Crumbs of Travel


THE British boarding-house is built of brick, originally of a meek, unobtrusive mud color, but long since converted to surly, hopeless dinginess by innumerable layers of London fog and smoke. If the building were of Pentelican marble, and had originally glittered like the countenance of an angel, this grimy atmosphere would have changed it to the complexion of a sickly demon.

The position of this particular British boarding-house is admirable, almost commanding, and not unworthy of a palace. It overlooks a noble street, bordered by broad and superb footways; beyond this, and slightly elevated, stretch the magnificent carriage - way and riding-way and granite parapets of the great Thames Embankment; and a little below, but plainly visible, rolls the potent, the world-famous, the historic Thames.

Leaning out of his ramshackle bowwindow, the impressed American boarder can discern, in one direction, the countless pinnacles and enormous towers of the Houses of Parliament. Turning in the other direction, he can see as far as the Tower of London, where William the Conqueror held court and garrison, where the royal children were murdered and Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Here and there, above and below, the renowned river is spanned by graceful giants of bridges, some of iron and some of granite. Up and down it fly perpetually the swift, sharp, black hulls of steam ferry-boats, touching and rebounding from dozens of costly piers, like humming-birds darting from flower to flower. When the tide is full, the boarder can see the decks of these vessels crowded with passengers; when the tide is low, their funnels scarcely appear above the parapet of the quay. For fourpence they will transport him from Chelsea to Greenwich, through eight miles or more of monstrous, massive London.

But the interior of the British boarding-house is also worthy of attention. In the first place, it has existed through such a lengthy though unknown period of time! The sojourner from the setting sun has never inquired when the edifice was built; hut to his eyes, accustomed to frequent emissions of a shinplaster architecture, it looks old enough to be fit for pulling down; and he has even a vague, superstitious feeling that its destruction would be an act of mercy, setting free many generations of ghosts which now tenant it, and permitting them to find places of rest. Indeed, if one may venture such a disrespectful statement, the edifice has not borne its years well. There is a looseness and also a clatteringness about its fittings which reminds one of machinery, and sets one to marveling what unearthly web and woof is being woven by the spirits of the invisible. There is a certain chamber door which rattles to that degree that the occupant frequently shouts “ Come in,” when nobody is there but a lost breeze which has stumbled into the house by some cranny and is fumbling in all directions to get out again. That occupant proudly believes that nothing in the world can out-rattle his door, except his windows. These last, especially when the wind blows from the southward side, have an ague which transports him with a mixture of admiration and pity. He would caulk them up with coats and trousers, only that he has other uses for those articles.

Everything within the room corresponds with these symptoms of senility. An antiquarian would fall down and worship before a certain bleared and tottering washstand which has, to all appearance, been in steady use for a matter of five or ten centuries. A shaky, worm-eaten bedstead, which the Plantagenets may have had the nightmare on, would fill the right kind of a soul with pensive joy. This bedstead, by the way, is so lofty that, if the boarder tumbles off it, he will dash himself to atoms on the grimiest of carpets. Into the composition of the bedding — the mere, sheer, complex, miscellaneous bedding — there is at least, one man who has never dared to explore exhaustively. He knows, however, that it contains not only springs and mattresses, but also feathers. Furthermore, he has noted that what should be a bolster is simply a roll of threadbare blanket, ambuscaded under the sheet. The curtains, are of a very venerable fabric, matching in color the grimy exterior of the building. In one corner of the room (and only to be discovered by pulling idiotically at the wall-paper) is a totally improbable closet which smells ns though it might have been a locker in Noah’s ark, so strong is the perfume of antediluvian bilge-water.

Yet this chamber is as fine as any of the others. Indeed, it is much fresher in the particular of atmosphere than certain ones which look dimly rearward upon a cramped and gloomy court, or rather pit, walled in by other equally sombre houses. Even the great parlor below stairs, though something like thirty feet long by fifteen high, is little less musty than an old beer-hogshead. One marvels, by the way, at finding such a saloon in such a place. But the dwelling was once aristocratic, as the transatlantic lodger constantly hears from his landlady, and as he frequently believes. All the rooms are wainscoted and garnished with deep moldings around the ceilings and with other architectural embellishments. Only, it is a decayed, besooted, befogged, stained, peeled, pockmarked, and musty grandeur. The gilt of the once gorgeous wall-paper has acquired a dusky glory, like that of stale gingerbread, The marble of the mantels looks several ages older than that of the Parthenon. The mahogany of the furniture belongs to an extinct species, and exhibits the infirmities which must attend even a sturdy old age. The eye cannot discover an object which has not been more or less nibbled and discolored by time and pitiless use.

Yet here, unless the genial landlady is an inventor of pleasing fictions, once abode wealth and rank and fashion; here many and many a night (one can’t believe it all the time) the great Nelson and his officers have danced till morning. This starred and gartered and epauletted tradition has been repeated to the American boarder day by day, and has by him been compared doubtingly with the shabby decadence and brick exterior of the old dwelling, until the mighty admiral has come to assume in his mind a semi-fabulous character, as if he were Sir Launcelot or Jack the Giant-Killer. More than once he has been tempted to get rid of his bewilderments by affirming to the hostess that there never was such a person as Lord Nelson. But he has restrained himself through fear of producing an astonishment ending in paralysis.

The landlady, it must be deferentially understood, is a lady of the old school. She adores the queen, the royal family, the established church, and the city of London. Every day she has something new to tell about the most august personages of the realm. She knows all the particulars; she has read them in the morning papers. It is very surprising to stumble upon this last fact, after having walked for a while in the belief that the prince and the duchess were her condescending friends and sometimes dropped in to let her know of their health and doings. By the way, strange as it may seem to residents of the setting sun, multitudes of people on this island are thus worshipful-minded. There are millions of English men and English women who, if there were no longer an aristocracy to prattle about, would feel that they had lost one of the greatest pleasures of their lives.

“ Did you ever see Sot hern in Lord Dundreary? ” a republican boarder once maliciously inquired of this loyal lady.

“I went to see him,” she replied, gravely, as one might speak in confessing a lamentable error. “ But I left at the hend of the first hact, just as soon as I saw what the play meant. I must say that I cannot bear to see those matters made light of.”

By “ those matters ” she undoubtedly meant the intelligence and dignity of the British aristocracy.

“ Are you fortunate enough to be the proprietor of this house? " was another query.

“ I ’ll ’ave you to understand that my landlord is the Duke of ―! ” she responded, curiously proud of the fact that her home was owned by a greater than herself.

To none of the naughty stories concerning the Prince of Wales did she lend an atom of faith.

“ He is a good son of a good mother,” the declared summarily. “ These anecdotes are the invention of low people and mischievous radicals.”

Once it seemed as if she would burst into tears while talking of the mighty capital of England.

“I know I love London,” she murmured with a quavering voice. “ I know I am an adorer. I love it only too well. I know it.”

On a certain memorable day the Prince of Saxe-Weimar (the queen’s cousin, if one is not painfully mistaken) called at the British boarding - house to inspect a fine service of Sèvres (valued at only seven thousand pounds sterling) which was held on sale by one of the lodgers.

“ His Highness was struck with your parlor, madam,” said the urbane fictile gentleman at dinner. “ He remarked that he was quite surprised, after passing your modest entrance, to come upon so fine a salon.”

It was really ennobling and purifying to see the expression of calm, brimming satisfaction which filled the loyal matron’s countenance. She could not, or at least did not speak; she merely bowed her acknowledgments; but she was clearly in a state of beatitude. In passing, one may remark that this little speech of the prince’s seems to show him a thorough gentleman, disposed to make his humbler fellow - creatures more content with themselves. He could not say much for the grandeur of the time-worn habitation, but what little he could say, he did.

It may excite lowly wonder that a lady so familiar with the aristocracy, at least in spirit, should occasionally drop her “ aitches.” Well, she did not spill a great many of them; there was no need of sweeping them up with a dust-pan. It was only now and then, more especially in dealing with local names and suchlike very familiar words, that she lost her grip on the aspirate. One might observe, for instance, that she generally said Igh Olborn, instead of High Holborn. By the way, it is an odd fact that Holborn once had no H, having started in life simply as Old Burn, that is to say, Old Brook. The cockneys added an aspirate to it, and, now that it is on, they take it off. It seems to be necessary for them to know how to write a word in order to know exactly how to mispronounce it.

The mistress of the British boardinghouse speaks French, as she has good need to do. Her hostelry is a cosmopolitan resort, not only for English and Americans, but also for people of various continental nations. There are guests from Honduras, from India, from France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. The pale lady who sits opposite the American lodger, and who weeps at him because he resembles her brother who died in the Dutch East India army, is a native of Hamburg. The pretty brunette, farther down, ran away last year from Cologne with her preferred lover, and is now taking him back from Chicago to present him as her husband to the forgiving old people. The graciously spoken gentleman who owns the service of Sèvres is half Hungarian, half Viennese, and seems to be equally at home in German, French, and Italian. There are days when English is the tongue least used at the dinner-table. Bottles of bordeaux and champagne are more frequent than bottles of ale and porter. The waiters are to a man Germans. Yet this is not the foreign part of the city; it is a mile or so from Leicester Square. The explanation is that London is a world-capital, and also that the house sets forth good claret at a fair price.

The daily charge for board, lodging, service, and lights is eight shillings. A man can live cheaper than that in London, but if he does he is likely to live noticeably worse. The meals furnished are two: a breakfast whenever one calls for it, and a dinner at six. The breakfast consists of bacon and eggs, as much cold mutton as one chooses to cut from delicious joints, and a vast abundance of excellent tea and respectable toast, or tolerable bread with unsurpassable butter. The dinner generally presents soup, fish, a roast, two entrées, vegetables, dessert, fruit, and coffee. It is the copiousness and the meritorious cookery of this fare which induces many a lodger to stay on and on, while daily grumbling at the uninviting character of the sleeping accommodations and the mustiness of the atmosphere. A man soon learns, too, that, if he should go otherwheres, he would not be housed much better. Nothing is more remarkable about the boarding-houses or “ private hotels” of London than their saddening uniformity of ancient perfumes and slovenly bedding.

By the way, it filled the American lodger with wonder to discover that ham and eggs is the usual breakfast of prosperous John Bull. He had supposed that this inexpensive nourishment was peculiar to his own native land, and especially to the hotels of North Carolina and adjoining regions. But the bird of freedom did not invent it; he inherited it from the British lion, or perhaps the unicorn. When the traveling Yankee Doodle, eager for culinary novelties, sets out for “ merrie Englaunde,” let him prepare himself for an exhaustless supply of what I once heard a Briton speak of emphatically as “ some ’am and some heggs.”


The British beer shop is a manifold, a mighty, a terrible, apathetic phenomenon.

Go where you will in England, but particularly in the larger and more prosperous cities, this hydra every now and then thrusts up ouc of its countless heads before you, all so similar in features that you can hardly distinguish between one and another, with the result that you are impressed at last with a fearful sense of multitude, of unescapable power, and of a power which is evil.

There is nothing terrifying in the staring sign, the great, gleaming windows, and other recognizable characteristics of a single London or Liverpool drinking saloon. Tired, perhaps, with sightseeing, you are rather pleased to find such a haven in your way, and you rush in gladly to revive your forces with a draught of pale ale or porter. But after you have seen a thousand, after you have seen ten thousand, all more or less alike in physiognomy, all gushing from morn till midnight with malt liquors and fiery ardent spirits, all frequented and often crowded by drinking men and women and even infants, you begin to feel a sentiment of doubt and distrust which is capable of rising to something like terror. It seems to the imagination as if some immeasurable beast underlay all England, shooting up through the crust of the island innumerable glittering and drooling muzzles, all eager to poison and devour. You wonder how long the sturdy human breed here established can withstand this incessant hunger of a measureless monster. If you do not wish that there were no beer shops at all, you do perhaps come to desire that there might be fewer.

While they are many, they are little, these gin palaces, or whatever one chooses to call them; at least they seem small to an American by comparison with the continental bar-rooms which he can find in his native land. Exteriorly there is often a notable splendor of vast windows, sometimes of gilding, and by night of abundant gas. But you enter and the scene changes: the varnish and other embellishments have become soiled by hard, low use; the floors are either muddy or gritty, and scored with the tramping of numberless customers; the seats, if there be any, show the rubbing and grime of much dirty clothing. Over all the place there is a rude, uncompromising look of plain business, paying a high rent and figuring close for profits. Few are the decorative decanters, and numerous the workaday junk bottles in their rusty green or black. In many cases, also, the afterpart of the room exhibits vast mounds of barrels and hogsheads, as if some Joseph had laid up granaries of ale and whisky against a coming seplennat of droughty years.

Usually a beer shop has two or three massive, thudding doors, secured from slamming by straps; and each one of them is labeled in large, distinct letters to indicate a special styde of customers. At the very least there is a “ public entrance” and a “jug and bottle entrance.” Sometimes this last is styled the “ private entrance,” or, in rakish irony, as it would seem, the “family entrance.” To correspond with these doors the room within is divided into Compartments by high oaken or mahogany partitions which run from the wall to the bar. Behind the bar stand the servitors, sometimes men, but very often women, and these mostly young women. The traveler is tempted at times to declare that all the pretty girls in England are picked out for bar maids and shop girls.

I ventured to inquire of one of these buxom Hebes what were her hours of labor. She told me that she was at her post from nine in the morning until eleven at night; that she had an hour’s nooning, one day out every fortnight, and the whole of Sunday until six, afternoon. She was a strong, solid, fairfaced girl of twenty, with some color in her cheeks, the cool-lighted English blue eye, and hair of straight chestnut. Beside her toiled a comrade who was evidently her sister; also a woman of thirty who seemed to be the lady superior of the establishment; also a young man of twenty-five. They all had a brisk, business-like, overworked seriousness, unliglited by juvenile gayety or flirtishness. While we were talking, a soldier of the guards, a tall, martial, neat, and indeed dandified hero, stood beside me, wrestling with a pot of porter. Presently he said, very civilly, but also rather grandly, like a man who knows his own dignity, “Miss, please, will you oblige me with a chew of tobacco ? ”

The luxury was provided from a plug apparently kept ready for the purpose. Tbe guardsman gave thanks like a born gentleman, addressed me with a few cleanly pronounced words as to the wet weather, and took his departure with the characteristic strut of the household troops. I have been given solemnly to understand that every publican feels bound to “ treat ” these select champions and defenders of the British regalia.

The fluids most copiously drawn are the malt liquors. Are they worthy of this preference and of their world-wide repute ? Every one knows that, they contribute no inconsiderable body to the fame as well as to the wealth of England. But the sad truth is that good British beer is one thing, and average British beer quite another thing. Without dwelling upon the tales of adulteration and intricate poisoning which may be found in the newspapers, I will venture to hint that this last-named beverage is not so praiseworthy as it is abundant. It even seemed to me inferior to what it was when I visited John Bull in Ids home years ago. In the mean time the German malt drinks have improved wonderfully. The amber Tilsner of Berlin and the brown beer of Bavaria are now liquids which by their purity, sparkle, and enlivening qualities remind one of champagne. In comparison with these Lutheran refreshments, Anglican porter and ale are heavy, ropy, and, as a Frenchman phrased it to me, greasy (huileuse). Of course it must be understood that these are not the exhaustive judgments of an experienced taster, but only the passing impressions of a somewhat random sipper.

But let us glance at the customers. Through the jug and bottle door there is a frequent entry and exit of purchasers bearing various kinds of vessels: there is the pot-boy from the neighboring workshop; the seedy gentleman whose wine-cellar consists of his private bottle; the servant-maid who has come for her mistress’s regular quart; the ragged child heavily laden with the parental jug. In the public compartment you see men chiefly, and those of all grades of society, from the chance dandy to the rude carter. They drink from wine glasses, from glass goblets, from pewter mugs, each according to his whim or his special liquor. Pale ale, bitter beer, porter, 'alf ’an ’alf, sherry, claret, brandy, and whisky of various nationalities are called for by the miscellaneous appetite of a thirsty swarm.

On one of the oaken benches which line the alcove sit three veteran tipplers, sharing successive pewter quarts between them, and discussing the labor problem, or some other matter which they fail to understand, with a stolidness closely resembling the metal wherein they dip their unquenchable nozzles. On another bench a mechanic, in his holiday suit, is dividing another quart with his strong and rather coarse but tidy wife. A slouching woman, bearing a nursling in her arms, enters hurriedly, calls for whisky and water, drinks with gusto, and gives a startling portion to her pale, whimpering offspring. The youngster is certainly not old enough to talk, and yet swallows his fiery ration with willingness, as if used to it. How can he fail to grow up a drunkard, and beat his mother if she lives long enough, and perhaps kill his wife? Near by trembles and reels an image of this same infant, advanced to middle age. He is a ghastly, ragged laborer, whose hand is scarcely steady enough to carry a glass of whisky to his quivering lips, slinking up to the bar with the air of a man who has left none of his wages to his wife and children.

Of conversation in these places it is difficult to catch a note worth echoing. In one particular drinking-resort, however, I did hear a dialogue characteristic of commonplace John Bull and reminding me of certain passages in Dickens’s novels. A gentleman who had the port and air of Mr. Pumblechook was entertaining three of his friends — a surly, silent young man, and two open-hearted young women. They all exhibited great thirst, and spoke English without aspirates. The elder female seemed to be what one might venture to describe as an old maid, while the younger was a freshly inaugurated widow. Either they drank too freely, or they were not used to it, for both soon became garrulous and showed excitement. Presently the old maid commenced narrating what a bad man the other’s late husband was, and how he ran grievously in debt and died without leaving his wife a penny, all because he was a Frenchman. This was ostensibly in pity, but it was easy to detect a tone of envious triumph in it, and moreover it was spun out to an irritating length. At last the widow could bear it no longer; she felt, perhaps, that her one prize in life could not be thus belittled without reflecting upon herself; at all events, she spoke up sharply in defense of the departed one: —

“ You may go on in that way as much as hever you like, Jane. But precious little do you know about it, and ’ave got little to do with it. Free am Hi to admit that my man ’ad ’is faults. He loved a drop of drink now and then, and he was irregular at his work. But w’at he ’ad freely he give to me, and he was a noble, ’igh-’earted fellow; and Hi was the fool not to know it while he was a-livin’, and to keep up a-quarrelin’ with him. Again Hi say that he was a better man nor I deserved, and as bearable a man as women in general gets. Which my brother, who is a-sittin’ there, knows I speak the truth.”

Whereupon her brother, who was asittin’ there, responded surlily, “Nancy, you know you are a-lyin’.”

Here, I think, the two women came near pulling caps, but Mr. Pumblechook interfered and poured some of his “ hoil ” upon the troubled waters, and eventually there ensued a sort of glum, funereal peace, or perhaps armistice. The widow softened into tears, while the old maid dropped asleep with her mouth open, as if bent upon mischief to the flies. Seeing that nothing was likely to happen, I left them with sincere regret.

It is customary to lay on the gritty and grimy thresholds of the beer shops, or gin palaces, of England pretty much all the violent crimes which occur in the island. Patriotic Britons especially are fond of saying that, if it were not for strong drink, they would never punch each other’s heads and whip their own wives. There is something in this, and even a great deal in it; no doubt the coroner’s verdict might often be, “ Rum done it.” It is an easy, virtuous explanation of the frightful amount of fisticuffing in the United Kingdom, and I found that my own mind naturally turned to it in endeavoring to account for deeds of maniacal violence. As I read day after day, in the London and Liverpool journals, how some muscular Bill Sykes had knocked down his helpmeet, stripped her naked and kicked her black and blue, jumped on her with his hobnailed shoes and broken her ribs, finally leaving her mangled, senseless, and perhaps dying, I could hardly help wheeling amazedly upon the barkeeper and saying, Thou art the man!

But on sober reflection I must vary, or rather I must adulterate, this judgmerit. The Anglo-Saxons and the Irish and the Welsh are all pugnacious peoples. Not only their men, but also their women and their children, naturally love a fight, and would a thousand times rather be troopers and amazons than Quakers. I fancy that Mrs. Sykes, for instance, often sauces Bill insupportably, and provokes him to wrath even when he is off his liquor. Moreover, she is quite capable, physically and morally, of pulling his hair and exchanging hard knocks with him, though likely in the end to come off second best by reason of his superior muscle, in which case alone the event gets into the papers and causes horror. After cautious inspection of the low quarters of several British cities, I am sure that they contain many heroines whom I should be afraid of.

Nobody can remain long in England without observing symptoms of that combativeness which has given the race so many fields of victory, and which, for example, carried it gloriously through the heroic riot of Inkerman under the anarchic tactics of Donnybrook Pennyfather. Near London Bridge I was stricken with respectful wonder over a stubborn battle waged by an urchin of nine or ten against à younker of seventeen. Without the least provocation big boy runs his hand-barrow into little boy. Thereupon little boy pertinaciously follows up big boy with insults and missile warfare. Big boy repeatedly leaves his barrow and punches the head of little boy, who will not run for him, and retaliates as well as he can with feet and fists. Little boy’s countenance rapidly gets hammered out of shape, and looks like a miscellaneous assemblage of swollen features, slightly streaked with blood. Crowd gathers, but does not interfere with big boy’s privileges, perhaps taking him for little boy’s brother. Tall policeman eventually interferes and sternly disperses little boy.

What struck me most in this scene was the Roman, the truly amphitheatrical phlegm of the spectators, and, still more, the gladiatorial pluck of the junior youth in taking his punishment. And yet he had had nothing to drink, nor had his aggressive and brutal antagonist. The whole thing was a plain, unassisted outcome of that national pugnacity which must share with alcohol the responsibility of English wife - beatings and other ruffianisms.

The mighty Teutonic race has always been famous for hard drinking and for hard fighting. In the days of Tacitus the legions recruited in Germania astonished Italy with their wine-bibbing, and at the same time were reckoned the most formidable troops in the empire. The unsurpassable toping and battling of the Goths and Northmen are equally renowned. It would all seem to be a result of climate; the cold which hardens body and spirit also incites to strong liquors: hence the Vikings and their alehorns, Inkerman, wife-beating, and the beer shop.


Very interesting, very picturesque, and very beautiful is Edinburgh. Excepting that marvelous collection of mountains of architecture which men call Paris, it is probably the best built city in Europe, which is the same thing as saying it is the best built city in the world.

But Edinburgh, like many another earthly paradise, has certain features which do not remind one of the New Jerusalem. The landlord of my hotel, discovering that our party was eager for out-of-the-way matters of interest, offered to show us certain spectacles which he believed to be little known to the majority of travelers.

It was near dusk when we strolled into a tavern of the olden time, such a tavern as Scotsmen put up at, or put up with, in the days when Dr. Johnson reviled their ways of living: a most wonderful labyrinth of little, herding bedrooms, intermixed and intercommunicating as if thing together by accident; bedrooms piled on bedrooms and jammed behind bedrooms without any preface or introduction of hall or passage; bedrooms which seemed to squeeze each other out of shape like soap-bubbles in a basin, and which climbed on each other’s shoulders like animals in a drove. In those days slumber could not have thought of demanding seclusion, and Peeping Tom must have rejoiced in many a groping opportunity. The inhabitants of the farthermost retreats in this huge puzzle - box no doubt often wandered jeeringly or wrathfully through the snorings of fellow-lodgers. I could easily imagine that countless Mr. Pickwicks had here fallen utterly bewildered, and stumbled into chambers where they had no right to repose.

Antiquity haunted the place in all sorts of shapes and odors. Venerable bedsteads, most of them solid enough to support Og, king of Bashan, some built of a superb red mahogany better known to our grandfathers than to us, upheld dimmed canopies and faded draperies which had long since given up being gorgeous. The scent of worm-eaten and dry-rotted wainscoting was everywhere. It was not foulness which pervaded the atmosphere, but the pathetic perfume, the majestic must, of “ auld lang syne. ” Dead and long since buried, and for the most part long since forgotten. were all the people who rested and frolicked and gave thanks and grumbled in this hostelry when it was new. It seemed entirely natural to believe that their ghosts still haunted it, far more natural than to regard it as inhabited only by the living. A spectre which should promenade these moldoring floors in full-bottomed wig and gold-laced coat would seem a more suitable guest than any material gentleman in a tweed suit.

But, barring this supposable and altogether credible presence of extinct grandees, the glory and high fashion of the house have passed away. It is still a hotel, but the lordly carriage no longer thunders up to the door, and even the commercial traveler is unaware of it, or scorns it. The canny Hi eland man, the wandering sailor of decent inclinations, and the widow with the slender purse drift hither to find their modest lodgings. Its most abundant and important guests are plain drovers, hardy and shrewd and economically prosperous men, who come from the pasture - lands of Scotland to sell cattle in the marts of Edinburgh.

Of a sudden, while we were in the profoundest perplexities of the labyrinth of chambers, our landlady set down her candle and slipped through a doorway, saying with a laugh, “Now find your way out.” Many a person put to this proof has groped for half an hour before discovering an egress. It often happens, we were told, that guests of the house get lost in it, and have to shout out of the windows for somebody to come and find them. We were luckier. In the course of two or three minutes we emerged from our maze, but it was mainly because there were four of us and we sagaciously explored in different directions.

From this confounding tavern, where even a teetotaller might easily imagine himself bewildered by drink, we emerged into the evening and soon entered the Cowgate.

Probably a vast majority of the staid burghers of Edinburgh do not know, nor so much as suspect, the horrors which exist within a short walk of their comfort and decorousness. The Cowgate is topographically a street and morally a sewer. It is a deep gash cut through the old town for half a mile or more; so deeply cut that there are streets on either side which lead down into it by stairways, and all the deeper and darker because it is lined by houses of eight and ten and twelve stories. Into this architectural ravine has drifted a population of the poorest and vilest of both sexes, a population of termagants, harlots, paupers, drunkards, thieves, and murderers.

It was Saturday evening. Such men and women as had earned aught that week were furnished and ripe for a debauch. On every side, glaring out of foul bedroom windows, standing in soiled doorways of hideous tenements or vile drinking shops, reeling along the sidewalks or through the middle of the street, swarmed such a brutish, horrible people as I had never before seen or imagined. It was a sombre, filthy, pugnacious, scolding, shrieking Billingsgate. The air, like that of Dante’s Inferno, rang with “confused outcries and accents of wrath and the sound of fists.” It seemed as if all these wild creatures were looking with one contentious accord for a pretext to inflict or receive bodily damage. Conflicts arose in heedlessness or jest, and turned swiftly to brutal earnest. A sluttish girl of twenty struck a man of twenty - five on the shoulder, not, as it seemed to me, in wrath, but in mere gleeful provocation. He turned and pursued her. She ran away, laughing defiantly. He caught her by the arm and twisted it till she fell on her knees. She still laughed, but hoarsely, like one in pain. He continued to twist until she rolled on the pavement and screamed in undisguisable agony. As we passed onward we heard her howls far behind us, and knew that the beast was continuing his ferocious horse-play.

Then a crazed mass of rags — a youth almost without human features, a mere tatter of a man, defaced by life-long drunkenness — caught sight of us. The spectacle of four decently dressed strangers appeared to inflame him to fury. He uttered no sound, but he rushed with his whole staggering strength against our group, and lurched through it, scattering the sparks of our pacific cigars in all directions. Then he turned, shaking his fists and offering battle, still without a word. Our guide caught him by the arm and held him firmly, saying very quietly, “Keep cool, my lad. It’s all right. Keep cool.”

The steady mien and the temperate words had their due effect. The redeyed, glaring, grimacing tatterdemalion reeled away on a run and sought other means of attaining the joys of battle.

Presently we saw a tall, personable, decorous man in uniform, and were introduced to an inspector of police.

“ Have you help within call? ” asked one of our party. “ I should think you would need it in this bedlam.”

“I can see five of my people from where I stand,” was the reply.

“ Your flock seems to be a noisy one.”

The inspector smiled. He glanced with a not unkindly eye upon the drunken wretches who were lurching and shrieking around us, more like a host of souls in pain than like human beings.

“ Oh, they are just out for a little of their fun,” he said. “They don’t mean any harm.”

We walked onward, attended by the inspector and a couple of roundsmen, until we had nearly reached the end of the Cowgate.

“ You must see one of our aldermen,” said our landlord, He turned into a small drinking shop, a mere bar with an alley four feet wide, crammed with loafers, soldiers, women, and children, all demanding ale or liquors. Place was made for us in a little alcove at the end, and we sat down on a well-used wooden bench in company with two or three favored customers, gentlemen who had the refined and noble air of New York city politicians. Presently a man of middle stature, with enormous shoulders and herculean limbs, his coat olf and his shirt-sleeves rolled up, crowded in among us. This was the alderman, one of the civic officers of Puritan Edinburgh, and owner of three grogshops. It occurred to me that I need not have left my privileged native land to find just such a city father.

“ Look at that! ” he laughed, handing the inspector a common pocket-knife. “ I just knocked that out of a fellow’s hand as he was making a stab at another man. Do you want to know how I hit him? I took him with the back of my hand across the wrist, and he dropped his stabber as if I had cut his arm off. That’s an ugly little knife, now.”

The Hercules was evidently pleased with his dexterity, and proud of his enormous strength.

Next followed a conversation about such drunken feats of valor as are enacted in the Cowgate. Meantime the thirsty rabble at the bar was snarling and scuffling to decide who should be served first. Twice the muscular city father was obliged to sally out and restore order by main force. Watching this scene of brutish revelry was but a woful pastime, and I soon sickened of it. Scarcely were we in the street when a thickset, bullet-headed Irishman reeled up to the inspector, shouting, “ I want to spake till ye.”

“ Well, my man? ”

“ Fwhat do ye think av the emperor av Jarmanee? ” demanded this perhaps ironical drunkard.

“ I think you are making a fool of yourself,” replied the officer, pushing onward.

” Fwhat! ” roared Paddy in a fury, and ready to give battle. But a second glance at the majesty of uniform cooled his courage, and he dashed away at full speed, doubtless to be violently foolish elsewhere.

Then came a pretty young woman, reeling drunk, who tottered up to us with a scornful leer and jeered in the inspector’s face. “ You don’t say so! ”

“ Go along with you, or you will be taken care of,” he said.

Our party divided. I was weary of horrors, and turned toward my hotel. While I strolled on with the chief, my comrades joined themselves to the alderman, and eventually made a midnight tour of the criminal quarters of the city, guided by a detective and protected by successive relays of policemen. A frightful tale they had to tell me in the morning; a tale of garrets and cellars and dens and lairs crowded with filthy, wretched, and wicked sleepers; men and women and children festering together in the same foul, steaming, unlawful beds; the whole ending in a wild rush to the body of a man who had apparently been strangled to death, a man with staring eyes and purple face and tongue protruding from his frothing mouth. It was, take it all in all, a sight worth seeing — and worth evading.

J. W. De Forest.