we came near, and we
answered that we were travellers and wanted to camp there for the night.
A corporal speedily came up, and one of us, taking the passports,
accompanied him to the officers’ quarters, a half-mile or so across the
fields. Our position was soon explained to the satisfaction of the
lieutenant, who, although not a particularly intelligent specimen of the
officers of the line, readily comprehended the fact that we had no
hostile intentions, and ordered the corporal to see that we were not
molested in our camp, and to send us for our passports in the morning.
In a few minutes we had our camp in order, built a fire, and cooked our
dinner, all to the great entertainment of the soldier on guard, who
watched every operation with the most intense interest. Before we had
finished eating, a

[Illustration: RUSSIAN PICKET POST]

number of officers came down from their quarters to look at our canoes,
and when, a few minutes later, they saw us getting ready for bed,
politely wished us good-night, and went away. Our bivouac was not far
from a country road, and every passer met a prompt challenge from the
soldier, who never deserted our fire except to perform this duty.
Feeling very much as if we were within the lines of an army in war-time,
we retired into the shelter of our tents and left the soldier to whisper
to himself and utter mournful sighs by the few remaining coals. Some
time in the night he was relieved, and the new sentinel withdrew into
the cover of the willow-trees, and did not disturb us in any way. In the
early morning a boat-load of natives rowing up-stream past our camp was
immediately challenged by the guard, and ordered to come ashore. One of
the men landed and carried the passports up to the officers for the
regulation _visé_ before the boat was allowed to proceed. We then
appreciated the fact that we were not treated any differently from the
inhabitants themselves, but that, as far as the Custom-house regulations
went, the river-bank was practically in a state of siege.

A hospitable-looking bath-house moored near the landing offered us a
familiar refuge at Ismail, and we innocently put in there and prepared
to go ashore. Before we had left the canoes, however, a fussy
Custom-house guard with a short sword by his side came hurrying up, and
peremptorily ordered us to cast off our painters and to land on a little
beach about fifteen yards farther down-stream. We assured him we had the
permission of the bath-house keeper to moor our canoes where we were,
but he failed to see any point in this remark, and the more we demurred
the more aggressive he became. Reinforcements now began to arrive and we
thought best to yield, and consequently went ashore at the spot
indicated. Just above, on the bank, was a rambling wooden structure,
offensively ornamental in style, somewhat resembling a sea-side villa.
We were conducted into this building by our fuming guard and found it
was the Custom-house of the port, although there was no sign nor flag to
suggest this fact. Entering a small room, our passports were examined
and stamped by a courteous official and given back to us again.
Understanding that we were now free to go into the town, we returned to
the canoes, took them up to the bath-house again, and, carrying our
sketching materials, started to walk out through the enclosure in which
the Custom-house was situated. We were not allowed to pass with our
sketch-bags, and were conducted to the Custom-house to have them
examined. Of course nothing dutiable was discovered in them, but we were
told that we would not be allowed to carry them into the town until the
chief of the customs had given us permission, and he was not expected at
the office for an hour or more. There was nothing left for us but to
wander off up the long street to see if there was anything worth
sketching. It was an extremely hot day and the streets were dusty,
unshaded by trees, and often almost impassable by reason of deep gullies
and broken culverts. The town is laid out in rectangles, and most of the
houses are long and low, and built of bricks or mud plastered on the
outside; a few of them, however, are made of unpainted, skilfully-hewn
logs. There are several large buildings on one side of the vast, empty
square opposite the great white church with several green domes which
rises high above the stunted trees and adjacent houses, but with these
exceptions the street architecture, as far as we saw it, is of the
plainest and least attractive kind.

When we returned to the Custom-house one of the clerks, who had been
educated in St. Petersburg, spoke French, and was an amateur artist,
presented us to the head official, who rather curtly informed us that
we must of course get the _visé_ of the chief of police on our passports
before we were allowed to sketch or even carry our materials into the
town. The obstacles put in the way of our pursuit of art stimulated us
to continue our efforts to overcome them, especially after the
communicative young official above mentioned assured us that he had to
have his passport _viséed_ by the police before he was allowed to
sketch. So we tramped through the heat and dust a mile or more to the
police-station, produced our passports, and asked for the necessary
_visé_. None of the high officials were there at the time, and a young
Moldavian clerk, much inflated by the proud consciousness of his
temporary authority, received our request with sneers and scoffing. We
did not stop to consider that perhaps our dress and general appearance
might not strike him as characteristic of professional men, but, very
much vexed at his impertinence and annoyed that he did not even take the
trouble to open our passports, we made use of some emphatic expressions
in common use among the Russians. Thereupon the clerk grew livid with
sudden wrath, and pointing to a cheap lithograph of the Czar hanging
over the desk, shouted in angry tones that we had insulted his majesty
by using strong language in his presence. The soldier-policeman who
stood on guard in the little office at once took the cue from the clerk
and added his torrent to the rising flood of abuse. They both worked
themselves into such a state of frantic passion that for a brief moment
it looked as if we were going to have immediate war. All our efforts to
pacify them were in vain, and while they were yet raging and threatening
to have our gore we seized our passports and escaped. We related the
incident at the Custom-house, and the officials there begged us to go to
the residence of the chief of police and report the conduct of the
clerk, saying it was no uncommon behavior among the Moldavians who are
in the employ of the Government, and declaring it would be a public
benefit to teach them a lesson. But we thought the game was scarcely
worth the loss of the whole afternoon, and after having our passports
ornamented with a second stamp giving us permission to depart, went away
richer only in experience.

If these accounts of our troubles with Custom-house officials and the
military give an impression that such experiences seriously interfered
with the enjoyment of our trip, a false idea has certainly been
conveyed. We were annoyed at times, it must be confessed, but whenever
we paused to reflect, we remembered that we took no chances in our
favor. We were travelling between two frontiers rigorously guarded and
vigilantly watched to prevent smuggling, and whenever we went ashore
made no effort to appear in the character of tourists, but with our
stained garments, weather-beaten hats, and ragged boating-shoes exposed
ourselves to the same delays, inconveniences, and discourteous treatment
which the inhabitants themselves suffer in their dealings with the
official class, not only in this but in many other parts of Europe. It
is undoubtedly true that if we had landed at Ismail in smart yachting
uniform, or perhaps even with a coat on, we should have had little or no
difficulty with any one from the fussy autocrat at the landing to the
bantam clerk at the police headquarters. Indeed, after all was said and
done, we had experienced, even in these last few days, no greater
annoyance than we had endured at the frontier of Germany on our way to
Donaueschingen, where our baggage, part of it being of unusual shape,
was examined with great deliberation and minute curiosity, and we were
at last obliged to pay sixteen pfennigs duty on two tins of cocoatina
and a pot of vaseline, the only canoe stores we had with us. Whatever
disagreeable happened in our visits to the towns we always speedily

[Illustration: FISHING-HUT AMONG THE REEDS]

forgot when we reached camp, for there we were generally quite free and
undisturbed and, moreover, exceedingly comfortable. We travelled from
the very start on the principle that we could see more and work better
if we treated ourselves well, and we therefore scorned neither comforts
nor luxuries, made every reasonable effort to have regular meals and a
varied bill of fare, and never, under any circumstances, neglected to
keep our outfit clean and in good order. This may sound as if our
out-of-door life was not what is usually called “roughing it,” and it
certainly was not, if we accept the common definition of the term as
qualifying the experiences of the raw recruit, the apprentice sailor,
and the amateur camper. We found the maxim of the best men in the
hunting field: “When the hounds are not running, never take a fence
unless you are obliged to,” applied equally well to our excursion, and
we therefore never roughed it unless we were compelled to do so by
circumstances. In the whole extent of our trip, among all the novel
scenes and the unique and interesting experiences, every incident of our
camp life remains perfectly fresh in our memory.

After a short paddle down a pleasant reach under perpendicular bluffs on
the Russian shore, past frequent irrigating machines ingeniously
constructed to lift the water upon the high plateau, we came out into a
perfectly flat country partly wooded on either side. The strong
north-east wind which had been blowing almost continuously for days gave
us no rest, and raised a choppy sea which seriously checked our speed.
About ten miles below Ismail the river divides into three parts, which
join into one stream at Kilia fifteen miles farther on. We planned to
camp somewhere above the latter town, and chose the central passage as
probably the most direct one. For the rest of the afternoon we worked
steadily, expecting to come in sight of Kilia long before sunset. A
swampy wilderness surrounded us, and not a yard of solid earth did we
see. The frontier runs along the northerly limit of the delta on the
banks of the smallest of the three lesser arms just described, and we
therefore did not even have the company of the picket stations. Indeed,
the only human habitations we came across were at a fishing-camp, where
several rude huts were scattered about among the reeds and willows,
their mud-floors scarcely a foot above the level of the water. It began
to rain, and heavy storm-clouds, driven by the rising gale, swept over
the whole sky. The sun went down and we had left the region of willows,
and now saw nothing but reeds on all sides of us. Soon the gathering
twilight drove us to seek a camp, although the domes of Kilia were not
yet in sight. The only place we could find after a long search was a
small clearing among the reeds on the left bank, where some fisherman
had dried the stalks for floats to his nets. Here we hauled up the
canoes, settled them firmly in the soft mud of the marsh, bow to bow, at
an angle with each other, and, spreading a thick layer of freshly-cut
reeds over the triangular space between the canoes and the edge of the
bank, put up our tents and built a fire. The latter operation was not so
easy as it sounds, for all the wood we could find was the water-soaked
branches of willow which we broke from the snags or pulled out of the
ooze of the banks. We were, however, prepared for just such an emergency
and, lighting an ordinary little wire-gauze spirit-lamp, arranged the
smallest twigs over the frame so they soon dried, then caught fire, and
by their heat dried others, until we shortly had enough strength of
flame to kindle the large pieces of sodden wood. Sheltered from the rain
by our sketching umbrellas in the lee of the canoe tents, we cooked an
elaborate dinner of several courses, and enjoyed as comfortable a meal
as if our camp had been made on the sound turf of an English meadow. As
for our snug beds, they were quite as dry and warm as at any other
bivouac, notwithstanding the fact that the canoes were lying in a slough
of black mire.

[Illustration: A LATE CAMP]

A prolonged struggle with the mud the next morning did not increase our
courage to face the strong head-wind, but we got away at last fairly
free from the stains which defiled clothes, sails, and varnish, and
after a short paddle came out into the main stream which here runs
towards the south-east for a short distance, and were soon scudding past
the town of Kilia under full sail. The town stretches far inland among
groves of trees, and we could see the green-topped domes of several
churches and the roofs of large houses. The water-front was by no means
inviting, with its ugly sheds and dilapidated landing-stages, and,
moreover, there was such an active running to and fro among the soldiers
near a battery on the point that we concluded it was best not to land,
but to dash boldly past not only this military post but the Roumanian
one of Staroi-Kilia opposite, and try to reach the Black Sea before
sunset. We were hailed as we went along, and the marines on a small
Russian cruiser looked with astonishment at our flags straightened out
by the breeze, but we did not alter our course nor start a sheet until
we were obliged to take to our paddles again at the next bend.

After our first introduction to real mud just below Belgrade, we had
always looked forward to an ideal bivouac on a clean sandy beach on the
shores of the Black Sea, where we should find drift-wood in abundance,
firm smooth ground under our feet, and pure sweet air to breathe. We
felt a certain elation, then, as we passed Kilia and saw before us a
great flat, unbroken reed-covered marsh, in the belief that within a few
hours we should probably reach this ideal camp and bid good-bye to
Danube mud and its accompanying annoyances. We stole along in the
shelter of a fringe of large willows on the Russian bank for about five
miles. Through the trees we could see great vineyards and cultivated
fields and occasional farm-houses. Peasants were at work repairing the
low dikes that protect the farms from the overflow of the river, or
weaving fresh rods in the wattled fences. We occasionally checked our
speed to watch these operations, and if we had attempted to land would
probably have been met with a prompt challenge, for all along at regular
intervals the white uniforms of the sentinels could be distinguished
among the undergrowth, and

[Illustration: MOLDAVIAN PEASANTS--A WINDY DAY IN THE DELTA]

the glint of bayonets often flashed in the foliage. At the end of this
reach the river broadens out to a width of a mile or more, but only for
a short distance, and then divides around a perfect maze of islands with
no marks anywhere to indicate the best passage. According to our map,
which for this part of the river was very inaccurate and almost useless,
the northern arm along the frontier would be scarcely navigable, and,
withal, much the longest route. Noticing the roof of a small house among
the reeds just after we had entered the middle branch, we stopped to
inquire the way and to find out the distance. The whole peasant family
trooped down to greet us, and took the friendliest interest in the
canoes and in the journey we were making. The boys ran and gathered
melons which they forced upon us, and the father gave us most accurate
directions for our navigation, much too intricate and detailed to be
remembered, and told us it was about forty versts (twenty-five miles) to
the sea.



CHAPTER XXI


For the next two hours we paddled steadily between banks covered with
tall reeds, waving and rustling in the wind, occasionally startling
broods of young ducks out of their hiding-places, but seeing no other
living thing. About noon we came out into a stream at right angles with
the one we had followed, and seeing the familiar figure of a Russian
soldier among the willows, knew we were on the right road. In a few
minutes more we saw a row of white sand-dunes glistening in the sun
beyond grassy meadows, and to the right and below the green domes of two
churches. Rounding a low point we were shortly off the village of
Vilkoff, the last settlement on the Kilia arm. Very little of the place
was visible from the river as we came down, for it extends some distance
back, and only the roofs of two large fish warehouses and a few
fishermen’s huts are seen among the trees near the river. There was no
landing-place, and not even a boat along the shore, so we pushed on
against the wind, now blowing a gale, and shortly came to the mouth of a
narrow inlet, forming the tiny harbor of the place. Along both sides of
this passage we saw, jumbled together in confusion, many rambling wooden
structures, quite like those at any remote fishing village in New
England, and a fleet of boats, large and small, moored to rotting,
neglected landing-stages. We grounded once or twice on a mud-bank on our
way into the harbor, but presently were in sheltered waters, and,
following the directions of some fishermen, came alongside the steps in
front of a low white building which we found was the Custom-house. With
the exception of the lotkas, or native boats, all our surroundings, from
the unpainted shanties and the shaky wharves to the rough boots and
tarpaulins of the fishermen, suggested Cape Ann or Cape Cod; but the
appearance on the quay of a very short and stout official with an
extraordinary bottle nose and wearing the Russian uniform, located the
place instantly.

[Illustration: VILKOFF]

This official was the most astonished man ever seen; his eyes fairly
started out of their orbits; he looked first at us, then at the canoes,
and then at the Stars and Stripes and Union-jack flying from the masts,
but seemed too much dazed to utter a word. At last he opened his mouth
and asked, with a tremor in his speech:

“Why are you landing here?”

“The wind is so heavy we can’t go on,” we replied.

“What’s your business?”

We explained to the best of our ability, not forgetting to mention the
profession of civil engineer we had adopted up the river.

“But you had better not land here!” he urged.

“We must land; we can’t go on until the wind drops.”

“You certainly can’t stay here, for there is no hotel, and you won’t be
able to get anything to eat.”

“We don’t want a hotel and we have food in our boats.”

“What did you come here for?”

We explained again that we were travelling to see the country.

“There is nothing to see here, and you had better not stop.”

“But,” we insisted, becoming a little weary of his obstinate and stupid
repetitions, “we can’t possibly go on until the wind moderates, and,
furthermore, we don’t propose to try. Here are our passports, _viséed_
by the representative of his Imperial Majesty, the Czar.”

The sight of two large documents, quite unlike anything called passports
he had ever before seen, only added to his distress, and he looked at
them with much the expression of a man who sees the warrant for his
arrest in the hands of a sheriff. At this juncture two young men came
up, introduced themselves to us as fish merchants of the place,
interceded in our behalf, and succeeded in calming the old man’s
excitement so that he looked at the _visés_ on our passports and told us
to come ashore. After further discussion he consented to register and
stamp our papers, but refused to give them back to us, saying we could
have them again when we went away. All the arguments we could invent
were eloquently used in the hope of persuading him to permit us to land
our sketching materials, and our two young allies, who had been educated
in Odessa and understood our position, joined their voices to ours, but
all in vain. Not an article must be removed from the canoes--not even

[Illustration: FISHING STATION ON THE BLACK SEA]

a sketch-book--and, furthermore, we must promise not to sketch anything
before we would be allowed to go into the village. Seeing the place even
with this restriction was better than dangling our heels from the edge
of the quay all the afternoon, and we accepted the invitation of one of
the fish merchants to drink tea with him, and strolled off into the
village.

The houses are low and solidly built, and most of them have one peculiar
feature--a row of columns in front, supporting a projection of the roof.
They stand closely together along straight thoroughfares which are
little better than canals of mud, being only a few inches above the
level of the river. The foundations of the houses are raised a foot or
two above these sloughs, and roughly-hewn plank sidewalks, supported by
piles, extend everywhere in front of the buildings, even into the narrow
side alleys where fishermen’s huts are huddled together in the marsh
among reeds and willows. Two great white churches, enclosed by neat
palings, occupy the middle of wide, neglected squares, and look bleak
and bare and uninviting. The house we visited was of one story, but long
and deep, and was comfortably, even luxuriously, furnished. The
drawing-room, where we took unlimited tea and sweets, after the Russian
custom, might have been in Vienna or Bucharest, with its parquet floor
and ornate furniture.

The young merchants, who frankly told us they were Hebrews, although
their type of face did not betray this fact, gave us detailed
information about the village, the life there, the character of the
people, and the extent of the fish business. From them we learned that
Vilkoff counts about 4000 inhabitants, of whom at least 1500 follow the
hazardous occupation of fishing for sturgeon in the Black Sea. Five
merchants, all of them Jews, divide the trade in fish and caviar between
them, and practically own the place and also the people, body and soul.
Each trader has his contingent of 300 or more fishermen, whom he
supplies with their outfit, all the necessities of life and unlimited
vodki, all on the credit system, and takes as payment the entire product
of their toil. The natural consequence of this system is that the poor
wretches of fishermen are always deeply in debt to the merchants, and
pass their whole lives in as degrading a state of slavery as ever was
endured by man. The only relief they have from the tyranny of their
masters and the hardships of the occupation they follow is all too
frequent indulgence in the oblivion of inebriety. Our hosts did not
think there was anything extraordinary in our experience with the
Custom-house officials, and seemed to think that, considering the fact
that no stranger had ever landed at Vilkoff within their memory, we had
got on very well there. One of them related an incident which perfectly
illustrates the unreasonable severity of the customs regulations as they
are carried out in this part of the Danube. On one occasion he came down
from Kilia with a lotka loaded with fishermen’s supplies and was
detained by head-winds, so he did not arrive until after the
Custom-house officials had gone home for the night. The guard on the
quay, who had known him from childhood, not only prohibited him from
landing his cargo, but would not allow him to go ashore himself. He was
therefore obliged to sit in the boat fighting mosquitoes all night long,
and wait until nine o’clock in the morning before he could get his
passport stamped, so that he could land and go home. This, he assured
us, was no unusual adventure, and it is a recognized fact that when the
head officer of the Custom-house is at his meals or is taking a nap, the
whole business of the port is temporarily suspended. Of course this
would hardly be the case if Vilkoff were on any route of travel. But
this far-off settlement is not within two days’ drive of a

[Illustration: ROUMANIAN SAILORS AT THE “CORDON”]

railway, and no steamer ever comes through the Kilia arm, because the
numerous channels into which it divides at Vilkoff are all of them
shallow, and only navigable by small fishing-boats.

The sturgeon is chiefly valuable for the roe or caviar which is found in
it, but the meat finds ready sale, fresh or pickled. In sturgeon fishing
the men employ long strings of large hooks without barbs, suspended by
stout cords a yard long from a rope strung with cork floats. These hooks
are not baited, but are hung very closely together, so that when the
fish is swimming near the surface, as he usually does, he runs against
them, and entangling himself by the violence of his struggles is easily
captured. We saw a medium-sized fish brought to the warehouse at
Vilkoff, where the caviar was extracted. There was just about enough to
fill an ordinary bucket, and the trader told us it was worth on the spot
about 160 francs. The roe is held together by a net-work of delicate
fibres and a gelatinous substance not unlike thin starch in appearance.
The eggs are separated from this envelope by carefully rubbing them
through a coarse sieve, and the caviar is then ready for the table. The
extremely delicate nature of caviar will not permit of its
transportation unless it is preserved in some way, and it is usually put
on the market in small quantities salted, or in bulk salted and pressed.
There is as much difference between the flavor of the fresh and the
salted caviar as there is between ripe and dried figs, or between grapes
and raisins. The amateur of this delicacy really enjoys it only within
twenty-four hours after it is taken from the fish.

The afternoon was fast passing and we were getting impatient to be off
when, luckily, at about four o’clock the violence of the gale diminished
somewhat, and we at once prepared to start. A ludicrous expression of
relief came over the old man’s face when we asked for our passports and
told him we were going away. He became cheerful and amiable, and
confided in us, as we bade him good-bye, that he was a Pole, and had
been in the service of the Government for over forty years, and was very
much afraid he would have lost his place if he had permitted us to pass
the night in the village. We had a paddle of ten miles before us, and
about two hours of daylight to do it in, and we set off in good spirits,
looking forward with agreeable anticipations to our camp on the
sea-shore. Soon after leaving Vilkoff we entered a maze of channels
among low islands, where our horizon was limited by the rank of tall
reeds along the shores. We met several lotkas with fishermen paddling up
to the village from their summer huts near the sea-coast, and a large
patrol-boat full of Roumanian soldiers near a large picket station, and,
judging from these indications that we were in the right passage, we
paddled steadily on.

In an hour and a half the stream curved round to the south east, and we
were enabled to take advantage of the wind and hoisted sail at once.
Just as the sun was setting we came into a short reach, scarcely wider
than the Danube at Donaueschingen, and there, in front of us, was the
straight line of the sea-horizon stretching across between two low,
reed-covered points. In a few moments more we sailed out gayly into the
Black Sea. The broad open expanse of the sea was before us, all yellow
and glowing with the reflection of the gorgeous sunset sky, and the
light on the jetty at Sulina glimmered brightly in the distance. But we
could see neither beach nor sand-dunes, and for a long distance in front
of us and on either side, as far as we could distinguish in the dim
light, stumps of trees, ugly snags, and bunches of reeds were sticking
up out of the water. No possible camp-ground was visible anywhere, and
for a moment we scarcely knew what to do or which way to turn

[Illustration: THE LAST TOILET IN CAMP]

our bows. The wind had risen again at sunset, the shallow water grew
rougher and rougher every moment, and delay was fatal unless we chose to
pass the night moored to a snag, or in the shelter of the reeds on the
shore. At first we thought of taking refuge at one of the fishermen’s
huts among the reeds at the mouth of the passage, but, discovering a
white building far across the bay in the direction of Sulina, we headed
our canoes for that, knowing we should find solid earth there, and
paddled harder than we had done since we shot the rapids at the Iron
Gates. Drenched with spray from the high cross-seas, we finally reached
the other shore just as darkness was shutting down, and, pushing through
a great bed of reeds, came out into a little muddy pool, with a landing
made of logs close by the little whitewashed house we had seen from a
distance. A half-dozen sailors of the Roumanian navy welcomed us
heartily as we landed, insisted on carrying up our canoes and luggage,
and helped us pitch our camp on a dry sandy spot near their quarters. It
was the evening of the 9th of September, and the journey from the Black
Forest to the Black Sea had occupied us eleven weeks and one day,
including twenty-eight days we had spent in excursions away from the
river and our delays at Vienna, Hainburg, and Budapest. We had paddled
and sailed 1775 miles through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Servia,
Bulgaria, Roumania, and Russia.

The following morning we were on our feet at dawn, eager to see what
sort of country we had reached in the darkness. We found that we were at
the “cordon,” or one of the Roumanian customs picket posts, on a point
of land called Cape Masoura, and that we had come out into the Black Sea
through that branch of the river called the Zaliv. The bay we had
crossed in the twilight was an ancient mouth of the river, not navigable
within the memory of man. Our camp was on the edge of a broad, rough
meadow, bordered on the north by great shallows where the sea is eating
into the land, and extending for miles to the southward, where a range
of sand-dunes hides Sulina from view, and to the west towards dark
masses of the great forest on a low, sandy elevation which marks the
line of the ancient sea-coast. The whole tract as far as we could see
was gay with wild-flowers. In Alfred Parsons’ note-book are enumerated
among the plants found on this sandy flat, sea-lavender (_Stalice
latifolia_), small Michaelmas daisy, just coming into blossom,
large-leaved meconopsis, mauve lactuca, and several yellow composite
flowers. In the lakes of the delta among the reeds he found
water-lilies, villarsia, frogbit, a floating plant like a yucca, with
thorny edges to the leaves, a sort of duck-weed with rough primate
leaves, and on the river-banks, loosestrife, hemp, agrimony, flowering
rush, and a thick undergrowth of marsh fern.

We cooked a most elaborate breakfast, made our farewell camp toilet
before the nickle-plated rudder which served us as a mirror, and then
parted with everything but our raiment among the sailors, who had been
interested but shy spectators of all these operations. The wind was
blowing half a gale, but with plenty of daylight before us we had no
hesitation in tempting the dangers of the Black Sea, and about the
middle of the forenoon left the cheery company happy in the possession
of all our pots and pans, and set out in the direction of Sulina. The
sailors assured us that we would not be able for several days to enter
the river on account of the breakers running at the bar, but we proposed
to skirt the coast as far as we could go, and then see what would turn
up.

We worked our way out of the tangle of reeds and across the shallows
into the open water and turned our bows to the southward, where a long
sand-beach stretched away in a graceful curve. A double line of breakers
followed the

[Illustration: BY THE BLACK SEA]

shore, and we could see the white water on the bar beyond the
light-house. We paddled on for several miles in the trough of the sea,
dodging the waves and escaping capsize only by careful steering. We
thought it useless to venture out into the roadstead, but kept along
near the shore, and when we found the waves were rising to a height
which made further advance foolhardy, we ran the canoes ashore through
the surf and hauled them up on the beach just under the sand-dunes--the
ideal camp-ground of our imaginations. We were not in sight of any
house, and as we could not paddle any farther, it looked as if we might
enjoy our sea-shore camp after all. However, on reconnoitring from the
top of one of the dunes, we saw an ox-cart slowly moving across the
meadow a half-mile or more away, and ran and overtook it. The driver was
a fine, tall young Roumanian farmer, with an intelligent, handsome face,
and he consented to carry the canoes to the Sulina branch for us. He had
an excellent cart and two yoke of oxen, and there was an easy road along
the hard beach. On the firm white sand, under a brilliant noonday sun,
and in full view of the great blue expanse of the Black Sea, we
dismantled the canoes and lashed them on the ox-cart, one above the
other. After a couple of hours’ walk along the beach in the very wash of
the waves, we came to the north bank of the Sulina arm opposite the
town. Here we slid the canoes into the stream, took our last paddle
across the Danube, and deposited them in the warehouse of a hospitable
friend to await shipment to England. We then and there compared notes,
and agreed we had only two things to regret in our whole trip: one that
we did not launch the canoes at Villingen, fifteen miles above
Donaueschingen, and the other that we did not have our camp on the sands
of the Black Sea.





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