Originally published by Dodd Mead & Company in 1897

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Table of Contents


Book I: Waiting

  1. Birth and Lineage
  2. My Childhood and Youth
  3. My First Season
  4. Boulogne: I Meet My Destiny
  5. Four Years of Hope Deferred
  6. Richard Loves Me
  7. My Continental Tour: Italy
  8. My Continental Tour: Switzerland
  9. They Meet Again
  10. At Last

Book II: Wedded

  1. Fernando Po
  2. Madeira
  3. Teneriffe
  4. A Trip to Portugal
  5. Brazil
  6. Our Expedition into the Interior
  7. Morro Velho and its Environs
  8. My Lonely Ride to Rio
  9. Home Again
  10. My Journey to Damascus
  11. In and About Damascus
  12. Early Days at Damascus
  13. Through the Desert to Palmyra
  14. Bludán in the Anti-Lebanon
  15. Gathering Clouds
  16. Jerusalem and the Holy Land
  17. The Recall
  18. The True Reasons of Burton's Recall
  19. The Passing of the Cloud
  20. Early Years at Trieste
  21. The Journey to Bombay
  22. India
  23. Trieste Again
  24. The Shadows Lengthen
  25. Gordon and the Burtons
  26. The Sword Hangs
  27. The Sword Falls

Book III: Widowed

  1. The Truth About “The Scented Garden”
  2. The Return to England
  3. The Tinkling of the Camel’s Bell

List of Illustrations

Original Title Page

Lady Burton at the age of 17
From an unfinished drawing

Her Sister
Mrs. Gerald Fitzgerald
I Dedicate This Book


Lady Burton began her autobiography a few months before she died, but in consequence of rapidly failing health she made little progress with it. After her death, which occurred in the spring of last year, it seemed good to her sister and executrix, Mrs. Fitzgerald, to entrust the unfinished manuscript to me, together with sundry papers and letters, with a view to my compiling the biography. Mrs. Fitzgerald wished me to undertake this work, as I had the good fortune to be a friend of the late Lady Burton, and one with whom she frequently discussed literary matters; we were, in fact, thinking of writing a romance together, but her illness prevented us.

The task of compiling this book has not been an easy one, mainly for two reasons. In the first place, though Lady Burton published comparatively little, she was a voluminous writer, and she left behind her such a mass of letters and manuscripts that the sorting of them alone was a formidable task. The difficulty has been to keep the book with limits. In the second place, Lady Burton has written the Life of her husband; and though in that book she studiously avoided putting herself forward, and gave to him all the honour and the glory, her life was so absolutely bound up with his, that of necessity she covered some of the ground which I have had to go over again, though not from the same point of view. So much has been written concerning Sir Richard Burton that it is not necessary for me to tell again the story of his life here, and I have therefore been able to write wholly of his wife, an equally congenial task. Lady Burton was as remarkable as a woman as her husband was as a man. Her personality was as picturesque, her individuality is unique, and, allowing for her sex, her life was as full and varied as his.

It has been my aim, wherever possible, throughout this book to let Lady Burton tell the story of her life in her own words, and keep my narrative in the background. To this end I have revised and incorporated the fragment of autobiography which was cut short by her death, and I have also pieced together all her letters, manuscripts, and journals which have a bearing on her travels and adventures. I have striven to give a faithful portrait of her as revealed by herself. In what I have succeeded, the credit is hers alone: in what I have failed, the fault is mine, for no biographer could have wished for a more eloquent subject than this interesting and fascinating woman. Thus, however imperfectly I may have done my share of the work, it remains the record of a good and noble life — a life lifted up, a life unique in its self-sacrifice and devotion.

Last December, when this book was almost completed, a volume was published calling itself The True Life of Captain Sir Richard F. Burton, written by his niece, Miss Georgiana M. Stisted, stated to be issued “with the authority and approval of the Burton family.” This statement is not correct — at any rate not wholly so; for several of the relatives of the late Sir Richard Burton have written to Lady Burton’s sister to say that they altogether disapprove of it. The book contained a number of cruel and unjust charges against Lady Burton, which were rendered worse by the fact that they were not made until she was dead and could no longer defend herself. Some of these attacks were so paltry and malevolent, and so utterly foreign to Lady Burton’s generous and truthful character, that they may be dismissed with contempt. The many friends who knew and loved her have not credited them for one moment, and the animus with which they were written is so obvious that they have carried little weight with the general public. But three specific charges call for particular refutation, as silence on them might be misunderstood. I refer to the statements that Lady Burton was the cause of her husband’s recall from Damascus; that she acted in bad faith in the matter of his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church; and to the impugning of the motives which led her to burn The Scented Garden. I should like to emphasize the fact that none of these controversial questions formed part of the original scheme of this book, and they would not have been alluded to had it not been for Miss Stisted’s unprovoked attack upon Lady Burton’s memory. It is only with reluctance, and solely in a defensive spirit, that they are touched upon now. Even so, I have suppressed a good deal, for there is no desire on the part of Lady Burton’s relatives or myself to justify her at the expense of the husband whom she loved, and who loved her. But in vindicating her it has been necessary to tell the truth. If therefore, in defending Lady Burton against these accusations, certain facts have come to light which would otherwise have been left in darkness, those who have wantonly attacked the dead have only themselves to blame.

In conclusion, I should like to acknowledge my indebtedness to those who have kindly helped me to make this book as complete as possible. I am especially grateful to Mrs. Fitzgerald for much encouragement and valuable help, including her reading of the proofs as they went through the press, so that the book may be truly described as an authorized biography. I also wish to thank Miss Plowman, the late Lady Burton’s secretary, who has been of assistance in many ways. I acknowledge with gratitude the permission of Captain L. H. Gordon to publish certain letters which the late General Gordon wrote to Sir Richard and Lady Burton, and the assistance which General Gordon’s niece, Miss Dunlop, kindly gave me in this matter. My thanks are likewise due to the Executors of the late Lord Leighton for permission to publish Lord Leighton’s portrait of Sir Richard Burton; to Lady Thornton and others for many illustrations; and to Lady Salisbury, Lady Guendolen Ramsden, Lord Llandaff, Sir Henry Elliot, Mr. W. F. D. Smith, Baroness Paul de Ralli, Miss Bishop, Miss Alice Bird, Madame de Gutmansthal-Benvenuti, and others, for permission to publish sundry letters in this book.


8, Mandeville Place, W.,
April, 1897.

Book I



I have known love and yearning from the years
Since mother-milk I drank, nor e’er was free.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

Chapter I

Birth and Lineage

Man is known among men as his deeds attest,
Which make noble origin manifest.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

Isabel, Lady Burton, was by birth an Arundell of Wardour, a daughter of one of the oldest and proudest houses of England. The Arundells of Wardour are a branch of the great family of whom it was sung:

Ere William fought and Harold fell
There were Earls of Arundell.

The Earls of Arundell before the Conquest are somewhat lost in the mists of antiquity, and they do not affect the branch of the family from which Lady Burton sprang. This branch traces its descent in a straight line from one Roger de Arundell, who, according to Domesday, had estates in Dorset and Somerset, and was possessed of twenty-eight lordships. The Knights of Arundell were an adventurous race. One of the most famous was Sir John Arundell, a valiant commander who served Henry VI. in France. The grandson of this doughty knight, also Sir John Arundell, was made a Knight Banneret by Henry VII. for his valour at the sieges of Tiroven and Tournay, and the battle that ensued. At his death his large estates were divided between the two sons whom he had by his first wife, the Lady Eleanor Grey, daughter of the Marquis of Dorset, whose half-sister was the wife of Henry VII. The second son, Sir Thomas Arundell, was given Wardour Castle in Wiltshire, and became the ancestor of the Arundells of Wardour.

The House of Wardour was therefore founded by Sir Thomas Arundell, who was born in 1500. He had the good fortune in early life to become the pupil, and ultimately to win the friendship, of Cardinal Wolsey. He played a considerable part throughout the troublous times which followed on the King’s quarrel with the Pope, and attained great wealth and influence. He was a cousin-german of Henry VIII., and he was allied to two of Henry’s ill-fated queens through his marriage with Margaret, daughter of Lord Edmond Howard, son of Thomas, Duke of Norfolk. His wife was a cousin-german of Anne Boleyn and a sister of Catherine Howard. Sir Thomas Arundell was a man of intellectual powers and administrative ability. He became Chancellor to Queen Catherine Howard, and he stood high in the favour of Henry VIII. But in the following reign evil days came upon him. He was accused of conspiring with the Lord Protector Somerset to kill the Earl of Northumberland, a charge utterly false, the real reason of his impeachment being that Sir Thomas had been chief adviser to the Duke of Somerset and had identified himself with his policy. He was beheaded on Tower Hill a few days after the execution of the Duke of Somerset. Thus died the founder of the House of Wardour.

In Sir Thomas Arundell’s grandson, who afterwards became first Lord Arundell of Wardour, the adventurous spirit of the Arundells broke forth afresh. When a young man, Thomas Arundell, commonly called “The Valiant,” went over to Germany, and served as a volunteer in the Imperial army in Hungary. He fought against the Turks, and in an engagement at Grau took their standard with his own hands. On this account Rudolph II., Emperor of Germany, created him Count of the Holy Roman Empire, and decreed that “every of his children and their descendants for ever, of both sexes, should enjoy that title.” So runs the wording of the charter.1 On Sir Thomas Arundell’s return to England a warm dispute arose among the Peers whether such a dignity, so conferred by a foreign potentate, should be allowed place or privilege in England. The matter was referred to Queen Elizabeth, who answered, “that there was a close tie of affection between the Prince and subject, and that as chaste wives should have no glances but for their own spouses, so should faithful subjects keep their eyes at home and not gaze upon foreign crowns; that we for our part do not care that our sheep should wear a stranger’s marks, nor dance after the whistle of every foreigner.” Yet it was she who sent Sir Thomas Arundell in the first instance to the Emperor Rudolph with a letter of introduction, in which she spoke of him as her “dearest cousin,” and stated that the descent of the family of Arundell was derived from the blood royal. James I., while following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth, and refusing to acknowledge the title conferred by the Emperor, acknowledged Sir Thomas Arundell’s worth by creating him a Baron of England under the title of Baron Arundell of Wardour. It is worthy of note that James II. recognized the right of the title of Count of the Holy Roman Empire to Lord Arundell and all his descendants of both sexes in a document of general interest to Catholic families.

Wardour Castle

Thomas, second Baron Arundell of Wardour, married Blanche, daughter of the Earl of Worcester. This Lady Arundell calls for special notice, as she was in many ways the prototype of her lineal descendant, Isabel. When her husband was away serving with the King’s army in the Great Rebellion, Lady Arundell bravely defended Wardour for nine days, with only a handful of men, against the Parliamentary forces who besieged it. Lady Arundell then delivered up the castle on honourable terms, which the besiegers broke when they took possession. They were, however, soon dislodged by Lord Arundell, who, on his return, ordered a mine to be sprung under his castle, and thus sacrificed the ancient and stately pile to his loyalty. He and his wife then turned their backs on their ruined home, and followed the King’s fortunes, she sharing with uncomplaining love all her husband’s trials and privations. Lord Arundell, like the rest of the Catholic nobility of England, was a devoted Royalist. He raised at his own expense a regiment of horse for the service of Charles I., and in the battle of Lansdowne, when fighting for the King, he was shot in the thigh by a brace of pistol bullets, whereof he died in his Majesty’s garrison at Oxford. He was buried with great pomp in the family vault at Tisbury. His devoted wife, like her descendant Lady Burton, that other devoted wife who strongly resembled her, survived her husband barely six years. She died at Winchester; but she was buried by his side at Tisbury, where her monument may still be seen.

Henry, third Lord Arundell, succeeded his father in his titles and honours. Like many who had made great sacrifices to the Royal cause, he did not find an exceeding great reward when the King came into his own again. As Arundell of Wardour was one of the strictest and most loyal of the Catholic families of England, its head was marked out for Puritan persecution. In 1678 Lord Arundell was, with four other Catholic lords, committed a prisoner to the Tower, upon the information of the infamous Titus Oates and other miscreants who invented the “Popish Plots.” Lord Arundell was confined in the Tower until 1683, when he was admitted to bail. Five years’ imprisonment for no offence save fidelity to his religion and loyalty to his king was cruel injustice; but in those days, when the blood of the best Catholic families in England ran like water on Tower Hill, Lord Arundell was lucky to have escaped with his head. On James II.‘s accession to the throne he was sworn of the Privy Council and held high office. On King James’s abdication he retired to his country seat, where he lived in great style and with lavish hospitality. Among other things he kept a celebrated pack of hounds, which afterwards went to Lord Castlehaven, and thence were sold to Hugo Meynell, and became the progenitors of the famous Quorn pack.

Henry, the sixth Baron, is noteworthy as being the last Lord Arundell of Wardour from whom Isabel was directly descended (see p. 9), and with him our immediate interest in the Arundells of Wardour ceases. Lady Burton was the great-granddaughter of James Everard Arundell, his third and youngest son. Her father, Mr. Henry Raymond Arundell, was twice married. His first wife died within a year of their marriage, leaving one son. Two years later, in 1830, Mr. Henry Arundell married Miss Eliza Gerard, a sister of Sir Robert Gerard of Garswood, who was afterwards created Lord Gerard. The following year, 1831, Isabel, the subject of this memoir, was born.

[click to enlarge]

I have dwelt on Lady Burton's lineage for several reasons. In the first place, she herself would have wished it. She paid great attention to her pedigree, and at one time contemplated writing a book on the Arundells of Wardour, and with this view collected a mass of information, which, with characteristic generosity, she afterwards placed at Mr. Yeatman’s disposal for his History of the House of Arundell. She regarded her forefathers with reverence, and herself as their product. But proud though she was of her ancestry, there never was a woman freer from the vulgarity of thrusting it forward upon all and sundry, or of expecting to be honoured for it alone. Though of noble descent, not only on her father’s side, but on her mother’s as well (for the Gerards are a family of eminence and antiquity, springing from the common ancestor of the Dukes of Leinster in Ireland and the Earls of Plymouth, now extinct, in England), yet she counted it as nothing compared with the nobility of the inner worth, the majesty which clothes the man, be he peasant or prince, with righteousness. She often said, “The man only is noble who does noble deeds,” and she always held that

He, who to ancient wreaths can bring no more
From his own worth, dies bankrupt on the score.

Another reason why I have called attention to Lady Burton’s ancestry is because she attached considerable importance to the question of heredity generally, quite apart from any personal aspect. She looked upon it as a field in which Nature ever reproduces herself, not only with regard to the physical organism, but also the psychical qualities. But with it all she was no pessimist, for she believed that there was in every man an ever rallying force against the inherited tendencies to vice and sin. She was always “on the side of the angels.”

I remember her once saying: “Since I leave none to come after me, I must needs strive to be worthy of those who have gone before me.”

And she was worthy — she, the daughter of an ancient race, which seems to have found in her its crowning consummation and expression. If one were fanciful, one could see in her many-sided character, reflected as in the facets of a diamond, the great qualities which had been conspicuous in her ancestors. One could see in her, plainly portrayed, the roving, adventurous spirit which characterized the doughty Knights of Arundell in days when the field of travel and adventure was much more limited than now. One could mark the intellectual and administrative abilities, and perhaps the spice of worldly wisdom, which were conspicuous in the founder of the House of Wardour. One could note in her the qualities of bravery, dare-devilry, and love of conflict which shone out so strongly in the old Knight of Arundell who raised the sieges of Tiroven and Tournay, and in “The Valiant” who captured with his own hands the banner of the infidel. One could see the reflex of that loyalty to the throne which marked the Lord Arundell who died fighting for his king. One could trace in her the same tenacity and devotion with which all her race has clung to the ancient faith and which sent one of them to the Tower. Above all one could trace her likeness to Blanche Lady Arundell, who held Wardour at her lord’s bidding against the rebels. She was like her in her lion-hearted bravery, in her proud but generous spirit, in her determination and resource, and above all in her passionate wifely devotion to the man to whom she felt herself “destined from the beginning.”

In sooth they were a goodly company, these Arundells of Wardour, and ’tis such as they, brave men and good women in every rank of life, who have made England the nation she is to-day. Yet of them all there was none nobler, none truer, none more remarkable than this late flower of their race, Isabel Burton.

1 The name of Arundell of Wardour appears in the official Austrian lists of the Counts of the Empire. The title is till enjoyed by Lord Arundell and all the members of the Arundell family of both sexes. Lady Burton always used it out of England, and took rank and precedence at foreign courts as the Countess Isabel Arundell (of Wardour). She used to say, characteristically: “If the thing had been bought, I should not have cared; but since it was given for a brave deed I am right proud of it.”

Chapter II2

My Childhood and Youth


As star knows star across the ethereal sea,
So soul feels soul to all eternity.

Blessed be they who invented pens, ink, and paper!

I have heard men speak with infinite contempt of authoresses. As a girl I did not ask my poor little brains whether this mental attitude towards women was generous in the superior animal or not; but I did like to slope off to my own snug little den, away from my numerous family, and scribble down the events of my ordinary, insignificant, uninteresting life, and write about my little sorrows, pleasures, and peccadilloes. I was only one of the “wise virgins,” providing for the day when I should be old, blind, wrinkled, forgetful, and miserable, and might like such a record to refresh my failing memory. So I went back, by way of novelty, beyond my memory, and gleaned details from my father.

For those who like horoscopes, I was born on a Sunday at ten minutes to 9 a.m., March 20, 1831, at 4, Great Cumberland Place, near the Marble Arch. I am not able to give the aspect of the planets on this occasion; but, unlike most babes, I was born with my eyes open, whereupon my father predicted that I should be very “wide awake.” As soon as I could begin to move about and play, I had such a way of pointing my nose at things, and of cocking my ears like a kitten, that I was called “Puss,” and shall probably be called Puss when I am eighty. I was christened Isabel, after my father’s first wife, née Clifford, one of his cousins. She died, after a short spell of happiness, leaving him with one little boy, who at the time I was born was between three and four years old.

It is a curious fact that my mother, Elizabeth Gerard, and Isabel Clifford, my father’s first wife, were bosom friends, school-fellows, and friends out in the world together; and amongst other girlish confidences they used to talk to one another about the sort of man each would marry. Both their men were to be tall, dark, and majestic; one was to be a literary man, and a man of artistic tastes and life; the other was to be a statesman. When Isabel Clifford married my father, Henry Raymond Arundell (of Wardour), her cousin, my mother, seeing he was a small, fair, boyish-looking man, whose chief hobbies were hunting and shooting, said, “I am ashamed of you, Isabel! How can you?” Nevertheless she used to go and help her to make her baby-clothes for the coming boy. After Isabel’s death nobody, except my father, deplored her so much as her dear friend my mother; so that my father only found consolation (for he would not go out nor meet anybody in the intensity of his grief) in talking to my mother of his lost wife. From sympathy came pity, from pity grew love, and three years after Isabel’s death my mother and my father were married. They had eleven children, great and small; I mean that some only lived to be baptized and died, some lived a few years, and some grew up. 3

To continue my own small life, I can remember distinctly everything that has happened to me from the age of three. I do not know whether I was pretty or not; there is a very sweet miniature of me with golden hair and large blue eyes, and clad in a white muslin frock and gathering flowers, painted by one of the best miniature painters of 1836, when miniatures were in vogue and photographs unknown. My mother said I was “lovely,” and my father said I was “all there”; but I am told my uncles and aunts used to put my mother in a rage by telling her how ugly I was. My father adored me, and spoilt me absurdly; he considered me an original, a bit of “perfect nature.” My mother was equally fond of me, but severe — all her spoiling, on principle, went to her step-son, whose name was Theodore.

When my father and mother were first married, James Everard Arundell, my father’s first cousin, and my godfather, was the then Lord Arundell of Wardour. He was reputed to be the handsomest peer of the day, and he was married to a sister of the Duke of Buckingham. He invited my father and mother, as the two wives were friends, to come and occupy one wing of Wardour immediately after their marriage, and they did so. When James Everard died, my parents left Wardour, and took a house in Montagu Place at the top of Bryanston Square, and passed their winters hunting at Leamington.

We children were always our parents’ first care. Great attention was paid to our health, to our walks, to our dress, our baths, and our persons; our food was good, but of the plainest; we had a head nurse and three nursery-maids; and, unlike the present, everything was upstairs — day nurseries and night nurseries and schoolroom. The only times we were allowed downstairs were at two o’clock luncheon (our dinner), and to dessert for about a quarter of an hour if our parents were dining alone or had very intimate friends. On these occasions I was dressed in white muslin and blue ribbons, and Theodore, my step-brother, in green velvet with turn-over lace collar after the fashion of that time. We were not allowed to speak unless spoken to; we were not allowed to ask for anything unless it was given to us. We kissed our father’s and mother’s hands, and asked their blessing before going upstairs, and we stood upright by the side of them all the time we were in the room. In those days there was no lolling about, no Tommy-keep-your-fingers-out-of-the-jam, no Dick-crawling-under-the-table-pinching-people’s-legs as nowadays. We children were little gentlemen and ladies, and people of the world from our birth; it was the old school. The only diversion from this strict rule was an occasional drive in the park with mother, in a dark green chariot with hammer-cloth, and green and gold liveries and powdered wigs for coachman and footman: no one went into the park in those days otherwise. My daily heart-twinges were saying good-night to my mother, always with an impression that I might not see her again, and the other terror was the old-fashioned rushlight shade, like a huge cylinder with holes in it, which made hideous shadows on the bedroom walls, and used to frighten me horribly every time I woke. The most solemn thing to me was the old-fashioned Charley, or watchman, pacing up and down the street, and singing in deep and mournful tone, “Past one o’clock, and a cloudy morning.”

At the age of ten I was sent to the Convent of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, New Hall, Chelmsford, and left there when I was sixteen. In one sense my leaving school so early was a misfortune; I was just at the age when one begins to understand and love one’s studies. I ought to have been kept at the convent, or sent to some foreign school; but both my father and mother wanted to have me at home with them.

I want to describe my home of that period. It was called Furze Hall, near Ingatestone, Essex. Dear place! I can shut my eyes and see it now. It was a white, straggling, old-fashioned, half-cottage, half-farmhouse, built by bits, about a hundred yards from the road, from which it was completely hidden by trees. It was buried in bushes, ivy, and flowers. Creepers covered the walls and the verandahs, and crawled in at the windows, making the house look like a nest; it was surrounded by a pretty flower garden and shrubberies, and the pasture-land had the appearance of a small park. There were stables and kennels. Behind the house a few woods and fields, perhaps fifty acres, and a little bit of water, all enclosed by a ring fence, comprised our domain. Inside the house the hall had the appearance of the main cabin of a man-of-war, and opened all around into rooms by various doors: one into a small library, which led to a pretty, cheerful little drawing-room, with two large windows down to the ground; one opened on to a trim lawn, the other into a conservatory; another door opened into a smoking-room, for the male part of the establishment, and the opposite one into a little chapel; and a dining-room, running off by the back door with glass windows to the ground, led to the garden. There was a pretty honeysuckle and jessamine porch, which rose just under my window, in which wrens and robins built their nests, and birds and bees used to pay me a visit on summer evenings. We had many shady walks, arbours, bowers, a splendid slanting laurel hedge, and a beautiful bed of dahlias, all colours and shades. A beech-walk like the aisle of a church had a favourite summer-house at the end. The pretty lawn was filled, as well as the greenhouse, with the choicest flowers; and we had rich crops of grapes, the best I ever knew. I remember a mulberry tree, under the shade of which was a grave and tombstone and epitaph, the remains and memorial of a faithful old dog; and I remember a pretty pink may tree, a large white rose, and an old oak, with a seat round it. Essex is generally flat; but around us it was undulating and well-wooded, and the lanes and drives and rides were beautiful. We were rather in a valley, and a pretty road wound up a rise, at the top of which our tall white chimneys could be seen smoking through the trees. The place could boast no grandeur; but it was my home, I passed my childhood there, and loved it.

New Hall, Chelmsford

We used to have great fun on a large bit of water in the park of one of our neighbours, — in the ice days in winter with sledges, skating, and sliding; in the summer-time we used to scamper all over the country with long poles and jump over the hedges. Nevertheless, I had a great deal of solitude, and I passed much time in the woods reading and contemplating. Disraeli’s Tancred and similar occult books were my favourites; but Tancred, with its glamour of the East, was the chief of them, and I used to think out after a fashion my future life, and try to solve great problems. I was forming my character.

And as I was as a child, so I am now. I love solitude. I have met with people who dare not pass a moment alone; many seem to dread themselves. I find no greater happiness than to be alone out of doors, either on the sea-beach or in a wood, and there reflect. With me solitude is a necessary consolation; I can soothe my miseries, enjoy my pleasures, form my mind, reconcile myself to disappointments, and plan my conduct. A person may be sorrowful without being alone, and the mind may be alone in a large assembly, in a crowded city, but not so pleasantly. I have heard that captives can solace themselves by perpetually thinking of what they loved best; but there is a danger in excess of solitude, lest our thoughts run the wrong way and ferment into eccentricity. Every right-minded person must think, and thought comes only in solitude. He must ponder upon what he is, what he has been, what he may become. The energies of the soul rise from the veiled obscurity it is placed in during its contact with the world. It is when alone that we obtain cheerful calmness and content, and prepare for the hour of action. Alone, we acquire a true notion of things, bear the misfortunes of life calmly, look firmly on the pride and insolence of the great, and dare to think for ourselves, which the majority of the great dare not. When can the soul feel that it lives, and is great, free, noble, immortal, if not in thought? Oh! one can learn in solitude what the worldly have no idea of. True it is that some souls capable of reflection plunge themselves into an endless abyss, and know not where to stop. I have never felt one of those wild, joyous moments when we brood over our coming bliss, and create a thousand glorious consequences. But I have known enough of sorrow to appreciate rightly any moment without an immediate care. There are moments of deep feeling, when one must be alone in self-communion, alike to encounter good fortune or danger and despair, even if one draws out the essence of every misery in thought.

I was enthusiastic about gypsies, Bedawin Arabs, and everything Eastern and mystic, and especially about a wild and lawless life. Very often, instead of going to the woods, I used to go down a certain green lane; and if there were any oriental gypsies there, I would go into their camp and sit for an hour or two with them. I was strictly forbidden to associate with them in our lanes, but it was my delight. When they were only travelling tinkers or basket-menders, I was very obedient; but wild horses would not have kept me out of the camps of the oriental, yet English-named, tribes of Burton, Cooper, Stanley, Osbaldiston, and one other tribe whose name I forget. My particular friend was Hagar Burton, a tall, slender, handsome, distinguished, refined woman, who had much influence in her tribe. Many an hour did I pass with her (she used to call me “Daisy”), and many a little service I did them when any of her tribe were sick, or got into a scrape with the squires anent poultry, eggs, or other things. The last day I saw Hagar Burton in her camp she cast my horoscope and wrote it in Romany. The rest of the tribe presented me with a straw fly-catcher of many colours, which I still have. The horoscope was translated to me by Hagar. The most important part of it was this:

“You will cross the sea, and be in the same town with your Destiny and know it not. Every obstacle will rise up against you, and such a combination of circumstances, that it will require all your courage, energy, and intelligence to meet them. Your life will be like one swimming against big waves; but God will be with you, so you will always win. You will fix your eye on your polar star, and you will go for that without looking right or left. You will bear the name of our tribe, and be right proud of it. You will be as we are, but far greater than we. Your life is all wandering, change, and adventure. One soul in two bodies in life or death, never long apart. Show this to the man you take for your husband. — Hagar Burton.”

She also prophesied:

“You shall have plenty to choose from, and wait for years; but you are destined to him from the beginning. The name of our tribe shall cause you many a sorrowful, humiliating hour; but when the rest who sought him in the heyday of his youth and strength fade from his sight, you shall remain bright and purified to him as the morning star, which hangs like a diamond drop over the sea. Remember that your destiny for your constancy will triumph, the name we have given you will be yours, and the day will come when you will pray for it, and be proud of it.”

Much other talk I had with Hagar Burton sitting around the camp-fire, and then she went from me; and I saw her but once again, and that after many years.

This was the ugliest time of my life. Every girl has an ugly age. I was tall, plump, and meant to be fair, but was always tanned and sunburnt. I knew my good points. What girl does not? I had large, dark blue, earnest eyes, and long, black eyelashes and eyebrows, which seemed to grow shorter the older I got. I had very white regular teeth, and very small hands and feet and waist; but I fretted because I was too fat to slip into what is usually called “our stock size,” and my complexion was by no means pale and interesting enough to please me. From my gypsy tastes I preferred a picturesque toilette to a merely smart one. I had beautiful hair, very long, thick and soft, with five shades in it, and of a golden brown. My nose was aquiline. I had all the material for a very good figure, and once a sculptor wanted to sculpt me, but my mother would not allow it, as she thought I should be ashamed of my figure later, when I had fined down. I used to envy maypole, broomstick girls, who could dress much prettier than I could. I was either fresh and wild with spirits, or else melancholy and full of pathos. I wish I could give as faithful a picture of my character; but we are apt to judge ourselves either too favourably or too severely, and so I would rather quote what a phrenologist wrote of me at this time:

“When Isabel Arundell loves, her affection will be something extraordinary, her devotion great — in fact, too great. It will be her leading passion, and influence her whole life. Everything will be sacrificed for one man, and she will be constant, unchangeable, and jealous of his affections. In short, he will be her salvation or perdition! Her temper is good, but she is passionate; not easily roused, but when violently irritated she might be a perfect little demon. She is, however, forgiving. She is full of originality and humour, and her utter naturalness will pass for eccentricity. She loves society, wherein she is wild and gay; when alone, she is thoughtful and melancholy. She is ambitious, sagacious, and intellectual, and will attract attention by a certain simple dignity, by a look in her eye and a peculiar tone of her voice. To sum her up: Her nature is noble, ardent, generous, honourable, and good-hearted. She has courage, both animal and mental. Her faults are the noble and dashing ones, the spicy kind to enlist one’s sympathies, the weeds that spring from a too luxuriant soil.”

Thus wrote a professional phrenologist of me, and a friend who was fond of me at the time endorsed it in every word. With regard to the ambition, I always felt that if I were a man I should like to be a great general or statesman, to have travelled everywhere, to have seen and learnt everything; done everything; in fine, to be the Man of the Day!

When I was between seventeen and eighteen years of age, we left Furze Hall and went to London. The place in which we have passed our youthful days, be it ever so dull, possesses a secret charm.

I performed several pilgrimages of adieu to every spot connected with the bright reminiscences of youth. I fancied no other fireside would be so cosy, that I could sleep in no other room, no fields so green. Those who know what it is to leave their quasi-native place for the first time, never to return; to know every stick and stone in the place for miles round, and take an everlasting farewell of them all; to have one’s pet animals destroyed; to make a bonfire of all the things that one does not want desecrated by stranger hands; to sit on some height and gaze on the general havoc, to reflect on what is, what has been, and what may be in a strange world, amidst strange faces; to shake hands with a crowd of poor old servants, peasants, and humble friends, and not a dry eye to be seen, — those who have tasted something of this will sympathize with my feelings then. “Ah, miss,” the old retainers said, “we shall have no more jolly Christmases; we shall have no beef, bread, and flannels next year; the hall will not be decked with festoons of holly, there will be no more music and dancing!” “No more snapdragons and round games,” quoth the gamekeeper; and his voice trembled, and I saw the tears in his eyes and in the eyes of them all.

So broke up our little home in Essex, and we went our ways.

2 The greater part of Book I. is compiled from Lady Burton’s unfinished autobiography, at which she was working the last few months of her life. The story is therefore told mainly in her own words.

3 Two only now survive: Mrs. Fitzgerald and Mrs. Van Zeller.

Chapter III

My First Season


Society itself, which should create
Kindness, destroys what little we have got.
To feel for none is the true social art
Of the world’s lovers.


I was soon going through a London drilling. I was very much pleased with town, and the novelty of my life amused me and softened my grief at leaving my country home. I greatly disliked being primmed and scolded, and I thought dressing up an awful bore, and never going out without a chaperone a greater one. Some things amused me very much. One thing was, that all the footmen with powdered wigs who opened the door when one paid a visit were obsequious if one came in a carriage, but looked as if they would like to shut the door in one’s face if one came on foot. Another was the way people stared at me; it used to make me laugh, but I soon found I must not laugh in their faces.

We put our house in order; we got pretty dresses, and we left our cards; we were all ready for the season’s campaign. I made my début at a fancy ball at Almack’s, which was then very exclusive. We went under the wing of the Duchess of Norfolk.

I shall never forget that first ball. To begin at the beginning, there was my dress. How a girl of the present day would despise it! I wore white tarlatan over white silk, and the first skirt was looped up to my knee with a blush rose. My hair, which was very abundant, was tressed in an indescribable fashion by Alexandre, and decked with blush roses. I had no ornaments; but I really looked very well, and was proud of myself. We arrived at Almack’s about eleven. The scene was dazzlingly brilliant to me as I entered. The grand staircase and ante-chamber were decked with garlands, and festoons of white and gold muslin and ribbons. The blaze of lights, the odour of flowers, the perfumes, the diamonds and the magnificent dresses of the cream of the British aristocracy smote upon my senses; all was new to me, and all was sweet. Julian’s band played divinely. My people had been absent from London many seasons, so at first it seemed strange. But at Almack’s every one knew every one else; for society in those days was not a mob, but small and select. People did not struggle to get on as people do now, and we were there by right, and to resume our position in our circle. There is much more heart in the world than many people give it credit for — at any rate in the world of the gentle by birth and breeding. Every one had a hearty welcome for my people, and some good-natured chaff about their having “buried themselves” so long. I was at once taken by the hand, and kindly greeted by many. Some great personage, whose name I forget, gave a private supper, besides the usual one, to which we were invited; and in those days there were polkas, valses, quadrilles, and galops. Old stagers (mammas) had told me to consider myself very lucky if I got four dances, but I was engaged seven or eight deep soon after I entered the ballroom, and had more partners than I could dance with in one night. Of course mother was delighted with me, and I was equally pleased with her: she looked so young and fashionable; and instead of frightening young men away, as she had always done in the country, she appeared to attract them, engage them in conversation, and seemed to enjoy everything; she was such a nice chaperone. I was very much confused at the amount of staring (I did not know that every new girl was stared at on her first appearance); and one may think how vain and incredulous I was, when I overheard some one telling my mother that I had been quoted as the new beauty at his club. Fancy, poor ugly me!

I shall not forget my enjoyment of that first ball. I had always been taught to look upon it as the opening of Fashion’s fairy gates to a paradise; nor was I disappointed, for, to a young girl who has never seen anything, her first entrance into a brilliant ballroom is very intoxicating. The blaze of light and colour, the perfume of scent and bouquet, the beautiful dresses, the spirited music, the seemingly joyous multitude of happy faces, laughing and talking as if care were a myth, the partners flocking round the door to see the new arrivals — all was delightful to me. But then of course in those days we were not born blasé, as the young people are to-day.

And I shall never forget my first opera. I shall always remember the delights of that night. I thought even the crush-room lovely, and the brilliant gaslight, the mysterious little boxes, with their red-velvet curtains, filled with handsome men and pretty women, which I think Lady Blessington describes as “rags of roues, memoranda books of other women’s follies, like the last scene of the theatre; they come out in gas and red flame, but do not stand daylight.” I do not say that, but some of them certainly looked so. The opera was La Sonambula, with Jenny Lind and Gardoni. When the music commenced, I forgot I was on earth; and, so passionately fond of singing and acting as I was, it was not wonderful that I was quite absorbed by this earth’s greatest delight. Jenny’s girlish figure, simple manner, birdlike voice, so thrilling and so full of passion, her perfect acting and irresistible lovemaking, were matchless. Gardoni was very handsome and very stiff. The scene where Gardoni takes her ring from her, and the last scene when he discovers his mistake, and her final song, will ever be engraven on my memory; and if I see the opera a thousand times, I shall never like it as well as I did that night, for all was new to me. And after — only think, what pleasure for me! — there came the ballet with the three great stars Amalia Ferraris, Cerito, and Fanny Essler, whom so few are old enough to remember now. There are no ballets nowadays like those.

This London life of society and amusement was delightful to me after the solitary one I had been leading in the country. I was ready for anything, and the world and its excitement gave me no time to hanker after my Essex home. The rust was soon rubbed off; I forgot the clouds; my spirit was unbroken, and I lived in the present scrap of rose-colour. They were joyous and brilliant days, for I was exploring novelties I had only read or heard of. I went through all the sight-seeing of London, and the (to me) fresh amusement of shopping, visiting, operas, balls, and of driving in Rotten Row. The days were very different then to what they are now: one rose late, and, except a cup of tea, breakfast and luncheon were one meal; then came shopping, visiting, or receiving. One went to the Park or Row at 5.30, home to dress, and then off to dinner or the opera, and out for the night, unless there was a party at home. This lasted every day and night from March till the end of July, and often there were two or three things of a night. I was tired at first; but at the end of a fortnight I was tired-proof, and of course I was dancing mad. The Sundays were diversified by High Mass at Farm Street, and perhaps a Greenwich dinner in the afternoon.

I enjoyed that season immensely, for it was all new, and the life-zest was strong within me. But I could not help pitying poor wall-flowers — a certain set of girls who come out every night, who have been out season after season, and who stand or sit out all night. I often used to say to my partners, “Do go and dance with So-and-so"; and the usual rejoiner was, “I really would do anything to oblige you, but I am sick of seeing those girls.” In fact, we girls must not appear on the London boards too often lest we fatigue these young coxcombs. London, like the smallest watering-place, is full of cliques and sets on a large scale, from Billingsgate up to the throne. The great world then comprised the Court and its entourage, the Ministers, and the Corps Diplomatique, the military, naval, and literary stars, the leaders of the fashionable and political world, the cream of the aristocracy of England; and — at the time of which I write — the old Catholic cousinhood clan used to hold its own. You must either have been born in this great world, or you must have arrived in it through aristocratic patronage, or through your talents, fame, or beauty. Nowadays you only want wealth! There were some sets even then which were rather rapid, which abolished a good deal of the tightness of convenance, whose motto seemed to be savoir vivre, to be easy, fascinating, fashionable, and dainty as well as social.

I found a ballroom the very place for reflection; and with the sentiment that I should use society for my pleasure instead of being its slave, I sometimes obstinately would refuse a dance or two, or sitting-out and talking, in order to lean against some pillar and contemplate human nature, in defiance of my admirers, who thought me very eccentric. I loved to watch the intriguing mother catching a coronet for her daughter, and the father absorbed in politics with some contemporary fogey; the old dandy with his frilled shirt capering in a quadrille the steps that were danced in Noah’s ark; the rouged old peeress, whom you would not have taken to be respectable if you did not happen to know her, flirting with boys. I saw other old ones, with one foot in the grave, almost mad with excitement over cards and dice, and every passion, except love, gleaming from their horrid eyes. I saw the rivalry amongst the beauties. I noted the brainless coxcomb, who comes in for an hour, leans against the door, twirls his moustache, and goes out again — a sort of “Aw! the Tenth-don’t-dance-young-man!”; the boy who asks all the prettiest girls to dance, steps on their toes, tears their dresses, and throws them down; the confirmed, bad, intriguing London girl, who will play any game for her end; and the timid, delighted young girl, who finds herself of consequence for the first time. I have watched the victim of the heartless coquette — the young girl gazing with tearful, longing eyes for the man to ask her to dance to whom she has perhaps unconsciously betrayed her affection; she in her innocence like a pane of glass, the other glorying in her torture, dancing or flirting with the man in her sight, only to glut her vanity with another’s disappointment. I have watched the jealousy of men to each other, vying for a woman’s favour and cutting each other out. I have heard mothers running down each other’s daughters, dowagers and prudent spinsters casting their eyes to heaven for vengeance on the change of manners — even in the Forties! — on the licence of the day, and the liberty of the age! I have heard them sighing for minuets and pigtails, for I came between two generations — the minuet was old and the polka was new; all alike were polka mad, all crazed with the idea of getting up a new fast style, but oh! lamblike to what it is now! I watched the last century trying to accommodate itself to the present.

One common smile graced the lips of all — the innocent, the guilty, the happy, and the wretched; the same colour on bright cheeks, some of it real, some bought at Atkinson’s; and, more wonderful still, the same general outward decorum, placidity, innocence, and good humour, as if prearranged by general consent. I pitied the vanity, jealousy, and gossip of many women. I classed the men too: there were many good; but amongst some there were dishonour and meanness to each other, in some there were coarseness and brutality, and in some there was deception to women; some were so narrow-minded, so wanting in intellect, that I believed a horse or a dog to be far superior. But my ideal was too high, and I had not in those days found my superior being.

I met some very odd characters, which made one form some rather useful rules to go by. One man I met had every girl’s name down on paper, if she belonged to the haute volée, her age, her fortune, and her personal merits; for he said, “One woman, unless one happens to be in love with her, is much the same as another.” He showed me my name down thus: “Isabel Arundell, eighteen, beauty, talent and goodness, original — chief fault £0 0s. 0d.!” Then he showed me the name of one of my friends: “Handsome, age seventeen, rather missish, £50,000; she cannot afford to flirt except pour le bon motif, and I cannot afford, as a younger brother, to marry a girl with £50,000. She is sure to have been brought up like a duchess, and want the whole of her money for pin-money — a deuced expensive thing is a girl with £50,000!” Then he rattled on to others. I told him I did not think much of the young men of the day. “There now,” he answered, “drink of the spring nearest to you, and be thankful; by being too fastidious you will get nothing.”

I took a great dislike to the regular Blue Stocking; I can remember reading somewhere such a good description of her: “One who possesses every qualification to distinguish herself in conversation, well read and intelligent, her manner cold, her head cooler, her heart the coldest of all, never the dupe of her own sentiments; she examined her people before she adopted them, a necessary precaution where light is borrowed.”

A great curiosity to me were certain married people, who were known never to speak to each other at home, but who respected the convenances of society so much that even if they never met in private they took care to be seen together in public, and to enter evening parties together with smiling countenances. Somebody writes:

 Have they not got polemics and reform,
Peace, war, the taxes, and what is called the Nation,
 The struggle to be pilots in the storm,
The landed and the moneyed speculation,
 The joys of mutual hate to keep them warm
Instead of love, that mere hallucination?

What a contrast women are! One woman is “fine enough to cut her own relations, too fine to be seen in the usual places of public resort, and therefore of course passes with the vulgar for something exquisitely refined.” Another I have seen who would have sacrificed all London and its “gorgeous mantle of purple and gold” to have wedded some pale shadow of friendship, which had wandered by her side amid her childhood’s dreary waste. And oh! how I pity the many stars who fall out of the too dangerously attractive circle of society! The fault there seems not to be the sin, but the stupidity of being found out. I say one little prayer every day: “Lord, keep me from contamination.” I never saw a woman who renounced her place in society who did not prove herself capable of understanding its value by falling fifty fathoms lower than her original fall. The fact is, very few people of the world, especially those who have not arrived at the age of discretion, are apt to stop short in their career of pleasure for the purpose of weighing in the balance their own conduct, enjoyments, or prospects; in short, it would be very difficult for any worldly woman to be always stopping to examine whether she is enjoying the right kind of happiness in the right kind of way, and, once fallen, a woman seems to depend on her beauty to create any interest in her favour. I knew nothing of these things then; and though I think it quite right that women should be kept in awe of certain misdemeanours, I cannot understand why, when one, who is not bad, has a misfortune, other women should join in hounding her down, and at the same time giving such licence to really bad women, whom society cannot apparently do without. ’Tis “one man may steal a horse, and another may not look over the hedge.” If a woman fell down in the mud with her nice white clothes on, and had a journey to go, she would not lie down and wallow in the mud; she would jump up, and wash herself clean at the nearest spring, and be very careful not to fall again, and reach her journey’s end safely. But other women do not allow that; they must haul out buckets of the mud, and pour it over the fallen one, that there may be no mistake about it at all. Then men seem to find a wondrous charm in poaching on other men’s preserves (though a poacher of birds gets terrible punishments, once upon a time hanging), as if their neighbours’ coverts afforded better shooting than their own manors.

When I went to London, I had no idea of the matrimonial market; I should have laughed at it just as much as an unmarrying man would. I was interested in the fast girls who amused themselves at most extraordinary lengths, not meaning to marry the man; and at the slower ones labouring day and night for a husband of some sort, without any success. I heard a lady one day say to her daughter, “My dear, if you do not get off during your first season, I shall break my heart.” Our favourite men joined us in walks and rides, came into our opera-box, and barred all the waltzes; but it would have been no fun to me to have gone on as some girls did, because I had no desire to reach the happy goal, either properly or improperly. Mothers considered me crazy, and almost insolent, because I was not ready to snap at any good parti ; and I have seen dukes’ daughters gladly accept men that poor humble I would have turned up my nose at.

What think’st thou of the fair Sir Eglamour?
As of a knight well spoken, neat and fine,
But were I you he never should be mine.

Lots of such men, or mannikins, affected the season, then as now, and congregated around the rails of Rotten Row. I sometimes wonder if they are men at all, or merely sexless creatures — animated tailors’ dummies. Shame on them thus to disgrace their manhood! ’Tis man’s work to do great deeds! Well, the young men of the day passed before me without making the slightest impression. My ideal was not among them. My ideal, as I wrote it down in my diary at that time, was this:

“As God took a rib out of Adam and made a woman of it, so do I, out of a wild chaos of thought, form a man unto myself. In outward form and inmost soul his life and deeds an ideal This species of fastidiousness has protected me and kept me from fulfilling the vocation of my sex — breeding fools and chronicling small beer. My ideal is about six feet in height; he has not an ounce of fat on him; he has broad and muscular shoulders, a powerful, deep chest; he is a Hercules of manly strength. He has black hair, a brown complexion, a clever forehead, sagacious eyebrows, large, black, wondrous eyes — those strange eyes you dare not take yours from off them — with long lashes. He is a soldier and a man ; he is accustomed to command and to be obeyed. He frowns on the ordinary affairs of life, but his face always lights up warmly for me. In his dress he never adopts the fopperies of the day, but his clothes suit him — they are made for him, not he for them. He is a thorough man of the world; he is a few years older than myself. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word — not only in manners, dress, and appearance, but in birth and position, and, better still, in ideas and actions; and of course he is an Englishman. His religion is like my own, free, liberal, and generous-minded. He is by no means indifferent on the subject, as most men are; and even if he does not conform to any Church, he will serve God from his innate duty and sense of honour. The great principle is there. He is not only not a fidgety, strait-laced, or mistaken-conscienced man on any subject; he always gives the mind its head. His politics are conservative, yet progressive. His manners are simple and dignified, his mind refined and sensitive, his temper under control; he has a good heart, with common sense, and more than one man’s share of brains. He is a man who owns something more than a body; he has a head and heart, a mind and soul. He is one of those strong men who lead, the mastermind who governs, and he has perfect control over himself.

“This is the creation of my fancy, and my ideal of happiness is to be to such a man wife, comrade, friend — everything to him, to sacrifice all for him, to follow his fortunes through his campaigns, through his travels, to any part of the world, and endure any amount of roughing. I speak of the ideal man ’tis true, and some may mock and say, ‘Where is the mate for such a man to be found?’ But there are ideal women too. Such a man only will I wed. I love this myth of my girlhood — for myth it is — next to God; and I look to the star that Hagar the gypsy said was the star of my destiny, the morning star, which is the place I allot to my earthly god, because the ideal seems too high for this planet, and, like the philosopher’s stone, may never be found here. But if I find such a man, and afterwards discover he is not for me, then I will never marry. I will try to be near him, only to see him, and hear him speak; and if he marries somebody else, I will become a sister of charity of St. Vincent de Paul.”

Chapter IV

Boulogne: I Meet My Destiny


Was’t archer shot me, or was’t thine eyes?

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

The season over (August, 1850), change of air, sea-bathing, French masters to finish our education, and economy were loudly called for; and we turned our faces towards some quiet place on the opposite shores of France, and we thought that Boulogne might suit. We were soon ready and off.

We had a pleasant but rough passage of fifteen hours from London. While the others were employed in bringing up their breakfasts, I sat on deck and mused. Suddenly I remembered that Hagar had told me I should cross the sea, and then I wondered why we had chosen Boulogne. I was leaving England for the first time; I knew not for how long. What should I go through there, and how changed should I come back? I had gone with a light heart. I was young then; I loved society and hated exile. I had written in my diary only a little time before: “As for me, I am never better pleased than when I watch this huge game of chess, Life, being played on that extensive chessboard, Society.” I never felt so patriotic as that first morning on sea when the white cliffs faded from my view. We never appreciate things until we lose them, and I thought of what the feelings of soldiers and sailors must be, going from England and returning after years of absence.

At length the boat stopped at the landing-place at Boulogne, and we were driven like a flock of sheep between two ropes into a papier-maché -looking building, whence we were put into a carriage like a bathing-machine, and driven through what I took to be mews, but which were in reality the principal streets. I recognize in this reflection the prejudiced London Britisher, the John Bull; for in reality Boulogne was a most picturesque town, and our way lay through most picturesque streets. After driving up the hilly street, and under an archway, in the old town, we came to a good, large house like a barn, No. 4, Rue des Basses Chambres, Haute Ville, Boulogne-sur-Mer. The rooms were chiefly furnished with bellows and brass candlesticks; there was not the ghost of an armchair, sofa, ottoman, or anything comfortable; and the only thing at all cheery was our kinswoman, Mrs. Edmond Jerningham, who, apprised of our arrival, had our fires lighted and beds made. She was cutting bread-and-butter and preparing tea for us when we came in, and had ready for us a turkey the size of a fine English chicken. This banquet over, we all turned into bed, and slept between the blankets.

Next morning our boxes were still detained at the custom-house, and my brothers and sisters and myself got some bad tea and some good bread-and-butter, and sat round in a circle on the floor in our night-gowns, with our food in the middle. Shortly after we heard a hooting, laughing, and wrangling in a shrill key, “Coralie, Rosalie, Florantine, Celestine, Euphrosine!” so I pricked up my ears in the hopes of seeing some of those pretty, well-dressed, piquante little soubrettes of whom we had heard mother talk, when in rolled about a dozen harpies with our luggage. At first I did not feel sure whether they were men or women; they had picturesque female dresses on, but their manners, voices; language, and gestures were those of the lowest costermongers. They spoke to me in patois, which I did not understand, and seemed surprised to see us all in our nightgowns, forgetting that we had little else to put on till they had brought the luggage. I gave them half a crown, which they appeared to think a great deal of money, and it inspirited them greatly. They danced about me, whirled me round, and in five minutes one had decked me up in a red petticoat, another arrayed me in her jacket, and a third clapped her dirty cap on my head, and I was completely attired à la marine. I felt so amused by the novelty of the thing that I forgot to be angry at their impertinence, and laughed as heartily as they did.

When they were gone, we set to work and unpacked and dressed, and by the afternoon were as comfortable as we could make ourselves; but we were thoroughly wretched, though mother kept telling us to look at the beautiful sky, which was not half as blue or bright as on the other side of the water. We sauntered out to look at the town. I own my first impressions of France were very unfavourable; Boulogne looked to me like a dirty pack of cards, such as a gypsy pulls out of her pocket to tell your fortune with. The streets were irregular, narrow, filthy, and full of open gutters, which we thought would give us the cholera. The pavement was like that of a mews; the houses were unfurnished; the sea was so far out from our part of the town that it might as well not have been there — and such a dirty, ugly-looking sea too, we thought! The harbour was full of poisonous-looking smelling mud, and always appeared to be low water. The country was dry, barren, and a dirty brown (it was a hot August); the cliffs were black; and there was not a tree to be seen — I used to pretend to get under a lamp-post for shade. Every now and then we had days of fine weather, with clouds of dust and sirocco, or else pouring rain and bleak winds. From mother’s talk of the Continent we expected at least the comforts of Brighton with the romance of Naples; and I shall never forget our feelings when we were told that, after Paris, Boulogne was the nicest town in France. Now I imagine that ours are the feelings of every narrow-minded, prejudiced John Bull Britisher the first time he lands abroad. It takes him some little time to thoroughly appreciate all the good things that he does get abroad, and to be fascinated with the picturesqueness, and then often he returns home unwillingly.

We had a cheap cook, so that our dinners would have been scarcely served up in my father’s kennel at home. When I had eaten what I could pick out by dint of shutting my eyes and forcing myself to get it down, I used to lie down daily on a large horsehair sofa, such as one sees in a tradesman’s office, and sometimes cry till I fell asleep; I felt so sorry for us all.

The most interesting people in Boulogne were the poissardes, or fisherwomen; they are of Spanish and Flemish extraction, and are a clan apart to themselves. They are so interesting that I wonder that no one has written a little book about them. They look down on the Boulognais; they are a fine race, tall, dark, handsome, and have an air of good breeding. Their dress is most picturesque. The women wear a short red petticoat, dark jacket, and snowy handkerchief or scarf, and a white veil tied round the head and hanging a little behind. On fête days they add a gorgeous satin apron. These costumes are expensive. Their long, drooping, gold earrings and massive ornaments are heirlooms, and their lace is real. The men wear great jack-boots all the way up their legs, a loose dark jacket, and red cap; they are fine, stalwart men. They had a queen named Carolina, a handsome, intelligent woman, with whom I made great friends; and also a captain, who had a daughter so like me that when I used to go to the fish-market at first they used to chaff me, thinking she had dressed up like a lady for fun. They also have their different grades of society; they have their own church, built by themselves, their separate weddings, funerals, and christenings. They do not marry out of their own tribe or associate with the townspeople. Their language has a number of Spanish and Latin words in it. They have a strict code of laws, live in a separate part of the town on a hill, are never allowed to be idle, and are remarkable for their morality, although by the recklessness of the conduct and talk of some of the commoner ones you would scarcely believe it. If an accident does occur, the man is obliged to marry the girl directly. The upper ones are most civil and well spoken, and all are open-hearted and not grasping. There is a regular fleet of smacks. The men are always out fishing. The women do all the work at home, as well as shrimping, making tackle, marketing, getting their husbands’ boats ready for sea, and unloading them on return; and they are prosperous and happy. The smacks are out for a week or ten days, and have their regular turn. They have no salmon, and the best fish is on our side of the water. The lowest grade of the girls, who serve as kinds of hacks to the others, are the shrimping girls; they are as vulgar as Billingsgate and as wild as red Indians. You meet them in parties of thirty or forty, with their clothes kilted nearly up to their waists and nets over their backs. They sing songs, and are sure to insult you as you pass; but they make off at a double quick trot at the very name of Queen Carolina.

At Boulogne the usual lounge, both summer and winter, was the Ramparts, which were extremely pretty and picturesque. The Ramparts were charming in summer, with a lovely view of the town; and a row down the Liane, or a walk along its banks, was not to be despised. There were several beautiful country walks in summer. The peasants’ dances, called guinguettes, were amusing to look at. The hotels and table d’hôtes were not bad. The ivory shops in the town were beautiful; the bonnets, parasols, and dresses very chic; the bonbons delicious. The market was a curious, picturesque little scene. There were pretty fêtes, religious and profane, and a capital carnival.

The good society we collected around us; but it was small, and never mixed with the general society. The two winters we were there were gay; there was a sort of agreeable laissez aller about the place, and the summers were very pleasant. But mother kept us terribly strict, and this was a great stimulant to do wild things; and though we never did anything terrible, we did what we had better have left alone. For instance, we girls learned to smoke. We found that father had got a very nice box of cigars, and we stole one. We took it up to the loft and smoked it, and were very sick, and then perfumed ourselves with scent, and appeared in our usual places. We persevered till we became regular smokers, and father’s box of cigars disappeared one by one. Then the servants were accused; so we had to come forward, go into his den, make him swear not to tell, and confided the matter to him. He did not betray us, as he knew we should be almost locked up, and from that time we smoked regularly. People used to say, “What makes those Arundell girls so pale ? They must dance too much.” Alas, poor things ! it was just the want of these innocent recreations that drove us to so dark a deed !

I have already said that we were taken to Boulogne for masters and economy. Our house in the Haute Ville was next to the Convent, and close to the future rising — slowly rising — Notre Dame. My sister Blanche and I gradually made up our minds to this life, our European Botany Bay. We were not allowed to walk alone, except upon the Ramparts, which, however, make a good mile under large shady trees, with views from every side — not a bad walk by any means. Mother, my sister Blanche, and I used to walk once daily up the lounge, which in fine weather was down the Grande Rue, the Rue de l’Ecu, the Quai to the end of the pier and back; but in winter our promenade may be said to be confined to the Grande Rue. There we could observe the notorieties and eccentricities of the place. There might be a dozen or more handsome young men of good family, generally with something shady about money hanging over them, a great many pretty, fast girls and young married women, a great deal of open flirtation, much attention to dress, and plenty of old half-pay officers with large families, who had come to Boulogne for the same reasons as ourselves. If there were any good families, they lived in the Haute Ville, and were English; there were, in fact, half a dozen aristocratic English families, who stuck together and would speak to nobody else. I have learnt since that often in a place one dislikes there will arise some circumstance that will prove the pivot on which part, or the whole, of one’s life may turn, and that scene, that town, or that house will in after-years retain a sacred place in one’s heart for that thing’s sake, which a gayer or a grander scene could never win. And so it was with me.

At this point it is necessary to interrupt Isabel’s autobiography, to introduce a personage who will hereafter play a considerable part in it. By one of those many coincidences which mark the life-story of Richard and Isabel Burton, and which bear out in such a curious manner her theory that they “were destined to one another from the beginning,” Burton came to Boulogne about the same time as the Arundells. This is not the place to write a life of Sir Richard Burton — it has been written large elsewhere, 4 so that all who wish may read; but to those who have not read Lady Burton’s book, the following brief sketch of his career up to this time may be of interest.

Richard Burton came of a military family, and one whose sons had also rendered some service both in Church and State. He was the son of Joseph Netterville Burton, a lieutenant-colonel in the 36th Regiment. He was born in 1821. He was the eldest of three children; the second was Maria Catherine Eliza, who married General Sir Henry Stisted; and the third was Edward Joseph Netterville, late Captain in the 37th Regiment (Queen’s), who died insane. Colonel Burton, who had retired from the army, and his wife went abroad for economy when Richard was only a few months old, and they settled at Tours. Tours at that time contained some two hundred English families, who formed a society of their own. These English colonies knew little of Mrs. Grundy, and less of the dull provincialism of English country towns. Thus Richard grew up in a free, Bohemian society, an influence which perceptibly coloured his after-life. His education was also of a nature to develop his strongly marked individuality. He was sent to a mixed French and English school at Tours, and he remained there until his father suddenly took it into his head that he would give his boys the benefit of an English education, and returned to England. But, instead of going to a public school, Richard was sent to a private preparatory school at Richmond. He was there barely a year, when his father, wearying of Richmond and respectability, and sighing for the shooting and boar-hunting of French forests, felt that he had sacrificed enough on account of an English education for his boys, and resolved to bring them up abroad under the care of a private tutor. This resolution he quickly put into practice, and a wandering life on the Continent followed, the boys being educated as they went along. This state of things continued till Richard was nineteen, when, as he and his brother had got too old for further home training, the family broke up.

Richard was sent to Oxford, and was entered at Trinity College, with the intention of taking holy orders in the Church of England. But the roving Continental life which he had led did not fit him for the restraints of the University. He hated Oxford, and he was not cut out for a parson. At the end of the first year he petitioned his father to take him away. This was refused; so he set to work to get himself sent down — a task which he accomplished with so much success that the next term he was rusticated, with an intimation that he was not to return. Even at this early period of his life the glamour of the East was strong upon him; the only learning he picked up at Oxford was a smattering of Hindustani; the only thing that would suit him when he was sent down was to go to India. He turned to the East as the lotus turns with the sun. So his people procured him a commission in the army, the Indian service, and he sailed for Bombay in June, 1842.

Richard Burton in 1848 in Native Dress

He was appointed to the 14th Regiment, Bombay Native Infantry, and he remained in India without coming home for seven years. During those seven years he devoted himself heart and soul to the study of Oriental languages and Oriental habits. He passed in ten Eastern languages. His interest in Oriental life, and his strong sympathy with it, earned him in his regiment the nickname of “the white nigger.” He would disguise himself so effectually that he would pass among Easterns as a dervish in the mosques and as a merchant in the bazaars. In 1844, Richard Burton went to Scinde with the 18th Native Infantry, and was put on Sir Charles Napier’s staff. Sir Charles soon turned the young lieutenant’s peculiar acquirements to account in dealing with the wild tribes around them. He accompanied his regiment to Mooltan to attack the Sikhs. Yet, notwithstanding all these unique qualifications, when Richard Burton applied for the post of interpreter to accompany the second expedition to Mooltan in 1849, he was passed over on account of a feeling against him in high quarters, on which it is unnecessary here to dwell. This disappointment, and the mental and physical worry and fatigue which he had undergone, broke down his health. He applied for sick leave, and came home on a long furlough.

After a sojourn in England, he went to France (1850) to join his family, who were then staying at Boulogne, like the Arundells and most of the English colony, for change, quiet, and economy. Whilst at Boulogne he brought out two or three books and prepared another. Burton took a gloomy view of his prospects at this time; for he writes, “My career in India has been in my eyes a failure, and by no fault of my own; the dwarfish demon called ‘Interest’ has fought against me, and as usual has won the fight.” There was a good deal of prejudice against him even at Boulogne, for unfounded rumours about him had travelled home from India.

Burton, as it may be imagined, did not lead the life which was led by the general colony at Boulogne. “He had a little set of men friends,” Isabel notes; “he knew some of the French; he had a great many flirtations — one very serious one. He passed his days in literature and fencing. At home he was most domestic; his devotion to his parents, especially to his sick mother, was very beautiful.” At this time he was twenty-eight years of age. The Burton family belonged to the general English colony at Boulogne; they were not intimate with the crême to whom the Miss Arundells belonged; and as these young ladies were very carefully guarded, it was some little time before Richard Burton and Isabel Arundell came together. They met in due season; and here we take up the thread of her narrative again.

One day, when we were on the Ramparts, the vision of my awakening brain came towards us. He was five feet eleven inches in height, very broad, thin, and muscular: he had very dark hair; black, clearly defined, sagacious eyebrows; a brown, weather-beaten complexion; straight Arab features; a determined-looking mouth and chin, nearly covered by an enormous black moustache. I have since heard a clever friend say that “he had the brow of a god, the jaw of a devil.” But the most remarkable part of his appearance was two large, black, flashing eyes with long lashes, that pierced one through and through. He had a fierce, proud, melancholy expression; and when he smiled, he smiled as though it hurt him, and looked with impatient contempt at things generally. He was dressed in a black, short, shaggy coat, and shouldered a short, thick stick, as if he were on guard.

The Ramparts, Boulogne

He looked at me as though he read me through and through in a moment, and started a little. I was completely magnetized; and when we had got a little distance away, I turned to my sister, and whispered to her, “That man will marry me.” The next day he was there again, and he followed us, and chalked up, “May I speak to you?” leaving the chalk on the wall; so I took up the chalk and wrote back, “No; mother will be angry”; and mother found it, and was angry; and after that we were stricter prisoners than ever. However, “Destiny is stronger than custom.” A mother and a pretty daughter came to Boulogne who happened to be cousins of my father’s; they joined the majority in the society sense, and one day we were allowed to walk on the Ramparts with them. There I met Richard again, who (agony!) was flirting with the daughter. We were formally introduced, and his name made me start. Like a flash came back to me the prophecy of Hagar Burton which she had told me in the days of my childhood in Stonymoore Wood: ”You will cross the sea, and be in the same town with your Destiny and know it not . . . . You will bear the name of our tribe, and be right proud of it.“ I could think of no more at the moment. But I stole a look at him, and met his gypsy eyes — those eyes which looked you through, glazed over, and saw something behind; the only man I had ever seen, not a gypsy, with that peculiarity. And again I thrilled through and through. He must have thought me very stupid, for I scarcely spoke a word during that brief meeting.

I did not try to attract his attention; but after that, whenever he came on the usual promenade, I would invent any excuse that came ready to take another turn to watch him, if he were not looking. If I could catch the sound of his deep voice, it seemed to me so soft and sweet that I remained spellbound, as when I hear gypsy music. I never lost an opportunity of seeing him, when I could not be seen; and as I used to turn red and pale, hot and cold, dizzy and faint, sick and trembling, and my knees used to nearly give way under me, my mother sent for the doctor, to complain that my digestion was out of order, and that I got migraines in the street; he prescribed me a pill, which I threw in the fire. All girls will sympathize with me. I was struck with the shaft of Destiny, but I had no hope, being nothing but an ugly schoolgirl, 5 of taking the wind out of the sails of the dashing creature with whom Richard was carrying on a very serious flirtation.

The only luxury I indulged in was a short but heartfelt prayer for him every morning. I read all his books, and was seriously struck, as before, by his name, when I came to the book on Jats in Scinde. The Jats are the aboriginal gypsies in India.

The more I got to know of Richard, the more his strange likeness to the gypsies struck me. As I wrote to the Gypsy Lore Journal in 1891, it was not only his eyes which showed the gypsy peculiarity; he had the restlessness which could stay nowhere long, nor own any spot on earth, the same horror of a corpse, deathbed scenes, and graveyards, or anything which was in the slightest degree ghoulish, though caring little for his own life, the same aptitude for reading the hand at a glance. With many he would drop their hands at once and turn away, nor would anything induce him to speak a word about them. He spoke Romany like the gypsies themselves. Nor did we ever enter a gypsy camp without their claiming him. “What are you doing with that black coat on?” they would say. “Why don’t you join us and be our king?” Moreover, Burton is one of the half-dozen distinctively Romany names; and though there is no proof whatever of his Arab or Romany descent, the idea that he had gypsy blood is not to be wondered at. He always took a great interest in gypsy lore, and prepared a book on the subject. He wrote many years later: “There is an important family of gypsies in foggy England, who in remote times developed our family name. I am yet on very friendly terms with several of these strange people; nay, a certain Hagar Burton, an old fortune-teller (divinatrice ), took part in a period of my life which in no small degree contributed to determine its course.”

My cousin asked Richard to write something for me at that time; he did so, and I used to wear it next my heart. One night an exception was made to our dull rule of life. My cousins gave a tea party and dance, and the “great majority” flocked in, and there was Richard like a star among rushlights! That was a night of nights; he waltzed with me once, and spoke to me several times, and I kept my sash where he put his arm round my waist to waltz, and my gloves, which his hands had clasped. I never wore them again. I did not know it then, but the “little cherub who sits up aloft” was not only occupied in taking care of poor Jack, for I came in also for a share of it. I saw Richard every now and again after that, but he was of course unconscious of my feelings towards him. And I was evidently awfully sorry for myself, since I find recorded the following moan:

“If kind Providence had blessed me with the man I love, what a different being I might be! Fate has used me hardly, with my proud, sensitive nature to rough the world and its sharp edges, alone and unprotected except by hard and peremptory rules.”

So I thought then; but I have often blessed those rules since. A woman may have known the illusions of love, but never have met an object worth all her heart. Sometimes we feel a want of love, and a want to love with all our energies. There is no man capable of receiving this at the time, and we accept the love of others as a makeshift, an apology, to draw our intention from the painful feeling, and try to fancy it is love. How much in this there is to fear! A girl should be free and happy in real and legitimate love. One who is passionate and capable of suffering fears to risk her heart on any man. Happy is she who meets at her first start the man who is to guide her for life, whom she is always to love. Some women grow fastidious in solitude, and find it harder to be mated than married. Those who fear and respect the men they love, those whose judgment and sense confirm their affection, are lucky. Every one has some mysterious and singular idea of representing his destiny. I asked myself then if I would sacrifice anything and everything for Richard, and the only thing that I found I could not sacrifice for him would be God; for I thought I would as soon, were I a man, forsake my post, when the tide of battle pressed hardest against it, and go over to the enemy, as renounce my God. So having sifted my unfortunate case, I soon decided on a plan of action. I could not push myself forward or attract his notice. It would be unmaidenly — unworthy. I shuddered at the lonely and dreary path I was taking; but I knew that no advantage gained by unworthy means could be lasting or solid; besides, my conscience was tender, and I knew that the greatest pleasure unlawfully obtained would eventually become bitter, for there can be no greater pain than to despise oneself or the one we love. So I suffered much and long; and the name of the tribe, as Hagar Burton foretold, caused me many a sorrowful and humiliating hour; but I rose superior at last. They say that often, when we think our hopes are annihilated, God is granting us some extraordinary favour. It is said, “It is easy to image the happiness of some particular condition, until we can be content with no other”; but there is no condition whatever under which a certain degree of happiness may not be attained by those who are inclined to be happy. Courage consists, not in hazarding without fear, but in being resolutely minded in a just cause.

Marvel not at thy life; patience shall see
The perfect work of wisdom to her given;
Hold fast thy soul through this high mystery,
And it shall lead thee to the gates of heaven.

The days at Boulogne went slowly by. We used to join walking or picnic parties in summer, and generally have one of our pleasant big teas in the evening. I joined in such society as there was in moderation, and I became very serious. The last summer we had many friends staying with us; the house was quite like a hotel. We much longed to go to Paris; but in the winter poor little baby died, and mother had no spirits for anything. This last winter (1851-52), during the time of the coup d’état, there were eighteen hundred soldiers billeted on Boulogne; and the excitement was great, crowds of people were rushing about to hear the news, and vans full of prisoners passing by. They were very violent against the English too; we had our windows broken occasionally, and our pet dog was killed. Carolina, the Poissarde queen, told us that if the worst came to the worst she should send us across to England in her husband’s fishing-smack. Boulogne was a droll place; there was always either something joyous, a fête, or some scandal or horror going on. It was a place of passage, constant change of people, and invariably there was some excitement about something or other.

Our prescribed two years were up at last, and we all agreed that anything in London would be preferable to Boulogne. We began quietly to pack up, pay our debts, and make our adieux. We were sorry to leave our little circle; they were also sorry to part from us; and the tradespeople and servants seemed conscious that they were about to lose in a short while some honest and safe-paying people — not too frequent in Boulogne — and were loud in their regrets. I had many regrets in leaving, but was delighted at the prospect of going home, and impatient to be relieved of the restraint I was obliged to impose on myself about Richard. Yet at the same time I dreaded leaving his vicinity. I was sorely sorry, yet glad. All the old haunts I visited for the last time. There were kind friends to wish good-bye. I received my last communion in the little chapel of Our Lady in the College, where I had so often knelt and prayed for Richard, and for strength to bear my sorrow as a trial from the hand of God, as doubtless it was for my good, only I could not see it. When one is young, it is hard to pine for something, and at the same time to say, “Thy will be done.” I always prayed Richard might be mine if God willed it, and if it was for his happiness.

I said good-bye to Carolina, the queen of the fisher-women; she reminded me strangely of Hagar Burton, my gypsy. I wondered how Hagar would tell her prophecies now? “Chance or not,” I thought, “they are strange; and if ever I return to my home, I will revisit Stonymoore Wood, though now alone; for my shaggy Sikh is dead, my pony gone, my gypsy camp dispersed, my light heart no longer light, no longer mine.” I would give worlds to sit again on the mossy bank round the gypsy fire, to hear that little tale as before, and be called “Daisy,” and hear the prophecy of Hagar that I should take the name of the tribe. I listened lightly then; but now that the name had become so dear I attached much deeper meaning to it.

At last the day was fixed that we were to leave Boulogne, May 9, 1852, and I was sorely exercised in my mind as to whether or no I should say goodbye to Richard; but I said to myself, “When we leave this place, he will go one way in life, and I another; and who knows if we may ever meet again?” To see him would be only to give myself more pain, and therefore I did not.

We walked down to the steamer an hour or two before sailing-time, which would be two in the morning. It was midnight; the band was playing, and the steamer was alongside, opposite the Folkestone Hotel. It was a beautiful night, so all our friends collected to see us off, and we walked up and down, and had chairs to remain near the band. When we sailed, my people went down to their berths; but I sat near the wheel, to watch the town as long as I could see the lights, for after all it contained all I wanted, and who I thought I should never see more. I was sad at heart; but I was proud of the way in which I had behaved, and I could now rest after my long and weary struggle, suffering, patient, and purified; and though I would rather have had love and happiness, I felt that I was as gold tried in the fire. It is no little thing for a girl to be able to command herself, to respect herself, and to be able to crush every petty feeling.

When I could see no more of Boulogne, I wrapped a cloak round me, and jumped into the lifeboat lashed to the side, and I mused on the two past years I had been away from England, all I had gone through, and all the changes, and especially how changed I was myself; I felt a sort of satisfaction, and I mused on how much of my destiny had been fulfilled. Old Captain Tune, who had become quite a friend of ours at Boulogne, came up, and wanted me to go below. I knew him well, and was in the habit of joking with him, and I told him to go below himself, and I would take care of the ship; so instead he amused me by telling me stories and asking me riddles. The moon went down, and the stars faded, and I slept well; and when I awoke the star of my destiny, my pet morning star, was shining bright and clear, just “like a diamond drop over the sea.” I awoke, hearing old Tune say, “What a jolly sailor’s wife she would make! She never changes colour.” We lurched terribly. I jumped up as hungry as a hunter, and begged him to give me some food, as it wanted four hours to breakfast; so he took me down to his cabin, and gave me some hot chops and bread-and-butter, and said he would rather keep me for a week than a fortnight. It blew freshly. I cannot describe my sensations when I saw the dear old white cliffs of England again, though I had only been away two years, and so near home. The tears came into my eyes, and my heart bounded with joy, and I felt great sympathy with all exiled soldiers and sailors, and wondered what face we should see first. Foreigners do not seem to have that peculiar sensation about home, or talk of their country as we do of ours; for I know of no feeling like setting one’s foot on English ground again after a long absence.

4 Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Isabel his wife.

5 It is necessary here to defend Lady Burton against herself. She was certainly not “ugly”; for she was — a friend tells me who knew her at this time — a tall and beautiful girl, with fair brown hair, blue eyes, classic features, and a most vivacious and attractive manner. Nor could she correctly be called a “schoolgirl”; for though she was taking some finishing lessons in French, music, etc., she was more than nineteen years of age, and had been through a London season.

Chapter V

Four Years of Hope Deferred


I was fancy free and unknew I love,
But I fell in love and in madness fell;
I write to you with tears of eyes so belike,
They explain my love, come my heart to quell.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

On leaving Boulogne, Isabel saw Richard Burton no more for four years, and only heard of him now and again from others or through the newspapers. She went back to London with her people, and outwardly took up life and society again much where she had left it two years before. But inwardly things were very different. She had gone to Boulogne an unformed girl; she had left it a loving woman. Her ideal had taken form and shape; she had met the only man in all the world whom she could love, the man to whom she had been “destined from the beginning,” and her love for him henceforth became, next to her religion, the motive power of her actions and the guiding principle of her life. All her youth, until she met him, she had yearned for something, she hardly knew what. That something had come to her, sweeter than all her young imaginings, glorifying her life and flooding her soul with radiance. And after the light there had come the darkness; after the joy there had come keenest pain; for it seemed that her love was given to one who did not return it — nay, more, who was all unconscious of it. But this did not hinder her devotion, though her maidenly reserve checked its outward expression. She had met her other self in Richard Burton. He was her affinity. A creature of impulse and emotion, there was a certain vein of thought in her temperament which responded to the recklessness in his own. She could no more stifle her love for him than she could stifle her nature, part of herself.

Meanwhile she and her sister Blanche, the sister next to her in age, had to take the place in society suited to young ladies of their position. Their father, Mr. Henry Raymond Arundell, though in comfortable circumstances, was not a wealthy man; but in those days money was not the passport to society, and the Miss Arundells belonged by birth to the most exclusive aristocracy of Europe, the Catholic nobility of England, an aristocracy which has no parallel, unless it be found in the old Legitimist families of France, the society of the Faubourg St. Germain. But this society, though undoubtedly exclusive, was also undoubtedly tiresome to the impetuous spirit of Isabel, who chafed at the restraints by which she was surrounded. She love liberty; her soaring spirit beat its wings against the prison-bars of custom and convention; she was always yearning for a wider field. Deep down in her heart was hidden the secret of her untold love, and this robbed the zest from the pleasure she might otherwise have taken in society. Much of her time was spent in confiding to her diary her thoughts about Richard, and in gleaning together and treasuring in her memory every scrap of news she could gather concerning him. At the same time she was not idle, nor did she pine outwardly after the approved manner of love-sick maidens. As the eldest daughter of a large family she had plenty to do in the way of home duties, and it was not in her nature to shirk any work which came in her way, but to do it with all her might.

The Miss Arundells had no lack of admirers, and more than once Isabel refused or discouraged advantageous offers of marriage, much to the perplexity of her mother, who naturally wished her daughters to make good marriages; that is to say, to marry men of the same religion as themselves, and in the same world — men who would make them good husbands in every sense of the word. But Isabel, who was then twenty-one years of age, had a strong will of her own, and very decided views on the subject of marriage, and she turned a deaf ear to all pleadings. Besides, was she not guarded by the talisman of a hidden and sacred love? In her diary at this time she writes:

“They say it is time I married (perhaps it is); but it is never time to marry any man one does not love, because such a deed can never be undone. Richard may be a delusion of my brain. But how dull is reality! What a curse is a heart! With all to make me happy I pine and hanker for him, my other half, to fill this void, for I feel as if I were not complete. Is it wrong to want some one to love more than one’s father and mother — one on whom to lavish one’s best feelings? What will my life be alone? I cannot marry any of the insignificant beings round me. Where are all those men who inspired the grandes passions of bygone days? Is the race extinct? Is Richard the last of them? Even so, is he for me? They point out the matches I might make if I took the trouble, but the trouble I will not take. I have no vocation to be a nun. I do not consider myself good enough to offer to God. God created me with a warm heart, a vivid imagination, and strong passions; God has given me food for hunger, drink for thirst, but no companion for my loneliness of heart. If I could only be sure of dying at forty, and until then preserve youth, health, spirits, and good looks, I should be more cheerful to remain as I am. I cannot separate myself from all thought of Richard. Neither do I expect God to work a miracle to make me happy. To me there are three kinds of marriage: first, worldly ambition; that is, marriage for fortune, title, estates, society; secondly, love; that is, the usual pig and cottage; thirdly, life, which is my ideal of being a companion and wife, a life of travel, adventure, and danger, seeing and learning, with love to glorify it; that is what I seek.L’amour n’y manquerait pas!

“A sailor leaves his wife for years, and is supposed to be unfaithful to her by necessity. The typical sportsman breakfasts and goes out, comes home to dinner, falls asleep over his port, tumbles into bed and snores till morning. An idle and independent man who lives in society is often a roué, a gambler, or drunkard, whose wife is deserted for a danseuse.

“One always pictures the ‘proper man’ to be a rich, fat, mild lordling, living on his estate, whence, as his lady, one might rise to be a leader of Almack’s. But I am much mistaken if I do not deserve a better fate. I could not live like a vegetable in the country. I cannot picture myself in a white apron, with a bunch of keys, scolding my maids, counting eggs and butter, with a good and portly husband (I detest fat men!) with a broad-brimmed hat and a large stomach. And I should not like to marry a country squire, nor a doctor, nor a lawyer (I hear the parchments crackle now), nor a parson, nor a clerk in a London office. God help me! A dry crust, privations, pain, danger for him I love would be better. Let me go with the husband of my choice to battle, nurse him in his tent, follow him under the fire of ten thousand muskets. I would be his companion through hardship and trouble, nurse him if wounded, work for him in his tent, prepare his meals when faint, his bed when weary, and be his guardian angel of comfort — a felicity too exquisite for words! There is something in some women that seems born for the knapsack. How many great thoughts are buried under ordinary circumstances, and splendid positions exist that are barren of them — thoughts that are stifled from a feeling that they are too bold to be indulged in! I thank God for the blessed gift of imagination, though it may be a source of pain. It counteracts the monotony of life. One cannot easily quit a cherished illusion, though it disgusts one with ordinary life. Who has ever been so happy in reality as in imagination? And how unblessed are those who have no imagination, unless they obtain their wishes in reality! I do not obtain, so I seek them in illusion. Sometimes I think I am not half grateful enough to my parents, I do not half enough for them, considering what they are to me. Although we are not wealthy, what do I lack, and what kindness do I not receive? Yet I seem in a hurry to leave them. There is nothing I would not do to add to their comfort, and it would grieve me to the heart to forsake them; and yet if I knew for certain that I should never have my wish, I should repine sadly. I love a good daughter, and a good daughter makes a good wife. How can I reconcile all these things in my mind? I am miserable, afraid to hope, and yet I dare not despair when I look at the state of my heart. But one side is so heavy as nearly to sink the other, and thus my beaux jours will pass away, and my Ideal Lover will not then think me worth his while. Shall I never be at rest with him to love and understand me, to tell every thought and feeling, in far different scenes from these — under canvas before Rangoon — anywhere in Nature?

“I would have every woman marry; not merely liking a man well enough to accept him for a husband, as some of our mothers teach us, and so cause many unhappy marriages, but loving him so holily that, wedded or not wedded, she feels she is his wife at heart. But perfect love, like perfect beauty, is rare. I would have her so loyal, that, though she sees all his little faults herself, she takes care no one else sees them; yet she would as soon think of loving him less for them as ceasing to look up to heaven because there were a few clouds in the sky. I would have her so true, so fond, that she needs neither to burthen him with her love nor vex him with her constancy, since both are self-existent, and entirely independent of anything he gives or takes away. Thus she will not marry him for liking, esteem, gratitude for his love, but from the fulness of her own love. If Richard and I never marry, God will cause us to meet in the next world; we cannot be parted; we belong to one another. Despite all I have seen of false, foolish, weak attachments, unholy marriages, the after-life of which is rendered unholier still by struggling against the inevitable, still I believe in the one true love that binds a woman’s heart faithful to one man in this life, and, God grant it, in the next. All this I am and could be for one man. But how worthless should I be to any other man but Richard Burton! I should love Richard’s wild, roving, vagabond life; and as I am young, strong, and hardy, with good nerves, and no fine notions, I should be just the girl for him; I could never love any one who was not daring and spirited. I always feel inclined to treat the generality of men just like my own sex. I am sure I am not born for a jog-trot life; I am too restless and romantic. I believe my sister and I have now as much excitement and change as most girls, and yet I find everything slow. I long to rush round the world in an express; I feel as if I shall go mad if I remain at home. Now with a soldier of fortune, and a soldier at heart, one would go everywhere, and lead a life worth living. What others dare I can dare. And why should I not? 1 feel that we women simply are born, marry, and die. Who misses us? Why should we not have some useful, active life? Why, with spirits, brains, and energies, are women to exist upon worsted work and household accounts ? It makes me sick, and I will not do it.”

In the meantime Richard Burton, all unconscious of the love he had inspired, had gone on his famous pilgrimage to Mecca. As we have seen, he was home from India on a long furlough; but his active mind revolted against the tame life he was leading, and craved for adventure and excitement. He was not of the stuff to play the part of petit maïtre in the second-rate society of Boulogne. So he determined to carry out his long-cherished project of studying the “inner life of Moslem,” a task for which he possessed unique qualifications. Therefore, soon after the Arundells had left Boulogne, he made up his mind to go to Mecca. He obtained a year’s further leave to carry out his daring project. In 1853 he left England disguised as a Persian Mirza, a disguise which he assumed with so much success that, when he landed at Alexandria, he was recognized and blessed as a true Moslem by the native population. From Alexandria he went to Cairo disguised as a dervish, and lived there some months as a native. Thence he travelled to Suez, and crossed in an open boat with a party of Arab pilgrims to Yambú. The rest of his dare-devil adventures and hair-breadth escapes — how he attached himself to the Damascus caravan and journeyed with the pilgrims to Mecca in spite of the fiery heat and the scorching sands, how he braved many dangers and the constant dread of “detection” — is written by him in his Pilgrimage to Mecca and El Medinah, and is touched upon again in Lady Burton’s Life of her husband. The story needs no re-telling here. Suffice it to say that Burton was the first man not a Mussulman who penetrated to the innermost sanctuary of Moslem, and saw the shrine where the coffin of Mohammed swings between heaven and earth. He did the circumambulation at the Harem; he was admitted to the house of our Lord; he went to the well Zemzem, the holy water of Mecca; he visited Ka’abah, the holy grail of the Moslems, and kissed the famous black stone; he spent the night in the Mosque; and he journeyed to Arafat and saw the reputed tomb of Adam. He was not a man to do things by halves, and he inspected Mecca thoroughly, absolutely living the life of the Mussulman, adopting the manners, eating the food, wearing the clothes, conforming to the ritual, joining in the prayers and sacrifices, and speaking the language. He did all this, literally carrying his life in his hand, for at any moment he might have been detected — one false step, one hasty word, one prayer unsaid, one trifling custom of the shibboleth omitted, and the dog of an infidel who had dared to profane the sanctuary of Mecca and Medinah would have been found out, and his bones would have whitened the desert sand. Quite apart from the physical fatigue, the mental strain must have been acute. But Burton survived it all, and departed from. Mecca as he came, slowly wending his way with a caravan across the desert to Jeddah, whence he returned up the Red Sea to Egypt. There he sojourned for a space; but his leave being up, he returned to Bombay.

Burton On His Pilgrimage to Mecca

The news of his marvellous pilgrimage was soon noised abroad, and travelled home; all sorts of rumours flew about, though it was not until the following year that his book, giving a full and detailed account of his visit to Mecca, came out. Burton’s name was on the lips of many. But he was in India, and did not come home to reap the reward of his daring, nor did he know that one faithful heart was full of joy and thanksgiving at his safety and pride at his renown. He did not know that the “little girl” he had met now and again casually at Boulogne was thinking of him every hour of the day, dreaming of him every night, praying every morning and evening and at the altar of her Lord, with all the fervour of her pure soul, that God would keep him now and always, and bring him back safe and sound, and in His own good time teach him to love her. He did not know. How could he? He had not yet sounded the height, depth, and breadth of a woman’s love. And yet, who shall say that her supplications were unheeded before the throne of God? Who shall say that it was not Isabel’s prayers, quite as much as Richard Burton’s skill and daring, which shielded him from danger and detection and carried him safe through all?

In Isabel’s diary at this time there occurs the following note:

“Richard has just come back with flying colours from Mecca; but instead of coming home, he has gone to Bombay to rejoin his regiment. I glory in his glory. God be thanked!”

Then a sense of desolation and hopelessness sweeps over her soul, for she writes:

“But I am alone and unloved. Love can illumine the dark roof of poverty, and can lighten the fetters of a slave; the most miserable position of humanity is tolerable with its support, and the most splendid irksome without its inspiration. Whatever harsher feelings life may develop, there is no one whose brow will not grow pensive at some tender reminiscence, whose heart will not be touched. Oh if 1 could but go through life trusting one faithful heart and pressing one dear hand! Is there no hope for me ? I am so full of faith. Is there no pity for so much love? It makes my heart ache, this future of desolation and distress; it ever flits like the thought of death before my eyes. There is no more joy for me; the lustre of life is gone. How swiftly my sorrow followed my joy! I can laugh, dance, and sing as others do, but there is a dull gnawing always at my heart that wearies me. There is an end of love for me, and of all the bright hopes that make the lives of other girls happy and warm and pleasant.”

Burton did not stay long at Bombay after he rejoined his regiment. He was not popular in it, and he disliked the routine. Something of the old prejudice against him in certain quarters was revived. The East India Company, in whose service he was, had longed wished to explore Harar in Somaliland, Abyssinia; but it was inhabited by a very wild and savage people, and no white man had ever dared to enter it. So it was just the place for Richard Burton, and he persuaded the Governor of Bombay to sanction an expedition to Harar; and with three companions, Lieutenant Herne, Lieutenant Stroyan, and Lieutenant Speke, he started for Harar.

From her watch-tower afar off, Isabel, whose ceaseless love followed him night and day, notes:

“And now Richard has gone to Harar, a deadly expedition or a most dangerous one, and I am full of sad forebodings. Will he never come home? How strange it all is, and how I still trust in Fate! The Crimean War is declared, and troops begin to go out.”

When Burton’s little expedition arrived at Aden en route for Harar, the four men who composed it parted and resolved to enter Harar by different ways. Speke failed; Herne and Stroyan succeeded. Burton reserved for himself the post of danger. Harar was as difficult to enter as Mecca; there was a tradition there that when the first white man entered the city Harar would fall. Nevertheless, after a journey of four months through savage tribes and the desert, Burton entered it disguised as an Arab merchant, and stayed there ten days. 6 He returned to Aden. Five weeks later he got up a new expedition to Harar on a much larger scale, with which he wanted to proceed Nilewards. The expedition sailed for Berberah. Arriving there, the four leaders, Burton, Speke, Stroyan, and Herne, went ashore and pitched their tent, leaving the others on board. At night they were surprised by more than three hundred Somali, and after desperate fighting cut their way back to the boat. Stroyan was killed, Herne untouched, and Speke and Burton wounded.

A little later the following note occurs in Isabel’s diary:

“We got the news of Richard’s magnificent ride to Harar, of his staying ten days in Harar, of his wonderful ride back, his most daring expedition, and then we heard of the dreadful attack by the natives in his tent, and how Stroyan was killed, Herne untouched, Speke with eleven wounds, and Richard with a lance through his jaw. They escaped in a native dhow to Aden, and it was doubtful whether Richard would recover. Doubtless this is the danger alluded to by the clairvoyant, and the cause of my horrible dreams concerning him about the time it happened. I hope to Heaven he will not go back! How can I be grateful enough for his escape!”

Burton did not go back. He was so badly wounded that he had to return to England on sick leave, and sorely discomfited. Here his wounds soon healed, and he regained his health. He read an account of his journey to Harar before the Royal Geographical Society; but the paper attracted little or no attention, one reason being that the public interest was at that time absorbed in the Crimean War. Strange to say, the paper, until it was over, did not reach the ears of Isabel, nor did she once see the man on whom all her thoughts were fixed during his stay in England. It was of course impossible for her to take the initiative. Moreover, Burton was invalided most of the time, and in London but little. His visit to England was a short one. After a month’s rest he obtained leave — after considerable difficulty, for he was no favourite with the War Office — to start for the Crimea, and reached there in October, 1854. He had some difficulty in obtaining a post, but at last he became attached to General Beatson’s staff, and was the organizer of the Irregular Cavalry (Beatson’s Horse: the Bashi-bazouks), a fact duly noted in Isabel’s diary.

The winter of 1854-55 was a terrible one for our troops in the Crimea, and public feeling in England was sorely exercised by the account of their sufferings and privations. The daughters of England were not backward in their efforts to aid the troops. Florence Nightingale and her staff of nurses were doing their noble work in the army hospitals at Scutari; and it was characteristic of Isabel that she should move heaven and earth to join them. In her journal at this time we find the following:

“It has been an awful winter in the Crimea. I have given up reading the Times; it makes me so miserable, and one is so impotent. I have made three struggles to be allowed to join Florence Nightingale. How I envy the women who are allowed to go out as nurses! I have written again and again to Florence Nightingale; but the superintendent has answered me that I am too young and inexperienced, and will not do.”

But she could not be idle. She could not sit with folded hands and think of her dear one and her brave countrymen out yonder suffering untold privations, and do nothing. It was not enough for her to weep and hope and pray. So the next thing she thought of was a scheme for aiding the almost destitute wives and families of the soldiers, a work which, if she had done nothing else, should be sufficient to keep her memory green, prompted as it was by that generous, loving heart of hers, which ever found its chiefest happiness in doing good to others. She thus describes her scheme:

“I set to work to form a girls’ club composed of girls. My plan was to be some little use at home. First it was called the ‘Whistle Club,’ because we all had tiny silver whistles; and then we changed it to the ‘Stella Club,’ in honour of the morning star — my star. Our principal object was to do good at home amongst the destitute families of soldiers away in the Crimea; to do the same things as those we would have done if we had the chance out yonder amongst the soldiers themselves. We started a subscription soup-cauldron and a clothing collection, and we got from the different barracks a list of the women and their children married, with or without leave. We ascertained their real character and situations, and no destitute woman was to be left out, nor any difference made on account of religion. The women were to have employment; the children put to schools according to their respective religions, and sent to their own churches. Lodging, food, and clothes were given according to our means, and words of comfort to all, teaching the poor creatures to trust in God for themselves and their husbands at the war — the only One from whom we could all expect mercy. We undertook the wives and families of all regiments of the Lifeguards and Blues and the three Guards’ regiments. We went the rounds twice a week, and met at the club once a week. There were three girls to each locality; all of us dressed plainly and behaved very quietly, and acknowledged no acquaintances while going our rounds. We carried this out to the letter, and I cannot attempt to describe the scenes of misery we saw, nor the homes that we saved, nor the gratitude of the soldiers later when they returned from the war and found what we had done. It has been a most wonderful success, and I am very happy at having been of some use. The girls responded to the rules, which were rigorously carried out; and when I look at my own share of the business, and multiply that by a hundred and fifty girls, I think the good done must have been great. In ten days, by shillings and sixpences, I alone collected a hundred guineas, not counting what the others did. My beat contained one hundred women of all creeds and situations, and about two hundred children. I spared no time nor exertions over and above the established rules. I read and wrote their letters, visited the sick and dying, and did a number of other things.

“I know now the misery of London, and in making my rounds I could give details that would come up to some of the descriptions in The Mysteries of Paris or a shilling shocker. In many cellars, garrets, and courts policemen warned me not to enter, and told me that four or five of them could not go in without being attacked; but I always said to them, ‘You go to catch some rogue, but I go to take the women something; they will not hurt me; but I should be glad if you waited outside in case I do not come out again.’ But the ruffians hanging about soon learnt my errand, and would draw back, touch their caps, move anything out of my way, and give me a kind good-day as I passed, or show me to any door that I was not sure of. Some people have been a little hard on me for being the same to the fallen women as to the good ones. But I do hate the way we women come down upon each other. Those who are the loudest in severity are generally the first to fall when temptation comes: and who of us might not do so but for God’s grace? I like simplicity and large-minded conduct in all things, whether it be in a matter of religion or heart or the world, and I think the more one knows the simpler one acts. I have the consolation of knowing that all the poor women are now doing well and earning an honest livelihood, the children fed, clothed and lodged, educated and brought up in the fear and love of God, and in many a soldier’s home my name is coupled with a blessing and a prayer. They send me a report of themselves now once a month, and I love the salute of many an honest and brave fellow as he passes me in the street with his medal and clasps, and many have said, ‘But for you I should have found no home on my return.’”

After the fall of Sebastopol the war was virtually at an end, and the allied armies wintered amid its ruins. The treaty of peace was signed at Paris on March 30, 1856. Five months before the signing of the treaty Richard Burton returned home with General Beatson, his commander-in-chief, who was then involved in an unfortunate controversy. An evil genius seemed to follow Burton’s military career, and it pursued him from India to the Crimea. He managed to enrage Lord Stratford so much that he called him “the most impudent man in the Bombay army.” He was certainly one of the most unlucky, even in his choice of chiefs. Sir Charles Napier, under whom he served in India, was far from popular with his superiors; and General Beatson was always in hot water. The Beatson trial was the result of one of the many muddles which arose during the Crimean War; it took place in London in the spring (1856), and Burton gave evidence in favour of his chief. But this is by the way. What we are chiefly concerned with is the following line in Isabel’s diary, written soon after his return to England:

“I hear that Richard has come home, and is in town. God be praised! ”

That which followed will be told in her own words.

6 Vide Burton's First Footsteps in Africa.

Chapter VI

Richard Loves Me


Daughter of nobles, who thine aim shalt gain,
Hear gladdest news, nor fear aught hurt or bane.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

Now this is what occurred. When Richard was well home from the Crimea, and had attended Beatson’s trial, he began to turn his attention to the “Unveiling of Isis”; in other words, to discover the sources of the Nile, the lake regions of Central Africa, on which his heart had long been set; and he passed most of his time in London working it up.

We did not meet for some months after his return, though we were both in London, he planning his Central African expedition, and I involved in the gaieties of the season; for we had a gay season that year, every one being glad that the war was over. In June I went to Ascot. There, amid the crowd of the racecourse, I met Hagar Burton, the gypsy, for the first time after many years, and I shook hands with her. "Are you Daisy Burton yet?" was her first question. I shook my head. “Would to God I were!” Her face lit up. “Patience; it is just coming.” She waved her hand, for at that moment she was rudely thrust from the carriage. I never saw her again, but I was engaged to Richard two months later. It came in this wise.

One fine day in August I was walking in the Botanical Gardens with my sister. Richard was there. We immediately stopped and shook hands, and asked each other a thousand questions of the four intervening years; and all the old Boulogne memories and feelings returned to me. He asked me if I came to the Gardens often. I said, “Oh yes, we always come and read and study here from eleven to one, because it is so much nicer than studying in the hot room at this season.” “That is quite right,” he said. “What are you studying?” I held up the book I had with me that day, an old friend, Disraeli’s Tancred, the book of my heart and taste, which he explained to me. We were in the Gardens about an hour, and when I had to leave he gave me a peculiar look, as he did at Boulogne. I hardly looked at him, yet I felt it, and had to turn away. When I got home, my mind was full of wonder and presentiment; I felt frightened and agitated; and I looked at myself in the glass and thought myself a fright!

Next morning we went to the Botanical Gardens again. When we got there, he was there too, alone, composing some poetry to show to Monckton Milnes on some pet subject. He came forward, and said laughingly, "You won't chalk up 'Mother will be angry,’ as you did when you were at Boulogne, when I used to want to speak to you.” So we walked and talked over old times and people and things in general.

About the third day his manner gradually altered towards me; we had begun to know each other, and what might have been an ideal love before was now a reality. This went on for a fortnight. I trod on air.

At the end of a fortnight he stole his arm round my waist, and laid his cheek against mine and asked me, “ Could you do anything so sickly as to give up civilization? And if I can get the Consulate of Damascus, will you marry me and go and live there?” He said, “Do not give me an answer now, because it will mean a very serious step for you — no less than giving up your people and all that you are used to, and living the sort of life that Lady Hester Stanhope led. I see the capabilities in you, but you must think it over.” I was long silent from emotion; it was just as if the moon had tumbled down and said, “You have cried for me for so long that I have come.” But he, who did not know of my long love, thought I was thinking worldly thoughts, and said, “Forgive me; I ought not to have asked so much.” At last I found voice, and said, “I do not want to think it over — I have been thinking it over for six years, ever since I first saw you at Boulogne. I have prayed for you every morning and night, I have followed all your career minutely, I have read every word you ever wrote, and I would rather have a crust and a tent with you than be queen of all the world; and so I say now, ‘Yes, yes, YES!’"

I will pass over the next few minutes . . .

Then he said, “Your people will not give you to me.” I answered, “I know that, but I belong to myself — I give myself away.” “That is all right,” he answered; “be firm, and so shall I.”

I would have suffered six years more for such a day, such a moment as this. All past sorrow was forgotten in it. All that has been written or said on the subject of the first kiss is trash compared to the reality. Men might as well undertake to describe Eternity. I then told him all about my six years since I first met him, and all that I had suffered.

When I got home, I knelt down and prayed, and my whole soul was flooded with joy and thanksgiving. A few weeks ago I little thought what a change would take place in my circumstances. Now I mused thus: “Truly we never know from one half-hour to another what will happen. Life is like travelling in an open carriage with one’s back to the horses — you see the path, you have an indistinct notion of the sides, but none whatever of where you are going. If ever any one had an excuse for superstition and fatalism, I have. Was it not foretold? And now I have gained half the desire of my life: he loves me. But the other half remains unfulfilled: he wants to marry me! Perhaps I must not regret the misery that has spoilt the six best years of my life. But must I wait again? What can I do to gain the end? Nothing! My whole heart and mind is fixed on this marriage. If I cared less, I could plan some course of action; but my heart and head are not cool enough. Providence and fate must decide my future. I feel all my own weakness and nothingness. I am as humble as a little child. Richard has the upper hand now, and I feel that I have at last met the master who can subdue me. They say it is better to marry one who loves and is subject to you than one whose slave you are through love. But I cannot agree to this. Where in such a case is the pleasure, the excitement, the interest? In one sense I have no more reason to fear for my future, now that the load of shame, wounded pride, and unrequited affection is lifted from my brow and soul. He loves me — that is enough to-day.”

After this Richard visited a little at our house as an acquaintance, having been introduced at Boulogne; and he fascinated, amused, and pleasantly shocked my mother, but completely magnetized my father and all my brothers and sisters. My father used to say, “I do not know what it is about that man, but I cannot get him out of my head; I dream about him every night.”

Richard and I had one brief fortnight of uninterrupted happiness, and were all in all to each other; but inasmuch as he was to go away directly on his African journey with Speke to the future lake regions of Central Africa, we judged it ill advised to announce the engagement to my mother, for it would have brought a hornets’ nest about our heads, and not furthered our cause — and, besides, we were afraid of my being sent away, or of being otherwise watched and hindered from our meeting; so we agreed to keep it a secret until he came back. The worst of it all was, that I was unable, first, by reason of no posts from a certain point, and, secondly, by the certainty of having his letters opened and read, to receive many letters from him, and those only the most cautious; but I could write to him as freely as possible, and send them to the centres where his mail-bags would be sent out to him. All my happiness therefore was buried deep in my heart, but always was chained. I felt as if earth had passed and heaven had begun, or as if I had hitherto been somebody else, or had lived in some other world. But even this rose had its thorn, and that was the knowledge that our marriage seemed very far off. The idea of waiting for willing parents and a grateful country appeared so distant that I should scarcely be worth the having by the time all obstacles were removed. Richard too was exercised about how I should be able to support his hard life, and whether a woman could really do it. Another sorrow was that I had to be prepared to lose him at any moment, as he might have to quit at a moment’s notice on receiving certain information.

I gave him Hagar Burton’s horoscope, written in Romany — the horoscope of my future. One morning (October 3) I went to meet him as usual, and we agreed to meet the following morning. He had traced for me a little sketch of what he expected to find in the lake regions, and I placed round his neck a medal of the Blessed Virgin upon a steel chain, which we Catholics commonly call “the miraculous medal.” He promised me he would wear it throughout his journey, and show it me on his return. I had offered it to him on a gold chain, but he said, “Take away the gold chain; they will cut my throat for it out there.” He showed me the steel chain round his neck when he came back; he wore it all his life, and it is buried with him. He also gave me a little poem:

I wore thine image, Fame,
Within a heart well fit to be thy shrine;
Others a thousand boons may gain —
 One wish was mine:

The hope to gain one smile,
To dwell one moment cradled on thy breast,
Then close my eyes, bid life farewell,
 And take my rest!

And now I see a glorious hand
Beckon me out of dark despair,
Hear a glorious voice command,
 “Up, bravely dare!

And if to leave a deeper trace
On earth to thee Time, Fate, deny,
Drown vain regrets, and have the grace
 Silent to die.”

She pointed to a grisly land,
Where all breathes death — earth, sea, and air;
Her glorious accents sound once more,
 “Go meet me there.”

Mine ear will hear no other sound,
No other thought my heart will know.
Is this a sin? “Oh, pardon, Lord!
 Thou mad’st me so!”

 R. F. B.

The afternoon on which I last met him was the afternoon of the same day. He came to call on my mother. We only talked formally. I thought I was going to see him on the morrow. It chanced that we were going to the play that night. I begged of him to come, and he said he would if he could, but that if he did not, I was to know that he had some heavy business to transact. When I had left him in the morning, I little thought it was the last kiss, or I could never have said good-bye, and I suppose he knew that and wished to spare me pain. How many little things I could have said or done that I did not! We met of course before my mother only as friends. He appeared to me to be agitated, and I could not account for his agitation. He stayed about an hour; and when he left I said purposely, “I hope we shall see you on your return from Africa,” and almost laughed outright, because I thought we should meet on the morrow. He gave me a long, long look at the door, and I ran out on the balcony and kissed my hand to him, and thus thoughtlessly took my last look, quite unprepared for what followed.

I went to the theatre that evening quite happy, and expected him. At 10.30 I thought I saw him at the other side of the house looking into our box. I smiled, and made a sign for him to come. I then ceased to see him; the minutes passed, and he did not come. Something cold struck my heart; I felt that I should not see him again, and I moved to the back of the box, and, unseen, the tears streamed down my face. The old proverb kept haunting me like an air one cannot get out of one’s head, “There’s many a true word spoken in jest.” The piece was Pizarro, and happily for me Cora was bewailing her husband’s loss on the stage, and as I am invariably soft at tragedy my distress caused no sensation.

I passed a feverish, restless night; I could not sleep; I felt that I could not wait till morning — I must see him. At last I dozed and started up, but I touched nothing, yet dreamt I could feel his arms round me. I understood him, and he said, “I am going now, my poor girl. My time is up, and I have gone; but I will come again — I shall be back in less than three years. I am your Destiny.”

He pointed to the clock, and it was two. He held up a letter, looked at me long with those gypsy eyes of his, put the letter down on the table, and said in the same way, “That is for your sister — not for you.” He went to the door, gave me another of those long peculiar looks, and I saw him no more.

I sprang out of bed to the door into the passage (there was nothing), and thence I went to the room of one of my brothers, in whom I confided. I threw myself on the ground and cried my heart out. He got up and asked what ailed me, and tried to soothe and comfort me. “Richard is gone to Africa,” I said “and I shall not see him for three years.” “Nonsense,” he replied; “you have only got a nightmare; it was that lobster you had for supper; you told me he was coming to-morrow.” “So I did,” I sobbed; “but I have seen him in a dream, and he told me he had gone; and if you will wait till the post comes in, you will see that I have told you truly.”

I sat all night in my brother’s armchair, and at eight o clock in the morning when the post came in there was a letter for my sister Blanche, enclosing one for me. Richard had found it too painful to part from me, and thought we should suffer less that way; he begged her to break it gently to me, and to give me the letter, which assured me we should be reunited in 1859, as we were on May 22 that year. He had received some secret information, which caused him to leave England at once and quietly, lest he should be detained as witness at some trial. He had left his lodgings in London at 10.30 the preceding evening (when I saw him in the theatre), and sailed at two o’clock from Southampton (when I saw him in my room).

I believe there is a strong sympathy between some people (it was not so well known then, but it is quite recognized now) — so strong that, if they concentrate their minds on each other at a particular moment and at the same time, and each wills strongly to be together, the will can produce this effect, though we do not yet understand how or why. When I could collect my scattered senses, I sat down and wrote to Richard all about this, in the event of my being able to send it to him.

But to return. At 8.30 Blanche came into the room with the letter I have mentioned, to break the sad news to me. “Good heavens!” she said, “what has happened to you? You look dreadful!” “Richard is gone!” I gasped out. “How did you know?” she asked. “Because I saw him here in the night!” “That will do you the most good now,” she said. The tears came into her eyes as she put a letter from Richard into my hand, enclosed in one to herself, the one I had seen in the night. The letter was a great comfort to me, and I wore it round my neck in a little bag. Curiously enough I had to post my letter to him to Trieste — the place where in after-life we spent many years — by his direction. It was the last exertion I was capable of; the next few days I spent in my bed.

My happiness had been short and bright, and now I had to look forward to three years of my former patient endurance, only with this great change: before I was unloved and had no hope; now the shame of loving unasked was taken from me, and I had the happiness of being loved, and some future to look forward to. When I got a little better, I wrote the following reflections to myself:

“A woman feels raised by the love of a man to whom she has given her whole heart, but not if she feels that she loves and does not respect, or that he fails in some point, and for such-and-such reasons she would not marry him. But when she loves without reserve, she holds her head more proudly, from the consciousness of being loved by him — no matter what the circumstances. So I felt with Richard, for he is above all men — so noble, so manly, with such a perfect absence of all meanness and hypocrisy. It is true I was captivated at first sight; but his immense talents and adventurous life compelled interest, and a mastermind like his exercises influence over all around it. But I love him, because I find in him depth of feeling, a generous heart, and because, though brave as a lion, he is yet a gentle, delicate, sensitive nature, and the soul of honour. Also he is calculated to appear as something unique and romantic in a woman’s eyes, especially because he unites the wild, lawless creature and the gentleman. He is the latter in every sense of the word, a stamp of the man of the world of the best sort, for he has seen things without the artificial atmosphere of St. James’s as well as within it. I worship ambition. Fancy achieving a good which affects millions, making your name a national name! It is infamous the way half the men in the world live and die, and are never missed, and, like a woman, leave nothing behind them but a tombstone. By ambition I mean men who have the will and power to change the face of things. I wish I were a man: if I were, I would be Richard Burton. But as I am a woman, I would be Richard Burton’s wife. I love him purely, passionately, and devotedly: there is no void in my heart; it is at rest for ever with him. For six years this has been part of my nature, part of myself, the basis of all my actions, even part of my religion; my whole soul is absorbed in it. I have given my every feeling to him, and kept back nothing for myself or the world; and I would this moment sacrifice and leave all to follow his fortunes, were it his wish, or for his good. Whatever the world may condemn in him of lawless actions or strong opinions, whatever he is to the world, he is perfect to me; and I would not have him otherwise than he is — except in spiritual matters. This last point troubles me. I have been brought up strictly, and have been given clear ideas on all subjects of religion and principle, and have always tried to live up to them. When I am in his presence, I am not myself — he makes me for the time see things with his own eyes, like a fever or a momentary madness; and when I am alone again, I recall my own belief and ways of thinking, which remain unchanged, and am frightened at my weak wavering and his dangerous but irresistible society. He is gone; but had I the chance now, I would give years of my life to hear that dear voice again, with all its devilry. I have no right to love a man who calls himself a complete materialist, who has studied almost, I might say, beyond the depth of knowledge, who professes to acknowledge no God, no law, human or divine. Yet I do feel a close suspicion that he has much more feeling and belief than he likes to have the credit of.”

After Richard was gone I got a letter from him dated from Bruges, October 9, telling me to write to Trieste, and that he would write from Trieste and Bombay. I sent three letters to Trieste and six to Bombay. He asked me if I was offended at his abrupt departure. Ah, no! I take the following from my diary of that time:

“I have now got into a state of listening for every post, every knock making the heart bound, and the sickening disappointment that ensues making it sink; but I say to myself, ‘If I am true, nothing can harm me.’ My delight is to sit down and write to him all and everything, just as it enters my head, as I would if I were with him. My letters are half miserable, half jocose, for I do not want to put him out of spirits, whatever I may be myself. I feel that my letters are a sort of mixture of love, trust, anger, faith, sarcasm, tenderness, bullying, melancholy, all mixed up. . . . He has arrived at Alexandria. . . . At any rate my heart and affections are my own to give, I rob no one, and so I will remain. I have a happy home, family, society, all I want, and I shall not clip my wings of liberty except for him, whatever my lot may be. I love and am loved, and so strike a balance in favour of existence. No gilded misery for me. I was born for love, and require it as air and light. Whatever harshness the future may bring, he has loved me, and my future is bound up in him with all consequences. My jealous heart spurns all compromise; it must have its purpose or break. He thinks he is sacrificing me; but I want pain, privations, danger with him. I have the constitution and nerves for it. There are few places I could not follow my husband, and be to him companion, friend, wife, and all. Where I could not so follow him, I would not be a clog to him, for I am tolerably independent.”

Our friends used sometimes to talk about Richard at this time and his expedition. Whilst they discussed him as a public man, I was in downright pain lest they should say something that I should not like. Father told them that he was a friend of ours. I then practiced discussing him with the greatest sang froid, and of course gave a vivid description of him, which inspired great interest. His books, travels, and adventures were talked of by many. I told Richard in one letter that it was the case of the mouse and the lion; but I teased him by saying that when the mouse had nibbled a hole big enough the lion forgot him because he was so small, and put his big paw on him and crushed him altogether. I knew that his hobby was reputation; he was great in the literary world, men’s society, clubs, and the Royal Geographical Society. But I wished him also to be great in the world of fashion, where my despised sex is paramount. I also knew that if a man gets talked about in the right kind of way in handfuls of the best society, here and there, his fame quickly spreads. I had plenty of opportunities to help him in this way without his knowing it, and great was the pleasure. Again I fall back on my journal:

“I beg from God morning and night that Richard may return safe. Will the Almighty grant my prayer? I will not doubt, whether I hear from him or not. I believe that we often meet in spirit and often look at the same star. I have no doubt he often thinks of me; and when he returns and finds how faithful I have been all will be right. There is another life if I lose this and there is always La Trappe left for the broken-hearted.

Christmas Day, 1856. — I was delighted to hear father and mother praising Richard to-day; mother said he was so clever and agreeable and she liked him so much, and they both seemed so interested about him. They little knew how much they gratified me. I was reading a book; but when the time came to put it away, I found it had been upside-down all the time, so I fancy I was more absorbed in their conversation than its contents. I have been trying to make out when it is midnight in Eastern Africa, and when the morning star shines there, and I have made out that at 10 p.m. it is midnight there, and the morning star shines on him two hours before it does on me.

January 2, 1857. — I see by the papers that Richard left Bombay for Zanzibar with Lieutenant Speke on December 2 last. I am struck by the remembrance that it was on that very night that I was so ill and delirious. I dreamt I saw him sailing away and he spoke to me, but I thought my brain throbbed so loud that I could not hear him. I was quite taken off my guard to-day on hearing the news read out from the Times, so that even my mother asked me what was the matter. I have not had a letter; I might get one in a fortnight; but I must meet this uncertainty with confidence, and not let my love be dependent on any action of his, because he is a strange man and not as other men.

January 18. — Unless to-morrow’s mail brings me a letter, my hope is gone. What is the cause of his silence I cannot imagine. If he had not said he would write, I could understand it. But nothing shall alter my course. It is three months since he left, and I have only had two letters; yet I feel confident that Richard will be true, and I will try to deserve what I desire, so that I shall always have self-consolation. My only desire is that he may return safe to me with changed religious feelings, and that I may be his wife with my parents’ consent. Suspense is a trial which I must bear for two years without a murmur. I must trust and pray to God; I must keep my faith in Him, and live a quiet life, employ myself only in endeavouring to make myself worthy; and surely this conduct will bring its reward.”

Chapter VII

My Continental Tour: Italy


Leave thy home for abroad an wouldst rise on high,
And travel whence benefits fivefold arise —
The soothing of sorrow and winning of bread,
Knowledge, manners, and commerce with good men and wise;
And they say that in travel are travail and care
And disunion of friends and much hardship that tries.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

In August, 1857, nearly a year after Richard had gone, my sister Blanche married Mr. Smyth Pigott, of Brockley Court, Somerset, and after the honeymoon was over they asked me to travel abroad with them. I was glad to go, for it helped the weary waiting for Richard, who was far away in Central Africa.

On September 30 we all took a farewell dinner together, and were very much inclined to choke over it, as we were about to disperse for some time, and poor mother especially was upset at losing her two girls. On that occasion she indulged in a witticism. She told me that she had heard by a little bird that I was fond of Richard; but little thinking she was speaking anything in earnest, she said, “Well? if you marry that man, you will have sold your birthright not for a mess of pottage, but for Burton ale.” I quickly answered her back again, “Well, a little bird told me that you were ordered an immense quantity of it all the time you were in the family way with me, so that if anything does happen we shall call it heredity,” upon which we both laughed. We all left home at six o’clock for London Bridge Station: we — my sister, her husband, and myself — to go on the journey, and the rest of the family came with us to see us off.

We had a beautiful passage of six and a half hours, and slept in rugs on deck. There was a splendid moon and starlight. About three o’clock in the morning the captain made friends with me, and talked about yachting. He had been nearly all over the world. The morning star was very brilliant, and I always look at it with particular affection when I am on board ship, thinking that what I love best lies under it. We got to the station at Dieppe at 7.30 a.m.; and then ensued a tedious journey to Paris.

The next day we drove about Paris, and then went to the Palais Royal, Trois Frères Provenceaux, where we dined in a dear little place called a cabinet, very like an opera-box. It was my first experience of that sort of thing. The cabinet overlooked the arcade and garden. We had a most recherché little dinner, and only one thing was wanting to make it perfect enjoyment to me. The Pigotts sat together on one side of the table and I — alone on the other. I put a place for Richard by me. After dinner we strolled along the principal boulevards. I can easily understand a Parisian not liking to live out of Paris. We saw it to great advantage that night — a beautiful moon and clear, sharp air.

This day (October 3) last year how wretched and truly miserable I was! On the evening of this day Richard left! We drove out and went to the Pré de Catalan, where there was music, dancing, and other performances. We went to the opera in the evening A petit souper afterwards. This night last year was a memorable one. If Richard be living, he will remember me now; it was the night of my parting with him a year ago when he went to Africa for three years.

We left Paris three days later; arrived at Lyons 7 a.m. The next morning breakfasted, dogs and all, and were at Marseilles at 5 p.m. I should have been glad to stay longer at Marseilles; I thought it the most curious and picturesque place I had ever seen. We arrived just too late for the diligence. There was no steamer. A veterino was so slow, and we could not remain till Saturday, so we did not know what to do. At last we discovered that a French merchant vessel was going to sail at 8 o’clock p.m.; but it was a pitch-dark night, and there was a strong, hard wind, or mistral, with the sea running very high. However, we held a consultation, and agreed we would do it for economy; so we got our berths, and went and dined at the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs, table d’hôte, where I sat by a cousin of Billy Johnson, a traveller and linguist. We fraternized, and he made himself as agreeable as only such men can. After dinner we went on board, and all the passengers went down to their berths. I dressed myself in nautical rig, and went on deck to see all that I could. We passed the Isle d’Hyères and the Château d’If of Monte Christo. We could not go between the rocks, owing to the mistral. The moon arose, it blew hard, and we shipped heavy seas. The old tub creaked and groaned and lurched, and every now and then bid fair to stand on beam-ends. Being afraid of going to sleep, I lashed myself to a bench; two Frenchmen joined me, one a professor of music, the other rather a rough diamond, who could speak a mouthful of several languages, had travelled a little, and he treated me to a description of India, and told me all the old stories English girls hear from their military brothers and cousins from the cradle. Every time we shipped a sea all the French, Italian, and Spanish passengers gave prolonged howls and clung to each other; it might have been an Irish wake. They were so frightfully sick, poor things! It hurt my inside to hear them, and it was worse to see them. Meanwhile my two companions and I had pleasant conversation, not only on India, but music and Paris. By-and-by they too gradually dropped off; so I went down and tumbled into my berth, and slept soundly through the night.

I was aroused next morning by a steward redolent of garlic. Our maid shared the cabin with me, and treated me to a scene like the deck of the preceding evening. Why are maids always sick at sea, and have to be waited on, poor things, by their mistresses who are not? There was such a noise, such heat and smells. I slept till we were in Nice Harbour. My sister and her husband went off to find a house; I cleared the baggage and drove to the Hôtel Victoria, where we dined, and then went to our new lodging.

I was not sorry to be housed, after being out two days and two nights. I got up next morning at 6 a.m.; there was a bright, beautiful sky, a dark blue sea, and such a lightness in the air. I went out to look about me. Nice is a very pretty town, tolerably clean, with very high houses, beautiful mountains, and a perfect sea, and balminess in the air. There is something Moorish-looking about the people and place. I am told there is no land between us and Tunis — three hundred miles! — and that when the sirocco comes the sand from the great desert blows across the sea on to our windows. We have an African tree in our garden. And Richard is over there in Africa.

My favourite occupation while at Nice was sitting on the shingle with my face to the sea and towards Africa. I hate myself because I cannot sketch. If I could only exchange my musical talent for that, I should be very happy. There is such a beautiful variety in the Mediterranean: one day it looks like undulating blue glass; at others it is dark blue, rough, and dashing, with white breakers on it; but hardly ever that dull yellowish green as in our Channel, which makes one bilious to look at it. The sky is glorious, so high and bright, so soft and clear, and the only clouds you ever see are like little tufts of rose-coloured wool. The best time to sit here is sunset. One does not see the rays so distinctly in England; and when the sun sinks behind the hills of the frontier, there is such a purple, red, and gold tint on the sea and sky that many would pronounce it overdone or unnatural in a painting. A most exquisite pink shade is cast over the hills and town. There is one nice opera-house at Nice, one pretty church, a corso and terrace, where you go to hear the band and eat ices in the evening; there is the reading club at Visconti’s for ladies as well as men, where you can read and write and meet others and enjoy yourself. (I am talking of 1857.) Our apartments suit us very well. My portion consists of a nice lofty bedroom, a painted ceiling, furnished in English style, a little bathroom paved with red china, and a little sort of ante-drawing-room. My windows look over a little garden, where the African tree is, and the sea beyond, and beyond that again Africa and Richard.

We left Nice for Genoa at 5.30 on November 14, my sister, her husband, and self, in the coupé, which was very much like being packed as sardines — no room for legs. However, we were very jolly, only we got rather stiff during the twenty-four hours’ journey; for we only stopped twice — once for ten minutes at Oniglia at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee, and once at noon next day for half an hour at another place to dine. However, I was too happy to grumble, having just received a letter saying that Richard would be home in next June, 1858 (he was not home for a year later); we smoked and chatted and slept alternately. The Cornice road is beautiful — a wild, lonely road in the mountains, with precipices, ravines, torrents, and passes of all descriptions: the sea beneath us on one side, and mountains covered with snow on the other. You seem to pass into all sorts of climates very speedily. On the land to our left was a fine starlight sky and clear, sharp air, and on the sea thunder and lightning and a white squall. There was always the excitement of imagining that a brigand might come or a torrent be impassable; but alas! not a ghost of an adventure, except once catching a milestone. I think the Whip Club would be puzzled at the driving: sometimes we have eleven horses, each with a different rein; to some the drivers whistle, to others they talk. It is tiresome work crawling up and down the mountains; but when they do get a bit of plain ground, they seem to go ten miles an hour, tearing through narrow streets where there seems scarcely room for a sheet of paper between the diligence and the wall, whirling round sharp zigzag corners with not the width of a book between the wheel and the precipice, and that at full gallop. We created a great sensation at one of our halting-places, and indeed everywhere, for we were in our nautical rig; and what amused the natives immensely was that one of our terriers was a very long dog with short legs, and they talked of the yards of dog we had with us. We at last arrived at Genoa.

I liked Genoa far better than Nice: the sky is more Italian; the sea looks as if it washed the town, or as if the town sprang out of it; it is all so hilly. The town with its domes looks like white marble. The lower range of mountains is covered with monasteries, forts, pretty villas, and gardens; the other ranges are covered with snow. There are six or seven fine streets, connected by a network of very narrow, oddly paved side-streets, whose tall houses nearly meet at the top; they are picturesque, and look like the pictures of the Turkish bazaar. Mazzini is here, and the Government hourly expect an outbreak of the Republican party. The troops are under arms, and a transport with twelve hundred men from Turin and troops from Sardinia have arrived. The offer to the Neapolitan Government to expel the exiles is the cause. The police are hunting up Mazzini; Garibaldi is here; Lord Lyons’ squadron is hourly expected.

I have been abroad now two months. I have had one unsatisfactory note from Richard; he is coming back in June or July. Oh what a happiness and what anxiety! In a few short months, please God, this dreadful separation will be over. Pray! Pray!! Pray!!!

Monsieur Pernay spent an evening with me; and seeing the picture on the wall of Richard in Meccan costume, he asked me what it was; and on my telling him, he composed a valse on the spot, and called it “Richard in the Desert,” and said he should compose a libretto on it. How I wish Richard were here! It makes me quite envious when I see my sister and her husband. I am all alone, and Richard’s place is vacant in the opera-box, in the carriage, and everywhere. Sometimes I dream he came back and would not speak to me, and I wake up with my pillow wet with tears.

My first exclamation as the clock struck twelve on St. Sylvester's night, 1857, as we all shook hands and drank each other’s health in a glass of punch at the Café de la Concorde, was, “This year I shall see Richard!”

On the first Sunday of the year I went to hear Mass at Saint Philip Neri, and then went to the post-office, where a small boy pushed up against me and stole my beloved picture of Richard out of my pocket. I did not feel him do it, but a horrible idea of having lost the picture came over me. I felt for it, and it was gone! I had a beautiful gold chain in my pocket, and a purse with £25; yet the young rascal never touched them, but seemed to know that I should care only for the portrait. I instantly rushed off to every crier in the town; had two hundred affiches printed and stuck up in every corner; I put a paragraph in the papers; I asked every priest to give it out in the pulpit; the police, the post-office, every corner of the town was warned. Of course I pretended it was a picture of my brother. After three agonizing days and nights an old woman brought it back, the frame gone, the picture torn, rubbed, and smeared, which partly effaced the expression of the face and made it look as if it knew where it had been and how it had been defiled. The story was that her little boy had found it in that state in a dirty alley; and thinking it was a picture of Jesus Christ or a saint, took it home to his little brother to keep him good when he was naughty, and threw it in their toy cupboard. A poor priest happened to dine with this poor family, and mentioned the affiche, in which the words ufficiale Inglese as large as my head appeared. The boys then produced the wreck of the portrait, and asked if that could possibly be the article, and if it was really true that the Signorina was willing to give so much for it; and the priest said “Yes,” for the Signorina had wept much for the portrait of her favourite brother who was killed in the Crimea. So it was brought, and the simple Signorina gladly gave three napoleons to the old woman to know that she possessed all that remained of that much-loved face. But that boy — oh that boy! — got off scot-free, and the Signorina’s reward did not induce any one to bring him to her. Doubtless, finding the stolen picture of no value to him, he had maltreated it and cast it in the gutter. How I could spank him!

We left Genoa at 9 a.m. on January 15. We wished good-bye to a crowd of friends inside and outside the hotel. We had a clean, roomy veterino with four capital little horses at the door charged with our luggage, a capital vetturino (coachman), and room for four inside and four out. A jolly party to fill it. It was agreed we should divide the expenses, take turns for the outside places, and be as good-humoured as possible. Luckily for me nobody cared for the box-seat, so I always got it. The first day we did thirty miles. Our halting-place for the day was Ruta, where something befell me. I lost my passport at Nervi, several miles back; a village idiot to whom I gave a penny picked it up and sold it to a peasant woman for twelve sous, who happened to be riding on a mule into Ruta, and halted where we were feeding. Our vetturino (Emanuele) happened to see it and recognized it in her hand, bought it back again for twelve sous, and gave it to me. It would have been a fatal loss to me. Soon after sunset we halted for the night at Sestri; the horses had done enough for the day. Four or five carriages had been attacked this winter, and there was a report of a large number of murders near Ancona, and there was no other sleeping-place to be reached that night. We soon had a capital fire, supper, and beds.

On this journey we planned out our day much as follows: We rose at daybreak and started; we had breakfast in the carriage after three hours’ drive. We passed our day in eating and drinking, laughing and talking, smoking and sleeping, and some mooning and sentimentalizing over the scenery: I the latter sort, and improving my Italian on the vetturino. We used to halt half-way two hours for the horses to rest and dinner, and then drive till dark where we halted for the night, ordered fire, supper, and beds, wrote out our journals, made our respective accounts, and smoked our cigarettes. The scenery and weather varied every day.

We slept a night at Sestri, and went on at daybreak. This day I had a terrible heartache; to my horror we had a leader, the ghost of a white horse covered with sores, ridden by a fine, strapping wag of a youth, who told me his master was rich and stingy, and did not feed him, let alone the horse, which only had a mouthful when employed. I told him his master would go to hell, and he assured me smilingly that he was sure his soul was already there, and that it was only his body that was walking about. I asked him to sell the horse to me, and let me shoot him; but he shook his head and laughed. “You English treat your horses better than masters treat their servants in Italy,” said he, as we topped the mountain. At my request Emanuele gave the poor beast a feed and sent him back, poor mass of skin and bones that it was. It was not fit to carry a fly, and I am told it was the best horse he had. That day our journey was a forty weary miles of black, barren ascent and descent, amongst snowy mountains, which looked as if man or beast had never trod there. Our halt was at Borghetto in the middle of the day. At the end of the forty miles came a delightful surprise. We were on a magnificent ridge of Maritime Alps covered with snow; a serpentine road led us down into a beautiful valley and Spezzia on the sea, the beautiful Gulf. The Croce di Malta was a comfortable little hotel. In half an hour we were round a roaring fire with a good supper.

Next morning we took a boat and explored the Gulf, the Source d’Eau, Lerici, where Byron and Shelley lived. That day was the Feast of Saint Anthony; the horses were blessed, which is a very amusing sight. It was the first night of the Carnival, and the Postilions’ Ball, to which we were invited and went. It was full of peasant-girls and masqueraders; it was capital fun, and we danced all night. The costumes here are very pretty; they and the pronunciation change about every forty miles.

The day we went away we had great fun. The Magra had to be passed two hours from Spezzia; it is a river with a bridge broken down. The peasants, working, look for all the world like diggers at the diggings; they are lawless enough to do anything. You get out and walk a mile amongst them; your carriage is embarked in a barge; it wades through and gets filled with water; the men at their pleasure upset it, or demand eighty francs or so. However, we were all game for anything that might occur, knowing how they treated others. Our vetturino was a regular brick — waded through with it without an accident; we walked through with all our money about us, dressing-cases in hand, our jackets with belts and daggers in them. One man became rather abusive; but we laughed at him, and gave him a universal chaffing. They followed us, and were annoying; but we swaggered along, and looked like people troubled with mosquitoes instead of ruffians, and not given to fainting and hysterics. So at last they were rather inclined to fraternize with us than otherwise. I suspect that they were accustomed to timid travellers. After this we passed Sarzana, a town of some consequence in these parts, with a castle and fortress. The weather this day was cold and biting, especially on the box-seat, and the scenery, except at Carrara, no great shakes. We found Carrara in a state of siege, and the troops occupied the hotel. Emanuele found a sort of stable, but we could get no food.

After this we proceeded by stages, and stopped some days at several places, and made long interior excursions, which I was often too tired to note. At last we arrived at Pisa. We had no trouble with the douanier. When I entered the Tuscan frontier, I declared I would never say another word of French; and Emanuele, who was a wag, sent all the douaniers to me; but a franc, a smile, an assurance that we had nothing contraband, and the word was given to pass. We scarcely ever had our baggage touched; but that was in 1858.

In Pisa we saw many things, including the Baptisteria, the Campanile or leaning tower, the Duomo, and the Sapienza, an object of interest to me, as Richard passed so much of his boyhood here, and that was his school. I regret to say the most debauched and ungentlemanly part of the population issued from this place, which distressed me, who held it sacred because of him. The Granda Bretagna was a very nice hotel, with a good table d’hôte, and all English. It had every comfort; only, being full, we could only get small, dark rooms at the back, which was dull, and with nothing but stoves; and the weather being bitter, we were petrified. We went a great deal to the Duomo and the Campo Santo, where the figures rather made us laugh, though I felt sentimental enough about other things. At the top of the Campanile or leaning tower, or belfry, I found that Richard had chiselled his name, so I did the same. How curious it would have been if while he was doing it he could have said, “My future wife will also come and chisel hers, so many years later, in remembrance of me.”

The man who shows the Campanile remembered Richard, and it was he who told me where he cut his name at the top of the tower.

The last day I was in Pisa (January 25) it was our Princess Royal’s wedding day. We had a grand dinner, champagne, toasts, and cheering. The table d’hôte was decorated with our yacht flags. One of the English ladies invited us to her rooms, where we had music and dancing, and I talked to one girl of seventeen, who proved to be an original after my own heart. After the soirée, we smoked a cigarette and discussed our plans. The next morning we had to leave Pisa. We were all sorry to part.

Half an hour’s train brought us to Leghorn, where we got pretty rooms at the Victoria and Washington. It is quite spring weather, beautiful sky and sea; again flat, ugly country, but the range of mountains shows to advantage; the air is delicious, and we are all well and in spirits. The town is very fine, the people tant-soit-peu-Portsmouth-like. There is nothing to see at Leghorn. Faute de mieux we went to see an ugly duomo, which, however, contained Canova’s Tempo, the one statue of which you hear from morning till night. We also visited the English Cemetery, which contained Smollett’s tomb. There are the docks to see, and Habib’s bazaar, a rogue, and not too civil, but he has beautiful Eastern things. The town is in a state of siege, and no Carnival is allowed.

We left Leghorn on February 1 for Florence, and visited successively many queer, little, out-of-the-way towns en route.

The first day at Florence we drove about to have a general view of the city, and after that we visited the principal palazzos, churches, and theatres — all of which have often been described before. We were at Florence nearly a month. We saw one Sunday’s Carnival, one opera, one masked ball. We had several friends, who were anxious for us to stay, and go into society; but time pressed, and we had to decline. Every evening we used to go to the theatre, and some of our friends would invite us to petits soupers. At Florence all Richard’s friends, finding I knew his sister in England, were kind to us; and we were very sorry to start at 3 a.m. on February 11 en route for Venice.

We were five individuals, with our baggage on our backs, turned into a rainy street, cutting a sorry figure and laughing at ourselves. The diligence started at once. We had twenty-one hours to Bologna, drawn by oxen at a foot’s pace through the snow, which the cantonniers had cleared partially away, but which often lay in heaps of twelve or twenty feet untouched. I never saw such magnificent snow scenes as when crossing the Apennines. We slept at Bologna, saw it, and took a vetturino next day. The drive was a dreary, flat snow piece of forty miles in length. Malebergo was the only town. We here came across a horrid thing. Two men had fallen asleep in a hay-cart smoking; it caught fire, burnt the men, cart, hay, and all. The horse ran away, had its hind-quarters burnt out, and they were all three dead, men and horse. It gave us a terrible turn, but we could do nothing. Next morning we were up at four o’clock. We crossed the river Po at seven o’clock; it was bitter cold. We drove fifty miles that day; the last twelve were very pretty. At length we reached Padua. The ground was like ice; our off leader fell, and was dragged some little distance. (How little I thought then that I should be a near neighbour and frequent visitor of all these places during the eighteen last years of my married life!) When we left Padua, we had twenty-seven miles more to go, where we exchanged for the (to us girls) new wonder of a gondola, which took us to the Hôtel Europa in Venice. We were not sorry to have got through our journey, and a blazing fire and a good supper and cigarette soon effaced the memory of the cold, starvation, and weariness we had gone through for so long. We wanted no rocking that night.

It is all very well writing; but nothing I could ever say would half express my enthusiasm for Venice. It fulfils all the exigencies of romance; it is the only thing that has never disappointed me. I am so happy at Venice. Except for Richard’s absence, I have not another wish ungratified; and I also like it because this and Trieste were the last places he was in near home when he started for Africa.

Not a night passes here that I do not dream that Richard has come home and will not speak to me; not a day that I do not kneel down twice, praying that God may send him a ray of divine grace, and bring him to religion, and also, though I feel quite unworthy of so high a mission, that I may be his wife, for I so love and care for him that I should never have courage to take upon myself the duties of married life with any other man. I have seen so much of married life; have seen men so unjust, selfish, and provoking; and have always felt I never could receive an injury from any man but him without everlasting resentment. Oh, if he should come home and have changed, it would break my heart! I would rather die than see that day!


We plan out our days here, rising at eight, breakfast nine, Mass, spending the morning with friends, music, reading, working, writing, reading French and Italian, and some sketching. At one o’clock we start to explore all the beautiful things to be seen here, then we go to a very cheerful table d’hôte, and afterwards spend a most agreeable evening in each other’s apartments, or we gondola about to listen to the serenades by moonlight. I think we have walked and gondolaed the place all through by day and moon. How heavenly Venice would have been with Richard, we two floating about in these gondolas! Our friends are a charming Belgian couple named Hagemans, two little children, and a nice sister, and last, though not least, the Chevalier de St. Cheron. The Chevalier is a perfect French gentleman of noble family, good-looking, fascinating, brilliant in conversation; has much heart, esprit, and délicatesse; he is more solid than most Frenchmen, and better informed, and has noble sentiments, head and heart; and yet, were he an Englishman, I should think him vain and ignorant. He has a few small prejudices and French tricks, which are, however, little faults of nationality, education, and circumstance, but not of nature. Henri V., the Bourbon King, called the Comte de Chambord, lives at the Palazzo Cavalli, and holds a small court, kept up in a little state by devoted partisans, who are under the surveillance of the police, and have three or four different lodgings everywhere. St. Cheron is his right-hand man and devoted to him, and will be in the highest office when he comes to the throne. As we are devoted to the Bourbons he introduced us there, and the King helped to make our stay happy to us.

We arrived in Venice for the end of the Carnival. The last night of it we went to the masked ball at the Finice; it was the most brilliant sight I ever saw. We masked and dominoed, and it was there that the Chevalier and I first came in contact and spoke; he had been watching for an opportunity. The evening after the ball he came to table d’hôte and spoke to us, and asked leave to pay us an evening visit, which he did (the Hagemans were there too); and from that we spent all our evenings and days together.

One night we rowed in gondolas by moonlight to the Lido; we took the guitar. I never saw Venice look so beautiful. The water was like glass, and there was not a sound but the oars’ splashing. We sang glees. Arrived at the Lido, we had tea and walked the whole length of the sands. That night was one of many such evenings in queenly Venice. I shall often remember the gondolier’s serenades, the beautiful moon and starlight, the gliding about in the gondola in all the romantic parts of Venice, the soft air, the stillness of the night, hearing only the splash of oars, and nothing stirring except perhaps some dark and picturesque figure crossing the bridge, the little Madonna chapel on the banks of the Lido edging the Adriatic, the Piazza of San Marco with the band, and ices outside Florian’s, the picturesque Armenians, Greeks, and Moors, and the lovely water-girls with their bigolo, every language sounding in one’s ears. I remember too all my favourite localities, too numerous to set down, but known doubtless to every lover of Venice.

On the days that were too bad for sight-seeing we and our friends read Byron, talked French, and sketched; on indifferent days we lionized; and on beautiful days we floated about round the islands. I had two particularly happy days; they were the summer mornings when the sun shone and the birds sang; and we were all so gay we sang too, and the Adriatic was so blue. There were two or three beautiful brigs sometimes sailing for Trieste.

One day Henri V. desired the Chevalier to bring us to a private audience. Blanche wore her wedding-dress with pearls and a slight veil; my brother-in-law was in his best R.Y.S. uniform, and I in my bridesmaid’s dress. We had a very smart gondola covered with our flags, the white one uppermost for the Bourbons, which did not escape the notice of the King, and the gondoliers in their Spanish-looking sashes and broad hats. Blanche looked like a small sultana in her bridal robes sitting amidst her flags. We were received by the Duc de Levis and the Comtesse de Chavannes; there was also a Prince Somebody, and an emissary from the Pope waiting for an audience. As soon as the latter came out we were taken in, and most graciously received; and the King invited us to sit. He was middle height and fair, a beau-idéal of a French gentleman, with winning manners. His consort was tall, gaunt, very dry and cold, but she was kind. They asked us a thousand questions; and as my French was better than the others’, I told them all about our yachting, and all we had seen and were going to see; and they were much interested. I was also able to tell the King that when he was a little boy he had condescended to ask my mother to dance, and that it was one of the proudest souvenirs of her life. My brother-in-law behaved with great ease and dignity; he put his yacht and his services at the King’s disposal, and expressed our respectful attachment to the House of Bourbon. We thanked them for receiving us. After about twenty minutes they saluted us; we curtseyed to the ground, backed to the door, repeated the curtsey, and disappeared. We were received again by the Duc de Levis and the Comtesse de Chavannes, and conducted to the gondola. I am proud to say that we heard that the King was enthusiastic about Blanche and myself, and subsequently that night at dinner and many a day after he spoke of us. We also heard from the Chevalier and a Vicomte Simonet that the King was charmed with my brother-in-law for turning the white flag upwards and offering him the use of his yacht.

Chapter VIII

My Continental Tour: Switzerland


You’re far, yet to my heart you’re nearest near;
Absent, yet present in my sprite you appear.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

We left Venice one evening in early April at half past nine, after six weeks’ stay, and travelled by the night train to Padua. We then went through a terrible experience. We started on a twenty-four hours’ drive without a stoppage, without a crumb of bread or a drop of water. We drove through Milan at 8.30 in the morning, and after leaving it we got a magnificent view of the Alps, and had a very troublesome frontier. At last we came to Turin. We went on in a train with a diligence on it, and arrived at Susa, our last Italian town. Here the diligence was taken off the train. We had fourteen mules and two horses, and began to ascend Mont Cenis. These were the days when there were no trains there. Some of us with the conductor climbed up the shorter cuts (like ascending a chimney) until dark, and met the diligence. We had a splendid view. But what a night ! The snow in some places was twenty feet deep, and the wind and sleet seemed as if they would sweep us over; it was wild and awful, one vast snow scene, and the scenery magnificent. At midnight we came to the top; but here was the worst part, where the smaller road begins. Here, as before, we only went at a foot’s pace, and the horses could hardly stand. The men kept tumbling off, the vehicle was half buried in the snow, there were drifts every few paces, and we had to be cut out. At Lans le Bourg at one o’clock we stopped, and they gave us some bad soup, for which we gratefully paid four francs. The few travellers were ascending and descending, asking all sorts of questions. We tried to sleep, but ever and anon some accident happened to wake us. Every here and there we tried to knock somebody up for assistance; but it appeared to me as if most of the houses of refuge were shut up, thinking that nobody would be mad enough to travel in such weather. We were so tired that it seemed as if the horses were wandering about, not knowing where they were going to. Everything tumbled about most uncomfortably in a snowy, dreamy state of confusion. Some of the men roared with laughter at one of the postilions sprawling off his horse into the snow, and floundering about without being able to get up again. Things went on like that till 7 a.m., when we pulled up at the station, St. Jean de Marienne, where we ought to have caught the 6 a.m. train, but it was gone; so there was nothing for it but to remain for the 10.20, and get a good breakfast. We took the 10.20 train, and arrived at 12.20 at Chambéry. Here a civil man convinced us that we had to choose between two disagreeables; so we took the lesser, remained at Chambéry till five o’clock, and then started by diligence, and (what we did not know) tired horses.

At midnight, when body and soul were worn out (we had not had our clothes off for three days and nights, hardly any food or other necessities; we had been sitting with our knees up to our chins in that blessed coupé, which was like a chimney-piece big enough for two, the windows close to our faces) — well, I say, when body and soul were worn out, they shot us down like so much rubbish at a miserable inn at Annecy at midnight, and swore they would go no farther. My brother-in-law stuck to his place, and refused to move till we had got another diligence and fresh horses; so seeing there was no help for it, they did get them, and transferred our baggage. Then we took our places and drove off. The road was nearly impassable; the driver frequently stopped at places to entreat that they would give him more horses, but all the inns were shut up and asleep, and nobody cared to hear him, so we lost half an hour every here and there. Morning came, but we stuck again, and were not near to the end of our journey. We turned into an inn, where we got some chocolate, and sat round a stove with the peasants, who chaffed our driver, his exploits, and his poor horses. That morning we passed an exquisite bridge over a chasm, of which I would give worlds to have a photograph. One seemed suspended between heaven and earth. I learnt afterwards that my bridge is between Crusie-Caille; it is 636 feet long, and 656 above the stream. The old road winds beneath it; the Sardinians call it the Ponte Carlo Aberto. A few more difficulties, and at 10.30 a.m., Wednesday, April 7, we arrived at the Hôtel des Bergues, Geneva. The poor horses were delighted the moment they saw Geneva below, and put on a spurt of themselves.

The Hôtel des Bergues, Geneva (at the time I write), is the second best hotel here; we have three cheerful rooms on the lake, and a dull table d’hôte at five o’clock. The lake is like blue crystal, on which we have a five-ton sailing-boat; the sky without a cloud; the weather like May. The nights are exquisite. The peasants are ugly; they wear big hats, and speak bad French. It is a terrible place for stomach-ache, owing to the mountain water. The religion is a contrast to Italy — little and good. As I am Number Three of our party, I have had all along to make my own life and never be in the way of the married couple. We arrived here in time for the railway fête; there were flags and feux de joie, bands, and a magnificent peasant ball. Our Minister for Switzerland, whose name was Gordon, came for the fête (the French Minister refused). He dined here, spent the evening with us, and took us to the ball. The Union Jack floated at our windows in his honour. A pretty place Geneva, but very dull. The spring begins to show itself in the trees and hedges. I long for the other side of the lake. We walk and sail a great deal.

I have not heard a word from Richard, and I am waiting like Patience on a monument in grand expectation of what the few months may bring, relying on his sister having told me that he will be home this summer, when I feel that something decisive will take place. This day I have had an offer from an American, polished, handsome, fifty years of age, a widower, with £300,000 made in California; but there is only one man in the world who could be master of such a spirit as mine. People may love (as it is called) a thousand times, but the real feu sacré only burns once in one’s life. Perhaps some feel more than others; but it seems to me that this love is the grandest thing in this nether world, and worth all the rest put together. If I succeed, I shall know how to prove myself worthy of it. If any woman wants to know what this feu sacré means, let her ascertain whether she loves fully and truly with brain, heart, and passion. If one iota is wanting in the balance of any of these three factors, let her cast her love aside as a spurious article — she will love again; but if the investigation is satisfactory, let her hold it fast, and let nothing take it from her. For let her rest assured love is the one bright vision Heaven sends us in this wild, desolate, busy, selfish earth to cheer us on to the goal.

My American Croesus is not my only chance. A Russian general here, a man of about forty years, with loads of decorations, who knows many languages, is a musician, and writes, has made me an offer. He is a man of family, has nine châteaux, and half a million of francs income. He saw me at the altar of the Madonna, Genoa, two months ago. He tells me he fell as much in love with me as if he were a boy of fifteen. He followed me, changed his hotel to come here, came to dinner, and took the room next to me. He serenades me on the violin at 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and at 7 a.m. He sent me a bouquet and a basket of fruit, and a letter of about six pages long to tell me that the Tsar is a great man, that he (the general) has bled for his country, and that if I will marry him — “Que je serai dans ses bras” (what a temptation!) “et qu’il me fera la déesse du pays.” I refused him of course.

On June 10, when we were in bed at one o’clock in the morning, all the steamers set up a peal. I, who was lying awake, rushed to the window, and then called up the others. We looked out, and saw that apparently the back of our hotel and the whole Quartier des Bergues was in flames. We gave the alarm in the house, ran down the corridors to arouse everybody, and then to our rooms to put on what we could, collect a few treasures and our animals. I took the bullfinch (Toby) and Richard’s picture, the Pigotts took each a dog, and down we cut. By this time thousands of people were running to the rescue, every bell in the town was ringing, the whole fire brigade turned out, and they even telegraphed to the borders of France to send down reinforcements. Dozens of engines were at work, and we soon learnt that our hotel was not on fire, but that the fire was so extensive they could scarcely distinguish what was on fire and what was not. In a street at the back of us nine houses were burning, a café, and an entrepôt of inflammables; and the pompiers said that if we had a north-east wind instead of a south-west one, nothing could have saved our whole quartier from destruction. Every soul in Geneva was there, and the roofs of the houses were crowded; and we went up on the roof of the hotel to see the wonderful sight. The fire brigade was on the ground for thirty hours. They could do nothing for the houses already on fire, but only prevent its spreading by playing on the surrounding ones, which were red-hot, as was the back of our hotel. Fresh firemen and engines arrived from France. Among the animals destroyed were one horse and two cows, some sheep, and some goats, in their sheds. A cage of birds fell and opened, and the poor little things escaped, but in their fright flew about in the flames. A baby, whom the mother forgot in its bed (most unnatural), and two men were killed: one was crushed by the falling roof, and the other burned. Two firemen lost their lives: one in trying to save a woman (God bless him!), in which he succeeded, but fell in the flames himself; another was mortally burnt; and also two persons were lost whose bodies could never be found. It appeared that a Frenchman had a quarrel in the café, and out of spite went out and contrived to set it alight. The populace say (he is caught and in prison) that they will lynch him, and burn him at the stake. The loss of property is great. The flames arose above the whole town, and seemed to lick the whole quartier. It was a dark night, and everybody was in deshabillé from their beds, and there was a horrible smell of burnt flesh.

We started on July 1, a large and merry party, from Geneva one beautiful morning at the top of the diligence, and drove through an English-looking country to Sallenches. Here we took some vehicles that ought to have been built in the year I B.C., which shook my sister quite ill; but we who could walk much preferred doing so, as well for ease as for seeing the scenery, to which no pen of mine could ever do justice. We arrived at Chamounix in the evening, bathed and dined, and took a moonlight stroll through the town and valley. Chamounix is the second thing that has never disappointed me. I look around, and as far as my eye can stretch up and down the valley are ranges of grand mountains, covered with firs, Alpine roses, and wild rhododendrons, and above these splendid peaks, some covered with snow, almost overhanging us, and standing out in bold relief against the bluest of skies. I note it all — the peaceful hamlet in the vale at the foot of Mont Blanc, the church spire distinct against that background of firs on the opposite mountainside, the Orne rushing through the town, the balconies and little gardens, the valley dotted with châlets, the Glacier du Boisson and Mer de Glace sparkling in the sun. How glorious it is !

We had to start next morning at daybreak before the sun should become too hot. We dressed in little thick boots, red petticoats that we might see each other at a distance, brown Holland jackets and big hats, a pike and a mule and a guide each, besides other guides. At first the mule appears to step like an ostrich, and you think of your mount at home, and you tremble as you see the places he has to go up, or, worse, to go down. In time you arrive at the top of the Flégère. From here you see five glaciers, the best view of Mont Blanc and other peaks too numerous to mention. We met some pleasant people, dined together at the châlet, and drew caricatures in the travellers’ book. One or two of us went up as far as the Grands Mulets without guides, slept there, and descended early, where we picked up our party. In the descent we walked, and some of the mules ran away. Not finding ourselves quite pumped by the descent, we proposed ascending to the Chapeau the opposite side, to look at the Mer de Glace, which we did; and as we were mounting we had the pleasure of seeing an avalanche and some smaller falls. We were joined by a party of seven jolly Scotch girls, and we descended with them. We were very tired.

Our next excursion was to Montanvert, which ascent was most magnificent. The lower part of the mountain is a garden of wild flowers, roses, and firs, and between the mountains stood out wondrous peaks. Against the sky was the Aiguille Verte, leaning as much over as the Campanile at Pisa. It is wonderful to think of the commotion there must have been when these immense masses of rock were scattered there by the convulsions of Nature, and the trees were crushed. At Montanvert we fed, and were joined by others from the Mer de Glace. Here those who had weak heads went back, and those who feared not nor cared not went on. Every lady had her guide and alpenstock, every man had his alpenstock, and all of us were strapped round our waists to hold on to each other. A little cannon was fired to tell us the echo and announce our start. The first part was easy enough, and a man with a hatchet in advance cut us footsteps. (Albert Smith has opened this passage within five years.) Here and there is a stream of water, so pure one might fancy it to be melted diamonds. Thousands of chasms in the ice, five hundred or more feet deep, of a beautiful blue colour, and a torrent beneath, had to be passed by a plank thrown across. What is a precipice to-day is closed up to-morrow by the constant movement of the ice. Take the tout ensemble, it gives you the idea of a rebellious sea that had dared to run mountains high, in defiance of its Creator, who had struck it (while in motion) into ice. Here and there came a furious waterfall or torrent; a plank was then thrown across in a safe part. Once I slipped, and my legs fell in, and my alpenstock; but I clung to the stump till hauled up. Then came the Mauvais Pas. You descend the side of a precipice by holes cut for your feet, and let yourself down by a rope. If one has got a good head, it is worth while looking down. Hamlets look like a set of tea-things, men (if seen at all) like ants beneath one; and how glorious ! one is suspended between heaven and earth, and one’s immortal part soars higher than the prison carcase can ! As one loves to feel one’s own nothingness by the side of the man to whom one has given one’s heart, so does this feeling (the best we own) increase in magnitude when it relates to God. He holds you there, He guards against that false step which would dash you to pieces, and gives you the power of brain to look below, around, and upwards, to wonder and to thank. I think this was the most intense excitement of its sort that I had felt in my girl travelling life. At last we arrived at the Chapeau, and descended the same mountain as yesterday.

The next day we proposed ascending the Glacier du Boisson, and reascending Mont Blanc for a few hours; but some of our party were anxious to get home so we ordered some rackety vehicles for Argentières next morning, and there the strong betook themselves to their legs and alpenstocks, and the weak to mules. We strolled gaily along, making wreaths of wild flowers for our hats, singing the Ranz des Vaches and all that, though still in Savoy, and we mounted the Col de Balme. This is one of the darkest and sublimest views imaginable. On one side you look down the valley of Chamounix and the Savoy Mountains; the Col seems like a high barrier with one hut on it. On the other side you look over the Bernese Alps, and you see a spectacle not of everyday occurrence. Turn to Switzerland, all is sunshiny, bright, and gay; turn to Savoy, a thunder-storm is rolling along the valley beneath, and you stand there on the Col in winter, in snow, shivering, hail, wind, and sleet driving in your face. You see on one side, half a mile below, autumn; on the other spring, with buttercups, daisies and all sorts of wild flowers, and forsooth the cuckoo; and at the bottom of both valleys is summer, bright or stormy. At this place the ruffian who keeps the hut makes you pay twenty-eight francs for a slice of ham, and you come out rather amused at the people who are swearing on that account. Some delicate ladies are in semi-hysterics at the storm, or the black, frowning spot on which we find ourselves, and are rushing about, making tender inquiries after each other’s sensitive feelings. After an hour’s rest we start, the weak ones for Martigny, the strong by a steep path in the mountains, which brings us after a couple of hours to spring. But stop awhile in winter. A black range of mountains dark and desolate are dressed in thunder-clouds. You feel awed, yet you would rather see it so than in sunshine. A small bit of table-land is on the side; it makes you think of an exile in Siberia or Dante’s Damned Soul in a Hell of Snow. We were all silent. No doubt we all made our reflections; and mine ran thus:

“If an angel from heaven came from almighty God, and told you that Richard was condemned to be chained on that plateau for a hundred years in expiation of his sins before he could enter heaven, and gave you the choice between sharing his exile with him or a throne in the world beneath, which would you choose?”

My answer did not keep me long in suspense; it came in this form:

“A throne would be exile without him, and exile with him a home!”

We reached spring, and passed the châlets where Gruyère cheese is made; and I stopped the herdsman, and took a lesson in the Ranz des Vaches amidst much laughter, and to the evident amusement of a cuckoo, who chimed in. The descent of the Tête Noir is the most beautiful thing we have seen; at any rate, it is the most graven on my memory. It is down the side of magnificently wooded mountains, with bridges of a primitive kind, overhanging precipices, and looks into the dark valley, part of which never sees the sun. Here we sang snatches of Linda de Chamounix; the scenery reminds one of it, and comes up to, or even surpasses, all that I have read or thought. In one place we came to an immense rock that had fallen, and was just on the balance over a precipice, and there it has hung for hundreds and thousands of years. The peasants are fait soit peu sauvage, and they dealt us out plainly plenty of chaff as they gave us water, in the fond belief that we did not understand French. At length we reached the châlet where travellers feed. After dinner at nine o’clock the moon rose, and we went through a splendid forest on a mountain-side, with a torrent dashing below. I lit my cigarette, and went a little ahead of my party. There are sacred moments and heavenly scenes I cannot share with the common herd. There was only one voice which I could have borne to break the silence, and that, like heaven, was so far off as to be like a fable now. At length we arrived at a hut at the top of the Mont Forclaz, a hut where we must have our passport viséd — why, I do not know, as we have long since been in Switzerland. The gendarme grumbled something about “eccentric English who scale the mountains in the night.” A hint to be quick is all he gets, and we descend. Now we were so tired that we mounted our mules on the assurance that it would rest us; but such a descent I should never care to do again. The road was steep and unfinished; the moon was under a cloud; there were precipices on each side. The step of the mule sends one upon a narrow, hard saddle, bumping one moment against the pommels, and the next on to the baggage here and there. There is a roll over a loose stone; but the clever mule, snuffing and pawing its way, nimbly puts its feet together, and slides down a slab of rock. My companions got down and walked, tired as they were. I really could not; and seeing the mule was so much cleverer than myself, I knotted the bridle and threw it on his back, and in the dark put my leg over the other side, and rode down straddle like a man, half an hour in advance of the rest. They said there were wolves on these mountains, but I did not see or hear any. I had only my pike to defend myself with, and should have been in an awful fright had I come across a wolf. At midnight I reached the hotel at Martigny, and went to bed.

Our next move was to charter a carriage that would hold us all inside and out. We had a splendid drive through the valley of the Rhone for some days, and visited many places.

I was immensely impressed by Chillon at night. The lake lies at our feet like a huge crystal with a broad track of moonlight on it. A moment ago it was fine starlight, and now the moon rises behind the Dent du Midi, lighting up those magnificent mountains too brightly for the stars. Vevey is asleep, and no noise is heard save the splash of an oar, or a bit of loose rock rolling with a crash down the mountain, or the buzz of some insect going home late. A bat flutters near my face now and then; there is a distant note from a nightingale. How refreshing is the soft breeze and the sweet smell of the hay after the heat of the day! And now crossing the moonlight track, westward bound, glides a lateen sail like a colossal swan. These are the scenes that, save for the God Who made them, let us know we are alone on earth. These are the moments when we miss the hand we want to clasp in ours without speaking, and yet be understood; but my familiar spirit with whom I could share these moments is not here.

At last we received orders to be ready within an hour’s notice to leave Geneva for Lausanne, and we were very glad to obey. We had been too long at Geneva, and were heartily tired of it, especially after all the beautiful things we had seen. It was, however, found that the cutter would not hold us all; so the maid and I went with the baggage and animals, and also Mr. Richard Sykes (who brought a letter from my brother Jack, a charming, gentlemanly boy of twenty, who joined us for a few weeks), by steamer to Lausanne, and put up at an auberge at Ouchy on the water’s edge, where we waited the sailing party. Ouchy consists (1858) of a humble street and an old fashioned inn at the water’s edge beneath Lausanne. Here we took three little rooms, one for Mr. Sykes, one for the maid, and one for me, which was half bedroom, half drawing-room, with a good view. The others arrived in a few days, having met the bise and had to put back to port. Here I found some one with whom I could begin German. I rowed and swam a great deal. There is a beautiful country for driving and walking, and our chaloupe is now at anchor. In this last we were able to make excursions.

Among other places we ran over to Evian, twelve miles across on the opposite coast. There were one hundred and twenty-five people in the hotel, who were very kind, and made a great fuss with us; and we had great fun, though they had great difficulty in making room for us. Mr. Sykes had to go to an old tower in the garden, and my room was somewhere under the tiles. We often gave them supper and cigarettes at 11.30, after music and impromptu dancing in the evening. They were all vastly kind to us, and when we went away they came down to see us off in our cutter.

When we got half-way across the lake, I said to my brother-in-law, “Does it not look rather like wind out there? “ He gave a short, quick command at once to take every bit of sail down; but we knew nothing of lake-sailing, though we knew sea-sailing, and before we had got it half down the wind came upon us like a wall, and threw us on our side. Our bobstay snapped like sealing-wax, our mainsail rent like ribbon, our foresail flew away, and she would not answer her helm, and we remained in the trough of the waves, which rose awfully high. We then cut away the jib. We had given up all hope, having beaten about for a long time, and two of us had been in the water for three-quarters of an hour. At length we spied five boats putting out to us, and we were truly thankful. It appeared that the fishermen had refused to come before, because they were convinced we had gone down long ago, and all the village people were on their knees praying for us. We were safely towed in by the five boats, much too disabled to help ourselves, and the cutter was smashed to pieces. We rewarded the men liberally, got some brandy, dried our clothes, and went back by the next steamer.

There was a grand fête at Lausanne. The canteen of Swiss woodwork was decorated with branches, and there were shooting-galleries, the usual booths and whirligigs, a very respectable vagrant theatre, a dancing-circus and band. The streets were all festooned with garlands, and bits of sentiment such as, “Liberté et patrie,” “Un bras pour la défendre, un coeur pour l’aimer,” etc.

It was cloudless weather that evening at Lausanne, the sky clear and high, the country fresh, green, and sweet-smelling. The mountains surrounded one-half the lake with twenty different shades at the setting sun, from palest pink on the snow-peaks to the deepest purple on the rocks. It was all quiet enough after leaving the merriment of the fair, with only the noise of birds or bees, and the sweet smell of wild flowers in the fresh air. Later the evening star came out in the pale sky, and the glow-worms shone like brilliants in the grass. I thought of Richard in that far-away swamp in Central Africa, and a voiceless prayer rose to my lips. I wonder if he too is thinking of me this time? And as I thought an angelic whisper knocked at my heart and murmured, “Yes.”

After we had been at Lausanne some time, I got ill. I was fretting because there was no news at all about Richard; I had been hoping to hear from him for two months. I had enough of the climate too. I had a habit of rowing myself out a little way, undressing in the boat, jumping in for a swim, climbing back into the boat, and rowing ashore; and one day I was too hot, and I just had the strength to give the last pull to the oar ashore, when I fainted. There were no doctors, no medicines, and I lay ill on my very hard bed with a dreadful pain in my side for three weeks. But I was too strong to die; and one day somebody got me a bottle of Kirschwasser, and drinking it in small quantities at a time seemed to take away the pain; but I was very pale and ill, and every one said I had rheumatic fever. We were all three more or less ill, and did not like to part; but it was a necessity, so I was sent forward with twelve pieces of baggage and sixteen napoleons to work my way from Ouchy to Honfleur, where I was to wait for my brother-in-law and sister, Honfleur being a quieter place than Havre. Poor Blanche looked so worn and sad!

I got in a railway-carriage by myself, and asked the guard to look after me because I was alone; but just before the train started he put in a man, and begged my pardon, saying it was inevitable, as there was not a place in any other carriage. In about twenty minutes the man began to make horrible faces at me, and I was so dreadfully frightened I felt I must speak; so I said, “I am afraid you are ill”; and he said, “Yes; I very sorry, but I am going to have an epileptic fit.” He was almost immediately black, and in horrible contortions. It was an express train. There was no means of communicating with the guard (1858), and there was no use in screaming; so, frightened though I was, I pulled the man down on the ground, undid his cravat, and loosened all about his neck. I had no medicine with me, except a quarter of a bottle of sweet spirits of nitre, which I was taking for rheumatic fever. I poured it all down his throat, and then I covered his face over with a black silk handkerchief I had round my neck, that I might not see him, and squeezed myself up in the farthest corner. In about twenty minutes he came to, and asked me how long he had been like that. I told him, and he asked me if I was dreadfully frightened, and I said,” Yes.” He said, “I am subject to these fits, but they generally last much longer; this has been very slight.” So I said, ‘‘l think it is my duty to tell you that I have put about three ounces of spirits of nitre down your throat.” He said, “Well, I think it must have done me good, because I feel very comfortable.” I called the guard the first station we arrived at, told him what had occurred, and begged him to move me into a carriage with other people, which he did. I never knew anything so slow as the trains were; and at the stations there seemed no one to help, nor to tell one where anything was. I got two seats with my back to the engine, so that I could lie down. The heat was intense. The carriage was crammed. There was a ladylike little woman, with a brawny nurse and two of the worst-behaved children I ever saw. They fought, and sang, and cried, and teased my bullfinch, and kicked my shins, and trod on my toes; but the mother was too nice to offend, and so I bore it. At Maçon at 8 p.m. we stopped to sup; and then I felt I could bear no more of it, so I begged the guard to change me to a quiet carriage, and he put me in with two gentlemanly Spaniards. There was plenty of room, and we had a quiet night enough, only one of them was so long that every now and then in his sleep he put his feet into my lap or on the birdcage.

We arrived at 6 a.m., and drove for at least an hour to the Havre station in the pouring rain. Here my troubles began. It was past seven, the train was at 8.25; so I thought I had time to get a little breakfast at the café. I did so, and returned. The porters were very rude to me, and refused to weigh my baggage, saying I was too late. In vain I entreated, and I had to return to my café and sit in a miserable room from 8 o’clock to 1 p.m. I drank a bottle of gingerbeer, and did my accounts, but my head was too stupid to do them properly; so with the idea that I had only forty-eight francs left, I had taken my ticket to Havre, but not paid the baggage, and I had still to get to Honfleur. I then got scared with fancying I had lost four napoleons, and sat looking at my purse in despair. Then I discovered I had lost a bunch of keys, that the turquoise had fallen out of my ring, that I had broken my back comb, and left behind part of my dressing-case. Then it suddenly occurred to me that I had no blessing because I had not said my morning prayers; so I at once knelt down, and during my prayers a light flashed on me that there were five napoleons to a hundred francs, and the money was right to a farthing, so I rose with a thankful heart heedless of smaller evils. I took the one o’clock train, which went fast. It was hot, windy, dusty, crowded; but no matter, I drove straight to the boat. Alas ! it was gone, and I had only a few francs. There was nothing for it but to go to the hotel opposite the boats, and ask for a room, a hot bath, some tea and bread-and-butter (I had been out thirty-six hours without rest). I was on board the first boat, which steamed off at a quarter to seven in the morning, and at eight was safely housed at the Hôtel d’Angleterre, Honfleur, forty-eight hours after leaving Ouchy, with three-ha’pence in my pocket. Unfortunately at Havre there was a law by which the porters were not obliged to weigh your baggage unless you came half an hour before the time, but that nobody ever did, and they would not dare nor think of refusing a French person; but because I was an English girl, and alone, they abused their power. I was only five minutes after time; there was twenty-five minutes to spare, and they were rude into the bargain. They are not paid by Government (1858), and there is no tariff. They follow you like a flock of sheep, and say, “We will carry your baggage if you pay us, and if not we will not.” My purse prevented my being very free-handed; they would not take less than a franc and a half, and slang you for that; and I spent eighteen francs on them between Lausanne and Honfleur.

Honfleur is a horrid place. It is a fishing town, containing about ten thousand people of an inferior class, as dull as the grave, no society, and, still worse, not the necessaries of life — the only good things are the fruit, the sea, and country. There are two hotels, which in England we should call public-houses; not a room fit to sleep in, so I have had a bed put in a kind of observatory at the top of the house. I can shut out all, and live with nature and my books. There is a terrace, and at high tide the sea rolls under it, and at a stretch I could fancy myself on board a ship; but, thank God, I am getting better.

They come and ask you what you would like for dinner:

“Ce que vous avez à la maison; je ne suis pas difficile.” “Nous avons tout du melon, par exemple — des crevettes,” etc.

What they want to feed me on here are melons and water. An Englishman came the other day, very hungry, and wanted to dine. “Voulez-vous une omelette, monsieur?” “Damn your omelette!” he said; “I want to dine.” He was obliged to go. The servants are one remove from animals, and the family ditto, except madame, who is charming. The weather is beastly, the sea is muddy, the sand all dirt; there is not a piano in the town. The baths are half an hour from here, and the Basse gents are excessively sauvage. But even in this fifth-rate society I found a grain of wheat among the chaff — a Parisian Spanish woman, the wife of a physician, here for her child’s health, very spirituelle, not pretty, and devoted to Paris. We smoke and read, and she gives me the benefit of her experience, which I really think I had better have been without; but she is a jolly little creature, and I do not know how I should pass my time without her.

Blanche and my brother-in-law joined me at Honfleur a fortnight after my arrival; and having received a draft for fresh supplies, we determined to start next day. We had a delightful trip of six hours up the Seine to Rouen; we revisited the old cathedral, and walked up to that little gem Notre Dame de bon Secours. I am very fond of Rouen; it is such a lovely place. We went on to Dieppe, and had a calm passage to Southampton. Once more I was in England. We went straight to London, and home.

Chapter IX

They Meet Again


Allah guard a true lover, who strives with love
And hath borne the torments I still abide,
And seeing me bound in the cage with mind
Of ruth release me my love to find.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

While Isabel was touring through Italy and Switzerland, Burton was fighting his way through the Central African jungle to find the fabled lakes beyond the Usagara Mountains, which at that time the eye of the white man had never seen.

It is necessary to give a brief sketch of this expedition, and of the difference between Burton and Speke which arose from it, because these things influenced to a considerable degree Isabel’s after-life. She was always defending her husband’s position and fighting the case of Burton versus Speke.

As already stated, Burton left London in October, 1856. He went to Bombay, applied for Captain Speke to accompany him as second in command of his expedition into the unknown regions of Central Africa, and landed at Zanzibar in December. The Royal Geographical Society had obtained for him a grant of £1,000, and the Court of Directors of the East India Company had given him two years’ leave.

On June 26, 1857, after an experimental trip, they set out in earnest on their journey into the far interior. Burton was handicapped by a very inadequate force, and he had to make his way through hostile savage tribes; yet he determined to risk it, and in eighteen days achieved the first stage of the journey. Despite sickness and every imaginable difficulty, the little band arrived at K’hutu.

Thence they marched to Zungomero, a pestilential Slough of Despond. Here they rested a fortnight, and then began the ascent of the Usagara Mountains. They managed to climb to the frontier of the second region, or Ghauts. They then pushed on, up and down the ranges of these mountains, sometimes through the dismal jungle, sometimes through marshy swamps, sometimes along roads strewn with corpses and victims of loathsome diseases, tormented always by insects and reptiles, and trembling with ague, with swimming heads, ears deafened by weakness, and legs that would scarcely support them, threatened by savages without and deserters within, until at last they reached the top of the third and westernmost range of the Usagara Mountains. The second stage of the journey was accomplished.

After a rest they went through the fiery heat of the Mdaburu jungle, where they were much troubled by their mutinous porters. At last they entered Kazeh. The Arabs helped them here (Burton always got on well with Arabs), and they rested for a space. On January 10, 1858, they reached M’hali, and here Burton was smitten by partial paralysis, brought on by malaria; his eyes were also afflicted, and death seemed imminent. But in a little time he was better, and again they pushed on through the wilderness. At last, on February 13, 1858, just when they were in despair, their longing eyes were gladdened by the first glimpse of the Lake Tanganyika, the sea of Ujiji, laying like an enchanted lake “in the lap of the mountains, basking in the gorgeous tropical sunshine.”

For the first known time in the world’s history European eyes rested on this loveliness. It is only fair therefore to remember that in the discovery of Lake Tanganyika Burton was the pioneer. His was the brain which planned and commanded the expedition, and it was he who first achieved with inadequate means and insufficient escort what Livingstone, Cameron, Speke, Grant, Baker, and Stanley achieved later. If he had possessed their advantages of men and money, what might he not have done!

At Ujiji they rested for some time; they had travelled nine hundred and fifty miles, and had taken more than seven and a half months over the journey on account of the delay arising from danger and illness. They spent a month cruising about the lake, which, however, they were not able to explore thoroughly.

On May 28, 1858, Burton and Speke started on the homeward route. In due time they reached Kazeh again. Here, Burton being ill, and Speke not being able to get on with the Arabs, who abounded at Kazeh, it was decided that Burton should remain at Kazeh to prepare and send reports, and that Speke should go in search of the unknown lake (now called Nyanza) which the merchants had told them was some sixteen marches to the north. So Speke set out. After some six or seven weeks he returned to Kazeh. His flying trip had led him to the northern water, which he found to be an immense lake (Nyanza), and he announced that he had discovered the sources of the White Nile. On this point Burton was sceptical, and from this arose a controversy upon which it is unnecessary to enter. There were probably faults on both sides. The difference between Burton and Speke was much to be regretted; I only allude to it here because it influenced the whole of Burton’s subsequent career, and by so doing affected also that of his wife.

At Kazeh Burton decided that they must return to the seacoast by the way they came. So they beat their way back across the fiery field to the usual accompaniments of quarrels, mutinies, and desertions among the porters. At one place Speke was dangerously ill, but Burton nursed him through. They recrossed the Usagara Mountains, and struggled through mud and jungle, and at last caught sight of the sea. They made a triumphal entrance to Konduchi, the seaport village. They embarked and landed in Zanzibar on March 4, 1859. Here Burton wanted to get fresh leave of absence and additional funds; but the evident desire of the British Consul to get rid of him (because he was too friendly with the Sultan), and the impatience of Speke to return to England, caused him to abandon the idea. Just then H.M.S. Furious arrived at Aden, and passage homeward was offered to both of them. Burton was too ill to go; but Speke went, and his last words, according to Burton, were: “Good-bye, old fellow. You may be quite sure I shall not go up to the Royal Geographical Society until you come to the fore and we appear together. Make your mind quite easy about that.”

Nevertheless, when Burton arrived in England on May 21, 1859 (having been absent two years and eight months), he found the ground cut from under his feet. Speke had arrived in London twelve days before, and the day after his arrival had called at the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, told his own tale, and obtained the leadership of a new expedition. Burton, who had originated and carried out the expedition, found himself shelved, neglected, and thrust aside by his lieutenant, who claimed and received the whole credit for himself. Moreover, Speke had spread all sorts of ugly — and I believe untrue — reports about Burton. These coming on top of certain other rumours — also, I believe, untrue — which had originated in India, 7 were only too readily believed. When Burton got home, he found that the Government and the Royal Geographical Society regarded him with disapproval, and society looked askance at him. Instead of being honoured, he was suspected and under a cloud. One may imagine how his spirit chafed under this treatment. He was indeed a most unlucky man. Yet in spite of the crowd of false friends and open enemies, in spite of all the calumny and suspicion and injustice, there was one heart which beat true to him. And then it was that Burton proved the strength of a woman’s love.

Isabel had been back in England from her Continental tour just a year when Burton came home. It had been a terribly anxious year for her; she had written to him regularly, and kept him well posted in all that was going on; but naturally her letters only reached him at intervals. News of him had been meagre and infrequent, and there were long periods of silence which made her sick at heart with anxiety and dread. The novelty and excitement of her trip abroad had to some extent diverted her mind, but when she came home all her doubts and fears returned with threefold force. The monotony and inaction of her life chafed her active spirit; the lack of sympathy and the want of some one in whom she could confide her love and her sorrow weighed her down. It was a sore probation, and in her trouble she turned, as it was her nature to turn, to the consolations of her religion. In the Lent of 1859 she went into a Retreat in the Convent at Norwich, and strove to banish worldly thoughts. She did not strive in vain, as the following extracts from one of her devotional books, 8 written when in retreat, will show.

“I bewail my ordinary existence — the life that most girls lead — going out into society and belonging to the world.

“I must follow the ordinary little details of existence with patient endurance of suffering and resistance of evil. With courage I must fly at what I most dislike — grasp my nettle. There is good to be cultivated, there is religion to be uppermost; occupation and family cares must be my resources.

“And why must I do this? Other girls are not desirous of doing it. Because at a critical moment God snatched me from the world, when my heart bounded high for great things, and I was hard pressed by temptation. I said to myself, ‘Why has He called such a being as myself into existence?’ — seemingly to no purpose. And He has brought me to this quiet corner and has showed me in a spiritual retreat (like in a holy lantern) things as they really are; He has recalled to me the holiest and purest of my childhood and my convent days, humbled me, and then, shutting out that view, once more He will send me forth to act from His fresh teaching. He seemed to say to me: ‘You have but little time; a long life is but eighty years or so — part of this is lost in childhood, part in old age, part in sleep. How few are the strong, mature years wherein to lay in store for death — the only store you can carry with you beyond the dreams of life, beyond the grave! You, from defects in your upbringing, have allowed your heart to go before your head; hence sharp twinges and bitter experience. These faults are forgiven you. Now enter on your mature years with a good spirit, and remember that the same excuses will not serve any more.’

“With these reflections I saw myself as an atom in this vast creation, chosen from thousands who would have served Him better, and brought safely through my nine months’ imprisonment to my baptism. On what did I open my eyes? Not on the circle of a certain few, who are so covered with riches, honour, luxuries, and pleasures as to have their Paradise here. Not amongst the dregs of the unfortunate people who are the very spawn of vice, who never hear a good word or see a good action, who do not know that there is a God except in a curse. No! God gave me everything; but He chose a middle way for me, and each blessing that surrounded me was immense in itself, and many were combined. Pure blood and good birth, health, youth, strength, beauty, talent, natural goodness — God and Nature gave me all, and the Devil and I spoiled the gift. Add to all this a happy home and good family, education, society, religion, and the true Church of Christ. He took from me the riches and the worldly success that might have damned me; and having purified me, He sent me back only a sufficiency for needs and comforts. He gave me a noble incentive to good in the immense power of affection I have within me, which I may misuse, but not deprave or lose; this power is as fresh as in my childhood, but saddened by experience. He preserves me from the multitude of hourly evils which I cannot see; nay, more, He seems to watch every trifle to meet my needs and wants. He scarcely lets the wind visit me too roughly; He almost takes up the instruments He gave me, and works Himself. He seems to say, ‘Toil for one short day, and in the evening come to Me for your reward.’ He appointed to me, as to every one, an angel to protect me; He has shown me the flowery paths that lead down — down to the Devil and Hell — and the rugged path that leads upward to Himself and Heaven. Shall I refuse to climb over my petty trials for this short time, when He is so merciful, when He has died for me?”

Isabel came out of her Retreat on Easter Day, and after visiting some friends for a few weeks returned to her parents’ home in London. Here she was greeted with the news that Speke had come home alone. The air was full of Speke, and the rumour reached her ears that Burton was staying on in Zanzibar in the hope of being allowed to return to Africa. A sense of despair seized her; and just as she was thinking whether she would not return to the Convent and become a Sister of Charity, she received six lines in a well-known hand by post from Zanzibar — no letter. This communication was long past date, and evidently had been slow in coming:

To Isabel.

That brow which rose before my sight,
As on the palmer’s holy shrine;
Those eyes — my life was in their light;
Those lips — my sacramental wine;
That voice whose flow was wont to seem
The music of an exile’s dream.

She knew then it was all right.

Two days later she read in the paper that Burton would soon arrive. She writes in her diary:

May 21. — I feel strange, frightened, sick, stupefied, dying to see him, and yet inclined to run away, lest, after all I have suffered and longed for, I should have to bear more.”

But she did not run away. And here we leave her to tell her own tale.

On May 22 I chanced to call upon a friend. I was told she had gone out, but would be in to tea, and was asked if I would wait. I said, “Yes.” In a few minutes another ring came to the door, and another visitor was also asked to wait. A voice that thrilled me through and through came up the stairs, saying, “I want Miss Arundell’s address.” The door opened, I turned round, and judge of my feelings when I beheld Richard! For an instant we both stood dazed. I felt so intensely, that I fancied he must hear my heart beat, and see how every nerve was overtaxed. We rushed into each other’s arms. I cannot attempt to describe the joy of that moment. He had landed the day before, and come to London, and had called here to know where I was living, where to find me. No one will wonder when I say that we forgot all about my hostess and her tea. We went downstairs, and Richard called a cab, and he put me in and told the man to drive about — anywhere. He put his arm round my waist, and I put my head on his shoulder. I felt quite stunned; I could not speak or move, but felt like a person coming to after a fainting fit or a dream; it was acute pain, and for the first half-hour I found no relief. I would have given worlds for tears, but none came. But it was absolute content, such as I fancy people must feel in the first few moments after the soul has quitted the body. When we were a little recovered, we mutually drew each other’s pictures from our respective pockets at the same moment, to show how carefully we had always kept them.

After that we met constantly, and he called upon my parents. I now put our marriage seriously before them, but without success as regards my mother.

I shall never forget Richard as he was then. He had had twenty-one attacks of fever — had been partially paralyzed and partially blind. He was a mere skeleton, with brown-yellow skin hanging in bags, his eyes protruding, and his lips drawn away from his teeth. I used to give him my arm about the Botanical Gardens for fresh air, and sometimes convey him almost fainting in a cab to our house or friends’ houses, who allowed and encouraged our meeting.

He told me that all the time he had been away the greatest consolation he had received were my fortnightly journals, in letter-form, to him, accompanied by all newspaper scraps, and public and private information, and accounts of books, such as I knew would interest him; so that when he did get a mail, which was only in a huge batch now and then, he was as well posted up as if he were living in London.

Richard was looking so lank and thin. He was sadly altered; his youth, health, spirits, and beauty were all gone for the time. He fully justified his fevers, his paralysis and blindness, and any amount of anxiety, peril, hardship, and privation in unhealthy latitudes. Never did I feel the strength of my love as then. He returned poorer, and dispirited by official rows and every species of annoyance; but he was still — had he been ever so unsuccessful, and had every man’s hand against him — my earthly god and king, and I could have knelt at his feet and worshipped him. I used to feel so proud of him; I used to like to sit and look at him, and think, “You are mine, and there is no man on earth the least like you." 9

Isabel tells us that she regretted bitterly not having been able to stay with and nurse the man she loved at this time. They were both most anxious that their marriage should take place, so that they might be together. But the great obstacle to their union was Mrs. Arundell’s opposition. Isabel made a long and impassioned appeal to her mother; but she would not relent, and turned a deaf ear to the lovers’ pleadings. In justice to Mrs. Arundell, it must be admitted that she had apparently good reasons for refusing her consent to their marriage. Burton’s niece says that she “vehemently objected to any daughter of hers espousing a Protestant.”10 But this is one of those half-truths which conceal a whole fallacy. Of course Mrs. Arundell, who came of an old Roman Catholic family, and who was a woman of strong religious convictions, would have preferred her daughter to marry a man of the same faith as herself. But it was not a question between Catholicity and Protestantism, but between Christianity and no religion at all. From all that was publicly known of Burton at this time, from his writings and his conversation, he was an Agnostic; and so far as the religious objection to the marriage entered, many a Protestant Evangelical mother would have demurred quite as much as Mrs. Arundell did. Religious prejudices may be just or unjust, but they are forces which have to be reckoned with. And the religious objection was not by any means the only one. At this time there were unpleasant rumours flying about concerning Burton, and some echo of them had reached Mrs. Arundell’s ears. The way in which the Royal Geographical Society had passed him over in favour of Speke had naturally lent colour to these reports; and although Burton had a few friends, he had many enemies. He was under a cloud. The Government ignored him; the War Office disliked him; his military career had so far been a failure — there was no prospect of promotion; the Indian army had brought him under the reduction; he had not the means to keep a wife in decent comfort, nor were his relations in a position to help him, either with money or influence; and lastly, he was of a wild, roving disposition. All these considerations combined to make Mrs. Arundell hesitate in entrusting her daughter's happiness to his hands. It must be remembered that Isabel was the eldest child. She was a very handsome and fascinating girl; she had many wealthy suitors, and might well have been expected to make “a good match.” From a worldly point of view she was simply throwing herself away. From a higher point of view she was following her destiny, and marrying the man she loved with every fibre of her being. But Mrs. Arundell could hardly have been expected to see things in this light, and in opposing Isabel’s marriage with Richard Burton she only acted as ninety-nine mothers out of every hundred would have done. No sooner were they married than she admitted that she had made a mistake, and did all in her power to atone for it; but at this time she was inexorable.11

Burton, who was very much in love, was not in the habit of brooking opposition, least of all from a woman; and he suggested to Isabel that they should take the law in their own hands, and make a runaway match of it. After all, they had arrived at years of discretion, and might fairly be expected to know their own minds. He was past forty, and Isabel was nearly thirty. More than three years had gone by since he declared his love to her in the Botanical Gardens; nearly ten years had passed since she had fallen in love with him on the Ramparts of Boulogne. Surely they had waited long enough. Isabel was swayed by his pleading; more than once she was on the point of yielding, but she resisted the temptation. Duty and obedience were always watchwords with her, and she could not bear the thought of going against her mother. Her sense of duty warred with her desire. So things see-sawed for nearly a year. And then:

“One day in April, 1860, I was walking out with two friends, and a tightening of the heart came over me that I had known before. I went home, and said to my sister, ‘I am not going to see Richard for some time.’ She said, ‘Why, you will see him to-morrow!’ ‘No, I shall not,’ I said; ‘I don’t know what is the matter.’ A tap came at the door, and a note with the well-known writing was put into my hand. I knew my fate, and with a deep-drawn breath I opened it. He had left — could not bear the pain of saying good-bye; would be absent for nine months, on a journey to see Salt Lake City. He would then come back, and see whether I had made up my mind to choose between him or my mother, to marry me if I would; and if I had not the courage to risk it, he would go back to India, and thence to other explorations, and return no more. I was to take nine months to think about it.”12

This was the last straw for Isabel, and for a time she broke down utterly. For some weeks she was ill in bed and delirious, heart-sick and hopeless, worn out with the mental conflict she was going through. Then she girded up her strength for one last struggle, and when she arose from her bed her purpose was clear and strong. The first thing she did showed that her mind was made up. On the plea of change of air she went into the country and stayed at a farmhouse. As she had determined to marry a poor man and also to accompany him in all his travels, she set herself to rough it and to learn everything which might fit her for the roving life she was afterwards to lead, so that in the desert or the backwoods, with servants or without them, she might be qualified for any emergency. In addition to mastering all domestic duties at the farmhouse, heavy and light, she tried her hand at outdoor work as well, and learned how to look after the poultry-yard and cattle, to groom the horses, and to milk the cows. Nor did her efforts end here. When she came back to London, she asked a friend (Dr. Bird) to teach her to fence. He asked her why she wanted to learn fencing. She answered, “Why? To defend Richard, when he and I are attacked in the wilderness together.” Later on Burton himself taught her to fence, and she became an expert fencer. At this time also she was eager for books of all kinds. She wanted a wider range of reading, so that she might, as she phrased it, “be able to discuss things with Richard.” This period of waiting was, in effect, a period of preparation for her marriage with the man she loved, and she pursued her preparations steadily and quietly without a shadow of wavering. Nevertheless she fretted a great deal during this separation. A friend who knew her at this time has told me she often looked wretched. She spent much time in fasting and prayer, and there were days when she would eat nothing but vegetable and drink water. She used to call these her “marrow and water days.”

One day she saw in the paper “Murder of Captain Burton.” Her anguish was intense. Her mother went with her to the mail-office to make inquiries and ascertain the truth. A Captain Burton had been murdered by his crew, but it was not Isabel’s Captain Burton. She says, “My life seemed to hang on a thread till he [the clerk] answered, and then my face beamed so the man was quite startled.” Great joy, like great grief, is selfish. She gave little thought of the poor man who was killed, the sense of relief was so great. Burton — her Burton — was at that moment enjoying himself with the Mormons in Salt Lake City, where he stayed for some months. When his tour was completed, he turned his face towards home again — and Isabel.

7 Burton alludes to this prejudice against him in the original (1886) edition of his Arabian Nights, “Alf Laylah wa Laylah,” Terminal Essay, Section D, pp. 205, 206.

8 Laméd, one of Lady Burton’s books of private devotion.

9 At this point Lady Burton's autobiography ends — cut short by her death. Henceforward, when she speaks in the first person, it will be from her papers and letters, of which she left a great number. She was sorting them when she died. But I have felt justified in repeating the story of her marriage in her own words, as no other pen could do justice to it.

10 Miss Stisted's Life of Burton.

11 Lady Burton also, during the last years of her life, admitted that she had made a mistake in judging her mother’s opposition too harshly. She often said to her sister, “I am so sorry I published those hard things I wrote of dear mother in my Life of Dick. It was her love for me which made her do it. I will cut it out in the next edition.”

12 Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Isabel his wife, vol. i., p. 337.

Chapter X 13

At Last


My beloved is mine, and I am his.

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm:
For love is strong as death.

The Song of Solomon.

IT was Christmas, 1860, that I went to stop with my relatives, Sir Clifford and Lady Constable (his first wife, née Chichester), at Burton Constable — the father and mother of the present baronet. There was a large party in the house, and we were singing; some one propped up the music with the Times, which had just arrived, and the first announcement that caught my eye was that “Captain R. F. Burton had arrived from America.”

I was unable, except by great resolution, to continue what I was doing. I soon retired to my room, and sat up all night, packing, and conjecturing how I should get away — all my numerous plans tending to a “bolt” next morning — should I get an affectionate letter from Richard. I received two; one had been opened and read by somebody else, and one, as it afterwards turned out, had been burked at home before forwarding. It was not an easy matter. I was in a large country house in Yorkshire, with about twenty-five friends and relatives, amongst whom was one brother, and I had heaps of luggage. We were blocked up with snow, and nine miles from the station, and (contra miglior noler voler mal pugna) I had heard of his arrival only early in the evening, and twelve hours later I managed to get a telegram, ordering me to London, under the impression that it was of the most vital importance.

What a triumph it is to a woman’s heart, when she has patiently and courageously worked and prayed and suffered, and the moment is realized that was the goal of her ambition!

As soon as we met, and had had our talk, he said:

“I have waited for five years. The first three were inevitable, on account of my journey to Africa, but the last two were not. Our lives are being spoiled by the unjust prejudice of your mother, and it is for you to consider whether you have not already done your duty in sacrificing two of the best years of your life out of respect to her. If once you really let me go, mind, I shall never come back, because I shall know that you have not got the strength of character which my wife must have. Now you must make up your mind to choose between your mother and me. If you choose me, we marry, and I stay; if not, I go back to India, and on other explorations, and I return no more. Is your answer ready?"

I said, “Quite. I marry you this day three weeks, let who will say nay.”

When we fixed the date of our marriage, I wanted to be married on Wednesday, the 23rd, because it was the Espousals of Our Lady and St. Joseph; but he would not, because Wednesday the 23rd and Friday the 13th were our unlucky days; so we were married on the Vigil, Tuesday, January 22.

We pictured to ourselves much domestic happiness, with youth, health, courage, and talent to win honour, name, and position. We had the same tastes, and perfect confidence in each other. No one turns away from real happiness without some very strong temptation or delusion. I went straight to my father and mother, and told them what had occurred. My father said, “I consent with all my heart, if your mother consents”; and mother said, ”Never! “ I asked all my brothers and sisters, and they said they would receive him with delight. My mother offered me a marriage with my father and brothers present, my mother and sisters not. I felt that this was a slight upon him, a slight upon his family, and a slur upon me, which I did not deserve, and I refused it. I went to Cardinal Wiseman, and I told him the whole case as it stood, and he asked me if my mind was absolutely made up, and I said, ”Absolutely.“ Then he said, “Leave the matter to me.” He requested Richard to call upon him, and asked him if he would give him three promises in writing — (1) that I should be allowed the free practice of my religion; (2) that if we had any children they should be brought up Catholics; (3) that we should be married in the Catholic Church: which three promises Richard readily signed. He also amused the Cardinal, as the family afterwards learnt, by saying sharply, “Practise her religion indeed! I should rather think she shall. A man without a religion may be excused, but a woman without a religion is not the woman for me.” The Cardinal then sent for me, promised me his protection, said he would himself procure a special dispensation from Rome, and that he would perform the ceremony himself. He then saw my father, who told him how much opposed my mother was to it; that she was threatened with paralysis; that we had to consider her in every possible way, that she might receive no shocks, no agitation; but that all the rest quite consented to the marriage. A big family council was then held; and it was agreed far better for Richard and me and for every one to make all proper arrangements to be married and to be attended by friends, and for me to go away on a visit to some friends, that they might not come to the wedding, nor participate in it, in order not to agitate my mother; that they would break it to her at a suitable time; and that the secret of their knowing it should be kept up as long as mother lived. “Mind,” said my father, “you must never bring a misunderstanding between mother and me, nor between her and her children.”

I passed that three weeks preparing very solemnly and earnestly for my marriage day, but yet something differently to what many expectant brides do. I made a very solemn religious preparation, receiving the Sacraments. Gowns, presents, and wedding pageants had no part in it, had no place.

The following were my reflections 14:

“The principal and leading features of my future life are going to be:

“Marriage with Richard.

“My parents’ blessing and pardon.

“A man-child.

“An appointment, money earned by literature and publishing.

“A little society.

“Doing a great deal of good.

“Much travelling.

“I have always divided marriage into three classes — Love, Ambition, and Life. By Life I mean a particular style of life and second self that a peculiar disposition and strong character require to make life happy, and without which possibly neither Love alone nor Ambition alone would satisfy it. And I love a man in whom I can unite all three, Love, Life, and Ambition, of my own choice. Some understand Ambition as Title, Wealth, Estates; I understand it as Fame, Name, Power. I have undertaken a very peculiar man; I have asked a difficult mission of God, and that is to give me that man’s body and soul. It is a grand mission; and after ten years and a half of prayer God has given it to me. Now we must lead a good, useful, active, noble life, and be each other’s salvation; and if we have children, bring them up in the fear of God. The first thing to be done is to obtain my parents' pardon and blessing for going my own way; the next, to pray for a child to comfort me when he is absent and cannot take me; and, thirdly, to set to work with a good heart to work for an appointment or other means of living. We must do any amount of study and publishing, take society in moderation as a treat; we must do good according to our means; and when successful we will travel. My rules as a wife are as follows:

Rules for my Guidance as a Wife.

“1. Let your husband find in you a companion, friend, and adviser, and confidante, that he may miss nothing at home; and let him find in the wife what he and many other men fancy is only to be found in a mistress, that he may seek nothing out of his home.

“2. Be a careful nurse when he is ailing, that he may never be in low spirits about his health without a serious cause.

“3. Make his home snug. If it be ever so small and poor, there can always be a certain chic about it. Men are always ashamed of a poverty-stricken home, and therefore prefer the club. Attend much to his creature comforts; allow smoking or anything else; for if you do not, somebody else will. Make it yourself cheerful and attractive, and draw relations and intimates about him, and the style of society (literati ) that suits him, marking who are real friends to him and who are not.

“4. Improve and educate yourself in every way, that you may enter into his pursuits and keep pace with the times, that he may not weary of you.

“5. Be prepared at any moment to follow him at an hour’s notice and rough it like a man.

“6. Do not try to hide your affection for him, but let him see and feel it in every action. Never refuse him anything he asks. Observe a certain amount of reserve and delicacy before him. Keep up the honeymoon romance, whether at home or in the desert. At the same time do not make prudish bothers, which only disgust, and are not true modesty. Do not make the mistake of neglecting your personal appearance, but try to look well and dress well to please his eye.

“7. Perpetually work up his interests with the world, whether for publishing or for appointments. Let him feel, when he has to go away, that he leaves a second self in charge of his affairs at home; so that if sometimes he is obliged to leave you behind, he may have nothing of anxiety on his mind. Take an interest in everything that interests him. To be companionable, a woman must learn what interests her husband; and if it is only planting turnips, she must try to understand turnips.

“8. Never confide your domestic affairs to your female friends.

“9. Hide his faults from every one, and back him up through every difficulty and trouble; but with his peculiar temperament advocate peace whenever it is consistent with his honour before the world.

“10. Never permit any one to speak disrespectfully of him before you; and if any one does, no matter how difficult, leave the room. Never permit any one to tell you anything about him, especially of his conduct with regard to other women. Never hurt his feels by a rude remark or jest. Never answer when he finds fault; and never reproach him when he is in the wrong, especially when he tells you of it, nor take advantage of it when you are angry; and always keep his heart up when he has made a failure.

“11. Keep all disagreements for your own room, and never let others find them out.

“12. Never ask him not to do anything — for instance, with regard to visiting other women, or any one you particularly dislike; trust him, and tell him everything, except another person’s secret.

“13. Do not bother him with religious talk, be religious yourself and give good example, take life seriously and earnestly, pray for and procure prayers for him, and do all you can for him without his knowing it, and let all your life be something that will win mercy from God for him. You might try to say a little prayer with him every night before laying down to sleep, and gently draw him to be good to the poor and more gentle and forbearing to others.

“14. Cultivate your own good health, spirits, and nerves, to counteract his naturally melancholy turn, and to enable you to carry out your mission.

“15. Never open his letters, nor appear inquisitive about anything he does not volunteer to tell you.

“16. Never interfere between him and his family; encourage their being with him, and forward everything he wishes to do for them, and treat them in every respect (as far as they will let you) as if they were your own.

“17. Keep everything going, and let nothing ever be at a standstill: nothing would weary him like stagnation." 15

Richard arranged with my own lawyer and my own priest that everything should be conducted in a strictly legal and strictly religious way, and the whole programme of the affair was prepared. A very solemn day to me was the eve of my marriage. The following day I was supposed to be going to pass a few weeks with a friend in the country.

At nine o’clock on Tuesday, January 22, 1861, my cab was at the door, with my box on it. I had to go and wish my father and mother good-bye before leaving. I went downstairs with a beating heart, after I had knelt in my own room, and said a fervent prayer that they might bless me, and if they did I would take it as a sign. I was so nervous, I could scarcely stand. When I went in mother kissed me, and said, “Good-bye, child; God bless you!” I went to my father’s bedside, and knelt down and said good-bye. “God bless you, my darling!” he said, and put his hand out of the bed and laid it on my head. I was too much overcome to speak, and one or two tears ran down my cheeks, and I remember as I passed down I kissed the door outside.

I then ran downstairs, and quickly got into my cab, and drove to the house of some friends (Dr. and Miss Bird), where I changed my clothes — not wedding clothes (clothes which most brides of to-day would probably laugh at) — a fawn-coloured dress, a black-lace cloak, and a white bonnet-and they and I drove off to the Bavarian Catholic Church, Warwick Street. When assembled, we were altogether a party of eight. The Registrar was there for legality, as is customary. Richard was waiting on the doorstep for me, and as we went in he took holy water, and made a very large sign of the cross. The church doors were wide open, and full of people, and many were there who knew us. As the 10.30 Mass was about to begin we were called into the Sacristy, and we then found that the Cardinal in the night had been seized with an acute attack of the illness which carried him off four years later, and had deputed Dr. Hearne, his Vicar-General, to be his proxy.

After the ceremony was over and the names signed, we went back to the house of our friend Dr. Bird and his sister Alice, who have always been our best friends, where we had our wedding breakfast. During the time we were breakfasting Dr. Bird began to chaff Richard about the things that were sometimes said of him, and which were not true. “Now, Burton, tell me, how do you feel when you have killed a man?” Dr. Bird (being a physician) had given himself away without knowing it. Richard looked up quizzically, and drawled out, “Oh, quite jolly ! How do you?” 16

Lady Burton at the Time of Her Marriage

We then went to Richard’s bachelor lodgings, where he had a bedroom, dressing-room, and sitting-room; and we had very few pounds to bless ourselves with, but were as happy as it is given to any mortals out of heaven to be. The fact is, that the only clandestine thing about it — and that was quite contrary to my desire — was that my poor mother, with her health and her religious scruples, was kept in the dark; but I must thank God, though paralysis came on two years later, it was not I that caused it.

To say that I was happy would be to say nothing. A peace came over me that I had never known. I felt that it was for eternity, an immortal repose, and I was in a bewilderment of wonder at the goodness of God, Who had almost worked miracles for me.

13 This chapter is a condensed account of Lady Burton’s marriage, as related by herself in her Life of her husband, with some fresh material added.

14 From her devotional book Laméd.

15 She wrote in her book Laméd in 1864: “All has been carried out by God’s help, with the only exception that He saw it was not good to give us children, for which we are now most grateful. Whatever happens to us is always for the best.”

16 Miss Alice Bird, who knew Sir Richard and Lady Burton for many years, has told me the following details about the wedding. The Birds were friends of the Arundell family, and Isabel came to them and told them how matters stood with regard to Mrs. Arundell’s opposition and her ill-health, and asked if she might be married from their house, and so, to use her own phrase, “throw the mantle of respectability over the marriage,” to prevent people saying that it was a runaway match. Dr. Bird and his sister gladly consented; they accompanied her to the church, and when the ceremony was over the newly wedded couple returned to their house in Welbeck Street, where they had a simple luncheon, which did duty for the wedding breakfast.

After luncheon was over Isabel and her husband walked off down Welbeck Street to their lodging in St. James’s, where they settled down without any fuss whatever. She had sent her boxes on ahead in a four-wheeler. That evening a bachelor friend of Burton’s called in at the lodging in St. James’s, and found Isabel seated there, in every sense mistress of the situation, and Burton proudly introduced her as “My wife.” They did not send the friend away, but kept him there to smoke and have a chat with them.

Book II



“Ellati Zaujuhá ma'ahá b'tadir el Kamar b’asbiha.”
(“The woman who has her husband with her can turn the moon with her finger.")

Chapter I

Fernando Po


I praise thee while my days go on;
I love thee while my days go on;
Through dark and death, through fire and frost,
With emptied arms and treasure lost,
I thank thee while my days go on.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

In fiction (though perhaps not now as much as formerly) marriage is often treated as the end of all things in a woman’s life, and the last chapter winds up with the “happy ever after,” like the concluding scene of a melodrama. But in this romance of Isabel Burton, this drama of real life, marriage was but the beginning of the second and more important half of her life. It was the blossoming of love’s flower, the expanding of her womanhood, the fulfilment of her destiny. For such a marriage as hers was a sacrament consecrated by love; it was a knitting together, a oneness, a union of body, soul, and spirit, of thought, feeling, and inclination, such as is not often given to mortals to enjoy. But then Burton was no ordinary man, nor was his wife an ordinary woman. She often said he was "the only man in the world who could manage me,” and to this it may be added that she was the only woman in the world who would have suited him. No other woman could have held him as she did. The very qualities which made her different to the ordinary run of women were those which made her the ideal wife for a man like Richard Burton. The eagle does not mate with the domestic hen, and in Isabel’s unconventional and adventurous temperament Burton saw the reflex of his own. Though holding different views on some things, they had the same basic principles; and though their early environment and education had been widely different, yet Nature, the greatest force of all, had brought them together and blended them into one. It was a union of affinities. Isabel merged her life in her husband’s. She sacrificed everything to him save two things — her rare individuality, and her fervent faith in her religion. The first she could not an she would; the second she would not an she could; and to his honour be it said he never demanded it of her. But in all else she was his absolutely; her passionate ideals, the treasure of her love, her life’s happiness — all were his to cherish or to mar as he might please. She had a high ideal of the married state. “I think,” she writes, “a true woman who is married to her proper mate recognizes the fully performed mission, whether prosperous or not, and no one can ever take his place for her as an interpreter of that which is between her and her Creator, to her the shadow of God’s protection here on earth.” And her conception of a wife’s duty was an equally unselfish one, for she wrote of the beginning of her married life: “I began to feel, what I have always felt since, that he was a glorious, stately ship in full sail, commanding all attention and admiration, and sometimes, if the wind drops, she still sails gallantly, and no one sees the humble little steam-tug hidden on the other side, with her strong heart and faithful arms working forth, and glorying in her proud and stately ship.”

Very soon after her marriage Isabel was reconciled to her mother. It came about in this wise. Mrs. Arundell thought she had gone away on a visit to some friends in the country, and told her friends so; but a week or two after the marriage one of Isabel’s aunts, Monica Lady Gerard, heard of her going into a lodging in St. James’s, and immediately rushed off to tell Mrs. Arundell that Isabel could not be staying in the country, as was supposed, and she feared she had eloped or something of the kind. Mrs. Arundell, in an agony of fear, telegraphed to her husband, who was then staying with some friends, and he wired back to her, “She is married to Dick Burton, and thank God for it.” He also wrote, enclosing a letter Burton had written to him on the day of the marriage, announcing the fact, and he asked his wife to send one of Isabel’s brothers (who knew the Burtons’ address) to them and be reconciled. Mrs. Arundell was so much relieved that a worse thing had not befallen Isabel that she sent for the truant pair at once. She was not a woman to do things by halves; and recognizing that the inevitable had happened, and that for weal or woe the deed was done, she received both Isabel and her husband with the utmost kindness, and expressed her regret, that she should have opposed the marriage. The statement that she never forgave Burton is incorrect. On the contrary, she forgave him at once, and grew to like him greatly, always treating him as a son. She gave a family party to introduce Burton to his wife’s relations, and there was a general reconciliation all round.

For seven months after their marriage Isabel and her husband continued to live, off and on, at their little lodgings in St. James’s, as happy as two birds in a nest. But the problem of ways and means had early to be considered. Now that Burton had taken unto himself a wife, it became imperatively necessary that he should to some extent forego his wandering habits and settle down to earn something to maintain her in the position in which she had been accustomed to live. He had a small patrimony and his pay; in all about £350 a year. With the help Isabel’s friends would have given, this might have sufficed to begin matrimony in India. In the ordinary course of events, Burton, like any other officer in the service, would have returned to India, rejoined his regiment, and taken his wife out with him. The money difficulty alone would not have stood in the way. But there were other difficulties, as Burton knew well; the strong prejudice against him (an unjust one, I believe, but none the less real) made it hopeless for him to expect promotion in the Indian army. So he did what was undoubtedly the best thing under the circumstances. He determined not to return to India, and he applied for a post in the Consular Service, with the result that in March, some three months after his marriage, he was offered the post of Consul at Fernando Po, on the west coast of Africa — a deadly climate, and £700 a year. He cheerfully’ accepted it, as he was only too glad to get his foot on the lowest rung of the official ladder. He was told to hold himself in readiness to leave in August; and as the climate of Fernando Po was almost certain death to a white woman, he would not allow his young wife to accompany him. So the bliss of the first months of their wedded life was overshadowed by the thought of approaching separation.

In accepting the offer of Fernando Po, Burton wrote to the Foreign Office 17: "My connexion with H.M.‘s Indian army has now lasted upwards of nineteen years, and I am unwilling to retire without pension or selling out of my corps. If therefore my name could be retained upon the list of my regiment — as, for instance, is the case with H.M.‘s Consul at Zanzibar — I should feel deeply indebted.” A reasonable request truly. Lord John Russell, who was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and who had given Burton the Consulship, caused his application to be forwarded to the proper quarter — the Bombay Government. But the authorities in India refused to entertain Burton’s application; they struck his name off the Indian Army List; and in this way the whole of his nineteen years’ service in India was swept away without pay or pension. If the brutal truth must be told, they were only too glad to seize on this excuse to get rid of him. But that does not palliate their conduct; it was well said, “His enemies may be congratulated on their mingled malice and meanness.”

With regard to Fernando Po, I cannot take the view that Burton was ill-treated in not getting a better post; on the contrary, taking all the circumstances into consideration, he was fortunate in obtaining this one. For what were the facts? He had undoubtedly distinguished himself as an explorer, as a linguist, and as a writer; but his Indian career had been a failure. He had managed to give offence in high quarters, and he was viewed with disfavour. On quitting one service under a cloud, he could not at once expect to receive a pick appointment in another. As a Consul he was yet an untried man. There is little doubt that even Fernando Po was given him through the influence of his wife. It was the same throughout his after-career; his wife’s unceasing efforts on his behalf helped him up every step of the official ladder, and shielded him more than once from the full force of the official displeasure. There is nothing like a brilliant and beautiful wife to help a man on; and so Burton found it. He had done many clever and marvellous things during his life, but the best day’s work he ever did for himself was when he married Isabel Arundell. His marriage was in fact, his salvation. It steadied him down and gave him some one to work for and some one to love, and it did more than anything else to give the lie to the rumours against him which were floating about. No longer an Ishmael; he entered an ancient and honoured family. Many who would not have moved a finger to help Burton were willing to do anything in their power for his wife; and as she cared for only one thing, her husband’s interests, he secured their influence in his favour.

When the London season came round, the Burtons, despite their limited means, went a good deal into society. The story of their romantic marriage got abroad, and many friends were ready to take them by the hand. The late Lord Houghton was especially kind. He asked Lord Palmerston, who was then Prime Minister, to give a party in their honour; and Isabel was the bride of the evening, and went down to dinner on the Prime Minister’s arm. Shortly after this she was presented at Court, “on her marriage,” by Lady John Russell.

There had been some little doubt in Isabel’s mind concerning her presentation, as the Queen made it a rule then (and may do so now, for all I know) that she would not receive at Court any bride who had made a runaway marriage. Isabel’s was hardly a runaway marriage, as she married with her father’s knowledge and consent. Still it was not quite a usual one, and she was very glad when her presentation at Court removed any doubt in this respect, especially as she looked forward to living abroad in the future, and difficulties might arise as to her attending a foreign court if she were not received at her own. She wanted to help her husband in every way.

Concerning her presentation Mrs. Fitzgerald has told me the following anecdote. Isabel’s one thought was how to please her husband, and she was always yearning to win his approval. A word of praise from him was the sweetest thing in life. Burton, however, though proud and fond of her, was of anything but an effusive nature, and his praises of any one were few and far between. When she was dressed for her first Drawing-Room — and very handsome she looked, a beautiful woman beautifully dressed — she went to show herself to her husband. He looked at her critically; and though he was evidently delighted with her appearance, said nothing, which was a great disappointment to her. But as she was leaving the room she overheard him say to her mother, “La jeune femme n’a rien à craindre”; and she went down to the carriage radiant and happy.

The Burtons were such an unconventional couple that there was a good deal of curiosity among their acquaintances as to how they would get on, and all sorts of conjectures were made. Many of Burton’s bachelor friends told one another frankly, “It won’t last. She will never be able to hold him.” Shortly after her marriage one of her girl friends took her aside and asked her in confidence, “Well, Isabel, how does it work? Can you manage him? Does he ever come home at night?” “Oh,” said Isabel, “it works very well indeed, and he always comes home with the milk in the morning.” Of course this was only in joke, for Burton was a man of most temperate life, and after his marriage, at any rate, he literally forsook all others and cleaved only to his wife.

About this time a calamity befell them in Grindlay’s fire, in which they lost everything they had in the world, except the few personal belongings in their lodgings. All Burton’s manuscripts were destroyed. He took it philosophically enough, and said, “Well, it is a great bore; but I dare say that the world will be none the worse for some of the manuscripts having been burnt.” His wife notes this as “a prophetic speech”; and so it was, when we remember the fate of The Scented Garden thirty years after.

The London season came to an end sooner in those days than it does now, and the end of June found the Burtons embarked on a round of visits in country houses. One of the houses they visited at the time was Fryston, Lord Houghton’s, and here they met many of the most celebrated people of the day; for wit and beauty, rank and talent, met on common ground around the table of him “whom men call Lord Houghton, but the gods Monckton Milnes.” Isabel always looked back on these first seven months of her marriage as the happiest of her life. They were one long honeymoon, “a great oasis”; and she adds, “Even if I had had no other, it would have been worth living for.” But alas! the evil day of parting came all too soon. In August Burton had to sail for Fernando Po — “the Foreign Office grave,” as it was called — and had perforce to leave his young wife behind him. She went down to Liverpool with him to see him off, and the agony of that first parting is best expressed in her own words:

“I was to go out, not now, but later, and then perhaps not to land, and to return and ply up and down between Madeira and Teneriffe and London; and I, knowing he had Africa at his back, was in a constant agitation for fear of his doing more of these explorations into unknown lands. There were about eighteen men (West African merchants), and everybody took him away from me, and he had made me promise that if I was allowed to go on board and see him off I would not cry and unman him. It was blowing hard and raining. There was one man who was inconsiderate enough to accompany and stick to us the whole time, so that we could not exchange a word. (How I hated him!) I went down below, and unpacked his things, and settled his cabin, and saw to the arrangement of his luggage. My whole life and soul were in that good-bye, and I found myself on board the tug, which flew faster and faster from the steamer. I saw a white handkerchief go up to his face. I then drove to a spot where I could see the steamer till she became a dot." 18

Burton was absent eighteen months, working hard at his duties as Consul on the west coast of Africa. During that time Isabel lived with her parents at 14, Montagu Place, W. It was a hard thing to be exiled from her husband; but she did not waste her time in idle repining. Burton left her plenty of work to do, and she did it thoroughly. In the first place, she fought hard, though unsuccessfully, against the decision of the Bombay Government to remove Burton’s name from the Indian Army List. In the next place, she arranged for the publication of his book on the Mormons. Surely not a very congenial task for a young wife of seven months with an absent husband, for the book was largely a defence of polygamy! But whatever Burton told her to do she did. She also executed his divers commissions which came by every mail. One of them was to go to Paris in January, 1862, on a special mission, to present to the Emperor and Empress of the French some relics of the great Napoleon — a lock of his hair, a sketch of a plaster cast taken after his death — which had come into the possession of the Burton family, also a complete set of Burton’s works, and to ask for an audience of them. She left her letter and presents at the Tuileries, and her audience was not granted. She blamed herself bitterly at the time, and put the failure of her mission of courtesy down to “want of experience and proper friends and protection.” But the truth of the matter is, that she ought never to have been sent on such an unnecessary errand, for it was not one in which she or any one could have been expected to succeed. Nevertheless Burton’s relatives made themselves very unpleasant about it, and worried Isabel most cruelly concerning the loss of their trifling relics. And it may be remarked here that Burton’s near relatives, both his sister and his niece, always disliked Isabel, and never lost an opportunity of girding against her. One of them has even carried this rancorous hostility beyond the grave. These ladies were jealous of Isabel — jealous of her superior social position, of her beauty, her fascinations, and above all jealous of her influence over her husband. Why this should have been so it is impossible to say, for Burton did not get on very well with his relatives, and made a point of seeing as little of them as possible. Perhaps they thought it was Isabel who kept him away; but it was not. Fortunately it is not necessary to enter into the details of a sordid family squabble. To do so would be to weary, and not to edify.

Following the annoyance to which she was subjected by her husband’s relatives came another of a different nature. There were many who heard, and some who repeated, rumours against Burton which had been circulated by Speke and others. One candid friend made it his business to retail some of these to Isabel (one to the effect that her husband was “keeping a seraglio” out at Fernando Po), and gave her a good deal of gratuitous and sympathetic advice as to how she ought to act. But Isabel refused to listen to anything against her husband, and spurned the sympathy and advice, declaring that “any one who could listen to such lying tales was no friend of hers,” and she closed the acquaintance forthwith.

Despite her brave words there is no doubt that she fretted a good deal through the months that followed. Her depression was further aggravated by a sharp attack of diphtheria. One day in October, when she could bear the loneliness and separation from her husband no longer, she went down to the Foreign Office, and cried her heart out to Sir Henry (then Mr.) Layard. Her distress touched the official’s heart, for he asked her to wait while he went upstairs. Presently Mr. Layard came back, saying he had got four months’ leave for Burton, and had ordered the dispatch to be sent off that very afternoon. She says, "I could have thrown my arms around his neck and kissed him, but I did not; he might have been surprised. I had to go and sit out in the Green Park till the excitement wore off; it was more to me than if he had given me a large fortune.”

In December Burton returned home after an absence of eighteen months, and his wife went to Liverpool to meet him. We may imagine her joy. Christmas was spent at Wardour Castle (Lord Arundell’s), a large family gathering; then they went to Garswood to stay with Lord Gerard; he was Isabel’s uncle, and always her staunch friend.

Burton’s leave sped all too soon; and when the time came for his departure, his wife told him that she could not possibly go on living as she had been living. “One’s husband in a place where I am not allowed to go, and I living with my mother like a girl. I am neither maid, nor wife, nor widow.” So he arranged to take her with him as far as Teneriffe at any rate. As they were to leave from Liverpool, they stayed at Garswood, which was hard by, until the day came for them to sail.

17 Letter to Foreign Office, March 27, 1861.

18 Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Isabel his wife, vol. i., pp. 348, 349.

Chapter II 19



The smallest bark on life’s tumultuous ocean
 Will leave a track behind for evermore;
The slightest wave of influence set in motion
 Extends and widens to the eternal shore.

I started from Liverpool on a bleak morning in January with many a “God-speed,” and in possession of many aids to enjoyment, youth, health, strength, and the society of a dearly loved husband, whose companionship is a boon not often bestowed upon mortals in this nether world.

After the inevitable wettings from spray, and the rope which gets wrong, and the hat which blows over, and the usual amount of hilarity — as if it were a new thing — at the dishevelled head of one’s fellow-creature, we set foot on board the African steamship Spartan at 1 p.m. We had still two hours in the Mersey, so we formed a little knot on deck, and those who knew Richard gathered around us. There was much joking as to the dirty weather we should meet outside (how dirty we of the land little guessed), and as to Admiral Fitzroy’s “biggest storm that was ever known,” as duly announced in the Times, for the 30th, which we were to meet in “the Bay of Biscay, O!” There were pleasant speculations as to how I should enjoy my dinner, whether ham and eggs would become my favourite nourishment, and so forth. At 2:30 p.m. we nearly ran into a large brig; the steamer was in the pilot’s charge, but our captain coming on deck saved us with a close shave. We should certainly have got the worst of it in two seconds more. Of course it was the brig’s fault; she didn’t answer her helm; and, to use the captain’s phrase, the pilot and mate were a little “agitated” when his calm “Put the helm down” made us only slightly graze each other and glide off again. We put on full speed and out to sea, as six bells (three o’clock) told on my landlubber ears. Before four o’clock (dining hour) I had faintly asked the stewardess to help me to shake myself down in my berth, and unpack the few articles I might want during the voyage. I did not dine.

Sunday, 25th, 1 a.m. — It blew a whole gale, with tremendous sea; ship labouring heavily, and shipping very heavy seas on deck; pumps at work. We were making little or no way down Channel, when we suddenly shipped a heavy sea, washing overboard a quartermaster, and sending our captain into the lee scuppers with a sprained wrist. We stopped, and reversed engines, but could not see the poor fellow; and to lower a boat in such a sea was impossible. He was a married man, and had left his wife at Liverpool.

I shall never forget the horrors of that night. Every berth was full; so much so that our captain, with a chivalry and forgetfulness of self which deserves recording in letters of gold, gave up his own cabin to Richard and myself, that we might not be separated an hour sooner than necessity compelled us to be, and encountered the fatigue of his long duties on deck, and the discomforts and anxieties of ten days’ bad weather, with no shelter but a chance berth or the saloon sofa. During that night one tremendous sea stove in the doors of the main cabin, filling the saloon and berths with water. The lights were extinguished; things came unshipped; all the little comforts and treasures were floating at the top, leaving few dry garments out of the “hold,” which would not be opened till our arrival at Madeira. There arose on that confused night a Babel of sounds; strong language from the men-sufferers, conjuring the steward to bring lights, and the weaker sex calling for their protectors, and endeavouring to find them in the dark. One young and pretty little woman, almost a child, recently married, in her fright rushed into the saloon in her nightdress, calling for her husband. A brutal voice answered her in the chaos that she need never hope to see him again, for he had “fallen overboard” and was “clinging on outside.” The poor little creature (she was only sixteen) believed the voice, and, with the energy of despair, forced the door of her husband’s cabin, and there she remained with him, and ere long had an epileptic fit, and also another during the first ten days, doubtless accelerated by this act of brutality. I regret to say it was committed by a naval officer who was tipsy. Another sonorous voice bid us “die like Christians”; but I don’t think that was any sentiment of the speaker’s. Ever and anon the dismal scene was interlarded with “short and crisp” sentences, not comforting, such as, “We can’t live long in such a sea as this”; “We’re going to the bad”; “Won’t the captain put into Holyhead?” “There go the pumps — we’ve seven feet of water in the hold” (when we stopped and reversed, to try and rescue the quartermaster); “The water has got into our engines, and we can’t go on”; “There’s the carpenter hammering — the captain’s cabin is stove in,” etc, etc. A rich lady gave the stewardess £5 to hold her hand all night, so the rest of us poorer ones had to do without that matron’s ministrations.

I crawled to my cabin, and, as I lay there trembling and sea-sick, something tumbled against the door, rolled in, and sank on the floor. It was the tipsy naval officer. I could not rise, I could not shut the door, I could not tug him out; so I lay there. When Richard, who was lending a hand at the pumps, had finished his work, he crawled along the decks till he got to the cabin, where the sea had swamped through the open door pretty considerably. “Hullo! What’s that?” he said. I managed faintly to ejaculate, “The tipsy naval officer.” He picked him up by the scruff of the neck, and, regardless of consequences, he propelled him with a good kick behind all down the deck, and shut the door. He said, “The captain says we can’t live more than two hours in such a sea as this.” At first I had been frightened that I should die, but now I was only frightened that I shouldn’t, and I uttered feebly, “Oh, thank God it will be over so soon!” I shall never forget how angry he was with me because I was not frightened, and gave me quite a sermon.

On Thursday, the 29th, we skirted the Bay of Biscay, and the ship rolled heavily. I was very much impressed by the grandeur of the gigantic billows of the Atlantic while skirting the Bay, not short, chopping waves, such as I had seen in the Channel and Mediterranean, but more like the undulations of a prairie, a high rising ground surrounding you at a distance, and, while you are in its depression, shutting out all from your view, until the next long roller makes you reverse the position, and feel “monarch of all you survey,” or, rather, liken yourself to a midge in a walnut shell — so deeply are you impressed by the size and force of the waves, the smallness of yourself and ship, and the magnitude of the Almighty power. About four o’clock the sea grew more and more inky, and it was evidently brewing up for Admiral Fitzroy’s storm, which soon came and lasted us till Saturday; and those who had ventured to raise their heads from their sea-sick pillows had to lay them down again.

Saturday, 31st. — We had been a week at sea, and for the first time it began to get fine and enjoyable. We were due this day at Madeira; but on account of the gales delaying us, it was not possible that we should land before Monday. The next day, Sunday, was truly pleasant. Our passengers were a curious mixture. Out of the seven ladies on board, two were wives of Protestant missionaries, excellent men, who had done good service of their kind at Sierra Leone and Abeokuta, and were returning with young and pretty wives. The thirty-two men passengers were of all kinds — military, naval, official, clergymen, invalids, five black people, and “Coast Lambs,” as the palm-oil merchants are ironically termed. We formed a little knot of a picked half-dozen at the top of the table, and “feeding time” was the principal event of the day.

A laughable incident occurred one day on board at dinner. There was a very simple-minded Quaker, with a large hat, who had evidently been browsing on the heather in the north all his life, and on this occasion a fine plum-pudding, swimming in lighted brandy, was put upon the table at second course. The poor Quaker had never seen this dish before, and in a great state of excitement he exclaimed, “Oh, my God! the pudding’s on fire!” and clapped his large hat over the pudding, and put it out, amidst roars of laughter, which had to be explained to him when his fright was over. After dinner we formed whist parties. In fine weather cushions and railway-rugs covered the deck, and knots of loungers gathered under gigantic umbrellas, reading or talking or working, and also in the evening moonlight, when the missionaries chanted hymns. On Sunday there was Protestant service in the saloon, and those of other faiths did their private devotions on deck.

Monday morning, February 2. — We dropped our anchor a quarter of a mile from the town of Funchal. We rose at six, had a cup of coffee, packed up our water-proof bags, and went on deck to get a first glimpse of Madeira. A glorious sight presented itself, producing a magical effect upon the cold, wet, dirty, sea-sick passenger who had emerged from his atrocious native climate but ten days before. Picture to yourself a deep blue sky, delicately tinted at the horizon, not a cloud to be seen, the ocean as blue as the Mediterranean. There was a warm sun, and a soft and sweet-smelling breeze from the land, as of aromatic herbs. Arising out of the bosom of the ocean in splendour, a quarter of a mile off, but looking infinitely less distant, were dark mountain masses with fantastic peaks and wild, rugged sides, sharply defined against the sky and streaked with snow, making them resemble the fanciful castles and peaks we can imagine in the clouds. The coast to the sea is thick with brilliant vegetation; dark soil — basalt and red tufa are its colours — with the variegated green of fir, chestnut, dark pine forests, and the gaudy sugar-cane. Here and there a belt of firs runs up a mountain, winding like a serpent, and is its only ornament. Wild geraniums, and other flowers which only grow in a hot house in England, and badly too, are in wild luxuriance here. The island appears to be dotted everywhere with churches, villas, and hamlets — little gardens and patches of trees intermingled with them. There are three immense ravines, deep and dark; and these with all the pleasant additions of birds, butterflies, and flowers of every sort and colour, a picturesque, good-humoured peasantry busy on the beach, and a little fleet of fishing-boats, with their large white lagoon sails, like big white butterflies on the blue water. Most of the capes are immense precipices of rock.

The Bay of Funchal, Madeira

Nestling at the foot of this mountain amphitheater, and washed by the bay, straggling lengthways and up and down, is Funchal, with its brilliant white houses and green facings glittering in the sun. You almost wonder whether your last unpleasant three months in England and your ten days’ voyage had been reality; whether you had not been supping upon cold fish, and had just awakened from a clammy nightmare to a day such as the Almighty meant our days to be, such was one’s sense of vitality and immense power of enjoyment at the change.

The landing was great fun, the running of the boats upon the beach being very difficult in a heavy surge. Richard and I managed to land, however, without a wetting, and went to the hotel.

When we had unpacked, eaten, and bathed, and had begun to shake off the désagrémens of our bad voyage, we had time to enjoy a pleasant, lazy day, lounging about, and luxuriating in our happy change from England and the ship. Later on in the day there was a little mist over the mountains, like the soft muslin veil thrown over a beautiful bride, shading her brilliant beauty, greatly to her advantage, leaving a little of it to the imagination. I beg a bride’s pardon. How could there be a bride without a Brussels lace veil? Shall I change the simile to that of a first communicant, and compare the belt of white thin cloud below the mountains, and that delicate mist, which throws such enchanting shadows on the mountain-sides and precipices, to the “dim religious light” of the sunset hour, when the lamp is replenished? For the sun is setting, and bathes the sea and coast in a glorious light, deepens the shade of the ravines, and shows off the dark, luxuriant foliage.

I can only venture upon describing a few of the excursions we were able to make during our stay at Madeira.

We started one fine morning in a boat with four oars and rowed from Funchal, coasting along near the cliff to Machico, which is twelve miles. Our men were chatty and communicative, and informed us that the devil came there at night when they were out fishing (I suppose originally the ingenious device of a smuggler); and their superstition was genuine. We had two hours of rough walking, when we arrived at Machico, and marched through the town with a hundred followers, all clamouring for money. We rejoined our boat at 4 p.m., in the greatest clatter of talk and laugh I ever heard. Our sailors, elated by two shillings’-worth of bad wine, were very chatty and vocal. We put up a sail, but there was not breeze enough to fill it. We chatted and read alternately; watched the beautiful hour that struggles between day and night — beautiful to the happy, and much to be dreaded to the desolate. The setting sun bathed the dark basalt and red tufa cliffs in his red and purple glory. The straggling white town glittered in the clear and brilliant light, with its dark green background. The mountain-edges were sharp against the clear, soft sky. That indescribable atmosphere which blackens the ravines and softens all the other beauties came over the island. The evening star was as large and brilliant as the Koh-i-noor; and the full moon, rising gradually from behind Cape Garajão, poured its beams down the mountain, and threw its track upon the sea. As we neared Funchal the aromatic smell of the land was wafted toward us, and with it a sound of the tinkling of bells; and a procession of torches wound like a serpent out of a church on a rock overhanging the sea. It was the Blessed Sacrament being carried to a dying man.

Our second boat excursion was to Cape Giram, a cliff some two thousand feet high, with the appearance of having been originally a high hill, cut in two by some convulsion of Nature. There was a lovely waterfall, and its silvery foam absolutely looked artificial, like the cascade of a theatre, as it streamed incessantly down a bed of long grass of a very pretty green, which it seemed to have made for itself to course down. I had no idea of the height; but having suddenly exclaimed to Richard, who was my maître-d’armes, “I wish I had brought my pistols with me, I should like to pick off those two gulls,” to my horror, our boatman hailed somebody, and a small voice echoed back. The “gulls” were two Portuguese peasants gathering herbs for their cow.

Our last expedition, and best, was to Pico Arriere, the second highest point in the island. We had wished very much to ascend the highest, but that involved the six days’ excursion, which we could not do; so we resolved to try the second, faute de mieux, which could be done without sleeping out. With the usual horses and guides we started from Funchal, and proceeded to ascend.

After an hour and a half we come to a little eminence, and the rough work is going to commence. The air begins to change wonderfully. The horizon now assumes the punch-bowl shape; and I, standing on one side of the imaginary basin, but not quite so high as the rim, describe my impressions. Behind and above us were the peaks, around us the mountains clad with forests; a fine, bold shore, with its high basalt and tufa cliffs; a long way below us the quintas, gardens, farms, thatched huts, little patches of sugar-cane of an enchanting green, fields looking very small, dwarf plains, watercourses, cascades, channels, and deep, abrupt ravines; the beautiful little town at the bottom of the basin, and the roadstead; the open sea, with white sails glittering on the blue water, appears to be running up the other side; the Desertas seemingly hanging midway between heaven and earth; and crowned by a glorious sky, warm sun, pure air, and sea-breeze. I feel so glad, I could shout Hallelujah for joy. The horses have breathed while I made these mental notes, and now we start again on the hard and broken road, which seems interminable. The horses don’t like the cold, nor the men either. We do! (We have been some time in the snow, which descends to the unusual depth of three thousand feet.) The horses make a stand, and we dismount and walk (it appeared an immense way) till the road ceases and the actual mountain ascent begins. One guide wraps his head up in a red silk handkerchief, and will go no farther; the other sulks, and says it is dangerous — the path is lost, and we shall fall into drifts; but finding us resolved, Sulks consents to go, and Red Cap stops, shivering, with the horses, which are rearing and kicking, for the cold makes them playful.

So, pike in hand, Richard and I and Sulks begin the ascent, which lasts about one hour and a half — through two feet of snow, with several falls on my part, and sometimes crawling on hands and knees — during which, however, we could see Sta. Anna and the sea at the other side, and many of the mountains and gorges. When nearly at the top, we saw, with horror, thick black clouds rolling up to envelop us, travelling fast, and looking like a snowstorm. At last, when we were 5,593 feet high, only 300 feet below the summit of the Pico, which is 5,893 feet, there came a mighty wind. We threw ourselves down to prevent being blown off, and then the clouds rolled in upon us, and shut off all view of the Pico and our way, so that it was difficult to proceed without incurring danger of accidents. We scrambled to a projection of rock (the only thing we could see), and sat on it; and from our canteen, which had been slung to Sulks, we ate our lunch, and iced our claret; and when we had finished we agreed to grope our way slowly down. We managed it (often in a sitting position), occasionally making some false step for want of being able to see; we had no feeling in our hands and feet. We found Red Cap eventually, who had moved down to warmer latitudes, and was sulking and shivering, more so because, as he declined going, he forfeited his lunch, drink, and cigarette. We walked back until at some distance above the Mount church (feeling warmer and drier every moment as we descended), where we mounted and resumed those delightful baskets. The excursion occupied about seven and a half hours.

The time came all too soon for us to leave Madeira, and on March 4 we embarked for Santa Cruz, Teneriffe, whence alarming reports of yellow fever had reached our ears. By the same boat on which we had embarked came letters and papers from home. My news from home was very sad. My dear mother, who, though in weak health, had come down to Liverpool to see us off, and who bore up bravely till the last, had just time, after wishing us good-bye, to get back to Garswood (Uncle Gerard’s), when the attack of paralysis, so long threatened, came upon her. Fortunately there was no immediate danger, but the news was a great shock to me. I spent the day apart from the rest, who were merry unto noisiness; and I was right glad when tea-time rang all hands below, and I occupied a quiet corner on deck, where I could shed my tears unseen, and enjoy my favourite twilight hour.

The sky was clear, with a rough sea, over which the white horses predominated. Men-of-war and fishing-boats were at anchor around us. The sun had just set; the evening star’s pale light was stealing over us. Presently the full moon rose behind Cape Garajâo. I bade good-bye to Madeira and every object with regret, straining my eyes from right to left, up and down, and all around, not from any silly sentiment, but because I always feel a species of gratitude to a place where I have been happy. The black and red cliffs, the straggling town, the sugar-canes, gardens, forests, flowers, the mountain-peaks and ravines — each separate, well-known object received its adieu.

I knew when I saw Madeira again it would be under far less happy circumstances. I should be alone, on my way back to England, and my beloved Richard at deadly Fernando Po. This fading, fairy panorama of Madeira, which had once made me so happy, now saddened me; and the last track of moonlight, as it poured its beams down the mountains on the water, saw some useless tears.

19 The chapters on Madeira and Teneriffe are compiled from manuscripts which Lady Burton wrote on her return from Teneriffe in 1863, but which her husband would not allow her to publish.

Chapter III



I went up into the infinite solitudes. I saw the sunrise gleaming on the mountain-peaks. I felt myself nearer the stars — I seemed almost to be in sympathy and communion with them.


The first sight of Santa Cruz (where we arrived next morning) is disappointing. When you see it from the deck of your ship, looking from right to left, you see a red, brown, and yellow coast, barren grey mountains, and ravines. The mountains, being exposed to much wind, present the most curious, harsh, and fantastic outline against the sky. These are called Passo Alto (a child would guess their volcanic origin); they are wide irregular masses of rock, as desolate and savage as can be imagined. Close to the water is a flat, whitewashed town, which always looks in a white heat. The only two high buildings are churches. The town bristled with cannon near the sea. The mountains, which are close to the town on the right, and shut it off, were covered with round, bushy, and compact green splotches, which were in reality good-sized fig trees. Behind the town is a steep rising mountain, with a good winding road; to the left of it is a regiment of windmills drawn up in line, as if waiting for Don Quixote; and in the distance, still on the left, and extending away from you, are masses of mountains, and hanging over them is a little haze in the sky, which might be a little woolly cloud, sugar-loaf in shape, which you are told is the Peak of Teneriffe. The sky, the sea, the atmosphere are perfect, and far surpassing Madeira. Most exhilarating is the sensation thereof. The island, saving one pass, is covered with small barren hills, some of them conical, some like Primrose Hill, only much bigger, which are, I am told, the small disturbances of volcanoes.

These were my first impressions as we were rowed to a little quay in a little boat, and a dozen boys took our dozen packages; and a small walk brought us to Richardson’s Hotel, as it was, a funny, old, broken-down place, with a curious interior, an uncomfortable picturesque remnant of Spanish-Moorish grandeur and style, better to sketch than to sleep and feed in. There was a large patio, or courtyard, and a broad carved oak staircase, and tiers of large balconies to correspond, running all round the interior of the house, into which galleries the rooms open. Green creepers covered the roof and balcony, and hung over, falling into the patio, giving it an ancient and picturesque look, like an old ruin. Rita, a peasant woman, came out to wait upon me, in a long white mantilla, topped by a black felt Spanish wide-awake, a comfortable-looking woman, but neither young nor pretty. The food was as poor and ancient as the hotel, and the servants to match. I could imagine the garlicked sausages to have been a remnant left in a mouldy cupboard by some impoverished hidalgo of a hundred years back.

Richard wanted to pass a few days here, but I suggested that, as the yellow fever was raging, and as Santa Cruz and all round could be seen in three or four days, we should do it on return, and meantime seek some purer abode, lest a yellow-fever bed or infected baggage should lay us low; so we voted for Laguna, or rather San Christoval de la Laguna, a large town fifteen hundred feet above sea-level, and consequently above fever-range; and we ordered the hotel carriage at once.

The vehicle was the skeleton of the first vehicle that was ever made — perhaps the one Noah provided in the Ark to drive his family down Mount Ararat when it became dry — no springs, windows, blinds, lining, or anything save the actual wood; three mules abreast, rope, reins and driver all ancient to match. We found a crowd of men wringing their hands at the amount of small baggage to be packed away in it, swearing they could not and would not try to put it in. Always leave these men to themselves. After loud vociferation, swearing, and quarrelling, they packed it beautifully, and we were stowed away on the top of it, and rattled out of the town at a good pace, up a winding road, ascending the steep country behind Santa Cruz towards Laguna. As we rose higher we had a splendid view of the sea, and the white flat town with its two solitary towers lay at our feet. The winding road was propped up with walls to prevent landslip; the mountains looked wild and rugged; the weather was perfect. We met troops of pretty peasants with heavy loads, and every here and there a picturesque chapel or hermitage.

Our drive was pleasant enough, and I think at about 3 p.m. we were driving hard up and down the old Noah’s-Ark-town called San Christoval de la Laguna. We drove to three inns. Number one was not possible. Number two, something like it; where they were going to put us into the same room (perhaps the same bed — who knows?) with a sick man (maybe a convalescent yellow-feverist). We held a parley and consultation. Was it possible to go on ? No, neither now nor to-morrow; for the new road was being made, the old one broken up, and the coach (which, by-the-way, was the name given to a twin vehicle such as ours) was not allowed to run farther than Sausal, three miles off, from which we had twelve miles more to accomplish in order to reach the valley and town of Orotava — the El Dorado, and deservedly so, of Teneriffe. We did not like to descend again into the heat and pestilence of Santa Cruz. Moreover, we had made up our minds (not knowing Laguna) to pass a week there, and had ordered our muleteers to bring up and deposit our baggage there.

The coachman thought he knew of another house where we might get a room. So we drove to the “forlorn hope,” which looked as bad as the rest, and were at first refused. The patio was a ruin, full of mud and broken plantains, the village idiot and the pig huddled up in one corner. In fact, the whole house was a ruin, and the inevitable carved-wood balcony looked like tawdry finery on it. The landlady was the most fiendish-looking old woman I have ever seen, with sharp, bad, black eyes. She exchanged some words in a whisper with three or four ruffianly looking men, and said that she could let us have a room, but only one. Richard went up to inspect it, and while he was gone, and I was left alone, the village idiot worried and frightened me. Our quarters consisted of a small barnlike room with raftered ceiling, a floor with holes big enough to slip your foot through into the courtyard, whitewashed walls, and a small latticed window about two feet square near the ceiling. It was filthy, and contained two small paillasses full of fleas, two hard kitchen chairs, and a small kitchen table. For safety, we had all our baggage brought up. We asked for a light, and they gave us a rushlight, growling all the time because we did not find the light of a dim oil-lamp in the passage enough, and bread sufficient nourishment; but we clamoured for supper.

After three hours’ preparation, during which we were inspected by the whole band of ruffians composing the establishment, and after loud, bewildering chatter about what should become of us on the morrow, we were asked with much pomp and ceremony into the kitchen. We could not both go at once, as there was no key to our door, and the baggage was unsafe. Richard was not away five minutes, but returned with an exclamation of disgust, threw himself on the paillasse, lit a cigar, and opened a bottle of Santa Cruz wine we had brought with us. I then started, and found it necessary to hold the light close to the ground, in order not to put my feet through the holes, or fall on the uneven boarding of the gallery. In a dirty kitchen, on a dirty cloth, was a pink mess in a saucer, smoking hot (which, if analysed, would have proved to be eggs, beetroot, garlic, and rancid oil), stale bread, dirty rancid butter, looking like melted tallow-grease; and what I thought was a large vinegar-cruet, but in reality a bottle of wine, completed the repast. I tried to eat, but, though starved, soon desisted. When I returned to my room, Pepa, the dirty handmaiden — who was always gaping into the streets for excitement (which was not to be found in Laguna), but who proved more good-tempered and honest than her mistress — followed me, and, looking nervously around, put a large key into my hand, and told me to lock my door at night. I did not need a second hint, but also piled up the baggage and kitchen chairs and table against what looked to me like a second suspicious door, opening out on leads and locked outside. I then got out our arms — two revolvers and three bowie-knives — loaded the former, and put one of each close to our hands ready. Sleep was out of the question for me on account of the fleas, which were legion; but I experienced nothing of a more alarming nature.

We were up betimes, and clamouring to get on to Orotava. They naturally wished to keep us, and so they invented every excuse. They all spoke loudly and at once. “The public coach was engaged by a private gentleman for several days; there were no horses or mules to be had for some time” (they would almost have told us there was no hotel at Orotava, if they had dared); “the yellow fever raged everywhere except at Laguna, which was above its range.” “Well, then,” we said, “under all these circumstances we would walk.” Now they never walk themselves, and a woman doing such a thing was incredible. They said, ”He might walk; but what about the Señora and the baggage ?” Seeing, finally, that we were determined, and offered good pay, the driver of the vehicle agreed to drive us three miles farther on to Sausal, and to furnish us with several mules for our baggage; but no riding, mules, never thinking that we should accept such a proposition. To their surprise, we closed with it at once. They tried a last dodge in the shape of charging us the exorbitant price of five dollars, or £1, for our atrocious night’s lodging and mess of eggs, and we gave it cheerfully. When we went to pack up, we discovered that, although we had been there but fifteen hours, and had never left the room at the same time without locking our door and taking the key, they had contrived to steal our best bowie-knife, but had touched nothing else. It were better to leave gold than a knife in the way of a Spaniard. We would not even stay to dispute this.

We finally started in the “coach,” in high glee, through the melancholy streets, up a rising country, grand and hilly, and over a good road. Richard said that it was a most interesting mountain-pass, for reasons which were rather au-dessus de ma portée; and as I have no doubt of it, I will describe the trifles.

The chief travellers on this road were muleteers, picturesque men in blankets and sombreros, sitting on comfortable-looking and heavily laden pack-saddles, walking or galloping, and singing in a peculiar Moorish roulade, and smoking their little paper cigarillos. The only difference that I could see between them and a Spanish gentleman was, that the latter’s mule was better bred and went a faster pace, and he had, in place of the blanket, a black cloak, with perhaps a bit of red sash or binding. Pretty peasant women, with a sturdy yet graceful walk and undulating figures, went by. They wore white flannel mantillas, topped by a sombrero, and carried enormous weights on their heads, and sang and chattered, not at all distressed by their burthens. We passed all the scenes of historical interest in our passage through the island. Our coach arrived finally at Sausal. Our aneroid marked nineteen hundred feet at the highest part of our drive through the pass. Here we dismounted, and the coach waited for an hour to see what passengers it might pick up.

We were in a very peculiar position, quite by ourselves (without even a servant), at a wayside house of refuge on a mountain-side, beyond which precincts no vehicle went at this time, and where it was impossible to remain, and without knowing a soul in the island. Luckily Richard spoke the language well. Still, we did not exactly know where we were going. We had an indistinct wish to go to Orotava; but where it was, or how distant at that moment, we knew not; nor did we know, when we got there, if we should find any accommodation, and if not, how we should be able to get back, or whether we should have to pass the night out of doors. Yet it was the happiest moment of my life. I had been through two mortally dull years (without travel), in commonplace, matter-of-fact Old England, where one can’t get into a difficulty. Independently of this, our baggage — some twenty-five packages — was scattered all over the place on mule-back, some coming up from Santa Cruz, some from Laguna, and the smaller ones with us. They would not know what had become of us. And how were we to rid ourselves of-those we had with us? We saw several handsome, proud, lazy-looking fellows, in blankets, sleeping about, outside the cottage, and asked them if, for a couple of dollars, they would carry these, and walk with us to show us the way? Not a bit of it! They did not want to earn two dollars (8s. 4d.) at such a price! They have nothing, and want nothing but sleep and independence. At last a party of muleteers came by. Richard explained our difficulties, and one good-natured old fellow put our small traps on the top of his pack, and we left orders at the house of refuge with the girl that any mules passing by laden with an Englishman’s luggage were to come on to Orotava, and then commenced our walk. And an uncommonly pretty, pleasant walk it was. This path was only fit for mules; and the continuation of the good road we could not enter upon, on account of the people at work, and incessant blasting.

At the end of four hours a mere turn in the road showed us the tropical valley in all its beauty, and the effect was magical: the wealth of verdure and foliage, wild flowers, and carolling birds of pretty plumage. A horseshoe-shaped range of mountains shuts out the Vale of Orotava from the rest of the world, enclosing it entirely, except where open to the sea and its cool breezes; and we gradually wound down under its eastern range, sloping to the beach.

A boy guide met us, and led us through many a winding, paved street of Orotava, till the trickling of the mountain stream reached our ears; and then, following its course, he brought us to the door of our fonda gobea, or inn, which, from its outward appearance, charmed me inexpressibly. It is an ancient relic of Spanish-Moorish grandeur — the palace of a defunct Marchesa — a large building, of white stone, whitewashed over, built in a square, the interior forming the patio, or courtyard. Verandahed balconies run all around it inside, in tiers of dark carved wood, and outside windows, or wooden doors, empanelled, and with old coats of arms above them. These open on to balconies of the same. There is a flat roof, with garden or terrace at the top. The inside balconies form the passage. All the rooms open into the side next the house; the other looks into the court. We were very weary and dusty as we entered the patio. The amo, or master, made his appearance, and, much to our chagrin, conducted us to a room very much like the one we left at Laguna. I will not say that our spirits fell, for we looked at each other and burst out laughing; it was evident that the Canaries contained no better accommodation; but people who go in for travelling laugh at the discomforts that make others miserable; so, with a glance at an upper skylight, a foot square, we agreed that it would be a capital place for work, in the way of reading, writing, and study.

While Richard was settling something, and drinking a cup of coffee, I asked the amo to let me inspect the house, and see if I could not find better accommodation; but he assured me that every nook and cranny was occupied. I explored an open belvedere at the top of the house, a garret half occupied by a photographer in the daytime, and the courtyard, and was going back in despair, when I came upon a long, lofty, dusty, deserted-looking loft, with thirty-two hard, straight-backed kitchen chairs in it. I counted them from curiosity.

“What,” I asked, “is this?”

“Oh,” he replied, “we call this the sala, but no one ever comes into it; so we use it as a lumber-room, and the workwomen sit here.”

“Will you give me this?” I asked again.

“Willingly,” he replied, looking nevertheless as surprised as if I had asked to sleep in the courtyard; “and, moreover, you can run over the house, and ask Bernardo [a peasant servant] to give you whatever furniture you may choose.”

I was not long in thanking him and carrying his offer into execution. Bernardo and I speedily fraternized, and we soon had the place broomed and aired. It had evidently been the ballroom or reception-room of the defunct Marchesa in palmy days. Stone walls painted white, a wood floor with chinks in it, through which you could see the patio below, and through which “brave rats and mice" fearlessly came to play; a raftered wood ceiling with a deep carved cornice (through the holes above the children overhead subsequently pelted us with nuts and cheese); three chains, with faded blue ribbons, suspended from the lofty ceiling, whereon chandeliers had evidently hung. Three carved-wood doors (rusty on their hinges) opened on to a verandah balcony, from which we had a splendid view. The hotel opened sideways, on the hillside, on to a perpendicular street, with a mountain torrent dashing down it beneath the windows. To the left, above, was the mountain range of Tigayga; to the right was the town, or villa; and below, and sideways to the right, was the cultivated valley, and the sea stretching broadly away, and, when clear, we could see the white cone — the immortal Peak. One double door, of cedar wood, opened on to the balcony overhanging the patio; and one more into another room, which I had subsequently to barricade against an inquisitive old lady, who wanted to see if English people bathed and ate like Teneriffians.

Such was the aspect of the loft after a brooming. I then routed out an old screen, and ran it across the room, dividing it into two, thereby enabling the amo to charge me for bedroom and sitting-room In the bedroom half I ran two straw paillasses together for a bed; two little primitive washstands, capable of containing a pint of water; and two tiny tables of like dimensions for our toilet. My next difficulty was to rig up a bath and a stove. Hunting about, I found a large wine-wash, as tall as myself. I rolled it in, and ordered it to be filled every day with sea water. The drawing-room contained two large kitchen tables (one for Richard’s writing, one to dine on), and a smaller one for my occupations, a horsehair sofa, a pan of charcoal, kettles, and pots for hot water, tea, eggs, and minor cooking.

Presently mule after mule began to arrive with the baggage; not a thing was missing. I divided the thirty-two hard-backed kitchen chairs between the two apartments. For want of drawers or wardrobe we kept most things in our trunks, hanging dresses, coats, and dressing-gown over the screen and chairs in lieu of wardrobe. Books, writing, and instruments strewed the whole place. I was delighted with my handiwork. We had arrived at seven, and at nine I went to fetch my philosophic husband, who had meanwhile got a book, and had quietly sat down, making up his mind for the worst. He was perfectly delighted with the fine old den, for we had good air, light, a splendid view, lots of room, and good water, both fresh and salt; and here we intended to pass a happy month — to read, write, study, chat, walk, make excursions, and enjoy ourselves.

Saturday, March 21, 1863. — Of course we could not rest until we had “done” the Peak. We were in our saddles at nine. Our little caravan consisted of six persons and four animals — Richard and myself mounted on good horses, two mules laden with baggage, one guide, and three arrieros, or muleteers. Our distance varied (by different reports) between eighteen and thirty-two miles, from the Villa d’Orotava to the top of the great Peak and back; and by the route we returned from choice — a longer, varied, and more difficult one — I dare say it was nearer the latter mark, and our time was thirty-five hours.

We clattered up the streets, and went out by a pretty road, studded with villages, gardens, cottages, barrancos, and geraniums falling in rich profusion over the walls into the main road. We turned abruptly from this road up the stony side of the Barranco de San Antonio, and proceeded through cultivated fields, but ever winding by the barranco, which becomes deeper and deeper. Here rushes a fierce mountain torrent. The stone at the sides is scooped as smoothly by its impetuous rush as a knife would carve a cake of soap, and you hear the rebounding in the gigantic caverns, which present all the appearance of being excavated by an immense body of water. On the borders of this mass of stone and of rushing waters, startling caverns, and mysterious rumblings, the edges were bound with rich belts of chestnut trees, wild flowers of every sort, myrtle and rosemary, looking as placid as in a garden; and you do not expect to be awestruck — as you are — when you look into the depth of the ravine, into which you might have taken a step too far, deceived by the treacherous borders, if the strange sounds below had not induced you to look down. We were now about two thousand five hundred feet above the sea.

We ascended a very jagged and rough mountain, like a barranco, ever ascending, and came upon a beautiful slope of forest of mixed bay and broom. The soil, however, is a mass of loose stones as we wind through the forest, and again emerge on another barren, jagged, and stony mountain, like the one before the forest. It is now eleven o'clock, and we are four thousand five hundred feet above the sea, and the men ask for a halt. The valley rises like a hanging garden all the way till you come to the first cloud and mist, after which are no more houses; the mist rests upon the woods, and ascends and descends for about the space of a league. We had now just got to the clouds. They usually descend to this distance, and, except on very clear days, hang there for several hours in the day — if not all day — shutting out the upper world of mountains like a curtain, though above and below it all may be clear. We dismounted in a thick, misty cloud, and looked about us, leaving the men to eat, drink, and breathe the animals.

The whole of our ascent appeared to me to be like ascending different mountains, one range higher than another, so that when you reached the top of one you found yourself unexpectedly at the foot of another; only each varies as to soil: stones, vegetation; stones, cinders, stones.

At one o’clock we passed the last vegetation, six thousand five hundred feet, with a shady clearing under the retornas, which our men told us was the Estancia della Cierra — the first station. The thermometer in shade was at 60’. Here we unloaded the mules, and tied them to the bushes, upon which they fed. We ate, drank, the men smoked, and then we reloaded and remounted, and soon emerged from the last vegetation, and entered upon Los Cañadas, through a gap, by the gate of Teora — a natural portico of lava. Here we ceased ascending for some time, the Cañadas being a sandy plain, extending fifteen miles in circumference round the base of the Peak. Richard wished to build him a house in this his peculiar element, wanted a good gallop, and all sorts of things. The hot sun literally rained fire, pouring down upon our heads and scorching the earth, and blistering our faces, hands, and lips, as if it spitefully begrudged us our pleasant excursion and boisterous spirits. There was water nowhere.

The Peak of Teneriffe, From the Vale of Orotava

We rode along the plain laughing and chattering, and presently began to ascend again the same soil as on the plain, but steepening and more bleak and barren, with not a sign of life or vegetation. We came to the mountain, and put our poor beasts to the steep ascent, breasting the red pumice bed and thick bands of detached black blocks of lava. The soil, in fact, consists of loose pumice stones sprinkled with lava and broken bits of obsidian. Our animals sank knee-deep, and slid back several yards; and we struggled upwards after this fashion for three-quarters of an hour, when we came to a little flat space on the right, with blocks of stone partially enclosing it, but open overhead and to one side.

This was the second station, called the Estancia de los Ingleses, nine thousand six hundred feet above the sea; temperature 16’, only accessible on the south-eastern side. Here we gladly dismounted, after eight hours’ ride.

The arrieros unpacked and dismantled their beasts, let the mules roll, and put all four in shelter with their nosebags, and then went in search of fuel. Richard went off to take observations; and I saw him with pleasure enjoying the indescribable atmospheric charm under the rose-pink blush of the upper sky. I knew mine was Martha’s share of the business, and that I had better look sharp; so I unpacked our panniers, and made the estancia ready for the night. In less than an hour our beds were made comfortable, and composed of railway-rugs, coats, and cloaks. There were two roaring fires, and tea and coffee; and spread about were spirits, wine, fowls, bread, butter, hard eggs, and sausages. We could have spent a week there very comfortably; and we sat round our camp-fire warming ourselves, eating, and talking over the day. The men brought out hard eggs, salt fish, and prepared gofia — the original Guanche food — which is corn roasted brown, then pounded fine, and put into a kid-skin bag with water and kneaded about in the hand into a sort of cake. They were immensely surprised at a sharp repeater which I had in my belt, and with which we tried to shoot a raven; but he would not come within shot, though we tried hard to tempt him with a chicken’s leg stuck upon a stick at a distance.

We read and wrote till seven o’clock, and then it grew darker and colder, and I turned in, i.e. rolled myself round in the rugs with my feet to the campfire, and did not sleep, but watched. The estancia, or station, was a pile of wild rocks about twenty feet high, open overhead to one side, with a space in the middle big enough to camp in. At the head and down one side of our bed was a bank of snow; two mules were tethered near our heads, but not near enough to kick and bite. The horses were a little farther off. There were two capital fires of retorna wood; and strewed all around were rugs, blankets, and wraps of all sorts, kettles, canteens, bottles, books, instruments, eatables, and kegs. It was dark at seven o’clock. The stars shone brilliantly, but it was only the third night of the moon, so we were badly off for that. But the day had been brilliant, and our only drawback had been that the curtain of clouds had shut out the under-world from us about one o’clock for good and all. Our men consisted of one guide, Manuel, and three arrieros. They lay round the fire in their blankets and black velvet sombreros in careless attitudes. (I did not know a blanket could look so picturesque.) Their dark hair and skins, white teeth, flashing eyes, and handsome features, lit up by the lurid glare of the fire, and animated by the conversation of Richard, to say nothing of the spirits and tobacco with which he made their hearts glad, made a first-rate bivouac scene, a brigand-like group, for they are a fine and hardy race. They held loud and long theological discussions, good-humouredly anathematizing Richard as an infidel, and showed their medals and crosses. He harangued them, and completely baffled them with his Mohammedan logic; and ended by opening his shirt, and showing them a medal and cross like their own — the one I had given him long ago. They looked at each other, shook their fists, laughed, and were beside themselves with excitement. I laughed and listened until the Great Bear went down behind the mountain-side, and then fell fast asleep. The men took it in turns to keep up the fire, while they slept around it. The only sound heard was once or twice the spiteful scream of a mule trying to bite its neighbour, or a log of wood being thrown on the fire; and outside the estancia the silence was so profound as to fully realize “the last man.” The pleasant reminiscences of that night will live in my memory when most other things are forgotten, or trials and sorrows make me temporarily forget to be grateful for past happiness. It was perfect repose and full contentment. The tangled world below was forgotten, and the hand of him whom I cannot dispense with through life was near to clasp mine.

At half-past three o’clock Manuel awoke us. It was a pitch-dark night save the fires. The thermometer at 14’. We got up and crowded on every warm thing possible, made some coffee, using brandy for milk. Now one of the arrieros was to remain behind to look after the fires, beasts, and estancia generally. I mounted my horse, and Richard one of the mules. Our guide went first. One arriero with a pitch-pine torch, and one arriero to return with the animals, made our party to start. At half-past four o’clock we commenced upon what seemed the same kind of thing as the last part of yesterday’s ride — steep, broken pumice, obsidian, and lava — only twenty times more difficult and steep, with an occasional rock-work or snowdrift. We were the first people who had ascended in winter since 1797; and even the guide did not exactly know what might happen for the snow. Manuel went therefore first with a torch; then Richard; then the second torch; then myself on my poor Negro; and, lastly, a third torch. Our poor beasts sank knee-deep, and slid tremendously. Once or twice my steed refused, and appeared to prefer descent to ascent, but fortunately changed his mind, or an inevitable roll to the bottom and broken bones would have been the result. Richard’s mule went into a snowdrift, but emerged, with much pluck, without unseating him. I got a little frightened when it got to the steepest part, and found myself obliged to cling to the mane, for it was too dark, even with torches, to see much. In three-quarters of an hour we came to the highest and third estancia, ten thousand five hundred feet above sea-level, called Estancia de los Allemanes.

Here we dismounted, and our third arriero went down with the animals, while we, pike in hand, began the ascent of the Mal Pais, which is composed of what yesterday I had imagined to be walls of black stone, radiating from the ridge below the cone to the yellow mountain, but which are really very severe lava beds, about thirteen hundred feet high, consisting of immense blocks of lava; some as big as a cottage, and some as small as a football; some loose and rolling, others firm, with drifts of snow between, and piled up almost perpendicularly above you; and when you have surmounted one ridge, and fancy yourself at the top, you find there is another still more difficult, until you have had so many disappointments that you cease to ask. It took me two hours, climbing on my hands and knees, with many rests. First I threw away my pike, then my outer coat, and gradually peeled, like the circus dancers do, who represent the seasons, army and navy, etc., until I absolutely arrived at the necessary blouse and petticoat. As there were no thieves, I dropped my things on the way as I climbed, and they served as so many landmarks on return. Every time we stopped to breathe I was obliged to fill my mouth with snow, and put it on my head and forehead — the sun had blistered me so, and the air was keen. At about 5.30 a.m. a truly soft light, preceding day, took the place of torchlight. The horizon gradually became like a rainbow, with that peculiar effect it always has of being on a level with one, and the world beneath curved like a bowl, which is very striking to a person who is on a great height for the first time. More toil, and we pass the icedrift at our right, and sight the Cone, which looks like a dirty-white sugar-loaf; which, I was told, was a low comparison! Every ten minutes I was obliged to rest; and the guides, after each few moments’ rest, would urge me to a toutine — just a little more — to which I had manfully to make up my mind, though I felt very much fatigued.

At 6 a.m. the guides told us to turn round: a golden gleam was on the sea — the first of the sun; and gradually its edge appeared, and it rose majestically in pure golden glory; and we were hanging between heaven and earth — in solitude and silence — and were permitted to enjoy this beautiful moment. It was Sunday morning, March 22 — Passion Sunday.20 Out of the six souls there, five of us were Catholics, unable to hear Mass. We knelt down, and I said aloud a Paternoster, Ave Maria, and Gloria Patri, and offered to our Lord the hearts of all present with genuine thanksgiving, and with a silent prayer that the one dear to me, the only unbeliever of our small party, might one day receive the gift of faith.

We arose, and continued our now almost painful way, and at 6.45 reached the base of the dirty-white sugar-loaf. Here we breathed; and what had seemed to me to be a ridge from below was a small plain space round the base of the Cone. The thermometer stood at 120’ in the steam, but there was no smell of sulphur till we reached the top. Manuel and Richard start, pike in hand. My muleteer took off his red sash, tied it round my waist, and took the other end over his shoulder, and with a pike in my hand we did the last hard work; and it was very hard after the Mal Pais. The Cone is surrounded, as I have just said, by a little plain base of pumice, and its own soil is broken, fine pumice — out of which, from all parts, issue jets of smoke, which burn you and your clothes: I think I counted thirty-five. We had five hundred and twelve feet more to accomplish, and we took three-quarters of an hour. The top consists of masses of rock; great and small, covered with bright, glistening, yellow sulphur, and frost; and from which issue powerful jets of smoke from the volcano within. Richard helped me up to stand on the corona, the top stone, at 7.40 a.m. It is so narrow there is only room for one person to stand there at once. I stood there a minute or two. I had reached the Peak. I was now, at the outside computation, twelve thousand three hundred feet high.

The guides again suggested a Gloria Patri, in thanksgiving — Richard a cigar. Both were accomplished. The guides had been a little anxious about this first winter attempt. They now told us it had been deemed impossible in Orotava to accomplish it; and as for the Señora, they had said, she could not even reach the second Estancia de los Ingleses, and lo! there she stood on the corona! From where we stood at this moment, it is said that on a clear day the eye can take in the unparalleled distance of eight hundred miles in circumference of ocean, grasping the whole of Teneriffe as from a balloon, and its coast, and the whole fourteen Canaries and coast of Africa. Unfortunately for us, the banks of clouds below were too thick for us to do more than obtain a view of the surrounding mountain-tops and country, and see the crater. The sea we could only behold at a great distance. We spent forty minutes at the top, examining the crater, and looking all around us; during the latter part of which operation, I am sorry to say, I fell fast asleep from sheer fatigue, and was aroused by Richard hallooing to me that my clothes were on fire, which, alas! was too true. I pocketed specimens of obsidian, sulphur, and pumice. It was piercing cold, with a burning sun; and we experienced a nasty, choking, sickening smell of sulphur, which arose in fetid puffs from the many-coloured surface — dead white, purple, dull red, green, and brilliant yellow. A sense of awe stole over me as Richard almost poked his head into the holes whence issued the jets of smoke. I could not help thinking of the fearful catastrophes that had taken place — how eruptions, perhaps from that very hole, had desolated Teneriffe — how, perhaps, it was that which had caused Hanno to say that on the coast of Africa it rained fire; and yet here we were fearlessly poking our heads inquisitively into it. What if this should be the instant of another great convulsion ?

I did not experience any of the sensations described by most travellers on the Peak, such as sickness, pains in the head or inside, or faintness and difficulty of breathing, though the air was rare in the extreme, and although I am of a highly sensitive and nervous temperament, and suffer all this when obliged to lead a sedentary life and deprived of open air and hard exercise. I found my brain clear and the air and height delightfully exhilarating, and could have travelled so for a month with much pleasure. The only inconvenience that I did experience was a sun that appeared to concentrate itself upon me as a focus (as, I suppose, it appeared to do the same to each of us), and a piercing cold and severe wind besides, which combined to heat and yet freeze my head and face, until the latter became like a perfect mask of hard, red skin, likewise my lips and inside of my mouth. My hands, feet, and knees also were torn by the rocks, and I was a little bruised by sleeping on stones; but that was all; and my only difficulty about breathing proceeded from the labour of climbing on hands and feet, and had no connexion with the rarity of the atmosphere; and as we were, I believe, the first winter travellers living who had ascended at that season, we had an excellent opportunity of judging. My guide also told me that I was the only señora who had performed some feat or other; but I could not exactly understand what.

At 8.30 we began the descent, planting our pikes and our heels in the soft stuff, sliding down ten or twelve yards at a time, and arrived in a quarter of an hour at the little plain base. Here we breathed for a few moments, and then started again for the descent of that truly Mal Pais. It was even worse to descend. I only wondered how we got up in the dark without breaking our ankles or legs over those colossal ruins, called the “Hobberings,” of the Peak. Twice twisting my ankle in the loose masses, though not badly, warned me that it was better to take my time than get a bad hurt; and the others were most considerate to me, both going and coming, begging me not to be ashamed to stop as often and as long as I liked. We were therefore two hours coming down, picking up the discarded garments on the way, and inclining a little to the right, to see the ice cave — Cueva de Zelo — which occupied twenty minutes. It is a large cavern in the rock, hung with huge icicles, and covered over with ice inside. We now descended to the place we had mounted on horseback in the night. How the poor beast ever came up it is my astonishment; and I am sure, if it had been daylight, I should have been a great deal more frightened than I was. It was a case of “poling” down on our heels again; and our two guides hailed the two below with a Guanche whistle, which meant “Put the kettle on.”

We reached the next stage at 10.11. I was now rather “done up,” so I drank a bowl of strong green tea, and performed a kind of toilet, etc., under the lee of a rock, taking off the remnants of my gloves, boots, and stockings, and replacing them with others, which I fortunately had taken the precaution to bring; washed, brushed, and combed; dressed a little more tidily; and glycerined my hands, feet, and face. I then wanted to lie down and sleep; but alas! there was no shade except in the snowdrifts; so I tied a wet towel round my head, and erected an umbrella over it, and slept for half an hour, while Richard and the men breakfasted and reloaded. We sent the animals down the remainder of the steep ascent which had taken up our last three-quarters of an hour yesterday — that is, from the estancia where we slept to the commencement of the Cañadas — and we followed on foot, and were down in about half an hour. This is the bottom of the actual mountain out of which the Cone rises. Once more being on almost level ground, we soon passed the desert, fifteen miles in circumference, surrounding the mountain. There were still ranges of mountains and country to descend, below it, to reach Orotava. We accomplished them all after a hot but pleasant ride, broken by rests, and arrived safe home at Orotava at 7 p.m.

We spent a thoroughly happy month at Orotava, in the wilds, amongst the peasantry. No trammels of society, no world, no post, out of civilization, en bourgeois, and doing everything for ourselves, with the bare necessaries of life. All our days were much alike, except excursion days.

We rose at seven, cup of tea, and toilet. Then came my domestic work (Richard had plunged into literature at half-past seven): this consisted of what, I suppose, Shakspeare meant by “chronicling small beer”; but I had no fine lady’s maid to do it for me — she would have been sadly out of place — ordering dinner, market, and accounts, needlework, doing the room, the washing, small cookery on the pan of charcoal, and superintending the roughest of the work as performed by Bernardo. Husbands are uncomfortable without “Chronicle;” though they never see the petit détail going on, and like to keep up the pleasant illusion that it is done by magic. I thought it very good fun, this kind of gypsying. Breakfast at ten, write till two (journals and diaries kept up, etc.), dinner at two; then walk or ride or make an excursion; cup of tea on coming in, literature till ten, with a break of supper at eight, and at ten to bed: a delightfully healthy and wholesome life, both for mind and body, but one which I can’t recommend to any one who cannot rough it, or who has no serious occupation, or lacks a very agreeable companion.

Sometimes, when Richard was busy writing, I would stroll far away into the valley to enjoy the sweet, balmy sea-breeze and smell of flowers, and drink in the soft, clear air, and would get far away from our little straggling, up-and-down town on its perch, and cross over barrancos and ravines and enjoy myself. One day, so occupied, I came upon a lovely quinta in a garden, full of fruits and flowers, a perfect forest of tall rose trees and geranium bushes, which hung over the garden hedge into the path. Two charming old ladies caught me prigging — Los Senhoras T. They came out and asked me in, showed me all over their garden, gave me fruit and sweetmeats and flowers, and kissed me. They did not know what five o’clock tea meant, but I often wandered there about that time, and found a charming substitute in the above articles, and I quite struck up a friendship with them.

We put off leaving our peaceful retreat until the last possible day, when we went down to Santa Cruz. When we had been at Santa Cruz three or four days, the fatal gun boomed — the signal of our separation. It was midday, and there was my detestable steamer at anchor — the steamer by which I was to return to England. I felt as I did when I was a child, and the cab stopped at the dentist’s door. I may pass over this miserable day and our most miserable parting. Richard was going again to pestilential Fernando Po. I should not see him for many, many weary months, and perhaps never again. How gladly would I have gone with him; even to the eleventh hour I had hoped that he would relent and let me go. But the climate was death to a white woman, and he was inexorable. He would not even let me sleep one night at Fernando Po. So we parted, he to his consulate, and I to go back home — which was no home without him. I pass over the pain of that parting. With many tears and a heavy heart I embarked on my steamer for England.

20 On reading through this manuscript with Mr. Wilkins, I am struck with the coincidence that it was on Passion Sunday, March 22, 1896 (thirty-three years later), that my dear sister, Lady Burton, died. — E. Fitzgerald.

Chapter IV

A Trip to Portugal


Containeth Time a twain of days — this of blessing, that of bane;
And holdeth Life a twain of halves — this of pleasure, that of pain.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

On returning to England, a long and dreary interval of fifteen months ensued. Isabel spent it for the most part with her parents in London, working all the time for her husband in one way or another. The separation was broken this time by one or two voyages which she made from England to Teneriffe, where she and her husband met for a space when he could snatch a week or two from Fernando Po. She had one very anxious time; it was when Burton was sent on a special mission to the King of Dahomé, to impress upon that potentate the importance the British Government attached to the cessation of the slave-trade, and to endeavour by every possible means to induce him to discontinue the Dahoman customs, which were abominable cruelties. Burton succeeded in some things, and his dusky majesty took a great fancy to him, and he made him a brigadier-general of his Amazons. When the news of this unlooked-for honour reached Isabel, she became “madly jealous from afar,” for she pictured to herself her husband surrounded by lovely houris in flowing robes mounted on matchless Arab steeds. Burton, however, allayed her pangs by sending her a little sketch of the chief officer of his brigade, as a type of the rest. Even Isabel, who owns that she was influenced occasionally by the green-eyed monster, could not be jealous of this enchantress.

The mission to the King of Dahomé was a difficult and dangerous one; but Burton acquitted himself well. Isabel at home lost no time in bringing her husband’s services before Lord Russell, the Foreign Secretary, and she seized this opportunity to ask for his promotion to a less deadly climate, where she might join him. In reply she received the following letter:

“Minto, October 6, 1863.

“Dear Mrs. Burton,

“I know the climate in which your husband is working so zealously and so well is an unhealthy one, but it is not true to say that he is the smallest of consuls in the worst part of the world. Many have inferior salaries, and some are in more unhealthy places.

“However, if I find a vacancy of a post with an equal salary and a better position, I will not forget his services. I do not imagine he would wish for a less active post.

“He has performed his mission to Dahomé very creditably, to my entire satisfaction.

“I remain, yours truly,


With this answer she was fain to be content for a space.

In August, 1864, the time came round again for Burton’s second leave home. His wife, rejoicing, travelled down to meet him at Liverpool, this time to part no more, as previously. A few weeks after his return they went to Mortlake Cemetery and chose the place for their grave, the very spot where the stone tent now is, beneath which they both are sleeping. Very quickly after that came the British Association meeting at Bath and the tragic incident of Speke's death. 21

Apart from the sad circumstance of Speke’s death, which cast a shadow over their joy, the Burtons passed a very pleasant winter. They stayed at several country houses, as was their wont, and found many hospitable friends glad to receive them, and met many interesting people, notably Professor Jowett. Early in 1864 they went on a two months’ driving tour in Ireland, which they explored by degrees from end to end after their own fashion in an Irish car. They paid many visits en route; and it may be mentioned in passing that Isabel always used to see the little horse which took them over Ireland had his midday feed, washed down by a pint of whisky and water. She always declared that this was what kept him so frisky and fresh! This Irish tour also brings out the restless, roving spirit of both Burton and his wife. Even when on leave at home, and in the midst of civilization, they could never remain any length of time in one place, but preferred to be on the move and rough it in their own fashion. At Dublin they met with an unusual amount of hospitality; and while they were staying in that city Isabel met Lentaigne, the great convict philanthropist. He had such a passion for taking convicts in and trying to reform them that Lord Carlisle once said to him, “Why, Lentaigne, you will wake up some morning and find you are the only spoon in the house.” He took Isabel to see all the prisons and reformatories in Dublin, and endeavoured to arouse in her something of his enthusiasm for their inhabitants. Knowing that she would soon be bound for foreign parts, he implored her to take one with her, a convict woman of about thirty-four, who was just being discharged after fifteen years in prison. “Why, Mr. Lentaigne, what did she do?” asked Isabel. “Poor girl!” he answered — “the sweetest creature! — She murdered her baby when she was sixteen.” “Well,” answered Isabel, “I would do anything to oblige you; but if I took her, I dare say I should often be left alone with her, and at thirty-four she might like larger game.”

It was about this time that the Burtons again represented to Lord Russell how miserable their lives were, in consequence of being continually separated by the deadly climate of Fernando Po. Isabel’s repeated petitions so moved the Foreign Secretary that he transferred Burton to the Consulate of Santos in the Brazils. It was not much of a post, it is true, and with a treacherous climate; but still his wife could accompany him there, and they hailed the change with gratitude. Before their departure a complimentary dinner was given by the Anthropological Society to Burton, with Lord Stanley (afterwards Lord Derby) in the chair. Lord Stanley made a very complimentary speech about the guest of the evening, and the President of the Society proposed Mrs. Burton’s health, and spoke of the “respect and admiration” with which they all regarded her. The dinner was a capital send-off, and the Burtons may be said to have entered upon the second stage of their married life with the omens set fair.

Husband and wife arranged that they should go out to Portugal together for a little tour; that he should go on from there to Brazil; and she should return to London to wind up affairs, and as soon as that was done join him at Rio. In accordance with this programme they embarked at Southampton for Lisbon on May 10, 1865. The passage out was uneventful. Isabel in her journal thus describes their experiences on arriving at Lisbon:

“As soon as our vessel dropped her anchor a crowd of boats came alongside, and there ensued a wonderful scene. In their anxiety to secure employment the porters almost dragged the passengers in half, and tore the baggage from each other as dogs fight for a bone, screaming themselves hoarse the while, and scarcely intelligible from excitement. The noise was so great we could not hear ourselves speak, and our great difficulty was to prevent any one of them from fingering our baggage. We made up our minds to wait till the great rush was over. We sent some baggage on with the steamer, and kept some to go ashore. I am sure I do not exaggerate when I say that, as I sat and watched one bag, I told fifteen men, one after another, to let it alone. We saw some friends go off in the clutches of many fingers, and amid scenes of confusion and excitement; but not caring to do likewise, we chose a boat, and went round to the custom-house. The landing was most disagreeable, and in a bad gale not to be done at all — merely a few dirty steps on the river-side. In wind and pelting rain we walked to our hotel, followed closely at our heels by men and famished-looking dogs. We proceeded at once to the best-looking hotel in the place, the Braganza, which makes some show from the river — a large, square, red building, several storeys high, with tiers of balconies all round the house. On account of the diplomats occupying this hotel on a special mission from England to give the Garter to the King of Portugal, it was still crowded, and we were put up in the garrets at first. After two days we were given a very pleasant suite of rooms — bedroom, dining- and drawing-room — with wide windows overlooking the Tagus and a great part of Lisbon.

“These quarters were, however, not without drawbacks, for here occurred an incident which gave me a foretaste of the sort of thing I was to expect in Brazil Our bedroom was a large whitewashed place; there were three holes in the wall, one at the bedside bristling with horns, and these were cockroaches some three inches long. The drawing-room was gorgeous with yellow satin, and the magnificent yellow curtains were sprinkled with these crawling things. The consequence was that I used to stand on a chair and scream. This annoyed Richard very much. ‘A nice sort of traveller and companion you are going to make,’ he said; ‘I suppose you think you look very pretty and interesting standing on that chair and howling at those innocent creatures.’ This hurt me so much that, without descending from the chair, I stopped screaming, and made a meditation like St. Simon Stylites on his pillar; and it was, ‘That if I was going to live in a country always in contact with these and worse things, though I had a perfect horror of anything black and crawling it would never do to go on like that.’ So I got down, fetched a basin of water and a slipper, and in two hours, by the watch, I had knocked ninety-seven of them into it. It cured me. From that day I had no more fear of vermin and reptiles, which is just as well in a country where nature is over-luxuriant. A little while after we changed our rooms we were succeeded by Lord and Lady Lytton, and, to my infinite delight, I heard the same screams coming from the same room a little while after. ‘There!’ I said in triumph, ‘you see I am not the only woman who does not like cockroaches.’”

The Burtons tarried two months in Portugal, and explored it from end to end, and Isabel made notes of everything she saw in her characteristic way. Space does not permit of giving the account of her Portuguese tour in full, but we are fain to find room for the following descriptions of a bull-fight and procession at Lisbon. Burton insisted on taking his wife (whose loathing of cruelty to animals was intense) to see it, probably to accustom her betimes to the savage sights and sounds which might await her in the semi-civilized country whither they were bound. “At first,” she says, “I crouched down with my hands over my face, but I gradually peeped through one finger and then another until I saw the whole of it.” And this is what she saw:

“On Sunday afternoon at half-past four we drove to the Campo di Sta. Anna, where stands the Praça dos Touros, or Bull Circus, a wooden edifice built in the time of Dom Miguel. It is fitted with five hundred boxes, and can contain ten thousand persons. It is a high, round, red building, ornamented. The circle has a barrier and then a space all round, and a second and higher barrier where the people begin. They were watering the ring when we entered, crackers were fizzing, and the band was playing. At five o’clock the circle was filled.

“A blast from the trumpets announced the entry of the cavalleiro, a knight on a prancing steed richly caparisoned, which performed all the steps and evolutions of the old Spanish horsemanship — i.e. saluting the public and curveting all about in steps. The cavalleiro then announced the deeds to be performed, and this ceremony was called ‘the greeting of the knight.’ Before him marched the bull-fighters, who ranged themselves for inspection in ranks. They were sixteen in number. Eight gallegos were dressed in white stockings to the knee, flesh-coloured tights, green caps lined with red, red sashes, and gay, chintz-patterned jackets, and were armed with long pronged forks like pitchforks, called homens de forçado. They were Portuguese, fit and hearty. Two boys in chocolate-coloured velvet and gold attended as pages, and six Spaniards, who really did all the work, completed the number. They were tall,straight, slim, proud, and graceful, and they strutted about with cool jauntiness. Their dress began with dandy shoes, then flesh-coloured stockings, velvet tights slashed with gold or silver, a scarlet sash, and a short jacket that was a mass of gold or silver, and a sombrero of fanciful make. Their hair was as short as possible, save for a pigtail rolled up like a woman’s back hair and knotted with ribbon. There was one in green and gold, one in pale blue and silver, one in purple and silver, one in dark blue and silver, one in chocolate and silver, and one in maroon and silver. The green and gold was the favourite man, on account of his coolness, jaunty demeanour, and his graceful carelessness. The cavalleiro having inspected them, retired. Another man then came out, the piccador.

“At a fresh blast of the horn the door of the arena flew open, and in rushed a bull. For an instant he stopped, stared wildly round in surprise, and gave a wild roar of rage. Then he made at the horseman, whose duty it was to receive him at full gallop and to plant the barb in his neck before his horns reached the horse’s hind-quarters, which he would otherwise have ripped up. When the bull had received several barbs from the piccador, he was tired of pursuing the horse. It was then the duty of the Spaniards to run so as to draw the bull after them, when on foot they planted two barbs in his neck. The instant he received them he roared and turned off for an instant, during which the man flew over the barrier as lightly as possible. This went on for some time, the bull bounding about with his tail in the air and roaring as he sought another victim. The prettiest part of it was the skill of the matador or espada, who shook a cloak at the bull. The beast immediately rushed at it as quick as a flash of lightning; the espada darted aside, twisted the cloak, and changed places with the bull, who could never get at him. It was as if he rushed at a shadow. It was most graceful. In the case of our green-and-gold espada the bulls seemed afraid of him. They retired before his gaze as he knelt down before them, begging of them to come on; after a few rounds they seemed to acknowledge a master, for he appeared to terrify them. The last act was that in which the gallegos tease the bull to run at them. One, when the bull was charging with bowed head, jumped between the horns and clung on allowing himself to be flung about, and the others caught hold of the tail and jumped on his back, and he pranced about till tired. This is literally ‘seizing the bull by the horns.’ Then oxen with bells were turned in, and the bull was supposed to go off quietly with them. We had thirteen bulls, and the performance lasted two hours. The programmes were crammed with high-flown language.

“Women were there in full war-paint, green and pink silk and white mantillas. Little children of four and five years old were there too. No wonder they grow hardened! A few English tourists were present also, and a lot of dirty-looking people dressed in Sunday best. Our first bull would go back with the cows; the second bull jumped over the barrier, and gave a great deal of trouble, and very nearly succeeded in getting amongst the people. Every now and then a bull would fly over the head of the bandahille and jump the barrier to escape him. One bull flew at the barrier, and, failing to clear it, fell backwards; one bull would not fight, and was fearfully hissed; one had to be lassoed to get him out of the ring. Once or twice gallegos would have been gored but for the balls on the bulls’ horns.

“After the first terror I found the fight very exciting. If it had been a bit more cruel no woman ought to have seen it. I heard some who were accustomed to Spanish bull-fights say it was very tame. The bulls' horns were muffled, so that they could not gore the horses or men. Hence there were no disembowelled horses and dogs lying dead, and a bull which has fought well is not unfairly killed. The men were bruised though, and perhaps the horses. The bull had some twenty barbs sticking in the fleshy part of his neck. When he is lassoed and made fast in the stable, the men take out the barbs, wash the wounds in vinegar and salt, and the bull returns to his herd.

“The day before we left Portugal — Richard for Brazil and I for England — I had also the good fortune to witness a royal procession.

“Early in the day Lisbon presented an appearance as if something unusual was about to take place. The streets were strewed thickly with soft red sand. The corridors were hung with festoons of gay-coloured drapery, and silk cloths and carpets hung from the balconies, of blue and scarlet and yellow. The cathedral had a grand box erected outside, of scarlet and green velvet.

“Being Corpus Christi, the great day of all the year, there was grand High Mass and Exposition. All the bishops, priests, and the Royal Family attended. In the afternoon the streets were crowded with people on foot, curious groups lined the sides, and carriages were drawn up at all available places. At four o clock a flourish of trumpets announced that the procession had issued from the cathedral. Officers, covered with decorations, passed to and fro on horseback. Water-carriers plied their aqua fresca trade. Bands played in all the streets. While waiting, Portuguese men, with brazen effrontery, asked permission to get into my carriage to see the procession better; the rude shopboys clambered up the wheels, hiding the view with their hats. I dispersed the men, but took in the children. They did not attempt this with any of the Portuguese carriages, but only with mine.

“The procession occupied two hours and a half. First came a troop of black men, and a dragon (i.e. a man in scaly armour) mounted on an elephant in their midst. The next group was St. George on his horse, followed by Britannia — a small girl astride dressed like Britannia. The military presented arms to Britannia. These groups were both followed by led chargers caparisoned with scarlet velvet trappings, their manes and tails plaited with blue silk, and with blue plumes on their heads. They were led by grooms in the royal livery of red and gold. These were followed by all the different religious orders, carrying tall candles mounted in silver, and a large silver crucifix in the centre, and surrounded by acolytes in red cloth. Then came golden canopies, surmounted by gold and silver crosses. Then all the clergy surrounding some great ecclesiastical dignitary — the bishop probably — to whom the soldiers presented arms. Then came an official with a gold bell in a large gold frame, which was rung three times at every few hundred yards, followed by a huge red-and-yellow canopy, under which were the relics of St. Vincent. Then, carried on cushions, were seven mitres covered with jewels, representing the seven archbishops, more crosses and candles, clergy in copes, and all the great people of the Church. Then came the last and important group. It was headed by a procession of silver lanterns carried by the bishops and chief priests. Then followed a magnificent canopy, under which the Cardinal Patriarch carried the Blessed Sacrament. The corners of the canopy were held by members of the Royal Family, and immediately behind it came the King. The troops brought up the rear. The soldiers knelt as the Blessed Sacrament passed, and we all went on our knees and bowed our heads. The King was tall, dark, and majestic, with a long nose and piercing black eyes, and he walked with grace and dignity. He wore uniform of dark blue with gold epaulettes, and the Order of the Garter, which had just been given him.”

The day after the royal procession Burton sailed from Lisbon for Brazil. His wife went on board with him, inspected his cabin, and saw that everything was comfortable, and then “with a heavy heart returned in a boat to the pier, and watched the vessel slowly steaming away out of the Tagus.” She attempted to drive after her along the shore, but the steamer went too fast; so she went to the nearest church, and prayed for strength to bear the separation. Burton had told his wife to return to England by the next steamer. As she was in the habit of obeying his commands very literally, and as a few hours after he left Lisbon a little cockleshell of a steamer came in, she embarked in this most unseaworthy boat the afternoon of the same day, though she had no proper accommodation for passengers. They had a terrible time of it crossing the Bay of Biscay, to all the accompaniments of a raging storm, violent sea-sickness, and a cabin "like the Black Hole of Calcutta.” Her experiences were so unpleasant that she dubbed the vessel Ye Shippe of Hell. Nevertheless, as was her wont, she managed to see the ludicrous side. She writes:

“Our passengers were some fun. There was not a single man who could have been called a gentleman among the passengers, and only two ladies. They were Donna Maria Bita Tenario y Moscoso (a Portuguese marquise), travelling for her health with a maid-companion, and myself returning with my maid to England. There were two other ladies (so called) with children, each of them a little girl, and the girls were as troublesome as the monkey and the dog who were with them. They trod on our toes, rubbed their jammy fingers on our dresses, tore our leaves out of our books, screamed, wanted everything, and fought like the monkey and the dog. Their papas were quiet, worthy men. We had also on board a captain and mate whose ship had been burnt in Morocco with a full cargo on the eve of returning to England; a gentleman returning from Teneriffe (where he has spent twenty-five years) to England, his native land, whom everybody hoaxed and persuaded him almost that the moon was made of green cheese in England; a Jew who ate, drank, was sick, and then began to gorge again, laughed and talked and was sick with greatest good humour and unconcern; an intelligent and well-mannered young fellow, English born, but naturalized in Portugal going out to the Consulate at Liverpool; and, lastly, a Russian gentleman, who looked like an old ball of worsted thrown under the grate. Nothing was talked of but sickness and so forth; but I must say they were all good-hearted, good-humoured, and good-natured, and their kindness to each other on the voyage nothing could exceed. The two terrible children aforesaid were a great amusement in Ye Shippe. One used to tease a monkey by boiling an egg hard and giving it him hot, to see him toss it from paw to paw, and then holding a looking-glass before him, for him to see his grimaces and antics and other tricks; and the other child was always teasing a poor Armenian priest born in Jerusalem. He had taken a second-class passage amongst the sailors and common men. The first class was bad enough. God help the second! They would not give the poor man anything to eat, and bullied and teased him. He bore up in such a manly way my heart ached for him and made me blush for the British snob. I used to load my pockets with things for him when I left the table, and got the first class to admit him to our society under an awning; but the captain would not have him in the cabin or on the upper deck. Our skipper was a rough man, having risen from a common sailor, but pleasant enough when in a polite humour. The third amusement was the fallals of our maids, who were much more ill and helpless than their mistresses. They were always ‘dying,’ ‘wouldn’t get up,’ ‘couldn’t walk,’ but had to be supported by the gentlemen. There was great joy on the sixth day because we thought we saw land. It might have been a fog-bank; it might have been Portland Bill; anyway, we began to pack and prepare and bet who would sleep ashore. We awoke on the seventh day in a fog off Beachy Head at 4.30 a.m., and lay to and whistled. Some time after we passed Eastbourne, and then ran plank along the coast. How pretty the white walls of England looked in the morning sun! At night we reached Gravesend; but there was too little water, and we went aground at Erith, where we were obliged to stay till next morning, owing to the bad fog and no water. However, we made our way up to St. Katherine’s wharf at ten. There was an awful bustle; but I disturbed the whole ship to land; and taking my Portuguese marquise under my wing, I fought my way to shore. I arrived home at noon — a happy meeting in the bosom of my family.”

Arrived in London, Isabel at once set to work to complete her preparations for her departure to Brazil. It was a habit with the Burtons all through their lives that, whenever they were leaving England for any length of time, Burton started first in light marching order to prospect the place, leaving his wife behind to pay, pack, and bring up the heavy baggage in the rear. This was the case in the present instance. When her work was done, Isabel found she had still ten days on her hands before the steamer sailed from Southampton for Rio. So temporal affairs being settled for the nonce, she turned her attention to her spiritual needs, and prepared herself for her new life by prayer and other religious exercise. She went into retreat for a week at the Convent of the Assumption, Kensington Square. The following meditation is taken from her devotional book of that period:

“I am to bear all joyfully, as an atonement to save Richard. How thoughtful for me has been God’s dispensation! He rescued me from a fate which, though it was a happy one, I pined in, because I was intended for a higher destiny and yearned for it. Let me not think that my lot is to be exempt from trials, nor shrink from them, but let me take pain and pleasure alike. Let me summon health and spirits and nerves to my aid, for I have asked and obtained a most difficult mission, and I must acquire patient endurance of suffering, resistance of evil, and take difficulties and pain with courage and even with avidity. My mission and my religion must be uppermost. As I asked ardently for this mission — none other than to be Richard’s wife — let me not forget to ask as ardently for grace to carry it out, and let me do all I can to lay up such store as will remain with me beyond the grave. I have bought bitter experiences, but much has, I hope, been forgiven me. I belong to God — the God who made all this beautiful world which perpetually makes my heart so glad. I cannot see Him, but I feel Him; He is with me, within me, around me, everywhere. If I lost Him, what would become of me? How I have bowed down before my husband’s intellect! If I lost Richard, life would be worthless. Yet he and I and life are perishable, and will soon be over; but God and my soul and eternity are everlasting. I pray to be better moulded to the will of God, and for love of Him to become indifferent to what may befall me.”

The next week Isabel sailed from Southampton to join her husband at Rio.

21 "Laurence Oliphant conveyed to Richard that Speke had said that ‘if Burton appeared on the platform at Bath’ (which was, as it were, Speke’s native town) ‘he would kick him.’ I remember Richard’s answer — ‘Well, that settles it! By God! he shall kick me’; and so to Bath we went: There was to be no speaking on Africa the first day, but the next day was fixed for the ‘great discussion between Burton and Speke.’ The first day we went on the platform close to Speke. He looked at Richard and at me, and we at him. I shall never forget his face. It was full of sorrow, of yearning and perplexity. Then he seemed to turn to stone. After a while he began to fidget a great deal, and exclaimed half aloud, ‘Oh, I cannot stand this any longer!’ He got up to go out. The man nearest him said, ‘Shall you want your chair again, sir? May I have it? Shall you come back?’ and he answered, ‘I hope not’ and left the hall. The next day a large crowd was assembled for this famous discussion. All the distinguished people were with the Council; Richard alone was excluded, and stood on the platform — we two alone, he with his notes in his hand. There was a delay of about twenty-five minutes, and then the Council and speakers filed in and announced the terrible accident out shooting that had befallen poor Speke shortly after his leaving the hall the day before. Richard sank into a chair, and I saw by the workings of his face the terrible emotion he was controlling and the shock he had received. When called upon to speak, in a voice that trembled, he spoke of other things and as briefly as he could. When we got home he wept long and bitterly, and I was for many a day trying to comfort him” (Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Isabel his wife, vol. i., p. 389).

Chapter V



For to share is the bliss of heaven, as it is the joy of earth;
And the unshared bread lacks savour, and the wine unshared lacks zest;
And the joy of the soul redeemed would be little, little worth,
If, content with its own security. it could forget the rest.

Isabel had a pleasant voyage out to Brazil, and witnessed for the first time the ceremonies of “crossing the Line,” Neptune, and the tubbing, shaving, climbing the greasy pole, sack races, and all the rest of it. When the ship arrived at Pernambuco, on August 27, Isabel found all the letters she had written to her husband since they had parted at Lisbon accumulated at the post-office. This upset her so much that, while the other passengers were dancing and making merry, she stole on deck and passed the evening in tears, or, to use her own phrase, she had “a good boohoo in the moonlight.”

A few days later the ship reached Rio de Janeiro. Burton came on board to meet her, and she had the joy of personally delivering the overdue letters into his hands.

They stayed five or six weeks in Rio, at the Estrangeiros Hotel, and enjoyed a good deal of society, and made several excursions into the country round about. They were well received by the European society of the place, which was chiefly naval and diplomatic. This was pleasant for Isabel, who could never quite accommodate herself to the somewhat second-rate position to which the English Consul and his wife are generally relegated by foreign courts (more so then than now). Isabel was always sensitive about the position abroad of her husband and herself. In the ordinary way, at many foreign capitals, the consul and his wife are not permitted to attend court, and the line of demarcation between the Consular and Diplomatic service is rigidly drawn. But Isabel would have none of this, and she demanded and obtained the position which belonged to her by birth, and to her husband by reason of his famous and distinguished public services. Burton himself cared nothing for these things, and his wife only cared for them because she had an idea they would help him on in his career. That her efforts in this direction did help him there is no doubt; but in some ways they may have hindered too, for they aroused jealousy in certain small minds among his colleagues in the Consular service, who disliked to see the Burtons taking a social position superior to their own. The fact is that both Richard Burton and his wife were simply thrown away in the Consular service; they were too big for their position, in energy, in ability, in every way. They had no field for their activities, and their large and ardent natures perpetually chafed at the restraints and petty annoyances resulting from their semi-inferior position. Except at Damascus, they were round pegs in square holes. Burton was not of the stuff to make a good consul; and the same, relatively speaking, may be said of his wife. They were both of them in a false position from the start.

The following extract from a letter which Isabel wrote home shortly after her arrival in Brazil is of interest in this connexion:

“I dare say some of my friends do not know what a consul is. I am sure I had not the remotest idea until I came here, and then I find it is very much what Lady Augusta thinks in The Bramleighs, written by a much-respected member of our cloth, Charles Lever, consul at Trieste. ‘Isn’t a consul,’ she asks, ‘a horrid creature that lives in a seaport, and worries merchant seamen, and imprisons people who have no passports? Papa always wrote to the consul about getting heavy baggage through the custom-house; and when our servants quarrelled with the porters, or the hotel people, it was the consul sent some of them to jail. But you are aware, darling, he isn’t a creature one knows. They are simply impossible, dear — impossible! The moment a gentleman touches an emploi it’s all over with him — from that hour he becomes the Customs creature, or the consul, or the factor, or whatever it be, irrevocably. Do you know that is the only way to keep men of family out of small official life? We should see them keeping lighthouses if it were not for the obloquy.’ Now, alas! dear, as you are well aware, I do know what a consul is, and what it is to be settled down in a place that my Irish maid calls the 'end of God's speed,' whatever that may be; but which I interpret that, after Providence made the world, being Saturday night, all the rubbish was thrown down here and forgotten.”

She was over-sensitive on this point, and keenly alive to slights from those who, though inferior in other respects, were superior in official position, and who were jealous when they saw “only the Consul’s wife” playing the grande dame. They were unable to understand that a woman of Isabel’s calibre could hardly play any other part in whatever position she found herself. Fortunately, through the kindness of Sir Edward and Lady Thornton (Sir Edward was then British Minister at Rio), she experienced very few of these annoyances at Rio; and she always remembered their goodness to her in this respect. The Emperor and Empress also took the Burtons up, and made much of them.

On this their first sojourn in Rio everything was most pleasant. The Diplomatic society, thanks to Sir Edward and Lady Thornton, welcomed the Burtons with open arms. A lady who occupied a prominent position in the Diplomatic circle of Rio at that time has told me the following about Isabel: “We liked her from the first, and we were always glad to see her when she came up to Rio or Petropolis from São Paulo. She was a handsome, fascinating woman, full of fun and high spirits, and the very best of good company. It was impossible to be dull with her, for she was a brilliant talker, and always had some witty anecdotes or tales of her adventures to tell us. She was devoted to her husband and his interests, and was never tired of singing his praises. She was a great help to him in every way, for he by no means shared her popularity.”

At Rio Isabel gave her first dinner-party — the first since her marriage; and here she got a touch of fever, which lasted for some time.

When she was sufficiently recovered, the Burtons left Rio for Santos (their consulate, one hundred and twenty miles to the south). They went down on board H.M.S. Triton, and on arrival were saluted by the usual number of guns. The Consular Corps were in attendance, and the Brazilian local magnates came to visit them. Thus began Isabel’s first experience of official life.

Santos was only a mangrove swamp, and in many respects as unhealthy as Fernando Po. Burton had come down and inspected the place before the arrival of his wife at Rio; and he had arranged, as there were two places equally requiring the presence of a consul — São Paulo on the top of the Serra, and Santos low down on the coast — that Isabel should live for the most part at São Paulo, which was comparatively healthy, and that they should ride up and down between Santos and São Paulo as need required. For an Englishwoman to have lived always at Santos would have been fatal to her health. The railway between Santos and São Paulo was then in process of being made. As they had determined not to sleep at Santos, the Burtons went the same day on trolleys along the new line as far as Mugis, where they stayed the night. The next day, by dint of mules, walking, riding, and occasional trolleys, they got to the top of the Serra, a very precipitous climb. At the top a locomotive took them to São Paulo, where they put up at a small inn. The next day Burton had to go down to Santos to establish his consulate; but his wife remained at São Paulo to look for a house, and, as she said, “set up our first real home.”


In about a fortnight she followed him down to Santos in the diligence, and remained there until the swamps gave her a touch of fever. She then went up to São Paulo again, and after some difficulty found a house. This was in the latter part of 1865. The whole of the next eighteen months was spent between São Paulo and Santos, varied at long intervals by a trip to Rio, or a visit to Barra, the watering-place, or excursions in the country round São Paulo. Burton was often away on his consular duties or on expeditions to far-away places, and his wife was necessarily left much alone at São Paulo, where she led a life more like “farmhouse life,” to use her own phrase, than anything else. There were many and great drawbacks arising from the unhealthy climate, the insects and vermin, and the want of congenial society. But Isabel was one of those who manage to get enjoyment out of the most unlikely surroundings, and she always made the best of circumstances and the material at her disposal. As one has said of her, “If she had found herself in a coal-hole, she would immediately have set to work to arrange the coals to the best possible advantage.”

On the whole, this period of her life (December, 1865, to June, 1867) was a happy one. The story of it is best told in a series of letters which she wrote to her mother; and from them I have been permitted to make the following extracts:

“São Paulo, December 15, 1865.

“I do hate Santos. The climate is beastly, the people fluffy. The stinks, the vermin, the food, the niggers are all of a piece. There are no walks; and if you go one way, you sink knee-deep in mangrove swamps; another you are covered with sand-flies; and a third is crawling up a steep mountain by a mule-path to get a glimpse of the sea beyond the lagoons which surround Santos. I stayed there a fortnight and some days, and I got quite ill and peevish. At last Richard was to go to Ignipe, and I to São Paulo again. I started on Tuesday, the 12th, at one in the day; and as it was so fine I sent all my cloaks and warm wraps away, and started in a boat, as for two hours from Santos the roads had overflowed. Then I took the diligence, which is an open van with seven mules, and got the box-seat to enjoy the country. It rained in buckets, and thundered and lightened all the way. We dined in a roadside hut on black beans and garlic, I and strange travelling companions, and arrived in eleven and a half hours. I had only a cotton gown on and no shawl, and Kier (my maid) said I came to the door like a shivering charity-girl, with the rain streaming off the brim of my hat. Kier gave me some tea with brandy, groomed me down with brandy and water, and put me between blankets. They think me a wonderful person here for being so independent, as all the ladies are namby-pamby. To go up and down by myself between Santos and São Paulo is quite a masculine feat. I am the only woman who ever crossed the Serra outside the diligence, and the only lady or woman who ever walked across the viaduct, which is now a couple of planks wide across the valley, with one hundred and eighty feet to fall if you slip or get giddy. I saw every one staring at me and holding up their hands; and I was not aware I had done anything odd, till I landed safely the other side, and saw all the rest going round. The next day two of the workmen fell off and were killed.

“You asked me to tell you about São Paulo.

“I have taken a house in the town itself, because if Richard has to be away often, I should not feel very safe with only Kier, out in the country amongst lawless people and beasts. The part of the town I am in is very high, on a good eminence, and therefore dry and healthy, a nice little street, though narrow. I have an appartement furnished; four rooms to myself and the use of three others, and the kitchen, the servant of the house, and everything but food, for 150 milreis, or £15 a month.

“Behind is a yard and a patch of flowers, which people of sanguine temperaments might call a garden, where we keep barrels of water for washing or drinking. We have to buy water at threepence a gallon.

“As to furniture, in the Brazils they put many things into a house which you do not want, and nothing you do. I have had their hard, lumbering, buggy beds removed, and have put up our own little iron English bedsteads with spring mattresses. I slept in my own cosy little bed from Montagu Place last night for the first time since it left my room there (now Dilly’s); I kissed it with delight, and jumped in it. I also bought one in London for Richard.

“My servants consist of Kier, and one black boy, a very curious dwarf as black as the grate, named Chico. He is honest and sharp as a needle, and can do everything. All the English here wanted him, and did their best to prevent his coming to me; but he ran away, and came to me for less than half the money he asked them; and he watches me like a dog, and flies for everything I want. I shall bring him home with me when I come. The slaves here have to work night and day, and people treat them like mules, with an utter disregard for their personal comforts. There is something superior and refined in my dwarf, and I treat him with the same consideration as I would a white servant; I see that he has plenty of good food, a good bed, and proper exercise and sleep, and he works none the worse for it.

“São Paulo itself is a pretty, white, straggling town on a hill and running down into a high table-land, which is well wooded and watered, and mountains all round in the distance. We are about three thousand feet above sea-level. It is a fine climate, too hot from nine till four in summer, but fairly cool all the other hours. No cockroaches, fleas, bugs, and sand-flies, but only mosquitoes and jiggers. Out in the country there are snakes, monkeys, jaguars, and wild cats, scorpion-centipedes, and spiders, but not in the town. Of course it is dull for those who have time to be dull, and very expensive. For those who are launched in Brazilian society, it is a fast and immoral place, without any chic or style. It is full of students, and no one is religious or honest in money matters; and I should never be surprised if fire were rained down upon it, as in a city of the Old Testament, for want of a just Brazilian. En revanche it is very healthy, and only one month’s journey to England.

“I have had my first jigger since I wrote. A jigger is a little dirty insect like a white tick that gets into your foot, under your toe-nail if possible, burrows, and makes a large bag of eggs. It itches; and if you are wise, you send at once for a negress, and she picks it out with a common pin: if you do it yourself, you break its bag, and your foot festers. I knew nothing about it, and left it for eight days, and found I could not walk for a little black lump in my foot, which spurted fluid like ink when I touched it. At last my nigger asked me to let him look at it, and he got a sharp pair of scissors and took it out. It was like a white bag this size O, with a black head, and it left quite a hole in my foot. You cannot walk about here without your shoes, and they must be full of camphor, or the jiggers get into your feet, and people have their nails taken off to extract them, and sometimes their toes and feet cut off.”

“São Paulo, January 3, 1866.

“I have had twelve hard days’ work, from six in the morning till late at night, with Kier and my black boy. We have had to unpack fifty-nine pieces of baggage, wash the dirty trunks and stow them away, sort, dry, and clean all their contents, and arrange ourselves in our rooms. We are now comfortable for the moment; but we shall not stay here very long. There are many disagreeables in the house which I did not know till I had settled in it and taken it for four months. For example, I have rented it from a French family who are composed, it appears, of odds and ends, and they have the same right as myself to two of these rooms, the salon and the storeroom, so I am not alone and cannot do as I like; and, worst of all, one of them is a lady who will come up and call on me. I am obliged to send to her and beg to be excused, which is disagreeable. She is, it appears, a notorious personage. Richard is gone to the mines, and has been away now nearly three weeks; and I have taken it upon myself to rent a very nice house opposite this one. The English here mislead one about expenses; I am obliged to buy my own experience, and I do not expect to shake down into my income for three or four months more. The English like to appear grand, saving all the while; and they like to show me off as their lady consul, and make me run into expenses, while I want honestly to live within £700 a year, and have as much comfort as that will allow us. It will only go as far as £300 in England.”

“São Paulo, January 17, 1866.

“I have settled down in my furnished apartments with Kier and Chico, and am chiefly employed in arranging domestic expenses, studying Portuguese, and practising my music. Richard has been gone to the mines a month, and returned to Santos yesterday; so I conclude he will be up here in a few days. It is our fifth wedding day on the 22nd. Here every one wants to let his own especial dog-hole to us, so it is very hard to get settled. The house is a nice, large, roomy one, with good views. Kier and I and Chico, with the assistance of a friend’s servant, are painting, white-washing, and papering it ourselves. Only fancy, the Brazilians are dreadfully shocked at me for working! They never do anything but live in rags, filth, and discomfort at the back of their houses, and have one show-room and one show-dress for strangers, eat fejão (black beans), and pretend they are spending the deuce and all. The eighth deadly sin here is to be poor, or worse, economical. They say I am economical, because I work myself. I said to one of the principal ladies yesterday: ‘Yes, I am economical; but I spend all I have, and do not save; I pay my debts, and make my husband comfortable; and we are always well fed and well dressed, and clean at both ends of our house. That’s English way!’ So she shut up.”

“São Paulo, March 9, 1866.

“I got the same crying fit about you, dear mother, last week, as I did at Lisbon, starting up in the night and screaming out that you were dead; I find I do it whenever I am over-fatigued and weak. The chance of losing you is what weighs most on my mind, and it is therefore my nightmare when I am not strong; not but what when awake I am perfectly confident that we shall meet again before another year is out.

“I caught a cobra snake yesterday in our garden, and bottled it in spirits, and also heaps of spiders, whose bite is like a cobra’s — they are about the size of half a crown.”

“São Paulo, April 18, 1866.

“I have had a great row in my house last night; but when you write back, you must not mention it, because Richard was unfortunately out, and I do not want him to know it. Chico has taken a great dislike to the young gentleman who lodges in my house downstairs, because he has called him names; so last night, Richard being away, he got a pail full of slops and watched for him like a monkey to fling it all over him; but the young man caught sight of him, and gave him a kick that sent him and the pail flying into the air. I heard a great noise and went down, ill as I was, and found the little imp chattering like a monkey, and showing his teeth; so I made him go down on his knees and beg the young man’s pardon. I was going to send him away; but to-day he came and knelt and kissed the ground before me, and implored me to forgive him this once, and he would never do such a thing again; so I have promised this time, and will not tell Richard. Richard would half kill him if he knew it; so you must none of you write back any jokes.”

“São Paulo, May 14, 1866.

“My house is now completely finished, and looks very pretty and comfortable in a barnlike way. I shall be so pleased to receive the candlesticks and vases for my altar as a birthday present, and the Mater Dolorosa. My chapel is the only really pretty and refined part of my house, except the terrace; the rooms are rough and coarse with holes and chinks, but with all that is absolutely necessary in them, and they are large and airy. I painted my chapel myself, white with a blue border and a blue domed ceiling and a gilt border. I first nailed thin bits of wood over the rat-holes in the floor, and then covered it with Indian matting. I have painted inscriptions on the walls in blue. I have always a lamp burning, and the altar is a mass of flowers. It is of plain wood with the Holy Stone let in, and covered with an Indian cloth, and again with a piece of lace. I have white muslin curtains in a semicircle opening in the middle.

“On May 5 my landlord’s child was christened in my chapel. They asked me to lend it to them for the occasion, so I decorated the chapel and made it very pretty. I thought they would christen the child, take a glass of wine and a bit of cake, and depart within an hour. To my discomfort they brought a lot of friends, children, and niggers, and they stopped six hours, during which I had to entertain them (in Portuguese). They ran all over my house, pulled about everything, ate and drank everything, spat on my clean floors, made me hold the child to be christened, and it was a year old, and kicked and screamed like a young colt all the time. Part of the ceremony was that I had to present a silver sword about the size of a dagger, ornamented with mock jewels, to the statue of Our Lady for the child. I had a very pleasant day!

“One day we walked almost six miles out of São Paulo up the mountains to make a pilgrimage to a small wayside chapel; and there we had São Paulo like a map at our feet, and all the glorious mountains round us, and we sat under a banana tree and spread our lunch and ate it, and stayed all day and walked back in the cool of the evening. Some of these South American evening scenes are very lovely and on a magnificent scale. The canoes paddling down the river, the sun setting on the mountains, the large foliage and big insects, the cool, sweet-scented atmosphere, and a sort of evening hum in the air, the angelus in the distance, the thrum of the guitars from the blacks going home from work — all add to the charm. Richard came home on Saturday, the 12th, after a pleasant nineteen days’ ride in the interior. He went to pay a visit to some French savants in some village, and they took him for a Brazilian Government spy, and were very rude to him, and finding afterwards who he was wrote him an humble apology. On June 1 I am going up to Rio. Richard is going to read his travels before the Emperor. The Comte and Comtesse d’Eu have asked us to their palace; but I do not think we shall go there, as there will be too much etiquette to permit of our attending to our affairs.”


Petropolis, Above Rio, June 22, 1866.

“Petropolis is a bit of table-land about three thousand feet high in the mountains, just big enough to contain a pretty, white, straggling town, with a river running through it — a town composed of villas and gardens, and inhabited by the Diplomatic Corps. It is a Diplomatic nest, in fact. This small settlement is surrounded by the mountain-tops, and on all sides between them are wild panoramic views. We went the other day to be presented to the Emperor and Empress. The first time we were taken by the Vicomte and Vicomtesse Barbaçena. She is one of the Empress’s favourites. I was in grand toilet, and Richard in uniform. The palace is in a beautiful locality, but not grander than Crewe, or any English country gentleman’s place. We were ushered through lines of corridors by successions of chamberlains, and in a few moments into the imperial presence. The Emperor is a fine man, about six feet two inches, with chestnut hair, blue eyes, and broad shoulders, and has manly manners. He was very cordial to us, and after a short audience we were passed on to the Empress’s reception-room, where, after the usual kissing of hands, we sat down and conversed for about twenty minutes (always in French). She is a daughter of Ferdinand II. of Naples; and the Emperor, as you know, is Pedro, the son of Pedro I., the first Emperor of Brazil and King of Portugal.

“The second time the Emperor kept Richard two hours and a half talking on important affairs and asking his opinion of the resources of the country. The third time we visited the Comte d’Eu and the Duc de Saxe, who have each married daughters of the Emperor. The former (Comte d’Eu) is an old and kind patron of Richard; and we were received quite in a friendly way by him, like any other morning visit, and we are now in a position to go whenever we like to the palace sans cérémonie. None of the other English here have the privilege. While we were with the Comte d’Eu and his wife, their pet terrier came and sat up and begged; it looked so ridiculous, so like a subject before royalty, that we all roared with laughter. I am reported to have gone to Court with a magnificent tiara of diamonds (you remember my crystals!). The Emperor has taken a great fancy to Richard, and has put him in communication with him, and all the Ministers of State here make a great fuss with him (Richard).

“The society in Rio is entirely Diplomatic. There are the Ministers from every Court in the world with their attachés.

“Rio de Janeiro, June, 1866.

I have been again to the palace (this time to the birthday drawing-room), and to-morrow am going to see the Empress in the evening. I am very fond of our Minister and his wife, Mr.22 and Mrs. Thornton, and I am very proud of them; they are people we can look up to.

“Since I wrote Richard has given two lectures before a room full of people. The Emperor and Empress, Comte d’Eu, and the Princesse Impériale were present; we had to receive them, and to entertain them after in the room prepared for them. I have seen them three times since I wrote, and they always make us sit down and talk to us for some time. I told the Empress all about your paralysis, and how anxious I was about you; and she is so sympathetic and kind, and always asks what news I have of you. She appears to take an interest in me, and asks me every sort of question. Most of my time in Rio has been occupied in going to dinners.”

“Rio de Janeiro, July 8, 1866.

“Yes, I am still covered with boils, and I cannot sit or stand, walk or lie down, without a moan, and I am irritated and depressed beyond words. I do not know if my blood be too poor or too hot, and there is nobody here to ask; but Kier makes me drink porter, which I can get at Rio. I have a few days well, and then I burst out in crops of boils; and if an animal sting me, the place festers directly, and after I get well again for a few days. I am very thin, and my nose like a cut-water; and people who saw me on my arrival from England say I look very delicate; but I feel very well when I have no boils.

“Since I wrote the flag-ship has come in, and I am greatly distressed because I am going to lose nearly the only nice lady friend I have, Mrs. Elliot, who was a daughter of Sir John Plackett, and married Admiral Elliot, the son of Lord Minto; he has got his promotion.”

“Rio de Janeiro, July 23, 1866.

“I am still here. Richard left me a fortnight ago, and I am still at the Patent work. You have no idea how heartbreaking it is to have anything to do with the Ministers. When last I wrote to you, we were informed that we had obtained our concession. I was in high glee about it, and Richard went away as jolly as a sandboy, only leaving me to receive the papers; and no sooner was he gone than I got a letter to tell me the Council of State had raised an objection to its being printed, and I have been obliged to remain in the hotel at Rio at great expense, and all alone to fight the case as best I may. Richard is gone to look after the sea-serpent (but I do not tell this, as it might get him into a row with the F.O.). I forgot to tell you there is said to be a sea-serpent here one hundred and sixty feet long. No English person can have any idea of the way matters are conducted at Rio. I am receiving the greatest kindness from the Emperor, Empress, Comte d’Eu, and the Imperial Princess, and the Ministers, and you would think I should be able to get anything. They offer me and promise me everything; but when I accept it, and think next day I shall receive my Patent papers signed, there is always some little hitch that will take a few days more. I have been here seven weeks like this, and of course have no redress. On July 10 the Meida went away, taking the Elliots, the Admiral and his wife. I went out a little way with them; and it was most affecting to see the parting between them and the fleet. The ships all manned their rigging, cheered, and played ‘God save the Queen’ and ‘I am leaving thee in sorrow.’ I never saw any one look so distressed as the Admiral; and Mrs. Elliot cried, and so did I.”

“São Paulo, August 17, 1866.

“On Saturday, the 11th, I left Rio, much to my regret for some things, and to that of the friends I made there, who wanted me to stay for a ball on the 14th. However, I knew Richard’s travels would be finished about that day, and he would feel dull and lonely at home alone, so I thought bonne épouse avant tout, and that the rest could take care of itself. I sailed on the 11th, and was rewarded, as at four o’clock in the morning of the 12th poor Richard came off from the coast in a canoe in a gale of wind, and the captain obliged me by laying to and taking him in. His canoe had been upset, and he was two days in the water, but not deep water. We then came home together. It blew very hard, and I was sick all the way. I find it very dull here in Rio. It is like farmhouse life up the country, with no one to speak to; but I shall soon get reconciled, and have plenty to do to make the place comfortable again, and resume my bourgeoise life.”

“São Paulo, September 2, 1866.

“To-morrow a little Englishman and woman are to be married. Richard has to marry them. It seems so strange. Fancy him doing parson! We shall muster about eighty people, Brazilian and English. I shall wear my poplin, black and white lace, and crystal coronet. People marry at five in the evening, and dance after, and sleep in the house. Richard says, ‘I won’t say, “Let us pray."’ He is going to begin with, ‘Do any of you know any reason why this man and woman should not be married? Have any of you got anything to say?’ Then, shaking his finger at them in a threatening way, he is going to plunge into it. I know I shall burst out laughing.”

“São Paulo, September 15, 1866.

“I do not think the climate disagrees with me. Of course one does not feel buoyant in great heat; but it is more money affairs and local miseries that worry me, and you know we all have them in every latitude. I should not feel justified, I think, in coming home for anything but serious illness. I have just domesticated and tamed Richard a little; and it would not do to give him an excuse for becoming a wandering vagabond again. He requires a comfortable and respectable home, and a tight hand upon his purse-strings; and I feel that I have a mission which amply fills my hands. Nobody knows all the difficulties in a colonial or tropical home till she has tried them — the difficulty of giving and taking, of being charitable and sweet-tempered, and yet being mistress with proper dignity, as here we are all on a par. I often think a parvenue, or half-bred woman, would burst if she had to do as I do. But do not notice any of this writing back.

Sao Paulo

“I have had a ride on my new horse: a wretched animal to look at; but he went like the wind across the country, which is very wild and beautiful. The riding here is very different to English riding. If the animal is to walk or trot, he goes a sort of ambling jiggle, which I think most uncomfortable. You cannot rise, nor do even a military trot, but sit down in your saddle like a jelly and let him go. The only other pace is a hard gallop, which is the best; you go like the wind over prairie and valley, up and down hill, all the same. The horses here are trained so that if your animal puts his foot in a hole you shoot off over his head, and he turns head over heels, and then stands up and waits for you, and never breaks his leg. In the wilds women ride straddle-leg like a man; but one does not like to do it here. We are a shade too civilized. We are leading a very regular life: up at 5 a.m. and out for a walk; I then go to Mass, market, and home; Richard gives me a fencing lesson and Indian clubs; then cold bath and dress; breakfast at 11 a.m., and then look after my house; practice singing, Portuguese, help Richard with literature, dine at six o’clock, and to bed at nine or ten.

“I am at present engaged with the F. O. Reports: I have to copy (1) thirty-two pages on Cotton Report; (2) one hundred and twenty-five pages Geographical Report; (3) eighty pages General Trade Report. This for Lord Stanley, so I do it cheerfully.”

“Rio de Janeiro, December 8, 1866.

“We are nearly all down with cholera. I have had a very mild attack. Our Chargé d’ affaires has nearly died of it, and also our Secretary of Legation; Kier has had it also mildly. Here people cannot drink or be indolent with impunity. If I did not fence, do gymnastics, ride and bathe in the sea, eat and drink but little, attend to my internal arrangements, and occupy myself from early till late, to keep my mind free from the depression that comes upon us all in these latitudes, especially those who are not in clover like us, I could not live for six months. As it is, I do not think I have lost anything, except one’s skin darkens from the sun, and one feels weak from the heat; but I could recover in six months in England.

“When I got the cholera, it was three in the morning. I thought I was dying, so I got up, went to my desk and settled all my worldly affairs, carried my last instructions to Kier in her bed, put on my clothes, and went out to confession and communion.”

“Rio de Janeiro, December 22, 1866.

“I have come down to Rio again to try and sell a book of Richard’s, and am still at work about the gold concession. Richard is travelling (with leave) in the interior. I accompanied Richard part of the way on his travels. We parted on a little mountain with a church on the top — a most romantic spot. He started with two companions, three horse-boys, and a long string of mules. I rode my black horse, and returned alone with one mounted slave. We had fearful weather all the time, torrents of tropical rain, thunder and lightning, and our horses were often knee-deep in the slush and mud. You cannot imagine how beautiful the forests are. The trees are all interlaced with beautiful creepers, things that would be cultivated in a hot-house, and then be a failure, and all wild, tangled, and luxuriant, and in a virgin forest; you must force your horse through these to make your way.

“You need not be frightened about me and my riding, though every one says I am sure to be thrown some day; but I never ride a Rio Grande horse for that reason. Only a man can shoot off properly when they turn head over heels. I am getting very well up in all that concerns stables and horses, and ride every day. The other day I went off to ride, and I lost myself for four and a half hours in a forest, and got quite frightened. I met two bulls and a large snake (cobra); I rode away from the two former, and the latter wriggled away under my horse’s belly; he was frightened at it. The ladies’ society here is awful; they have all risen out of unknown depths. Chico is still with me, and likely to be, as we are both very fond of him. I have made a smart lad of him, and he would make a great sensation in London as a tiger. He is so proud of the buttons Rody sent me for him, and shows them to every one.”

“São Paulo, March 10, 1867.

“When Richard is away, it is not always safe here. For instance, last night a drunken English sailor, who had run away from his ship, got into the house, and insisted on having a passport and his papers made out. I could not persuade him that the Consul was absent, and had to give him food and money to get him out. Still, if he had used any violence, I would have gone down to the lodgers. At the same time, I never see or hear of them unless I wish it. Do not mention about the drunken sailor writing back, as Richard would say it was my own fault, because I will not allow any one to be turned away from my door who is in need, and so my house is open to all the poor of the neighbourhood, and he scolds me for it. I sometimes suffer for it, but only one case out of twenty.

“Brazilians never give charity; and how can the poor judge between a true Catholic and a Brazilian one, if some of us do not act up to our religion in the only way that speaks home to them? I certainly felt rather frightened last night, as the sailor told me he was a ‘a damned scoundrel and a murderer,’ and wanted a bed in the house; but I coaxed him off with a milreis, and then barred the door.”

“The Barra, April 13, 1867.

“I write to you from a fresh place. In São Paulo they have been making a new road, and have enclosed a piece of marsh with water five feet deep. The new road prevents this discharging itself into the river beneath, and the enclosed water is stagnant and putrid, and causes a malaria in my house. Richard has just returned — knocked up by six weeks in the wilds — and he broke out with fever. I felt affected and the whole house squeamish. I rushed off with Richard to the sea-border, about fifty miles from São Paulo. Kier begged to be left. We have got a magnificent sand-beach, and rose-coloured shells, and spacious bay, and mountain scenery all around; but we have some other disadvantages. It would be intensely pleasant if Richard would get better. One might walk on the beach in one’s nightgown; and we walked from our ranco, or shed, to the sea, and can bathe and walk as we like. We are in what they dare to call the hotel. It is a shed, Swiss-shape, and as good inside as a poor cottage at home, with fare to match. It is as hot as the lower regions; and if one could take off one’s flesh and sit in one’s bones, one would be too glad. The very sea-breeze dries you up, and the vermin numbers about twenty species. The flies of various kinds, mosquitoes, sand-flies, and borruchutes, are at you day and night; and if you jump up in the night, it is only to squash beetles. A woman here had a snake round her leg yesterday. Behind the house and up to the first range of mountain is one vast mangrove swamp, full of fevers and vermin. I will not sleep in the beds about in strange houses (there is so much leprosy in the country), and so I always carry my hammock with me, and sling it. Last night it blew so hard that Chico and I had to get up and nail all the old things they call windows. I thought the old shanty was going to be carried away. I must tell you this is our sanatorium or fashionable watering-place here.

“I have had another bad boil since I wrote to you. We have had a Brazilian friend of Richard’s lodging with us, who kept saying, ‘If you ride with that boil, in a few days you will fall down dead’; or, ‘Oh! don’t leave that jigger in your foot; in a week it will have to be cut off.’ Such as his mania; and he used to go to bed all tied up with towels and things for fear his ears should catch cold. He was quite a young man too!

“You know I have often told you that people here think me shockingly independent because I ride with Chico behind me. So what do you think I did the other day? They have, at last, something to talk about now. I rode out about a league and a half, where I met four fine geese. I must tell you I have never seen a goose; they do not eat them here, but only use them as an ornamental bird. Well, Chico and I caught them, and slung one at each side of my saddle, and one at each side of his, and rode with them cackling and squawking all the way through the town; and whenever I met any woman I thought would be ashamed of me, I stopped and was ever so civil to her. When I got up to our house, Richard, hearing the noise, ran out on the balcony; and seeing what was the matter, he laughed and shook his fist, and said, ‘Oh, you delightful blackguard — how like you!’”

Two months later Burton obtained leave of absence from his consulate, and he and his wife started on an expedition into the interior. This expedition was the most memorable event of Isabel’s life in Brazil. On her return she wrote a full account of her adventures, intending to publish it later. She never did so, and we found the manuscript among her papers after her death. This unpublished manuscript, revised and condensed, forms the next three chapters.

22Afterwards the Right Hon. Sir Edward Thornton, H.B.M. Minister at Washington, sometime Ambassador at St. Petersburg, etc.

Chapter VI

Our Expedition into the Interior


S’il existe un pays qui jamais puisse se passer du reste du monde, ce sera certainement la Province des Mines.

St. Hilaire.

We had been in Brazil now nearly two years, vegetating between Santos and São Paulo, with an occasional trip to Rio de Janeiro. Though Richard had made several expeditions on his own account, I had never yet been able to go very far afield or to see life in the wilds. It was therefore with no small delight that I received the news that we had a short leave of absence, admitting of three months’ wandering. The hammocks and saddle-bags were soon ready, and we sailed for Rio, which was about two hundred miles from our consulate. At Rio we received some friendly hints concerning our tour from exalted quarters, where brain and personal merit met with courtesy, despite official grade and tropical bile. We determined in consequence to prospect the great and wealthy province of Minas Geraes, and not to do simply the beaten track, but to go off the roads and to see what the province really was like. We wanted to visit the gold-mines, and to report concerning the new railway — about the proper line of which two parties were contending — a question of private or public benefit. We also intended to go down the São Francisco River, the Brazilian Mississippi, from Sabaré to the sea, and to visit to Paulo Affonso Rapids, the Niagara of Brazil.

We left Rio on June 12, 1867, and sailed from the Prainha in a little steamer, which paddled across the Bay of Rio in fine style, and deposited us in about two hours on a rickety little wharf at the northern end called the Maná landing-place, whence the well-known financial firm of that name.

Whoever has not seen the Bay of Rio would do well to see it before he dies; it would repay him. All great travellers say that it competes with the Golden Horn. It is like a broad and long lake surrounded by mountains and studded with islands and boulders. But it is absurd to try to describe the bay with the pen; one might paint it; for much of its beauty (like a golden-haired, blue-eyed English girl of the barley-sugar description) lies in the colouring.

At the rickety landing-place begins a little railroad, which runs for eleven miles through a mangrove and papyrus flat to the foot of the Estrella range of mountains. Here we changed the train for a carriage drawn by four mules, and commenced a zigzag ascent up the mountains, which are grand. We wound round and round a colossal amphitheatre, the shaggy walls of which were clothed with a tropical forest, rich with bamboos and ferns, each zigzag showing exquisite panoramas of the bay beneath. The ascent occupied two hours; and at least, at the height of three thousand feet, we arrived at a table-land like a tropical Chamounix. Here was Petropolis, where we tarried for some days.

The Bay of Rio

Petropolis is a pretty, white, straggling settlement, chiefly inhabited by Germans. It has two streets, with a river running between, across which are many little bridges, a church, a theatre, four or five hotels, the Emperor’s palace, and villas dotted everywhere. It is the Imperial and Diplomatic health resort, and the people attached to the Court and the Diplomatic Corps have snuggeries scattered all about the table-land of Petropolis, and form a pleasant little society. The cottages are like Swiss châlets. It is a paradise of mountains, rocks, cascades, and bold panoramas. Here abounded the usual mysterious châlet of the bachelor attaché. I will take you up that ridgy path and show you a type of the class: four little rooms strewed with guns, pistols, foils, and fishing-tackle, a hammock, books, writing materials, pictures of lovely woman dressing or kissing a bird or looking in the glass, pretty curtains, frescoes on the walls drawn in a bold hand of sporting subjects, enfantillage — and other things! This is the châlet of the Vicomte de B—, attaché to the French Legation, a fair type of the rest.

We left Petropolis for Juiz de Fóra at daybreak on a fine, cold morning; the grey mist was still clinging to the mountains. We had a large char-à-banc, holding eight, in two and two, all facing the horses. We took our small bags with us, but everything heavier had gone on in the public coach. Our party, besides Richard and myself, consisted of Mr. Morritt, proprietor of the hotel and the char-à-banc, and three other Englishmen, who with the driver and my negret Chico made up the eight. The four mules were so fresh that they were with difficulty harnessed, and were held in by four men. When the horn sounded, they sprang on all fours and started with a rush, with a runner at either side for a few yards till clear of the bridge. We simply tore along the mountain-side.

I shall save a great deal of trouble if I describe the scenery wholesale for a hundred miles and specify afterwards. Our trap dashed along at pleasant speed through splendid amphitheatres of wooded mountains, with broad rivers sweeping down through the valleys, with rapids here and there, and boulders of rock and waterfalls. The drive was along a first-rate road, winding over the mountain-side. The roads on the other side of the Parahybuna River were as high, as beautiful, and as well wooded as the one along which we drove. In all my Brazilian travelling this description of the scenery would mostly serve for every day, but here and there we found a special bit of beauty or more exquisite peep between the ridges. At first you think your eyes will never tire of admiring such trees and such foliage, but at last they hardly elicit an observation. A circumstance that created a laugh against us was that, like true Britishers, Richard and I had our note-books, and we beset poor Mr. Morritt with five questions at once. He was so good and patient, and when he had finished with one of us would turn to the other and say, “Well, and what can I do for you?”

Our first stage was the “Farm of Padre Carrea,” a hollow in the hills, where we changed mules. We drove for forty miles downhill; then we had fifteen or twenty on the level when crossing the river valley; then we ascended again for thirty-nine miles. The road was splendid; it was made by two French engineers. Our second station was Pedro do Rio. The third was Posse, the most important station on the road for receiving coffee. Here thousands of mules meet to load and unload, rest and go their ways. This scene was very picturesque.

After Posse we began to see more fertile land, and we passed a mountain of granite which, if it were in England or France, would have a special excursion train to it (here no one thinks anything about it); it looked like a huge rampart, and its smooth walls were sun-scorched. After this we passed a region of coffee plantations, and thence to Entre Rios (“Betwixt the Rivers”), the half-way house. It is a very unhealthy station, and there is a dreadful smell of bad water; otherwise it would be a first-rate place for any one wanting to speculate in starting a hotel. The last ten miles before coming to Entre Rios lay through virgin forest. We saw tucanos (birds with big beaks and gorgeous plumage of black, green, scarlet, and orange), wonderful trees, orange groves, bamboos (most luxuriant; they would grow on a box if they were thrown at it), plants of every kind, coffee and sugar-cane plantations, tobacco plants, castor-oil plants, acacias, and mimosa. What invariably attracts the English eye, accustomed to laurel and holly, are the trepaderas; and the masses of bamboo form natural arches and festoons, and take every fantastic form. We crossed the rivers over bridges of iron.

We breakfasted at noon at Entre Rios; we then mounted our char-à-banc once more, and drove on eight miles to the next station, called Serraria, where we sighted the province of Minas Geraes on the opposite side of the valley of Parahybuna. At Serraria we got a wicked mule, which nearly upset us three times. A wicked mule is a beau-idéal fiend; the way he tucks his head under his body and sends all his legs out at once, like a spider, is wonderful to see; and when all four mules do it, it is like a fancy sketch in Punch. They drive none but wild mules along this road, and after three months they sell them, for they become too tame for their work. Soon after this last station we passed through the “Pumpkin” chain of hills. We had ten miles to go uphill, and it was the hottest drive of the day, not only on account of the time of day, but because we were at the base of another huge granite mountain, much bigger than the last, like a colossal church.

We were not very tired when we sighted Juiz de Fóra, considering that we had driven nearly one hundred miles in twelve hours. We drove up to a châlet built by the French engineers just at sunset, and were guests in an empty house, and were well lodged. After supper the moon was nearly full, and the scent was lovely. There was a fine road; nearly all the buildings were on the same side of it as our châlet; opposite us was a chapel, farther down a hotel, and farther up, the thing that made all the beauty of Juiz de Fóra, the house of Commendador Mariano Procopio Ferreira Lage. It appeared like a castle on the summit of a wooded mountain. We were serenaded by a band of villagers. The evening air was exquisite, and the moon made the night as light as day.

The following day we inspected Juiz de Fóra. The town is a pretty situation, two thousand feet above sea-level, and the climate cool and temperate. The wonder of the place is the château of Commendador Mariano Procopio, who is a Brazilian planter who has travelled, and his wealth is the result of his energy and success. He built this castle on the top of a wooded eminence. This land eight years ago (I believe) was a waste marsh. He spent £40,000 on it, and made a beautiful lake, with islands, bridges, swans, and a little boat paddled by negroes instead of steam. He made mysterious walks, bordered by tropical and European plants, amongst which the most striking to an English eye were enormous arums with leaves five feet long and three broad, and acacias, mimosas, umbrella trees in full flower. He also erected Chinese-looking arbours, benches, and grotesque designs in wood. I believe the man carries out all his nightmare visions there. In another part of the grounds was a menagerie full of deer, monkeys, emu, silver and gold pheasants, and Brazilian beasts and birds. He has an aqueduct to his house and fountains everywhere. There is an especially beautiful fountain on the highest point of Juiz de Fóra, in the centre of his grounds, and from there is a splendid view. There is a white cottage in his gardens for his aged mother. He has also an orangery of huge extent, different species of oranges growing luxuriantly, and we reclined on the grass for an hour picking and eating them. All the land around was his; he built the chapel; even our châlet was his property; and besides he has a model farm. Altogether Juiz de Fóra appeared a thriving town, and the Commendador was the pivot on which it all moved. It seemed so strange to find in the interior of Brazil a place like that of an English gentleman. One cannot give this generous and enterprising planter enough praise. If there were more like him, Brazil would soon be properly exploited. Some object that the arrangement of his place is too fantastic. There is no doubt it is fantastic, but it is so because he is giving the natives a model of everything on a tiny scale, and collecting in addition his native tropical luxuriance around him, as an English gentleman would delight to collect things on his estate, if he could get the same vegetation to grow in England.

On leaving Juiz de Fóra, I was obliged to leave my baggage behind, which appeared to me rather unreasonable, as it only consisted of the usual little canisters, a pair of long, narrow boxes for the mule’s back. If the ladies who travel with big baskets the size of a small cottage had seen my tiny bundle and a little leather case just big enough for brush, comb, and a very small change, they would have pitied me. We mounted the coach on a cold, raw morning — this time a public coach. Only one man of our party accompanied us on to Barbacena; the rest were homeward bound. The two coaches stood side by side, ready packed, facing different ways, at 6 a.m., to start at the same moment. We had a small, strong coach with four mules. A handsome, strapping German youth, named Godfrey, was our driver, and we boasted a good guard. Inside was a lady with negresses and babies, and an Austrian lieutenant. Outside on a dicky my negret and a large number of small packages — only such could go. The driver and guard were in front, and above and behind them on the highest part of the coach was a seat for three, which held Richard, Mr. E—, and myself in the middle, the warmest and safest place in event of a spill. The partings ensued between the two coaches, and the last words were, “Remember by twelve o’clock we shall be a hundred miles apart.” The horn sounded; there was the usual fling of mules’ heads and legs in the air, and we made the start as if we had been shot out of a gun. We proceeded on our drive of sixty-six miles in twelve hours, including stoppages, constantly changing mules, for the roads between Juiz de Fóra and Barbacena were infamous, and all up and down hill. The country was very poor in comparison with what we had left behind, but I should have admired it if I had not seen the other. The roadsides are adorned with quaint pillars, mounds of yellow clay, the palaces of the cupims, or white ants, which they are said to desert when finished. They must be very fond of building. The sabiá (the Brazilian nightingale) sang loud in the waving tops of the “roast-fish tree.” We passed over wooded hills, broad plains, and across running streams and small falls. At last we reached the bottom of the great Serra Mantiqueira. The ascent was very bad and steep for ten miles, and through a Scotch mist and rain. All the men had to get down and walk, and even so we often stuck in deep mudholes, and appeared as if we were going to fall over on one side. I now comprehended why my baggage could not come; my heart ached for the mules. Travelling on the top of that coach was a very peculiar sensation. When we were on plain ground and in full gallop we heaved to and fro as if in a rolling sea, and when going fast it was like a perpetual succession of buck-jumping, especially over the caldeiroês, lines of mud like a corduroy across the road. On the descent our coachman entertained us with a history of how he once broke his legs and the guard his ribs and the whole coach came to grief at that particular spot.

Our next station (and it seemed so far) was Nascisuento Novo; then came Registro Velho, where travellers used to be searched for gold and diamonds, and amusing stories are told how they used to conceal them in their food or keep them in their mouths. Here we had our last change of mules, and here the Morro Velho Company from the mines halted for the night, and we found to our delight that we should find a special troop of them waiting at Barbacena to convey us where we liked. This was our last league, and the weather was frosty.

We arrived at the Barbacena hotel when it was dusk, and found it a decent but not luxurious inn, kept by an unfortunate family named Paes. At the door we saw a good-humoured Irish face, which proved to be that of our master of the horse, Mr. James Fitzpatrick, of the Morro Velho Company, who was awaiting Richard and myself with two blacks and ten animals. We therefore asked for one of the spare mules and saddles for Mr. E—, who had decided to accompany us to the mines. The town appeared quite deserted, but I thought it was because it was dark and cold and the people were all dining or supping. We were tired, and went to bed directly after dinner.

Next day we inspected Barbacena, a white town upon an eminence. The town is built in the form of a cross, the arms being long. It is three thousand eight hundred feet above sea-level, and is very cold except in the sun. There was little to see except four churches, all poor and miserable except the Matriz, which was the usual whitewashed barn with a few gaudy figures. It was a dead-alive kind of place, with all the houses shut up and to be bought for very little. All the young men were gone to the war. There was no one about: no society, not even a market; no carriage save the public coach, with its skeleton horses eating the grass in the streets.

After dinner that evening we saw a black corpse on a stretcher. The porters were laughing and talking and merrily jolting it from side to side, and I was considered rather sentimental for calling it disrespect to the dead. Our table d’hôte was a motley and amusing group. There were the driver and guard of our coach, the Austrian lieutenant, ourselves, several Brazilians, and Mr. Fitzpatrick. We all got on together very well. There was some punch made; and as the conversation turned upon mesmerism for the night’s discussion, a delicate subject, I withdrew to a hard couch in an inner room.

On Wednesday, June 19, we left the last remnant of civilization behind us at Barbacena, and that remnant was so little it should not be called by that name. We shall now not see a carriage for some months, nor a road that can be called a road, but must take to the saddle and the bridle for the country. Our party consisted of Richard and myself, Mr. E—, Mr. James Fitzpatrick, captain of our stud, Chico, my negret, mounted, and two slaves on foot as guides, three cargo mules, and two spare animals as change.

Our first ride was to be twenty miles, or five leagues, across country. We did it in five hours, and one more half-hour we employed in losing our way. The country was poor, and through what is called campos — i.e. rolling plains, with a coarse pasturage. Near dusk we reached Barroso, a village with a ranch, a small chapel, and a few huts. The ranch was small and dirty, and smelt of tropeiros (muleteers) and mules. The ranch was a shed-like cottage with a porch or verandah. It had one room with a ceiling of bamboo matting, whitewashed mud walls, no window, and a mud floor. The only thing in it was a wooden bedstead without a bed on it. This was ours; the rest had to sleep in the verandah or on the floor with rugs amongst the tropeiros, picturesque-looking muleteers. They gave us rice, chicken, and beans. I prepared the food and slung the hammocks, and after eating we lay ourselves down to rest.

We rose at three o’clock in the morning, before it was light, and at 4.30 we were in our saddles again. We rode twenty-four miles. We breakfasted under a hedge at a place written “Elvas,” pronounced “Hervas,” and got a cup of coffee from a neighbouring gypsy camp. Shortly after we passed a ranch, with a curious old arched bridge made of wood. To-day’s journey was very like yesterday’s in point of country, but we were a little tired the last few miles, as we had been somewhat dilatory, and had been eight hours in hard saddles on rough animals; the sun also broke out very hot. At last, however, we were cheered by arriving at a pretty village, and shortly afterwards sighted a beautiful-looking town on a hill, with many spires. We rode up to the bridge to enter the town, tired, hot, torn, and dusty, just as the procession of the Blessed Sacrament was passing, followed by the friars and a military band. We bent our heads and bowed down to the saddle. This was the town of São João d’El Rei, and it was the Feast of Corpus Christi.

São João d’El Rei is five thousand two hundred feet above sea-level. It was June 21 (here the shortest as in England it is the longest day), and the climate was delicious. We met two English faces in the streets, and hailed them at once. They proved to be Mr. Charles Copsey, who had been at Cambridge with my husband’s brother, in command of the Brazilian Rifle Volunteer Brigade (I knew many of the same men), and Dr. Lee, a man of Kent. Dr. Lee had been there thirty-five years. These two compatriots were most kind to us. They introduced us to all the best families, and showed us all the lions of the place.

The churches of São João were so numerous that we only “did” the three best. We walked about the principal streets, getting the best views of the white, spiral, hilly, little city, which looked beautiful at sunset. We visited one Brazilian’s general collection, another’s books, another’s pictures, and the only place we did not go to see was the hospital. We loafed about, and everybody dined with us at the hotel — very little better than a ranch.

We left our hotel, or rather ranch, at 10.30 a.m. the next morning, and rode to Matosinhos, the suburb at the entrance, where we breakfasted at the house of Dr. Lee and made the acquaintance of his Brazilian wife, a sweet-mannered woman, whose kindness and hospitality charmed us. After a sumptuous breakfast we walked about his grounds, and he gave us a cão de féla, an ugly, toad-coloured, long dog, with a big head, broad shoulders, and lanky body, answering in breed to our bull-dog.

Here Mr. Copsey could not make up his mind to part with us so soon, and actually forsook his wife and children and cottage to accompany us for a few days.

Our ride was a pretty easy two leagues, or eight miles, over mountains, bringing us to a small white village or town, which we should call a village, nestled among them, called São José. This village contains a running brook, a bridge, and a handsome fountain. Our ranch was a miserable affair, without any pretension to bedding, and if possible less to a washing-basin; so the rest preferred sitting up all night; but as my experience has taught me to take all the little comforts that Providence throws to me, in order to endure the more, I slung my hammock and slept the sleep of good conscience, in spite of the clinking of glasses and twanging of guitars.

We intended to leave São José at one o’clock a.m., but those who foolishly sat up had all sorts of mishaps. There had been a little too much conviviality; the animals had strayed; so, though we started before light, it was much later than we intended. Our road was a terrible one; we could not keep together, and got lost in parties of two and three. At first the road was very pretty, through woods; but as dawn appeared we had to climb a wall of steep rock, terrible to climb and worse to descend. Two of our party unwillingly vacated their saddles before we got clear of it, and Mr. E—‘s saddle slipped off behind from the steepness and bad girths. We then had a long ride over campos, and stopped to breakfast at a deserted ranch. We were then supposed to be about twelve miles from our destination, Lagôa Dourada. The rest of our day was full of misfortunes. The valiant people who would dance and drink all night dropped asleep upon the road. We lost our way for six miles, and had to ride back and take another track. Our black guides had not laid a branch across the road for us. (It is an African custom to place a twig or branch on the road, to convey any intelligence to those who are coming after you.) We came to a Slough of Despond, a mudhole across the road, which looked only a little wet and dirty, but a mule or rider may be engulfed in it. Mr. Fitzpatrick luckily preceded me, and fell into it. My mule jumped it, and in the jump my pistol fell out of my belt into it, and was never seen more. We had a very hard day of it up and down hill through virgin forest with several of those swamps. At sunset we arrived very tired at the top of a hill, and found an aboriginal-looking settlement of huts. We then descended into the valley by a steep, winding road for some distance, and came to a long, straggling, hilly, but pretty and more civilized village, with a few churches and a running brook, with a decent ranch at its extreme end, where there was a party of English engineers, who kindly attended to our creature comforts while at Lagôa Dourada.

It was Sunday, the Eve of St. John, and there were big bonfires and a village band. Our ranch was a cottage. The brook with the gold-washings ran by it, and the purling thereof made pleasant music that night.

The great object of our visit to Lagôa Dourada was to see with disinterested eyes which course the continuation of the Dom Pedro Segunda Railway should run through Minas — that is, to see which course would be for the greatest public advantage, regardless of private intrigue. The English engineers and Richard having quite agreed upon the subject, they kindly invited us to celebrate the Feast of St. John by assisting to “lay the first chain.” It was a day likely to be remembered by the Brazilians, for it connoted their pet feast — the “Feast of Fire” — and the commencement of a work to be of great benefit to them.

At twelve o’clock (noon) the next day the English engineers, with a party comprising all the Brazilian swells of Lagôa Dourada, proceeded to a valley within the village to lay the first chain for the exploration of the mountains which divide the watershed of the Rio São Francisco and the Paraopéba from the Carandahy and Rio Grande, for the prolongation of the Dom Pedro Segunda Railway.

I had the honour of giving the first blow to the stake and breaking a bottle of wine over it. The sights taken were S.73’ W. and N. 74’ W. The engineers made me write this in their books. (The following day all were to break up, our party of engineers bound northward, and ourselves on our march.) The inauguration passed off very favourable. It was a beautiful day. The village band played, flags were flying, wine was produced, glasses clinked, and we drank the health of “The Emperor,” “The Queen,” “Brazil,” “England,” “Unity,” “Future Railway,” and most of the principal people present; speeches were made, and vivas shouted, and last the Brazilians proposed the health of St. John with vivas. When these ceremonies were over, we marched back to the ranch with the band playing and colours flying.

In the afternoon we walked a little way up and down the stream, and saw some gold-washing on a homeopathic scale. The land belongs to a Brazilian, who get three or four milreis a day out of it (about eight shillings). We then sat down in the village on benches in the shade. The men drank beer and smoked cigarettes, and I took my needlework and talked with them.

In the evening the English engineers gave us a big dinner in the ranch, and how they managed to do it so well I cannot imagine. It was like a big picnic. The village padre sat at the head of the long wooden table, and I at the bottom, and on wooden benches at each side were eight Englishmen and seventeen Brazilian local magnates. We had chickens, messes of rice and meat, feijão (beans) and farinha (flour), bread, cheese, beer, port, and other drinks — all out of the engineers’ stores. It was great fun. Directly after dinner they began speechifying, and each man ended his speech with a little nasal stanza to friendship, the audience taking up the last word. At last somebody drank the health of the married men, and then some one else proposed the health of the single, and then every one began to quarrel as to which was the better and happier state. Richard and Mr. Copsey loudly stood up for the single, and urged them on to greater frenzy, and I would have done the same thing only I was afraid of shocking the padre. The wordy war lasted fully half an hour, and terribly distressed one spoony Englishman, who gave us a homily from his corner on the sanctity of the married state. If it had been in France, there would have been half-a-dozen duels, and I fully expected to see some kniving; but with them it was only hilarity and good spirits, and they embraced across the table at the very moment I thought they were going to hit one another. We finished up by repairing to our room and having some punch there, and we all parted happy and pleased with our day. After we were in bed we were serenaded by the band. The people walked about with music, and twanged their guitars all night. It is a great day for marriage — for lovers, and all that sort of pleasant thing. The girls dress in their best, and put the flowers of São João in their hair, and one likes to see the young people happy. A pleasant remembrance of this place lingers with me yet.

The next morning we proposed starting at four o’clock, and got up early. Our white horse, however, knew the ground, and strayed six miles away, so we could not start till 9 a.m. Moreover, Mr. Copsey, who was on duty at São João d’El Rei for next day, was obliged to wish us good-bye and return.

When at last we started, we rode for two leagues and a half, accompanied by several of our friends of the evening before, and at last came to a brook, where we sat under the shade of a tree and breakfasted, after which our friends wished us good-bye and returned. We then rode on, uncertain as to our course. The scenery was pretty; the weather was very hot. We had no road, but found our way over the hills through bits of forest, and towards evening we came to a village called Camapoão.

We had been detained by bad road and accidents, and had been five hours doing only fifteen miles; so, though we could only find an infamous ranch (the worst we had ever seen), we thought it best to risk it for the night. We had been obliged to pass one by, as it looked really dangerous with damp, filth, and reptiles. The owner of the ranch, one José Antonio d’Azevedo, was a character, and a very bad one — original in rudeness, independence, and suspicion. There was, however, one bed (José‘s), and no amount of entreaty to let me rest my aching limbs on it would induce him to allow me to do so. I had almost to go on my knees to be allowed to swing my hammock, lest I should spoil his mud-and-stick walls; but after a glass of cognac from our stock and much flattering and coaxing, he did permit that, and gave us some beans and flour, rice and onions, to eat. Richard slept on a wooden table, I in the hammock, and the rest of our party with the mules on the ground round a fire. It was a bitterly cold night, and we got full of vermin. At about one in the morning I was aroused by a loud whispering, apparently close to my head, and a low growl from my dog underneath my hammock, and I could distinctly hear the old man say, “Pode facilmente matar a todas” (“It would be very easy to kill the whole lot”). I felt quite cold and weak with fright; but I stretched out my hand in the dark to where I knew my weapons were, and got hold of a bowie-knife and loaded revolver. I then whispered to Richard, and we got some matches and struck a light. There was no one in the room, and the whispering and laughing still went on as if the old man and his negroes were conversing and joking behind the thin partition wall. Nothing occurred. In the morning we thought he was only alluding to his chickens; yet, as we learnt afterwards, he did bear an ugly name.

We were very glad to get up at 4 a.m., though pitch dark, and to set out. The old man did his best to keep us by talking of the atoleiros on the road, which we must pass, and were sure to fall into. And indeed an atoleiro is an ugly thing; for you only expect a passage of wet mud in the road, wheras you and your horse go plump in over head, and sometimes do not get out. We passed a fearful one a mile past his house, but sent the blacks on first, and they brought us a long round through brushwood, which was not dangerous, but unpleasant to fight through; and Chico stuck in it, and we were fully ten minutes extricating him. We then rode up and down mountains and waded several rivers, and moonlight passed away, and dawn came with a welcome. By nine o’clock we had accomplished twelve miles, and arrived at Suasuhy, a long, big village, with a church and about three hundred houses and fifteen hundred inhabitants. We were quite overcome with the luxury of being able to wash our hands and faces in a basin. We had too a better breakfast than usual. The ranch was kept by a handsome family — father, mother, and four daughters. After this we rode on again through beautiful scenery up and down mountains, through shallow rivers and bits of virgin forest. Yet, though the scenery is magnificent, it is so alike, that one description describes all, and what you see to-day you will to-morrow and for the next three months, with the exception of every here and there a startling feature. After another three leagues we sighted the Serra d’Ouro Branco, a grand pile of rock, and presently caught sight of a convent and a large square and church seated on an eminence below the mountain. We were descending. We turned a corner down a steep, stone hill, and beheld a beautiful white village in the valley, and silvery, winding river, called Maronhão, running through it, and another smaller one discharging itself into the larger. A striking church, the Matriz, rose on the opposite hill. In the distance were the two Serras, straight ranges like a wall, one shorter than the other. Ouro Branco is so called because the gold found there was mixed with platina. It was three o’clock, and we had now travelled six leagues and a half, and were glad to rest. The sunset was lovely.

This village was Congonhas do Campo. We got into a comfortable ranch, and then called on the padre. That is the best thing to do at these places, as he is the man who shows you hospitality, points out the lions, and introduces you and gives you all the information you want. The padre showed us great kindness, and took us to see the college and the church, the most striking part of the village and valley. Walking through the streets, we saw the arms of some noble Portuguese family, well carved in stone, over a small deserted house — doubtless the arms of some of the first colonists.

The padre breakfasted with us at the ranch next morning, and saw us set out from Congonhas at twelve o’clock. We rode three leagues, or twelve miles, which seemed more like five, up and down mountains, through rivers and virgin forests, and on ridges running round steep precipices and mountain-sides for many a mile. On our way we met a small white dog with a black ear, looking wet and tired and ownerless. Mr. E— hit at it with a hunting-whip; it did not cry nor move, but stared at our passing troop. Towards night we arrived at a little sort of private family settlement, consisting of four or five ranches belonging to a man of the same name as the place — to wit, Teixeira. Here we found the villagers in a great state of excitement, armed with guns to kill a mad dog, which had been rabid for some days, and had bitten everything it saw, communicating the disease, and had after all escaped them. He was a small white dog with a black ear!

We had great difficulty in finding a night’s rest at Teixeira. Four or five houses would not take us in. One man was especially surly; but at last a cobbler and his wife took us in, and were kind and hospitable to us. Here I had a little bed of sticks and straw, and slept soundly.

Next morning we had a shot at a flock of small green parrots before starting for Coche d’Agua at 8.30, and we rode till 10.30. We crossed the Rio da Plata six times (it was so tortuous) before nine o’clock, and twice the Bassão later. After crossing the Bassão the second time, we sat under a shady tree on its banks, and ate our breakfast out of our provision basket — cold pork, onions, and biscuit, and drank from the river.

We had been told that the remainder of our ride to Coche d’Aqua from this spot was four leagues; but it was nearer eight leagues (thirty-two miles), and we arrived after dusk at 6.15. It was a very poor place; there was nothing to eat, and no beds, and we were dead tired.

The people were kind, and lit an enormous fire in the centre of the ranch, and let me lie down upon their sleeping-place till 3 a.m., “because I was a Catholic and spoke Portuguese.” It was a slab of wood with a straw sacking, and even so I thought it a great luxury. We rose next morning at 3.30. The mules were called in, and we rode four leagues, first by moonlight and then dawn. We passed through two valleys, and arrived at 8.45 a.m. at another settlement. This was the village outside of the Morrow Velho colony, and as the bells rang nine we alighted at the entrance of the Casa Grande, and were most cordially and hospitably received by the Superintendent of the São João d’El Rei Mining Company and Mrs. Gordon, and conducted into their most comfortable English home.

Chapter VII

Morro Velho and its Environs


   Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it, and pick blackberries,

Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Morro Velho, where is the queen of the Minas Geraes Mines, is a very curious and interesting place, unlike any other I have seen in Brazil. It has a good deal of bustle, life, and cheerfulness about it which one scarcely sees elsewhere. It is an extensive, elevated valley, surrounded by mountains and divided into districts or settlements, each consisting of villages made up of detached cottages without streets, after the manner of most villages in Minas Geraes. Congonhas must be excepted, as that is a regular village with shops; we passed through it on the outskirts of the gold-mining colony; although it is independent of, still it is supported by, its wealthy neighbour.

Mr. Gordon, the English superintendent of the mines, was like a local king at Morro Velho and all over the province. He was consulted and petitioned by every one, beloved, respected, and depended on; in short, a universal father; and well he deserved respect.

The first Sunday we were with the Gordons at Casa Grande we witnessed the slave muster; and when it was over the slaves gave us an Indian representation of a sham palaver, war-dance, and fight. They were dressed in war-paint and feathers. The King and his son were enthroned on chairs, and the courtiers came and seated themselves around on the grass, and the attendants carried umbrellas. First there was a council. The King was dissatisfied with his Minister of War, who was seized and brought before him. Then the Minister made a speech in his own praise. Then there was a fight, in which the captain of War took every one prisoner, and gave the swords to the King. Then the Minister was poisoned by the enemy, but cured by a nut which the King gave him. Then all the captives crawled on the ground like snakes to the King’s feet to do him homage. The King’s jesters were great fun. They had a gong and bells and tom-tom, and sang and danced at the same time. They danced a curious step-little steps in which they adhered to a peculiar time.

On Wednesday, July 10, we left Morro Velho for a space in light marching order. Mr. Gordon wished Richard to inspect a seam of ore of disputed substance, and he organized a trip for us to the place. It was to last eleven days, and we were then to return to Morro Velho. We set out from the Casa Grande at 8.15. Our road was very bad, chiefly over mountains and through rivers, but incessantly up and down, without any repose of level ground.

We rode for more than four hours, and then stopped at a village called Morro Vermelho, where we stopped an hour for breakfast and to change animals.

The Slave Muster at Morro Velho

Our road after this, till six o’clock in the evening, lay through the most exquisite forests, but with terrible footing for the mules — thick, pudding-like, wet mud, and loose, slippery stones, corduroys of hard mud striping some of the most difficult places, where only a sure-footed mule can tread. We stopped, in passing, at the house of a Mr. Brockenshaw, an English miner. It was a tumbledown ranch, but in the wildest, most desolate, and most beautiful spot imaginable. The chief features of the scenery were mountain-peaks, virgin forests, and rivers. And oh the foliage of the forest! The immense avenues of leafage looked like mysterious labyrinths, with castles and arches of ferns forty feet high. We crossed an awful serra all in ruts, and full of scarped rock, mud-holes, or atoleiros; the highest point was four thousand two hundred feet. Just as we were at the worst of our difficulties, and Mr. E— had broken his crupper, we heard a cheery English voice shouting behind us, “O! da casa?” (“Any one at home?"), which is what people say in Brazil when they enter a house apparently empty and want to make somebody hear at the back. Turning, we beheld a Scotch gentleman with a merry face and snow-white hair, and a beard like floss silk down to his waist. The Brazilians call him “O Padre Eterno,” as he is like the picture of God the Father. He was Mr. Brown, Superintendent of the Cuiabá Mine. After cordial greetings he joined our party.

We eventually arrived at Gongo Soco, the original peat-mining village, once gay and rich, now worked out, abandoned, and poor. The river of the same name runs through it. It was now a little before five o’clock, and we came to a better track, and rode on some miles farther to the house and iron foundry of Senhor Antonio Marcos, the Ranger of Woods and Forests, who had prepared hospitality for us. We dismounted at six o’clock very stiff. We had been nine hours and a quarter in the saddle, and had ridden thirty-two miles of difficult country, which did not, however, prevent us from passing a merry evening with Mr. Brown’s assistance.

After a good night, yet still aching from the rough road, we went out early to see the iron business. The soil is a mixture of iacutinga (iron and charcoal), and the process, slow and primitive, is known as the “Catalan process.” We saw the whole thing done from beginning to end. We left the foundry at 10.15, and went down the watershed of the river Gongo Soco, crossing it twice, and in an hour and a quarter arrived at São João do Morro Grande. Thence we rode to Brumado, a decayed village. Here we stopped for an hour in the great house of the Commendador João Alves de Sousa Continho, where we changed animals. This was once a gay and high house in great repute. It looked now as if withered; it has fallen into decay, and is inhabited by the old ex-courtier, once a favourite of the first Emperor. We proceeded across the ridge to the Santa Barbara, or main road. As we wound down a hill, in a somewhat romantic spot, we espied descending from the opposite height a troop of people dressed in black and white, and my conventual eye at once detected them to be Sisters of Charity. The rest of our party could not make them out, and were quite in a state of excitement at seeing these pilgrims. We met upon the bridge crossing the river. There were eleven sisters and two priests, all in religious habit and mounted on poor hack mules. They were going to form a new house at Dimantina, there being only one other convent in the interior, and that at Marianna. I recognized some old friends amongst them. They presented a very curious and pretty sight, as they came round a corner on the mountain-side, with their black habits and white bonnets. After stopping and talking for a little while, we rode on, and arrived at 4 p.m. at Catas Altas, having done twenty miles in five hours. Here we called on the padre and saw the church.

In the evening the good old padre came to visit us, but could not be persuaded to take a glass of champagne, of which we had a bottle in the provision basket.

We left Catas Altas next morning at 6.20, and rode for two miles till we reached Agua Quente (“hot water”). Here we had to make divers arrangements. We stayed there less than an hour, and rode on to a place about three hours’ ride from Agua Quente, through forests and a mountain ascent, in a heavy rain.

We eventually arrived at a piece of country that appeared like a gigantic basin with a mountain-ridge running nearly all round it. The soil was lumpy and ferruginous, and covered with a coarse, high grass, and very difficult of passage. At the top of this ridge we had to ride till we came successively to two places with small mountain torrents, which had sliced through the rock, and the bits that were broken away were like cakes of coal. There we had to sit and breakfast, while Richard went to examine this curious coal formation, which it was supposed might some day be valuable. This operation over, we mounted again, and at about one o’clock arrived at a little ranch called Moreira. We had left one change of mules and horses to follow us, and we missed them terribly, as we had to ride the same wretched animals all day.

Then Mr. Gordon, who had accompanied us thus far, wished us good-bye for a few days, as his business took him another way, and we rode through pretty woods to Inficionado (“Infected”) twenty-four miles in all, and reached it at 3.30. It is a long village, with several ranches and a few churches, very pretty, but remarkable for its number of idiots and deformities.

It was pleasant after the day’s fatigues to sit by a running brook opposite the ranch. The sun was not quite set yet; the almost full moon was visible. Richard and Mr. E— were sitting by the ranch door, and herds of mules were picketed in front. It was a most picturesque scene.

We left Inficionado next morning at 9.30, and rode along a bad road, which reminded me of the common pictures of Napoleon on an impossible horse crossing the Alps. We reached a ranch called Camargos at 12.15. To-day we ate while riding, and did not stop; the ride was hot and steep. We never drew rein till we reached Sant’ Anna, where we expected friends to take us in. We had fortunately sent on a black messenger with our letters of introduction, and to apprise them of our coming; and he ran to meet us a few hundred yards before we reached the house, and told us that the owner, Captain Treloar, superintendent of these mines, could not receive us, as his wife was dying. Much grieved and shocked, we returned to a neighbouring vendha for a few minutes to write a note of sympathy and apology for our untimely intrusion, and also to consult as to what we had better do with ourselves, since we had “counted our chickens” prematurely, certain of the never-failing hospitality of our compatriots, and had given away all our provisions. Now we were thrown on the wide world without so much as a biscuit. We soon decided to prospect the place we were in, and then ride to Marianna, where we had a letter of introduction to a Dr. Mockett. Sant’ Anna looked a desolate, dead-alive place, and consisted of the Casa Grande, or Superintendent’s house, a chapel on the hill, a big universal kitchen, and a hospital. These were the only four large buildings; but there were plenty of small white cottages, which looked like dots on the hill, for the English, and for the black settlers a line of huts. The valley, which was pretty, was occupied by the houses, which appeared small after Morro Velho.

When we returned to our vendha, we found waiting for us Mr. Symmonds, son-in-law of Captain Treloar who insisted on our going to-morrow to his house. He said it was empty, all the family being together at Sant’ Anna during their affliction; but as he kindly remarked we should be more comfortable there, we agreed, and mounted and rode with him along a pleasant, sandy road — not track — for two miles or more, till we passed a pretty villa in the centre of some wild-looking mountains. There lived Captain Treloar and his wife with a large family of nine daughters, six of whom were married, and three sons. All the men of the family, sons and sons-in-law, are connected with the mine.

We had a pretty ride of two miles more, and arrived on the brink of a height, and suddenly viewed a mass of spires and domes in the valley beneath, which we at once knew was the pretty cathedral town of Marianna. We rode down into it, and sent our letter to Dr. Mockett; but he too was absent attending Mrs. Treloar — a second disappointment; but we found a ranch. Marianna has nine churches, a seminary, a bishop’s palace, a convent, hospital, college, and orphanage of Sisters of Charity, but no hotel save a miserable ranch. It is a regular cathedral city, and so dead-alive, so unvisited by strangers, that I suppose it would not pay to have one. Our fare was of the worst description. My feet stuck out of the end of my miserable, short, straw bed, and it was a bitterly cold night. We sent round all our letters of introduction; but that night no one seemed to wake up to the fact of our arrival.

The next day, Sunday, was a wet and miserable morning. However, later Captain Treloar’s son-in-law came and rescued us, and took us to his house. This was a comfortable English home, where we found nicely furnished rooms, and were cheered with the sight of Bass’s ale, sherry, and everything imaginable to eat and drink, a piano, and plenty of books. We did not tear ourselves away from these luxuries for three days — from Sunday to Wednesday.

From here we went to visit the Passagem Mine. We changed our clothes, and each with a lantern and stick descended a steep, dark, slippery tunnel of forty-five fathoms deep — the caverns large and vaulted, and in some places propped up with beams and dripping with water. The stone is a mixture of quartz and gold. The miners were all black slaves. They were chanting a wild air in chorus in time to the strokes of the hammer. They work with an iron crowbar called a drill and a hammer, and each one bores away four palmes a day. If they do six, they get paid for the two over. They were streaming with perspiration, but yet seemed very merry. The mine was lit up with torches for us. We then descended thirty-two fathoms deeper, seeing all the different openings and channels. To the uninitiated like myself, it looked probable that the caverns of stone, apparently supported by nothing, would fall in. I took down my negret Chico. He showed great symptoms of fear, and exclaimed, “Parece O inferno!” I was rather struck by the justice of the observation. The darkness, the depth of the caverns, the glare of the torches lighting up the black figures humming against the walls, the heat and want of air, the horrid smells, the wild chant, reminded me of Dante. I wondered if he took some of his hells out of a mine?

Next day poor Mrs. Treloar died, after fifteen days of bilious attack. In this country, if you are well and strong, in good nerve and spirits, and can fight your own way, you do very well; but the moment you are sick, down with you, fall out of the ranks and die, unless you have some one who values your life as his own. But even this could not save poor Mrs. Treloar. Mr. Symmonds requested Richard, as English Consul, to perform the funeral service, as they had no church, no clergyman, no burial-ground; so they would not distress her mind by the knowledge that she was dying. My husband seemed to have been sent by Providence to perform this sad affair, as the English here hold greatly to their consuls performing a ceremony in the absence of a clergyman. The Treloars were to have gone home to England for good the previous month, having several of their children at school in England, and only put it off for that “little while” often so fatal in the tropics. She was buried on the hilltop, and was followed by all the men in the neighbourhood, black and white. Women do not attend funerals, nor sales, nor shops, nor post-offices in Brazil. Richard read the service, and I was left in charge of the house and blacks while they were all absent. A little before the funeral I heard a tremendous noise in the kitchen like the crashing of crockery, black women screaming, and men swearing angry oaths. I ran in and found two of the men kniving each other over a piece of money which we had given the servants for their attention to us. Blood was upon the ground. I rushed in between them and wrenched their knives away, and ordered them all out upon the grass upon their knees, and they obeyed. The funeral was now winding up the hill opposite the house, and I read prayers for the dead.

Directly after the funeral we mounted our animals and rode for six miles along a pretty mountainous road to Ouro Preto. We rode down into the town (which looked rather imposing from the height we viewed it) as the clock struck six. It was now dark, and we were received into the house of Commendador Paula Santos, Director of the Bank, and were made very comfortable.

Ouro Preto is the capital of Minas Geraes. It is by far the most hilly town I ever saw; walking up and down the streets is quite as difficult as ascending and descending ladders, and there is an equal danger of falling. I think one could throw a stone from the top of a street to the bottom without its touching anything en route. The President of the Province lives here, and has a white palace like a little fortress. There is a small theatre, a bank, two tramways (one provincial and one imperial), a prison and large police barrack, a townhall, several carved stone fountains, and fifteen churches. We found the one usual English family, a general shopkeeper and watchmaker, with a wife and children, brother and sister. They were very hospitable. We stayed here two days.

We left Ouro Preto at 9.40 on Saturday morning, and rode along a neither very good nor very bad road, with fine mountain scenery, and the wind rather too cool. We were now turning our faces back again towards Morro Velho. We followed the course of the river, riding in the dry bed. We arrived at Casa Branca (a few ranches) at 1.15, and came up with a party of American immigrants. Here we only changed animals, and mounted again at two o’clock, as we had a long, weary ride facing wind and rain on the mountain-tops. We at last arrived at the house of Mr. Treloar (brother of the Mr. Treloar of Sant’ Anna). Here we hoped to find hospitality; but he too was in affliction, so we rode on to Rio das Pedras, and dismounted at 3 p.m. The hamlet was a few huts and a burnt-down church. We luckily got in fifteen minutes before the Americans, and secured some rough beds and food. Here we had an amusing evening with the immigrants. They were an old father with an oldish daughter, two young married couples, and one stray man, one old, grey-haired, swallowed-tailed gentleman, and a young woman with a lot of chicks. They were wandering about in search of land to settle down and be farmers, and were amusing, clever, and intelligent.

Richard awoke us at 3 a.m. It rained in torrents all night, and there was a succession of bad storms of thunder and lightning; so I was very loath to get up. But whether I liked it or not I was ordered to mount at 6 a.m.

We had a long, muddy, rainy, weary, up and down hill ride, slipping back two steps for every one forward, and going downhill much faster than we wished, which made the journey appear double the distance. After eight miles we arrived at our old sleeping-place on the borders of Morro Velho, Coche d’Agua. The old people were gone, and the new ones were not very civil, and we had great difficulty in getting even a cup of coffee. We had some amusement coming along. Mr. E— was strongly in favour of riding with a loose rein. We were scaling a greasy hill, and his animal, after slithering about several minutes, fell on its stomach. Chico and I dismounted, for our beasts couldn’t stand; but when we were off neither could we. Mr. E—‘s mule got up and ran away; and Richard, through wicked fun, though safe at the top, would not catch it. Chico’s mule was only donkey size. Mr. E— jumped upon it, and being tall he looked as if he were riding a dog and trailing his legs on the ground. He rode after his mule and caught it in half an hour, and we were all right again.

From Coche d’Agua next morning we rode on to Morro Velho, and found the church bells ringing, and pretty girls with sprays of flowers in their hair going to hear Mass. I was not allowed to go, so I paid two old women to go and hear Mass for me, much to the amusement of the party. We breakfasted by the roadside, and rode into Morro Velho and to the Gordons. The journey, though only twenty-four miles, had been long and tedious on account of the rain and mud and constant steep ascents and descents. We arrived looking like wet dogs at our kind host's door; and my appearance especially created mirth, as my skirt up to my waist was heavy with mud, my hat torn to ribbons, with the rain running down the tatters. A big bath was prepared for each of us. We changed our clothes, and sat down to a comfortable and excellent dinner, thankful to be in the hospitable shelter of the Casa Grande again. Here we tarried for a fortnight, and thoroughly explored Morro Velho this time.

Among other things, I determined to go down into the mine, which has the reputation of being the largest, deepest, and richest gold-mine in Brazil. We had been very anxious to visit its depths when we were at Morro Velho before, but Mr. Gordon had put us off until our return.

It was considered rather an event for a lady to go down the mine, especially as Mrs. Gordon, the Superintendent’s wife, who had been at Morro Velho nine years and a half, had never been down. However, she consented to accompany me. She said, “I have never yet taken courage; I am sure if I don’t do it now, I never shall.” So the end of it was that a crowd of miners and their families and blacks collected along the road and at the top of the mine to see us descend. One lady staying in the house with us (Casa Grande) could not make up her mind to go; and when I asked Chico, he wrung his hands, and implored me not to go, weeping piteously. As we went along we could hear the miners’ delighted remarks, and their wives wondering: “Well, to be sure now, to think of they two going down a mile and a quarter in the dark, and they not obliged to, and don’t know but that they may never come up again! I’d rather it was they than me!” “Aye, that’s our countrywomen; they’s not afeared of nothing! I’d like to see some o’ they Brazzys put into that ’ere kibble.”

We were dressed in brown Holland trousers, blouse, belt, and miner’s cap, and a candle was stuck on our heads with a dab of clay. The party to go down consisted of Mr. Gordon, Richard, Mr. E—, and Mr. John Whitaker, an engineer. There are two ways of going down, by ladders and by a bucket. The ladders are nearly a thousand yards long. If you see lights moving like sparks at enormous distances beneath, it is apt to make you giddy. Should your clothes catch in anything, should you make a false step, you fall into unknown space. The miners consider this safe. They do it in half an hour, running down like cats, do their day’s work, and run up again in three-quarters of an hour; but to a new-comer it is dreadfully fatiguing, and may occupy four hours — to a woman it is next to impossible.

The other way is easy, but considered by the miners excessively unsafe. It is to be put into an iron bucket called a kibble, which is like a huge gypsy-pot (big enough to hold two ordinary-sized people thinly clad), suspended by three chains. It is unwound by machinery, and let down by an iron rope or chain as the lifts are in London. It takes about twenty minutes, and is only used for hauling tons of stone out of the mine or hauling up wounded men. The miners said to me, “We make it a point of honour to go down by the ladders; for the fact is, on the ladder we depend on ourselves, but in the kibble we depend on every link of the chain, which breaks from time to time.” If the slightest accident happens, you can do nothing to help yourself, but are dashed into an apparently fathomless abyss in darkness. The opening where we first embarked was a narrow, dark hole, very hot and oppressive. The kibble was suspended over the abyss. Richard and Mr. E— went first. Mr. Gordon and Mr. Whitaker, being superintendent and engineer, went by the ladders.

In due time the kibble returned, and Mrs. Gordon and I were put into it, with some candles fastened to the side by a dab of clay, a piece of lighted tow in the chain above us that we might see the beauties of the lower regions, and a flask of brandy in case we got faint, which I am proud to say we did not touch. As we looked up many jokes were exchanged, and word was given to lower away. We waved a temporary farewell to the sea of faces, and the last thing we saw was Chico and Mrs. Gordon’s black maid weeping bitterly and wringing their hands. A tremendous cheer reached us, even when some distance below.

We began to descend slowly, and by means of our rough illuminations we saw all that we passed through. Lower and lower on all sides were dark abysses like Dante’s Inferno. The huge mountain-sides were kept apart by giant tree trunks. How they came there or how fastened up is one of the wonders of man’s power and God’s permission. As we went down, down into the bowels of the earth, each dark, yawning cavern looked uglier than its neighbour. Every here and there was a forest of timber. Whenever we passed any works, the miners lifted their lighted caps, which looked like sparks in the immensity, and spoke or gave us a viva, that we might not be frightened. It was a comfort to hear a human voice, though it could do us no good if anything went wrong. Suddenly in a dark, desolate place our kibble touched some projecting thing and tilted partly over. I clutched at the chains above my head, and Mrs. Gordon held me. It righted itself in a second. In their anxiety to do well they had put us into the wrong kibble, which had a superfluity of chain, and had played out a little too much of it above. This happened three times, and they were three moments of agony — such moments as make people’s hair turn grey. I was too full of life and hope to want to die. Every one ought to experience some such moments in his life, when his heart flies up in supplication to God. It was wonderful, when half-way down, to look below and see the lights, like fireflies in the forest, moving about. At length the kibble stood still, and began to roll like a boat. Then it began to descend perpendicularly; and after a little while we saw the glare of lights, and friendly voices bid us welcome to the mines. Loud vivas greeted us from the workmen.

I cannot describe how kind and thoughtful all the rough workmen were. Everything was done to show us how much they were pleased and flattered by our visit, to allay fear, to amuse us, and to show us everything of interest. It would have been a good lesson in manners to many London drawing-rooms. We each had two men to guide us about.

It was a stupendous scene of its kind. Caverns of quartz pyrites and gold, whose vaulted roofs, walls, and floors swarmed with blacks with lighted candles on their heads, looked excessively infernal. Each man had drill and hammer, and was singing a wild song and beating in time with his hammer. Each man bores eight palmes (pounds) a day, and is paid accordingly, though a slave. If he bores more, he is paid for his over-work. Some are suspended to the vaulted roof by chains, and in frightful-looking positions; others are on the perpendicular walls.

After seeing the whole of this splendid palace of darkness in the bowels of the earth, we sat on a slab of stone and had some wine. Richard said to Mr. Gordon, “Suppose this timber should ever catch fire, what would you do?” Mr. Gordon laughed, and said, “Oh, that is impossible; the whole place is dripping with water, and the wood is all damp, and it would not take; and we have no chance of fire-damp and other dangers of explosion as in other mines — coal-mines, for instance. Oh, I’m not afraid of that.” 23

At this time the mine was at its climax of greatness and perfection, perfectly worked and regulated, and paying enormously.

We mounted as we came. I found it a much more unpleasant sensation and more frightening to ascend than to descend. Yet sometimes out of some caverns of horror on the way up would pop an urchin of ten or twelve laughing, and hop across a beam like a frog without the least fear. The Brazilian authorities wanted to interfere to prevent children being employed in the mine, and Mr. Gordon to please them stopped it; but whole families came and implored on their knees to be taken back. They earned much, and their lives were rendered respectable and well regulated, and their condition superior under the existing régime. But there is no doubt that this part of the province would degenerate terribly, should the colony be broken up, or the present Superintendent leave.

In the evening the miners and their officers gave us a concert. A large room in the stores was very prettily decorated with palm and the flower of Saint John (which is a creeper like a rich orange honeysuckle and dark green leaves), and chandeliers were intermixed. There was a little stage for the performers, adorned with a large painted representation of the British arms, and a place for the band. The room, though large, was crowded; all the little colony was present. We had comic performances, Christy Minstrels, and sentimental songs for about two hours, wound up by a dance, and at midnight broke up with “God save the Queen.”

We were now preparing for the second half of our trip — to canoe down the Rio São Francisco (thirteen hundred miles) from Sabará to the sea. The expedition was to be Richard, myself (if permitted), and Mr. E—, who was to choose whether he would go or not (as it turned out, fortunately for him, he preferred to return to Rio with the Gold Troop on July 28). I was entreating to go, and my fate was hanging in the balance, when the question was settled for me by an accident.

Richard had been requested to give a lecture on his travels. The night of July 27 was fixed. The room was arranged as before. Richard spoke of the pleasure he had in becoming acquainted with them all, and told them his impressions about Morro Velho. He thanked the officers, captains, miners, and all for their kindness and attention, and touched upon his travels generally, especially the Nile, Mecca, and Dahomé. Mr. Gordon then spoke, and Mr. E—, and many pretty little speeches were made. It lasted about an hour, and then we had a short concert. I sang four times; and Chico was dressed up, and sang very prettily with the guitar, and danced. All the singers did something, and a little dancing, and “God save the Queen” as usual terminated the festivities. Unfortunately for me, after my first song, as I was going off the platform there was a deep step to take in the dark, and I fell off and sprained my ankle severely; but I managed to perform my part to the end by sitting still, excepting when I had to sing; so that it was not found out until all was over, and I had to be carried home. This was a dreadful bore for Richard, who could not take me, and did not like to leave me; so he good-naturedly put off his journey for ten days.

The doctor at first thought my leg was broken, but it turned out to be only a severe contusion. I was five days in bed, and then was promoted to crutches, litter, and sofa, which lasted me twenty days.

At last the day came to see Richard off on his important journey in a canoe from Sabará down the Rio das Velhas and Rio São Francisco to the sea, visiting the diamond-mines at Diamantina from the nearest point (to that city) of the river. Mr. E— had already started for Rio. I did not think it convenable to travel alone with the jeune brigand, so he did not wait for me. We set out from Morro Velho on August 6, a large party on horse and mule back, poor me in a litter, and of course ordered to return with the party. The litter is a covered stretcher, with a mule in front and one behind, in shafts, and it takes two men to manage it. It is expensive travelling, and a great luxury for those who tire soon in the saddle; but I would rather ride any distance, as the motion makes me ill. It is not easy like the hammock. We rode for twelve miles over a pretty mountainous road to Sabará, a very picturesque, ancient-looking town, with eight churches and some important houses, and with a decent vendha, or ranch. It is on a head of the Rio das Velhas, and seems to be the centre of North American emigration here. The first view of the town and winding river is exceedingly pretty. A church on a hilltop is the first indication or landmark of Sabará, the town being immediately below it. We arrived, ranched ourselves, and got a good dinner. We went to the only shop, and bought some French jewellery for a few coppers, as parting presents for each other, by way of “chaff”; and after seeing the town, ended the evening as usual seated round an empty ranch on the floor or on our boxes, and drank execrable tea, which tasted like hot brandy-and-water without sugar, and some beer presented us by the great man of the place. As I was told he was very rich and stingy, I asked him to make me a present of a few bottles of beer for my party, as we were thirsty; but if I remember right, he sent me in a bill for it next morning.

In the morning we got a good ranch breakfast, during which we were visited by all the “swells” of Sabará. We set out for the river, where the canoes were. Two canoes were lashed together, boarded, and covered over with an awning just like a tent. There was a little brick stove, benches, and a writing-table erected. Richard and I went on board, and the young lady of the party, Miss Dundas, niece of “Uncle Brown,” the before-mentioned “Padre Eterno,” broke a bottle of caxassi over her bows, exclaiming, “Brig Eliza,” whereby hangs an untold joke. Besides our own party, nearly all the village followed us. So there arose respectable cheers for the “Brig Eliza,” “Captain and Mrs. Burton,” “Success to the expedition,” “The Superintendent and his wife,” “The Queen of England,” with many vivas. We then took all our own party on board, and sent the animals forward to meet us, and shoved off. There were two blacks in the stern, and two in the bows to paddle and pole, and one black to cook for Richard and attend upon him. One old black was disagreeably nervous, and begged Richard to exchange him at the next town, which he did. We spooned down with the stream, which ran very fast, and went down two rapids, and got aground twice, and towards sunset arrived at Roça Grande. Here they all took leave of Richard — I need not say how sadly. They kindly left me behind for a space to follow, as it was a more serious business for me to say “good-bye” than for them. “I was not to expect him till I saw him. It might be two months, or four, or six.” He did not know what might happen. The dangers were Indians, piranhas (a sort of river pike), fever and ague, and of course the rapids. At last I parted from him on his ‘brig,’ with the old swallow-tailed gentleman (before mentioned), who had begged a two-days’ passage, and a savage cão de féla and his five blacks; and from a bank I watched the barque with dim eyes round a winding of the river, which hid it from my sight. The sun was sinking as I turned away. I was put into my litter, and taken back to Sabará, where I fell in with my party, and we returned to Morro Velho as we came. This was August 7.

I remained with my kind friends the Gordons till I got well enough to ride all day without injury. On one occasion I was able to be of use to Mr. Gordon in a small matter which required a little diplomacy and a gallop of three leagues, twelve miles either way, out and in within a given time, the message he had sent having failed. I asked to go; I wanted to try if I was fit for my long ride, and he gave me my choice of all the stables. I selected a white horse of remarkable speed and endurance, with a strong cross of the Arab in him, and it certainly would have been my own fault if I had failed as to time. I rode there, found the desired decision, and walked into his office with the answer long before the time, which pleased him very much. After that I thought I was fit to set out on my return journey to Rio. I had already stayed so long in their house, receiving great kindness and hospitality; and though they begged of me to continue with them until it was time to meet Richard at Rio, I felt that life was too serious to pass my days in the pleasant dolce far niente of catching butterflies, which really was my principal occupation at Morro Velho. There was too much to be done elsewhere, so I begged Mr. Gordon to lend me seven animals, two slaves, and one of his tropeiro captains, or muleteers, and I prepared to leave this hospitable family on the coming August 25.

Before this date, as I felt sufficiently recovered, I had gradually emancipated myself from litter and sofa, and tried my strength as usual. I had one very pleasant and amusing excursion.

There was a village called Santa Rita, about five miles from Morro Velho, where they have a church, but no priest; and being the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, a great day, the villages had sent over to borrow the Morro Velho padre. They sent a mounted attendant and a horse saddled with silver trappings to bring him there and back. I asked him to take me. Mr. Gordon lent me a horse and a mounted attendant, and we set out on a most lovely morning for our pretty mountain ride. The padre was in the height of Minas fashion and elegance. He wore jack-boots, white corduroys, a very smart coat, waistcoat, watch-chain, embroidered Roman collar, a white pouche with tassels and silk cravat, and enormous silver spurs. On arriving, we were received by upwards of forty people in a private house on the way to the church. From there we went on to the church, a small, tawdry, roadside chapel, where the padre said Mass; and though the people were very devout, the children and dogs were very distracting. We then went to a vendha, and spread our basket of provisions. This made the people furious. The padre had passed me off as his niece, so everybody was anxious to have the honour of doing hospitality to the padre and his niece. About fifteen messages were sent to us, so we said we would go round and take coffee with them after our breakfast. The great attraction of the place was a handsome old lady, Donna Floris Vella, civilized and intelligent by nature. She petted me a good deal at first for being the padre’s niece, and called me bena moca (here to be young and fat is the highest personal compliment they can pay you), and quarrelled with us for going off into the mato — the forest, as she called the vendha — to breakfast, instead of coming to her. But I suddenly forgot that I was the padre’s niece, and turned round and spoke to Mr. Fitzpatrick, the Morro Velho Master of Horse, who had been sent to attend upon me, in English. When she heard me speaking English so fluently, she flew at the padre and punched him in the ribs in a friendly way, and told him he was a liar; but she kept up the joke with the rest; so we had coffee and very interesting general conversation about England and civilization, church matters and marriages, and were taken round to several houses. They would have been jealous if we had only visited one; so we did not reach home till late in the afternoon.

One day afterwards, as I was sitting at the church door at Morro Velho, I saw some hammocks with bodies lying in them. They were carried by others, all dripping with blood. The kibble—the same one we had been down the mine in — had broken a link of its chain and fallen. How sorry it made me feel, and how thankful that it did not happen on our day, as it easily might! Mr. Gordon is so careful about accidents that he has the chain hauled over and examined every twelve hours, and a prize is given to any one who can find a faulty link; yet in spite of all this from time to time it will break away. I think it happened twice during my stay. There is not the smallest occurrence that happens in that large colony that does not come under Mr. Gordon’s eye between nine and ten o’clock every morning. The wonder is how he finds time for everything and every one with so much ease to himself.

While I was at Morro Velho he allowed me to organize little singing parties every night. All who could sing used to assemble, and he would join us, and we learnt duets, trios, quartettes, chorus glees, and so on. It brought people together; and he said it was refreshing after the day’s work, instead of sitting reading or writing in a corner, always tired.

So passed the time at Morro Velho, until the day of my departure dawned.

23 Yet the mine was almost destroyed by fire some six months after our visit.

Chapter VIII

My Lonely Ride to Rio


The day of my delight is the day when you draw near,
And the day of mine affright is the day you turn away.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

On Sunday, August 25, we had a sad dinner at the Casa Grande at midday, on account of the breaking up our little party, which had been so pleasant off and on for the past two months. We should probably never meet again. I bade Mrs. Gordon farewell, and at 3.30 a considerable cavalcade set out from Mr. Gordon’s hospitable door. I had to pass through the village of Morro Velho. There appeared many a waving handkerchief, and I received many a warm handshake and “God-speed.”

At the top of the village hill I turned to take a last grateful farewell of valley, church, and village — the little colony, with its white settlements and pretty bungalows, where I had passed so many pleasant days. We rode along one of the beautiful roads, which I have before described, for about six miles, often silent or trying to make cheerful remarks. Mr. Gordon accompanied me. A little before five o'clock the sun's rays were beginning to fade away into the pleasant, illuminated coolness of late afternoon, and we stopped at a house agreed upon as the parting-place, the house of the same Donna Floris Vella before mentioned, an old widow lady with a delicate son. Though already grey and aged, she was very buxom and clever, though deprived by circumstances of cultivation. She was what we would call “a good fellow.” Here we stayed half an hour, and looked at her flowers. Then we remounted, and rode on for a few hundred yards. My host, Mr. Gordon, who commanded our party, here anticipated a little mutiny, as all in their kindness of heart wanted to accompany the lone woman, and some begged to go with me for one day and some even for one stage. So we suddenly stopped in a tract of low brushwood, and he gently but firmly said, “It was here that I parted with my daughter when her husband took her to England, and it is here that I will part with you.” I shook hands silently with him, and then with the others all round, and as the sun’s last rays faded into evening I turned the head of my “gallant grey” towards my long ride; but I turned myself in the saddle, and watched them all retreating across the tract homewards until the last waving handkerchief had disappeared.

It was one of those beautiful South American evenings, cool and fresh after the day’s heat; and twilight was succeeded by a brilliant starlight such as England’s denizens have never dreamt of. There was perfect stillness, save the hum of late insects and a noise like distant rain; sweet smells from the forest were wafted across my path; and dark, brown birds of magpie shape flitted along the ground like big bats or moths, sometimes perching for an instant, and disappearing without noise in a ghostlike fashion. I felt very sad. I was sorry to leave my friends. Two months even “off and on” is like twelve months to a wanderer and an Englishwoman in exile, and above all in the wilds. She is glad to meet her country people when they are kind; and they had been so very kind. Moreover, I was returning after a taste of bush life, not to my eyrie in São Paulo, but to the cab shafts of semi-civilization in Rio de Janeiro.

My retinue consisted of the Captain of the Gold Troop, a kind, attentive man. He rode down with the Gold Troop from the mines, and protected it with an old two-barrelled horse-pistol, which would never go off when we wanted to shoot anything (and by way of parenthesis I may remark that, with the assistance of a small boy to look after the mules, I would undertake for a bet to rob the troop myself). My capitão, whom for the future I shall call Senhor Jorge, spoke but little, and that in Brazilian. I should call him a very silent youth, which was an advantage in passing beautiful scenery, or when taking notes, or feeling inclined for thought; but there were moments when I wanted to glean information about the country, and then I used to draw him out with success. Besides this stalwart there was my faithful Chico, two slaves to take care of the animals, six mules for baggage and riding, and my grey horse.

We arrived at the ranch of Sant' Antonio d'Acima at about eight o’clock. Here I got a comfortable straw bed and some milk. Some of the inhabitants, about fifteen in number, came over to our ranch, which consisted of four bare, whitewashed walls, a ceiling of plaited bamboo, a mud floor, a wooden shutter for a window, two wooden benches and table, and three tallow dips. These good people sang songs and glees, and danced Minas dances for me to the native wire guitar, snapping their fingers, and beating time with their feet. They sing and dance at the same time. They were all very merry. At ten I retired to try and sleep, leaving them to continue their festivities; but what with the excitement of the day, and the still twanging guitars at the other side of the partition, I did not succeed.

At 2 a.m. I rose, and, calling to Senhor Jorge, asked him to send for the animals. The two slaves were sent to the pasture to look for them, drive them in, and feed them. While this operation was going on, I paid the master for my night’s entertainment the sum of seven milreis, or fourteen shillings. When I mounted, it was 4 a.m. It was quite dark and foggy, but this I did not mind. I had heard from all quarters that the country was execrable. My mule, like Byron’s corsair, possessed one virtue to a thousand crimes, and that was surefootedness, and had an objection to deep holes; and were the whole journey to have been performed on a single plank, I would have ridden him in the dark without a bridle. I threw it on his neck, and tried to keep my hands warm. Soon the fog lifted, and the moon’s last crescent showed us the way, aided by starlight. The dawn grew upon us at 5.30, and at 6.30 the sun gilded the mountain-tops. At eight we arrived at Rio das Pedras, our old station, breakfasted from our basket, and changed animals. I had arranged to ride my mule in the dark, but my good grey horse in the daylight, for he trotted well, and this would relieve the journey greatly. We had now ridden twelve miles. My mule was lazy, I had no spur, and besides the country was difficult. I had still twelve miles to go. So I changed for the grey. I passed over several bits of prairie ground, where I gave my grey “spirits.” I arrived at twelve o’clock, two hours later than I had intended, at Casa Branca, the station where we had stopped five weeks previously. The sun had already been fierce for two hours. It is an excellent plan in Brazil to start early and ride your twenty-four or thirty miles before ten or eleven, and rest during the great heat of the day under shelter. It saves both man and beast, and enables them to last longer; and on a moonlight or starlight morning in the tropics you lose nothing of scenery, it is so bright. Casa Branca was an old broken-down house in a valley near a river. The only available room was occupied by an invalid. The woman of the house, be it remarked, had twenty-four children, and a cat for each child; so we had scanty room, but decent food — canjica (a rice mess), fowl roast and stewed, farinha (flour), coves (cabbage), with tocinho (bacon fat), and feijão (black beans). My sleeping-place was a room with four narrow mud walls, a rush ceiling, mud floor, a door which only kept shut by planting a stake against it, and a bit of sacking covered the hole representing a window. Every day, on arriving at my ranch, I first looked after the animals and their comforts, for on this all depends; then settled my own, wrote up this journal, saw that the men had all they wanted, dined, and then inspected the place, and read till falling asleep, always rising at 1 or 2 a.m. This evening I took a stroll down the partially dried-up bed of the river by twilight, and met herds of cattle being driven home. The picture would have made a good Turner. On my return Chico brought me a caxassi bath; this is, literally, a grog of native rum and hot water, without sugar, which gives a refreshing sleep. In these countries there is a minute tick, which covers you by millions, burrowing into your flesh; you cannot extract it, and it maddens you. At night you derive an inexpressible relief from having the grog bath.

Next morning we rose at 2.20, but did not get off till 4 a.m. It was pitch dark, raining, with high wind, and altogether a decidedly suicidal kind of morning. Instead of going down the bed of the river, we struck away to the right (N.W.), on a new road to any I had been formerly. We groped our way through rain and biting wind. At 7 a.m. we took a last view of the cross of Morro Velho from a height forty-six miles off, having passed through Cachoeira do Campo, a long, straggling village which climbed a hill and possessed a church and one or two respectable houses. It should be remarked that in Minas Geraes there are a great number of large black crosses, with all the instruments of the Passion, erected either before the parish church or on heights; they were introduced by the Jesuit missionaries. An Englishman having any great enterprise on hand will say as an incentive to the blacks, “When such a work is completed, I will plant a cross in your village”; and the hope of this makes them anxious and hard-working. We passed a deserted house and ranch. The country all about was ugly, wild, and desolate, and composed chiefly of barren campos. At 9 a.m. we arrived at Chiquero, a little village and ranch on a hill. We picnicked in the open ranch with the mules, not liking to go into a hot shelter and come out again in the wind. Meantime the sun came out and scorched us up. We changed animals, and left Chiquero at ten. My mule “Camondongo” trotted after us like a dog. Our road was bad, but a little less ugly than hitherto. We saw a fox in the wood, and Senhor Jorge tried to shoot it with the old horse-pistol, but failed. Later on we passed through some woods, and finally saw Ouro Branco quite close to us from a height on the other side of the serra. I was quite delighted, and exclaimed, “Oh, we shall get in early to-day.” “Patience,” said my capitão; “wait a little.” We had to make an enormous détour of at least two leagues to get to Ouro Branco, which seemed close to us, because we could not cut straight across the serra, which was impassable. It was very irritating always seeing the town near us, and yet always unable to reach it. I wanted to ride straight down the serra, but Senhor Jorge wouldn’t let me, and so we eventually passed round under the rocks beneath it. I saw that he was right, though it seemed such a waste of time. Still, the delay was not to be regretted, as the only curious feature of this part is in this turn, which is full of curious hills covered with stones of a wonderful and natural formation, starting out of the earth in a slanting position. The only idea it conveys to the mind is that of a hilly churchyard, overstocked with tombstones all blown on one side by the wind. They are intersected with a curious stunted tree of shrub, with a tuft at the end of each branch; and every here and there was a small patch or forest of them, and they presented a very weird look in the surrounding desolation. I did not know, nor could Senhor Jorge inform me, what these stones were made of, nor why this curious formation. Though he had travelled the road for seven years, and been in the country since his birth, he had never remarked them before. Coming in we saw a peasant with a stick and a pistol fighting a cobra. It appeared a long day, as we had had five hours of darkness, biting wind, and rain, followed by four hours of scorching sun.

We arrived at Ouro Branco at one o’clock. It is a long, straggling village, with a church and a few nice, respectable, white houses. A wall of green serra faces the village, which runs round on the top of a semicircular eminence under the serra. It had several old houses, one marked 1759, a Minas cross, and an old stone fountain. The ranch was respectable, but very dirty behind the scenes. I went into the inner part to prepare food myself, and was thankful that I did so. The women were unwashed, dirtily clad, covered with snuff, and with hair streaming down their backs; and the kitchen utensils cannot be described. It is almost impossible for an Englishwoman in any part of the world, no matter how rough she may become, even in bushranging, to view dirt with calm and indifference.

I left Ouro Branco at 4.30 a.m. It was then pitch dark, but finally the heavy clouds and small rain cleared away, and we enjoyed starlight, then a delicious dawn and bright morning. We first rode through a long, straggling village, called Carreiras, and afterwards passed a small fazenda, where there were evidences of a refined mind; it was radiant with flowers, and trellised with creepers. Our road to-day was prettier. We passed through well-wooded lanes with pretty foliage — the umbrella tree and feathery mimosa. The next feature worth remarking was a small river, which had overhanging trees of a white-and-pink feathery flower which yields an edible bean. I sent one of our men to pick some. They have a branch of green buds in the middle, and the external ones sprout forth in feather, which is magenta pink at its base and snow white at the ends, terminating in a yellow knob. We then met some men hunting peccary; the master with a horse and gun, and the beaters with dogs in couples and hatchets. At 8 a.m. we arrived at a small ranch, in a forest called Holaria, kept by an Italian and a Portuguese. The former keeps his original grind-organ, which attracted all the birds in the neighbourhood, who perched and sang loudly in the tree-tops surrounding it. He had, however, forgotten his native tongue. We picketed the animals, and breakfasted in the open.

The gigantic earth-slips in this part of the world present a very remarkable appearance. They appeared like yawning gulfs, as if some awful convulsion of Nature had just taken place; and one can hardly believe the hubbub that is effected by little streams of water wearing away and causing the earth to fall. Some appeared as if a vast plain had sunk, leaving gigantic walls, fanciful castles, and pyramids of earth standing alone in the middle. They are of a bright red clay, which the sun variegates like a kaleidoscope.

We left Holaria at nine, and came to Quelsez, a long village with shops and a few decent houses. I stopped at the shop of a Portuguese Jew to look at violas. We then rode along a rather pretty and level road, where we met mules and tropeiros, which indicated that we were joining the civilized world again, and suggested more of highway and traffic than we had as yet seen. We stopped at Bandeirinho, a few huts and farm, and had a glass of water and witnessed great excitement amongst the juvenile population because a cobra was killing all their chickens. All along the road to-day our way was lined with a beautiful sort of lilac laburnum. We had plenty of level ground for galloping.

We arrived at 12.30 at a village called Ribeirão do Inferno, a few straggling houses and ranch, poor but clean. In the ranch and its surroundings lay a sick girl, an old woman, two young married women, and a man. As I was known to be European, they came to ask me if I had any remedies; sickness was rare here, and doctor or medicines unknown. I produced a little medicine chest, with which they were quite surprised and delighted. First I went to the old woman. She was seventy; she had been travelling along on a mule, when she was suddenly seized with spasms, was unable to proceed, and was carried into the first house. She was shut up in the dark, and would not allow any light in the room, where about a dozen sympathizers were collected, till I absolutely refused to prescribe for her in the dark. She then consented to a candle being brought. She then, after some beating about the bush, confessed to me that she had eaten too much cabbage, upon which I prescribed for her to take a cup of “English” tea which I had with me with milk and sugar, and left her quite happy. The girl had a serious chill. I made her some hot punch of caxassi water and sugar, with a large lump of hog’s lard in it, in default of butter, and covered her up with six blankets and rugs to produce perspiration. The family fought very hard about it, and declared that she should not and would not drink it; but I insisted that she must, and she helped me by taking to it very kindly. She was quite well, but weak, after a few hours. The two young women had headaches from other causes, and I gave them carbonate of soda, which they insisted was sea-salt, and imagination made them sea-sick. But the worst of all was the man, who was seriously ill, and I found out at last it resulted from decayed teeth, upon which I told him that only a dentist could cure him. His wife told me with tears that it was death to have a tooth out, and I must give him some medicine that would make the decayed teeth drop out without pain; but I told her that was beyond my, or any one’s, power. I wonder what a London doctor would have given for my reputation that night!

It is worth noticing that to-day the carapatos (ticks) were on the decrease. This seems to be the border or barrier of their country; but I do believe this place to be unhealthy, for we were all slightly ailing that night. A young Portuguese engineer who has been educated in France arrived at the ranch in the evening en route for Ouro Preto. He told me he had been in Ouro Preto when we had passed through it on our way out, and had much wished to make our acquaintance.

We were rather lazy the next morning, and did not leave Ribeirão until a few minutes to six. My invalids were all well; but I only saw the master. My four men and myself were all suffering from headache, so the place must have been unhealthy. We had nothing to regret in starting so late, for it was darker, colder, and more mizzly than ever. We rode two and a half leagues, or ten miles, before breakfast. Neither our road nor any events were worthy of remark. The scenery would have been very beautiful for England, but it was tame for South America. We passed at intervals a few cottages or a solitary fazenda. We breakfasted in the open ground of a pretty ranch, called Floresta, surrounded by wooded mountains. There we found several men lassoing a struggling bull, who would not consent to leave his birthplace and little friends, and gave them about twenty minutes’ trouble over every hundred yards, tearing men and trees down with his lasso. Senhor Jorge would go inside the ranch, but I persisted in seeing the sport. We then passed a few straggling houses; then an old fazenda; then we came to a stream with one plank, which we made our animals cross.

We reached Gama at 1.10 p.m., having been out for seven hours. I felt a little tired, and declined to ride any farther, as there was no necessity. Gama is a ranch, and a poor, dirty one, in a desolate spot. It was fortunate for me that I arrived when I did, for half an hour later arrived en route for some distant fazenda Senhor Nicolão Netto Carneiro Seão, a polished and travelled man who spoke excellent English. He was travelling with his wife, children, and servants, numbering sixteen persons, some splendid animals, and a liteira. We had a long conversation over a gypsy fire which his servant made on the ranch floor, during which he told me he had served for five years in the British navy. He appeared to be anxious to import everything European, and to civilize his country. He was kind enough to say that he longed to meet Richard, and gave us a general invitation to visit his fazenda, and we exchanged cards.

The next morning we got up at 1.30 a.m., but did not start till 3.30. The morning was starlight, with a biting wind, but it soon grew dark and cloudy. We had no end of petty misfortunes. My change horse, being allowed to run loose, that we might go faster, instead of following us, ran back to his pasturage of last night. The mule I was riding insisted on following him, and heeded neither bit nor whip, but nearly left me in a ditch. Our cargo mule took advantage of the scrimmage to bolt in an opposite direction. And it was at this crisis especially dark and cloudy. We lost nearly an hour in collecting again, as we could not see each other nor any path. It seemed a very long two leagues (eight miles) before breakfast. As soon as it was light we could see a church tower of Barbacena on a neighbouring hill, apparently about three miles from us, but in reality fifteen miles distant.

At 7.10 we encamped in a clearing. My grey horse (the change) was tied up to a tree preparatory to being saddled, and got the staggers, threw himself down, and rolled and kicked so that, when we left again at eight o’clock, I had to remount my mule “Camondongo.” We passed a village outside Barbacena, and met a very large Brazilian family travelling somewhere with horses, mules, and liteiras. There were so many girls that it looked like a school. We stopped at the ranch of Boa Vista that I might change saddles. The grey seemed all right again. The mule was done up. I sent the cargo mules, servants, and animals on to Registro, a league farther than Barbacena, and rode to Hermlano’s Hotel, where we had originally put up at Barbacena when we started. Here I found Godfrey, our former German coach-driver, and arranged my passage, and found that Hermlano or some other scoundrel had changed my cão de féla pup for a white mongrel, which I presented to Godfrey. I paid a visit of twenty minutes to a former hospitable acquaintance, Dr. Regnault, and then rode on five miles farther to Registro, and arrived at 1.15 very tired, having been out ten hours.

Registro, which I have cursorily noticed before, is a picturesque fazenda on the roadside, all constructed in a rude wooden style, and is a mule station. It is a fine, large building, and the coach, after leaving Barbacena, stops here first to pick up passengers and baggage. There is also a celebrated cigarette manufactory, which contains two rooms full of workers, one for men and the other for women slaves. I went to visit them, and bought a packet for half a milreis, or thirteenpence (then). The cigarettes are hard and strong, and do not draw well. I did not like them. The master makes about 1,600 milreis, or about £160, a month by them; so some people evidently find them good.

I rose at 3.30 the next morning, Whilst dressing I heard what I supposed was threshing grain or beating sacks; it went on for about thirty minutes, and I did not pay attention to it till at last I heard a sob issue from the beaten mass at the other side of a thin partition wall. I then knew what was taking place, and turned so sick I could hardly reach the door. I roused the whole house, and called out to the man to cease. I begged the girl slave off, and besought the master to stop, for I felt quite ill; but it was fully ten minutes before I could awaken any one’s pity or sympathy; they seemed to be so used to it they would hardly take the trouble to get up, and the man who was beating only laughed and beat on. I nearly fainted, though I could only hear and not see the operation. I thought the poor wretch must have been pounded to a jelly before he left off; but she turned out to be a fine, strapping black girl, with marvellous recuperative powers, for when the man ceased she just gave herself a shake and walked away.

I left Registro at 7 a.m. Here I was to lose my escort. Senhor Jorge and the slaves accompanied me to see me off, and appeared very sorry that our pleasant ride was over. They were to start at the same time to ride back home to Morro Velho. It was quite a curious sensation, after three months’ absence, to find myself once more on a road, and a road with a coach going to civilized haunts. I found the motion of the coach as unpleasant as a steamer in a gale of wind after a long stay on land.

We descended the Serra de Mantiqueira so quickly that I did not recognize our former laborious ascent. I noticed the trees and ferns were very beautiful in the forests as we dashed along — all festoons and arches. We had a most beautiful and extensive view of the Serra de Mantiqueira and the surrounding mountains. We then came to our last station, just outside Juiz de Fóra. The country is very much the same during all this journey, perpetual mountain, valley, forest, and river, and the only great feature is the serra.

We drove up to the hotel of Juiz de Fóra at 3.30, having done our sixty-four miles in eight hours and twenty-three minutes. I asked Godfrey how it was that we had come back so much faster than we made the journey out. It transpired that he had got married in the interval, and now had somebody waiting for him at home.

Some of my coach companions came to the hotel, one a very much esteemed old man; a French engineer, with a pretty, delicate wife and child; and three Southerners — General Hawthorne, of the Southern army, an intelligent and very remarkable man, with two companions. We had rather a pleasant dinner.

Next day was Sunday, and I called on the padre and went to church. After this I spent a pleasant afternoon under the Commendador’s orange trees with the tangerines. I collected plants and roots to send back to Mrs. Gordon at Morro Velho, and was escorted by the padre, the chief manager of the company, and the head gardener, who cut them for me. Here we found the three Southerners, who joined us, and we had a violent political discussion.

The coach left Juiz de Fóra the next morning at 6.30. To-day as well as yesterday I was compelled, much against the grain, to go inside by Richard’s express wish at parting. At the station I met Captain Treloar on his way home, much better in spirits. He wished me very much to return with him, which I declined with thanks.

We soon came upon the winding river Parahybuna. We took up three Brazilian ladies, who were dreadfully frightened of the wild mules and speed, and also of the dust, and wanted to close the windows in spite of the sickening heat; but I persuaded them otherwise. They wanted my place because it faced the mules, and also wished that I should make them a present of my aromatic vinegar. They consisted of a young married woman, whose husband, a mere boy, was on the top of the coach, and she was chaperoning two raw young girl cousins on a visit to her fazenda at some distance. By-and-by the boy husband got too hot outside, and was crammed in with us, five persons when three were more than enough, especially young people, who sprawl about.

Once more we arrived under the great granite mountain which overshadows the station of Parahybuna. At 2.30 we put down the Brazilian ladies, who mounted horses and rode somewhere into the interior, and I was thankful for the space and coolness.

Then we reached Posse, where we took in a strapping German girl with big, flat feet, who trod all the way upon mine. The German Protestant parson had started with me from Juiz de Fóra, but he had to give up his place to the Brazilian ladies, and gladly resumed it when they left, as the heat outside was considerable, and besides which he practised his little English upon me. Soon after Posse arose the second wall of granite, and the scenery became doubly beautiful and the air cooler. We saw the sun set behind the mountains, and the scenery was fairyland and the air delicious; it was an evening one could not forget for many weeks.

I arrived at Petropolis at 7 p.m., where I got a hearty welcome and a good dinner, went to bed, and slept as soundly as a person would who had been out in the sun for twelve hours and had driven one hundred miles. This did not prevent my starting for Rio the next morning at 6 a.m.

The morning was clear, and we had a pleasant drive down the mountains. When I got on board the little steamer to cross the Bay of Rio, I hid in the ladies’ cabin, for I was ashamed of the state of my clothes. I could not explain to people why I was so remarkable, and I was well stared at. My boots were in shreds, my only dress had about forty slits in it, my hat was in ribbons, while my face was of a reddish mahogany hue and much swollen with exposure. I was harassed by an old Brazilian lady in the cabin, who asked me every possible question on earth about England; and at last, when she asked me if we had got any bacalhão (dried cod), to get rid of her I said “No!” Then she said she could not think much of a country that had no bacalhão, to which I returned no reply.

On arriving at Rio, I was told that the Estrangeiros Hotel, where I had left my maid and my luggage before starting for the interior three months previously, was full. As I did not want to be seen about Rio in such a plight, I waited till dusk, and then went to the next best hotel in the town. The landlord, seeing a ragged woman, did not recognize me, and he pointed to a little tavern across the road where sailors’ wives were wont to lodge, and said, “I think that will be about your place, my good woman, not here.” “Well,” I said, “I think I am coming in here all the same.” Wondering, he took me upstairs and showed me a garret; but I would have none of it, and insisted on seeing his best rooms. There I stopped and said, “This will do. Be kind enough to send this letter for me to the Estrangeiros."

Presently down came my maid, who was a great swell, with my luggage and letters. After a bath and change of garments I rang the bell and ordered supper. The landlord came up himself, as I was so strange a being. When he saw me, he said, “Did that woman come to take apartments for you, madam? I beg your pardon, I am afraid I was rather rude to her.” “Well,” I said, “I am ‘that woman’ myself; but you need not apologize, because I saw myself in the glass, and I don’t wonder at it.” He nearly tumbled down; and when I explained how I came to be in such a plight, he begged my pardon till I was quite tired of hearing him.

I spent the next few days resting my still weak foot, and reading and answering a sackful of welcome letters from home, which had accumulated during my three months’ absence. Then I went down to Santos.

Frontispiece to Volume II

Chapter IX

Home Again


Home! there is magic in that little word;
It is a mystic circle that surrounds
Pleasures and comforts never known beyond
Its hallowed limits.

Isabel did not remain long at Santos. At the end of October she went up to Rio to gain news of her husband, of whom she had heard nothing since they parted at Roça Grande nearly four months before, when he started in his canoe down the Rio São Francisco. As he did not return, she was naturally anxious. She wrote to her mother:

“I have come down to Rio to meet Richard. The English steamer from Bahia came in on November 1. I was in a great state of joyful excitement; went on board in a man-of-war’s boat. But, as once before when I went to Liverpool, Richard was not there, nor was there any letter or anything. I am very uneasy, and unless within two or three weeks some news comes I shall start to Bahia by steamer, change for the small one to Penedo Alagoas, and thence to a tiny one just put on from Penedo up the river to the falls, which are scarcely known yet [Paulo Affonso Falls, the Niagara of Brazil]. Here my difficulties would be great, as I should have to buy mules and ride round an unnavigable port and then canoe up. I fear Richard is ill, or taken prisoner, or has his money stolen. He always would carry gigantic sums in his pockets, hanging half out; and he only has four slaves with him, and has to sleep amongst them. I am not afraid of anything except the wild Indians, fever, ague, and a vicious fish which can be easily avoided; there are no other dangers. However, I trust that news may soon come. I cannot remain here so long by myself as another month. I had a narrow escape bathing the day before yesterday. What I thought was a big piece of seaweed was a ground shark a few yards from me; but it receded instead of coming at me. I shall feel rather shy of the water in future.”

As the steamers came in from Bahia Isabel went on board them one after another in the hope of greeting her husband; but still he did not come. At last, when she had made herself quite ill with anxiety, and when she had fully determined to start in search of him, he turned up unexpectedly — of course by the one steamer which she did not meet — and he was quite angry that she had not come on board to greet him. After telling her all his adventures while canoeing down the river (which have been fully described elsewhere 24), they went down to Santos.

They moved about between Santos and São Paulo for the next four months, until, in April, 1868, Burton broke down. The climate at last proved too much even for his iron frame, and he had a very severe illness; how severe it was may be gathered from the following letter:

“São Paulo, May 3, 1868.

“My Dearest Mother,

“I have been in the greatest trouble since I last wrote. You may remember Richard was very ill with a pain in the side. At last he took to incessant paroxysms of screaming, and seemed to be dying, and I knew not what to do. Fortunately a doctor came from Rio on the eighth day of his illness. I sent at once to him, and he kindly took up his quarters in our house. On hearing my account, and examining Richard, he said he did not know if he could save him, but would do his best. He put twelve leeches on, and cupped him on the right breast, lanced him in thirty-eight places, and put on a powerful blister on the whole of that side. He lost an immense deal of black clotted blood. It would be impossible to detail all we have gone through. This is the tenth day the doctor has had him in hand, and the seventeenth of his illness. Suffice it to say that the remedies have been legion, and there has been something to do every quarter of an hour day and night. For three days the doctor was uncertain if he could live. The disease is one that grows upon you unconsciously, and you only know it when it knocks you down. It was congestion of the liver, combined with inflammation of the lung, where they join. The agony was fearful, and poor Richard could not move hand or foot, nor speak, swallow, or breathe without a paroxysm of pain that made him scream for a quarter of an hour. When I thought he was dying, I took the scapulars and some holy water, and I said, ‘The doctor has tried all his remedies; now let me try one of mine.’ I put some holy water on his head, and knelt down and said some prayers, and put on the blessed scapulars. He had not been able to raise his head for days to have the pillow turned, but he raised it of his own accord sufficiently to let the string pass under his head, and had no pain. It was a silent consent. He was quite still for about an hour, and then he said in a whisper, ‘Zoo, I think I’m a little better.’ From then to now he slowly and painfully got better, and has never had a bad paroxysm since. Day and night I have watched by his bed for seventeen days and nights, and I begin to feel very nervous, as I am quite alone; he won’t let any one do anything for him but me. Now, however, thank God! all the symptoms are disappearing; he is out of danger; he can speak better, swallow, and turn a little in bed with my help. To-day I got him up in a chair for half an hour for the first time, and he has had chicken broth. For fifteen days nothing passed his lips but medicine. He is awfully thin and grey, and looks about sixty. He is quite gaunt, and it is sad to look at him. The worst of it is that I’m afraid that his lungs will never be quite right again. He can’t get the affected lung well at all. His breathing is still impeded, and he has a twinge in it. He cannot go to England because of the cold; but if he is well enough in three months from this to spare me, I am to go and remain till Easter. He has given up his expedition (I am afraid he will never make another), but will take a quiet trip down to the River Plata and Paraguay (a civilized trip). My servants have all been very kind and attentive, and our doctor excellent, and the neighbours have all shown the greatest kindness and sympathy. I have not been out of the house for ages, but I believe there have been all sorts of religious fêtes going on, and our poor old bishop has died and was buried with great pomp. I tried to go out in the garden yesterday, but I nearly fainted, and had to come back. Don’t mention my fatigue or health in writing back.”

Burton recovered slowly. His illness, however, had the effect of disgusting him with Brazil, and of making him decide to throw up his consulate, a thing he had long been wishing to do, if a favourable opportunity presented itself. The present was a decidedly unfavourable opportunity, but nevertheless he came to the conclusion that he could not stand Brazil any longer. “It had given him his illness; it was far from the world; it was no advancement; it led to nothing.” He had been there three years, and he wanted to be on the move again.

His slightest wish was his wife’s law. Though she was in a way sorry, for São Paulo had been the only home she had ever enjoyed with her husband so far, she at once set to work to carry out his desire. She sold up everything at São Paulo. Burton applied to the Foreign Office for leave; and that obtained, they went down to Santos together. Here it was decided that they should part for a time. He was to go to the Pacific coast for a trip, and return by way of the Straits of Magellan, Buenos Ayres, and Rio to London. Isabel was to go direct to London, see if she could not induce the Foreign Office to give him another post, transact certain business concerning mines and company promoters, arrange for the publication of certain books, and await the arrival of her husband.

While they were at Santos Isabel wrote the following letter to her mother:

“The Coast Near Santos, June 16, 1868.

“In this country, if you are well, all right; but the moment you are ailing, lie down and die, for it is no use trying to live. I kept Richard alive by never taking my eyes off him for eight weeks, and perpetually standing at the bedside with one thing or another. But who in a general way will get any one to do that for them? I would now like to pass to something more cheerful.

“The first regatta ever known took place at Santos last Sunday for all nations — English, American, French, German, Portuguese, and Brazilian, and native caiques: English and American in white flannel and black belts; German scarlet; French, blue; Portuguese white with blue belts and caps; Brazilians, like parrots, in national costume, all green, with yellow fixings and scarlet caps. Our boat was of course expected to win. It was manned by four railway clerks, who had ordered a big supper on the strength of the winnings; but, poor things! they had such weak arms, and they boasted and talked so much, that they were exhausted before they started. The ‘English ladies’ (?) objected to their rowing in jerseys, as improper! And they did not know how to feather their oars (had perhaps never heard of it), so they came in last. The Portuguese, who stepped quietly into their boat without a word, came in first, Brazil second, German third, and the three big nations, French, American, and English, last. We last by half a boat’s length! Tremendous fighting and quarrelling ensued, red and angry faces, and ‘bargee’ language. I am very glad; it will produce a good feeling on the Brazilian side, a general emulation, and take our English snobs down a peg, which they sadly want. The native caiques were really pretty — black men with paddles standing upright, and all moving together like a machine.

“I leave São Paulo on the 31st, Santos on the 1st, Rio on the 9th, and will reach home early in September. I could not stay here any longer without a change. I think you had better leave town for your country change now, as I cannot leave London earlier than the middle of October. All my wealth depends on my editing a book and a poem of Richard’s and two things of my own for the October press; and, moreover, I am grown so fat and coarse and vulgar I must brush myself up in town a little before appearing, and I have no clothes, and I am sure you will faint when you see my complexion and my hands. So try and start early out of town, and return early. I can join in any fun in October. I got your little note from Cossy. I dare say the woods are very nice; but I think if you saw the virgin forests of South America in which I am now sitting alone, far from any human creature, with gaudy butterflies and birds fluttering around me, big vegetation, and a shark playing in the boiling green sea, which washes up to my feet, and the bold mountain background on a very blue sky, the thick foliage covered with wild flowers and creepers such as no hothouse in England could grow, arum leaves, one alone bigger than me, which shade me from the burning sun, the distant clatter of monkeys, the aromatic smells and mysterious whisperings of the forest, you would own that even the Cossy woods were tame; for to be thoroughly alone thus with Nature is glorious. Chico is cooking a mysterious mess in a gypsy kettle for me; my pony is browsing near; and I, your affectionate child, am sitting in a short petticoat and jacket, bare-legged to the knees, writing to you and others to catch the next mail.

“Richard starts with me, and turns the opposite way from Rio. He goes viâ Rosario, Rio Grande do Sul, Buenos Ayres, Monte Video, the Plata River, and Paraguay, to see the war. A voyage de luxe for him, for these places are all within writing latitudes and some little civilization.”

On July 24 Isabel embarked for London, and arrived at Southampton on September 1, after a rough voyage. Her mother and two of her sisters came down to Southampton to meet her; and great was the joy of their meeting.

As soon as Isabel had settled down at home she turned to her work, and good luck attended her. She carried through all her husband’s mining business, and arranged for the publication of his books, notably for the one he had just written on The Highlands of Brazil. As it was to be brought out at once, she was also commissioned to correct and pass the proofs for press. She did so; but as the book contained certain things of which she did not approve, she inserted the following preface in the book by way of protest. It is quoted in full, because it illustrates a much-vexed question — the attitude which she adopted towards her husband’s writings. Her action in these matters has called down upon her the fiercest criticism; but this brief preface shows that her views were consistent throughout, and her husband was fully aware of them when he left her his sole literary executor.

Before the reader dives into the interior of Brazil with my husband as a medium, let me address two words to him.

I have returned home, on six months’ leave of absence, after three years in Brazil. One of the many commissions I am to execute for Captain Burton is to see the following pages through the press.

Lady Burton in 1869

It has been my privilege, during those three years, to have been his almost constant companion; and I consider that to travel, write, read, and study under such a master is no small boon to any one desirous of seeing and learning.

Although he frequently informs me, in a certain oriental way, that “the Moslem can permit no equality with women,” yet he has chosen me, his pupil, for this distinction, in preference to a more competent stranger.

As long as there is anything difficult to do, a risk to be incurred, or any chance of improving the mind and of educating oneself, I am a very faithful disciple; but I now begin to feel that, while he and his readers are old friends; I am humbly standing unknown in the shadow of his glory. It is therefore time for me respectfully but firmly to assert that although I proudly accept of the trust confided to me, and pledge myself not to avail myself of my discretionary powers to alter one word of the original text, I protest vehemently against his religious and moral sentiments, which belie a good and chivalrous life. I point the finger of indignation particularly at what misrepresents our Holy Roman Catholic Church, and at what upholds that unnatural and repulsive law, Polygamy, which the Author is careful not to practise himself, but from a high moral pedestal he preaches to the ignorant as a means of population in young countries.

I am compelled to differ with him on many other subjects; but, be it understood, not in the common spirit of domestic jar, but with a mutual agreement to differ and enjoy our differences, whence points of interest never flag.

Having now justified myself, and given a friendly warning to a fair or gentle reader — the rest must take care of themselves — I leave him or her to steer through these anthropological sandbanks and hidden rocks as best he or she may.

Isabel’s greatest achievement at this time was the obtaining for her husband the long-coveted Consulship of Damascus from Lord Stanley, who was an old friend and neighbour of her uncle, Lord Gerard. Lord Stanley (afterwards Lord Derby) was then Foreign Secretary in Disraeli’s brief first Administration. He was a friend of the Burtons, and had a high opinion of them both. To him Isabel repaired, and brought the whole of her eloquence and influence to bear: no light thing, as Burton’s enemies — and he had many — guessing what she was after, endeavoured to influence the Foreign Secretary by representing that his appointment would be unpopular, both with the Moslems and the Christian missionaries in Syria. In Lord Stanley’s opinion, however, Burton was the man for the post, and he appointed him Consul of Damascus, with a salary of £1,000 a year. Isabel telegraphed and wrote the glad news; but neither her letter nor her telegram reached her husband, who was then roving about South America. Burton heard the news of his appointment accidentally in a café at Lucca. He telegraphed at once accepting it, and started for England.

In the meantime there had been a change of Government, and Lord Clarendon succeeded Lord Stanley at the Foreign Office. Burton’s enemies renewed their opposition to his appointment, and besought Lord Clarendon to cancel it. Isabel, whose vigilance never slumbered for one moment, got wind of this, and immediately dispatched copies of the following letter to her husband at Rio, Buenos Ayres, and Valparaiso:

“London, January 7, 1869.

“My Darling,

“If you get this, come home at once by shortest way. Telegraph from Lisbon and Southampton, and I will meet you at latter and have all snug.

“Strictly private. The new Government have tried to upset some of the appointments made by the last. There is no little jealousy about yours. Others wanted it even at £700 a year, and were refused. Lord Stanley thinks, and so do I, that you may as well be on the ground as soon as possible.

“Your faithful and attached wife."

Burton did not receive this letter, as he had already started for home with all speed. His wife met him at Southampton. Burton went to the Foreign Office, and had a long interview with Lord Clarendon, who told him that the objections to his appointment at Damascus were “very serious.” Burton assured Lord Clarendon that the objections raised were unfounded. Lord Clarendon then let the appointment go forward, though he plainly warned Burton that, if the feeling stated to exist against him at Damascus should prevent the proper performance of his official duties, he would immediately recall him. It is necessary to call attention to this, as it has a direct bearing on the vexed question of Burton’s recall two years later.

No shadow of that untoward event, however, dimmed the brightness of Burton’s prospects just now. He gave an assurance that he would act with “unusual prudence” and it was hinted that if he succeeded at Damascus he might eventually get Morocco or Teheran or Constantinople. Isabel writes: “We were, in fact, at the zenith of our career.” She might well think so, for they were basking in the unaccustomed light of the official favour; they received a most enthusiastic welcome from their friends, and were dined and fêted everywhere. The new year (1869) opened most auspiciously for them.

They spent the spring in London and in paying a round of visits to many friends. Later they crossed over to Boulogne, and visited the old haunts where they met for the first time eighteen years before.

Burton’s leave was now running short, and the time was drawing near when he was due at Damascus. He decided to go to Vichy and take a month’s course of the waters, and then proceed viâ Brindisi to Damascus. His wife was to come out to Damascus later. At Boulogne therefore they parted; he went to Vichy, and she was to return to London and carry out the usual plan of “pay, pack, and follow.”

Isabel went round by way of Paris, and then she began to feel unhappy at being separated from her husband, and to want to join him at Vichy. “I did not see why I could not have the month there with him, and make up double-quick time after.” So instead of returning to London, she started off for Vichy, and spent the month there with her husband. Algernon Swinburne and Frederick Leighton (both great friends of the Burtons) were there also, and they made many excursions together. When Burton’s “cure” was at an end, his wife accompanied him as far as Turin. Here they parted, he going to catch the P. & O. at Brindisi, en route for Damascus, and she returning to London to arrange and settle everything for a long sojourn in the East.

She was in England for some weeks (the autumn of 1869), and up to her eyes in work. She had to see a great many publishers for one thing, and for another she was busy in every way preparing herself for Damascus. She went down to Essex to see the tube-wells worked, and mastered the detail of them, as Burton was anxious, if possible, to produce water in the desert. She also took lessons in taking off wheels and axles, oiling and putting them on again; and lessons in taking her own guns and pistols to pieces, cleaning and putting them together again. Then she had to buy a heap of useful and necessary things to stock the house at Damascus with. One of her purchases almost rivalled her famous “jungle suit.” She invested in a pony-carriage, a thing unheard of in Syria; and her uncle, Lord Gerard, also made her a present of an old family chariot. This tickled the late Lord Houghton immensely, and he made so many jokes about “Isabel driving through the desert in a chariot drawn by camels” that she left it. But she took out the pony-carriage; and as there was only one road in the country, she found it useless, though she was lucky enough to sell it to some one at Damascus, who bought it not for use, but as a curio.

Other work of a different nature also came to her hand, the work of vindicating her husband and defending his position. At a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, at which she was present, Sir Roderick Murchison, who was in the chair, spoke of “Central or Equatorial Africa, in which lie those great water-basins which, thanks to the labours of Speke, Grant, and Baker, are known to feed the Nile.” After the meeting was over she went up to Sir Roderick and asked him why Burton had not been mentioned with the others. He replied it was an oversight, and he would see that it was rectified in the reports to the press. It was not. So she wrote to The Times, protesting against the omission of her husband’s name, and to The Athenæum. These letters have been published in her Life of Sir Richard. But the following letter from Sir Roderick Murchison, called forth by her letter to The Times, and her reply thereto, have not been published:

“16, Belgrave Square, November 14, 1869.

“My Dear Mrs. Burton,

“I regret that you did not call on me as you proposed, instead of making your complaint in The Times.

“No change in the wording of the address could have been made when you appealed to me; for the printed article was in the hands of several reporters.

“Nor can I, in looking at the address (as now before me), see why you should be offended at my speaking of ‘the great Lake Tanganyika, first visited by Burton and Speke.’

“My little opening address was not a history of all African discoveries; and if you will only refer to the twenty-ninth volume of The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1859), you will see how, in presenting the medal to your husband as the chief of the East African Expedition, I strove to do him all justice for his successful and bold explorations. But I was under the necessity of coupling Speke with Burton as joint discoverers of the Lake Tanganyika, inasmuch as they both worked together until prostrated by illness; and whilst your husband was blind or almost so, Speke made all the astronomical observations which fixed the real position of places near the lake.

“Thus your husband, in his reply to me after receiving the medal, says, ‘Whilst I undertook the history, ethnography, the languages and peculiarities of the people, to Captain Speke fell the arduous task of delineating the exact topography and of laying down our positions by astronomical observations, a labour to which at times even the undaunted Livingstone found himself unequal’ (Journal R. G. S., vol. xxix., p. 97).

“I beg you also to read your husband’s masterly and eloquent description of the lake regions of Central Equatorial Africa in the same volume. No memoir in our journal is more striking than this, and I think it will gratify you to have Captain Burton’s most effective writing brought once more to the notice of geographers. I will with great pleasure add a full footnote to the paragraph in which I first allude to the Tanganyika, and point out how admirably Captain Burton has illustrated that portion of Lake Tanganyika which he and his companion visited; though, as you know, he was then prostrated by illness and almost blind.

“With this explanation, which will appear in all the official and public copies of my little, imperfect, opening address, I hope you will be satisfied, and exonerate me from any thought of not doing full justice to your meritorious husband, who, if he had been in health, would doubtless have worked out the path which Livingstone is still engaged in discovering: the settlement of whether the waters of Tanganyika flow into the said discovered Albert Nyanza by Baker.

“Believe me to be ever, dear Mrs. Burton,
“Yours sincerely,
“Roderick Murchison.”

“Dear Sir Roderick,

“I have every intention of calling upon you, and I think you know I have always looked upon you as a very sincere and particular friend; nor had I the slightest idea of being offended with you; and if you have read my letter, you will have seen that I particularly laid a stress upon your kindness; but what you and I know on this subject, and perhaps many connected with the Royal Geographical Society, is now, considering the fast flow of events, almost ancient history, unless brought before the public. I did feel nettled the other night; but I might have kept quiet, had I not had many visits and letters of condolence on my husband having been passed over. I then felt myself obliged to remind the public what the Society the other night had forgotten. Had I visited you, and had we talked it over, and had the reports been run over and corrected, it would hardly have set the large number of people right who were at the meeting of last Monday, who heard Captain Burton mentioned only once; and the other four twenty times. Indeed, I was not offended at the only mention you did make of him, but at the mention of the other three, excluding him. I shall be truly grateful for your proposed notice of him. And do not think I grudge anything to any other traveller. I am glad you mentioned Speke with him. Speke was a brave man, and full of fine qualities. I grudge his memory no honour that can be paid; I never wish to detract from any of the great merits of the other four. I only ask to maintain my husband’s right place amongst them, which is only second to Livingstone. I hope I shall see you in a few days, and

“Believe me, most sincerely yours,
“Isabel Burton.”

A month later all her business was completed, and Isabel left London for Damascus, to enter upon the most eventful epoch of her eventful life.

24 The Highlands of Brazil, by Richard Burton.

Chapter X 25

My Journey to Damascus


The East is a Career.

Disraeli's Tancred.

I shall not readily forget the evening of Thursday, December 16, 1869. I had a terrible parting from my dear ones, especially from my mother. As a Frenchman would say, “Je quittais ma mère.” We all dined together — the last dinner — at five o’clock, and three hours later I set out for the station. My brothers and sister came down to Victoria to see me off, and at the last moment my brother Rudolph decided to accompany me to Dover, for which I was truly thankful. It was a wild night, and the express to Dover rushed through the raging winter storm. My mind was a curious mixture of exultation and depression, and with it all was a sense of supernormal consciousness that something of this had been enacted before. About a fortnight previously I dreamed one of my curious dreams. I thought that I came to a small harbour, and it was as black as night, and the wind was sobbing up mournfully, and there were two steamers in the harbour, waiting. One refused to go out, but the other went, and came to grief. So in the train, as we tore along, I prayed silently that I might have a sign from Heaven, and it should be that one captain should refuse to go. Between my prayers my spirits rose and fell. They rose because my destination was Damascus, the dream of my childhood. I should follow the footsteps of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Lady Hester Stanhope, the Princess de la Tour d’Auvergne, that trio of famous European women who lived of their own choice a thoroughly Eastern life, and of whom I looked to make a fourth. They fell because I was leaving behind me my home, my family, and many dear ties in England, without any definite hope of return.

We arrived at Dover, and walked to the boat, and could hardly keep on our legs for the wind. When I set out to embark, lo! there were two steamers. The Ostend boat refused to go out; the other one was preparing to start. Now I was most anxious to sail without an hour’s delay, but I turned to my brother and said, “Rody, if it is my duty to go I will go, for I do not like to stay on my own responsibility. I am scrupulous about Dick’s time and money, and he told me to lose no time.” The answer was, “Duty be damned! I won’t let you go.” Still I hesitated, and as I was between the ways an old sailor stepped out of the darkness as I stood on the quay, and said, “Go home, missie; I haven’t seen such a night this forty year.” I remembered my dream, and decided.

I turned into the nearest shelter, a small inn opposite the boats, so as to be able to start at daylight; and the result justified my foresight. The captain of the first vessel, by which I had intended to go, went out. After shipping awful seas, and being frightfully knocked about, he moored some way off Calais Pier; but the sea and the wind drove the boat right on to it, and carried away one of the paddles, the tiller, and hurt several passengers. The waves drove her backwards and forwards on to the pier like a nutshell for half an hour, and she was nearly going down, but some smacks hauled her off and out to sea again. She beat about all night, and returned to Dover in a pitiable plight, having neither landed the passengers nor the baggage.

It was thus I met her when I embarked on the other boat at nine o’clock the next morning. The weather was terribly rough even then, but at least we had the advantage of daylight. We had a rough passage, the sea mountains high; but we reached Calais eventually, where I managed to get some food at the buffet, such as it was, but I had to sit on the floor with a plate on my lap, so great and rude was the crowd. The boat accident caused me to miss my proper train to Marseilles, and to lose two of my many trunks. It would almost seem as if some malignant spirit had picked these two trunks out, for the one contained nearly all my money, and the other all my little comforts for the journey. I had to decide at once between missing my passage at Marseilles and forsaking my missing trunks. I decided to go on, and leave them to look after themselves. Six months later they turned up at Damascus safe and sound. We travelled through the weary night and most of the next day, and only reached Marseilles at 5 p.m., after having met with many contretemps and discomforts. I at once went on board, arranged my cabin, did all my little business, and went back alone to the hotel to have a hot bath and a cutlet, having been nearly forty-eight hours on the road without rest or stopping.

Our ship was one of the P. & O. floating hotels, superbly fitted. We steamed out from Marseilles at half-past nine the next morning. It was a great pleasure to exchange the fogs and cold of England for the climate of the sunny, smiling south, the olive groves, and the mother-o’-pearl sea; yet these beauties of Nature have no meaning in them when the heart feels lonely and desolate, as mine did then.

Yet on the whole I had a very pleasant passage from Marseilles to Alexandria. We had not more than fifty passengers on board, all Anglo-Indians, and middling class. I got a very nice cabin forward, all to myself, with my maid. The ship was full of young married couples going out to India. They were not used to ships, and were evidently unaware of the ventilators at the top of the cabin, so at night one got the full benefit of their love-making. One night, for instance, I heard a young bride fervently calling upon her “Joey” to kiss her. It was amusing at first, but afterwards it became rather monotonous. I did not know a soul on board with whom I could exchange ideas, and I kept as much as possible to myself without appearing rude. I was asked to choose my place at table, and I humbly chose one some way down; but the captain asked me to move up to the seat of honour on his right hand, and I felt quite at a loss to account for the distinction, because not a soul on board knew anything about me. I did not find the captain, though, a bad companion. He was a short, fat, dark, brisk little man, just the sort of man a captain and a sailor should be. I am glad to say he had not the slightest idea of being unduly attentive. The conversation was dull at table. The ladies talked chiefly about Colonel “This” and Captain “That,” peppering their conversation with an occasional Hindustani word, a spice of Anglo-Indian gossip, and plentiful regimentalisms, such as “griffin,” “tiffen,” “the Staff,” and “gymkhana,” all of which was Greek to me.

Take it all round, the six days’ passage was not so bad. I particularly admired the coast of Sicily, the mountains rising one above another, Etna smoking in the distance, the sea like glass, and the air adding a sensuous charm, a soft, balmy breeze like the Arabian seas. Yet, as I had been spoiled by Brazilian scenery, I did not go into the same ecstasies over it as my fellow-passengers. We spent Christmas Eve as our last night on board. In the evening we went in for snapdragon and other festivities of the season, and tried to be as merry as we could. The ship could not go into the harbour of Alexandria at night; it has a dangerous entrance; so we sent up our rockets and blue-lights, and remained outside the lighthouse till dawn.

The Boulevart, Alexandria

On Christmas Day morning I first set my foot on Eastern ground. We steamed into the harbour of Alexandria slowly; everybody was going on to India except me, and I landed. The first thing I did was to go straight to a telegraph office and pay nineteen shillings and sixpence for a telegram to Richard at Beyrout, which of course arrived there after I did. I cannot say that I was struck with Alexandria; in point of fact, I mentally called it “a hole,” in vulgar parlance. I went to the Hôtel de l’Europe, a second-rate hotel, though one of the best in Alexandria. It was not so bad as might have been expected. In the afternoon we made a party up to see Pompey’s Pillar and Cleopatra’s Needle and the bazars and other things. But I am bound to say that, on the whole, I thought Alexandria “neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring.” It was a sort of a jumble of Eastern and Western, and the worst of each. The only amusing incident which happened to me there was when two dragomans got up a fictitious quarrel as to who should take me to the bazars. Of course they appealed to me, and I said, “You may both come, but I shall only pay one.” Whereupon they fastened upon each other tooth and nail, tore each other’s clothes, and bit each other’s cheeks. These two, though I never suspected it at the time, were, it appeared, in the habit of thus dealing with ladies and missionaries and amiable English tourists; and they always got up this farce, because, to avoid a street fight, the kindhearted looker-on would generally employ and pay them both, and perhaps give them a tip in addition to calm them down. But I innocently did the right thing without knowing it. I had so often seen negroes fight with knives in Brazil that the spectacle of two dragomans biting each other’s cheeks appeared to me to be supremely ridiculous. I laughed, and waited patiently until one of them pretended to be very much hurt. Then turning to the other, I said, “You seem the better man; I will take you”; and they were both very much crestfallen.

I spent the evening alone in my small room at the hotel. A strange Christmas truly.

Next morning I went on board the Russian Ceres, which was bound for Beyrout, a three days’ passage. It was an uneventful journey. The best thing about the boat was the caviare, which was delicious. The deck was simply filthy, as it was crowded with Orientals from every part of the East, all nations and creeds and tongues. But it was the most interesting part of the ship to me, as I had always been dreaming of the East. Each of these Eastern families had their mattresses and their prayer-carpets, on which they seemed to squat night and day. No matter how rough or how seasick, they were always there saying their prayers, or devouring their food, or dozing, or reclining on their backs. Occasionally they chanted their devotions through their noses. I could not help laughing at the sound; and when I laughed they did the same. I used to bring all the sweets out of the saloon for the children, so they were always glad to see me. The other passengers thought it passing strange that I should elect to spend the whole of my days with “Eastern rabble.”

We passed Port Said and got to Jaffa in about two days. I was not impressed with Jaffa. The town looks like dirty, well-rubbed dice running down the side of a conical-shaped, green hill. Here I sent another telegram to Damascus to Richard — the Russian Vice-Consul kindly took charge of it — but all the same it never reached its destination, though I am certain it was not the Consul’s fault. At Jaffa we picked up an Effendi and his harím, and two Italian musicians, who played the concertina and guitar. The latter pair confided in me, and said they had made a mariage de coeur, and were really very hard up, in fact dependent on their talent; so I hit on a plan to help them. I asked the captain to let us have a little music after breakfast and dinner. They played, and I carried round the plate, and my gleanings paid their passage and something more. As for the Effendi’s harím she was carefully veiled and wrapped up in an izár, or sheet, and confined to her cabin, except when she was permitted at rare intervals to appear on deck. Her Effendi jealously watched her door, to see that nobody went in but the stewardess. However, she freely unveiled before me. I was not impressed with her charms, and I thought what a fine thing the sheet and the veil would be to some of our European women. There is an irresistible suggestion of concealed charm about them. It was my first experience of a real harím.

On the third day, very early, we anchored off Beyrout. The town as viewed from the water’s edge is beautiful. Its base is washed by the blue Mediterranean. It straggles along the coast and crawls up part of the lower hills. The yellow sand beyond the town, and the dark green pine forests which surround it, contrast well with the deep blue bay and the turquoise skies. It is backed by the splendid range of the Lebanon. The air is redolent with the smell of pine wood. Every town in the East has its peculiar odour, and when once you have been in one you can tell it blindfold afterwards. I went ashore, and put up at a clean and comfortable hotel facing the sea, which was kept by a Greek. This hotel later on came to be to my eyes the very centre of civilization; for during our sojourn at Damascus Beyrout was our Biarritz, and this little hotel the most luxurious house in Syria. Here I had breakfast, and after that I called on our Consul-General. His wife was ill in bed, but he asked me kindly to remain to luncheon, and showed me how to smoke my first narghíleh. I was very anxious to start at once for Damascus, but the diligence had gone. So I had to stop, willy-nilly, for the night at Beyrout. In the evening the Duchesse de Persigny arrived from Damascus, and sent me word that she would like to dine with me. Of course I was delighted. She gave me some news of Richard, and enlivened my dinner very much by anecdotes of Damascus. She was a very witty, eccentric woman, as every one knows who had to do with her when she was in England. She had many adventures in Damascus, which she related to me in her racy, inimitable way. It didn’t sound so bad in French, but I fear her humour was a trifle too spicy to bear translation into plain English prose. When I got to Damascus, I heard a good deal more about her “goings on” there.

I went to bed, but not to sleep, for it seemed to me that I was at the parting of the ways. Tomorrow I was to realize the dream of my life. I was to leave behind me everything connected with Europe and its petty civilization, and wend my way to “The Pearl of the East.” As soon as you cross the Lebanon Range you quit an old life for a new life, you forsake the new world and make acquaintance with the old world, you relapse into a purely oriental and primitive phase of existence.

Early the next morning “the private carriage” which the Consul-General had kindly obtained for me, a shabby omnibus drawn by three old screws, made its appearance. I was to drive in it over the Lebanons, seventy-two miles, to Damascus; so I naturally viewed it with interest, not unmingled with apprehension. Quite a little crowd assembled to see me off, and watched with interest while my English maid, a large pet St. Bernard dog, my baggage, and myself were all squeezed into the omnibus or on top of it. The Consul-General sent his kawwass as guard. This official appeared a most gorgeous creature; with silver-mounted pistols and all sorts of knives and dangling things hanging about him. He rejoiced in the name of Sakharaddín, which I pronounced “Sardine,” and this seemed to afford great amusement to the gaping crowd which had assembled to see me off.

The drive from Beyrout to Damascus was charming, and it lasted two days.

First we drove over the Plain of Beyrout, behind the town. The roadside was lined with cactus hedges and rude cafés, which are filled on Sundays and holidays by all classes. They go to smoke, sip coffee and raki, and watch the passers-by. Immediately on arriving at the foot of the Lebanon, we commenced a winding, steep ascent, every turn of which gave charming views of the sea and of Beyrout, which we did not lose sight of for several hours. We wound round and round the ascent until Beyrout and the sea became invisible. The cold made me hungry, and I refreshed myself with some bread, hard-boiled eggs, and a cigarette. “Sardine” was keeping Ramadan, but the sight of these luxuries tempted him, and he broke his fast. I couldn’t help offering him something, he looked so wistful! At last we reached the top, and a glorious wintry sunset gave us a splendid view. It was of course midwinter, and one saw little of the boasted fertility of the Lebanon. After the beauties of Brazil the scenery looked to me like a wilderness of rock and sand, treeless and barren; the very mountains were only hills. I could not help contrasting the new world and the old. In Brazil, though rich in luxuriant vegetable and animal life, there is no history — all is new and progressive, but vulgar and parvenu ; whereas Syria, in her abomination of desolation, is the old land, and she teems with relics of departed glory. I felt that I would rather abide with her, and mourn the past amid her barren rocks and sandy desert, than rush into the progress and the hurry of the new world.

We descended the Lebanon at a full canter into the Buká‘a Plain. On the road I met three strangers, who offered me a little civility when I was searching for a glass of water at a khan, or inn. As I was better mounted than they, I said that in the event of my reaching our night-halt first I would order supper and beds for them, and they informed me that every house on the road had been retenue for me, so that I was really making quite a royal progress. I was able to keep my promise to them. The halt was at Shtora, a little half-way inn kept by a Greek. The three travellers soon came up. We supped together and spent a pleasant evening. They turned out to be a French employé at the Foreign Office, a Bavarian minister on his travels, and a Swedish officer on leave.

The next morning we parted. My new acquaintances set out in an opposite direction, and I went on to Damascus. We trotted cheerfully across the rest of the Buká‘a Plain, and then commenced the ascent of the Anti-Lebanon. To my mind the Anti-Lebanon, off the beaten track, is wilder and more picturesque than the other range. The descent of the Anti-Lebanon we did at a good pace, but it seemed a long time until we landed on the plain Es Sáhará. That reached, compensation for the ugly scenery we had to pass through began when we entered a beautiful mountain defile, about two hours from Damascus. Here, between mountains, runs the road; and the Barada — the ancient Abana, they say — rushes through the mountains and by the roadside to water the gardens of Damascus.

Between Salahíyyeh and Damascus is a quarter of an hour’s ride through gardens and orchards. I had heard of them often, and of the beautiful white city, with her swelling domes, tapering minarets, and glittering golden crescents looming against the far horizon of the distant hills. So I had heard of Damascus, so I had pictured it, and so I often saw it later; but I did not see it thus on this my first entrance to it, for it was winter. As we rumbled along the carriage road I asked ever and again, “Where are the beautiful gardens of Damascus?” “Here,” said the kawwass, pointing to what in winter-time and to English eyes appeared only ugly shrubberies, wood clumps, and orchards. I saw merely scrubby woods bordered by green, which made a contrast to the utter sterility of Es Sáhará. We passed Dummar, a village which contains several summer villas belonging to the Wali (the Governor-General of Syria) and other personages. The Barada ran along the right of the road, and gradually broadened into the green Merj, which looked then like a village common. And thus I entered Damascus.

We passed a beautiful mosque, with the dome flanked by two slender minarets. I scarcely noticed it at the time, for I drove with all haste to the only hotel in Damascus — “Demetri’s.” It is a good house with a fine courtyard, which has orange and lemon trees, a fountain full of goldfish in it, and a covered gallery running round it. All this would have been cool and pleasant in the summer, but it was dark, damp, and dreary that winter evening. I must own frankly that my first impression of Damascus was not favourable, and a feeling of disappointment stole over me. It was very cold; and driving into the city as I did tired out, the shaky trap heaving and pitching heavily through the thick mire and slushy, narrow streets, filled with refuse and wild dogs, is, to speak mildly, not liable to give one a pleasant impression.

Damascus, From the Desert

However, all my discomfort, depression, and disappointment were soon swallowed up in the joy of meeting Richard, who had also put up, pending my appearance, at this hotel. He came in about an hour after my arrival, and I found him looking ill and worn. After our first greetings were over he told me his reception at Damascus had been most cordial, but he had been dispirited by not getting any letters from me or telegrams. They all arrived in a heap some days after I came. And this explained how it was that he had not come to meet me at Beyrout, as I had expected him to do. In fact, I had felt sorely hurt that he had not come. But he told me he had gone to Beyrout over and over again to meet me, and I had not turned up, and now the steamer by which I had arrived was the only one which he had not gone to meet. He was feeling very low and sad about my nonappearance. It was therefore a joyful surprise for him when he came in from his lonely walk to find me settled down comfortably in his room. Though he greeted me in that matter-of-fact way with which he was wont to repress his emotions, I could feel that he was both surprised and overjoyed. He had already been three months at Damascus, and the climate and loneliness had had a bad effect upon him, both mentally and physically. However, we had a comfortable little dinner, the best that “Demetri’s” could give us, which was nothing special, and after dinner was over we warmed ourselves over a mangal, a large brass dish on a stand, full of live charcoal embers. Then we had a smoke, and began to discuss our plans for our new home.

It had taken me fifteen days and nights without stopping to come from London to Damascus.

25 The chapters on Damascus are compiled from letters and diaries of Lady Burton, and from some of the rough manuscript notes from which she wrote her Inner Life of Syria.

Chapter XI

In and About Damascus


Though old as history itself, thou art fresh as breath of spring, blooming as thine own rosebud, as fragrant as thine own orange flower, O Damascus, Pearl of the East!

When I nighted and day’d in Damascus town,
Time sware such another he ne’er should view;
And careless we slept under wing of night,
Till dappled morn ‘gan her smiles renew,
And dewdrops on branch in their beauty hung
Like pearls to be dropt when the zephyr blew,
And the lake was the page where birds read and wrote,
And the clouds set points to what breezes roll.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah (Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

During the first weeks at Damascus my only work was to find a suitable house and to settle down in it. Our predecessor in the Consulate had lived in a large house in the city itself, and as soon as he retired he let it to a wealthy Jew. In any case it would not have suited us, nor would any house within the city walls; for though some of them were quite beautiful — indeed, marble palaces gorgeously decorated and furnished after the manner of oriental houses — yet there is always a certain sense of imprisonment about Damascus, as the windows of the houses are all barred and latticed, and the gates of the city are shut at sunset. This would not have suited our wild-cat proclivities; we should have felt as though we were confined in a cage. So after a search of many days we took a house in the environs, about a quarter of an hour from Damascus, high up the hill. Just beyond it was the desert sand, and in the background a saffron-hued mountain known as the Camomile Mountain; and camomile was the scent which pervaded our village and all Damascus. Our house was in the suburb of Salahíyyeh, and we had good air and light, beautiful views, fresh water, quiet, and above all liberty. In five minutes we could gallop out over the mountains, and there was no locking us up at sunset. Here we pitched our tent.

I should like to describe our house at Salahíyyeh once more, though I have described it before, and Frederick Leighton once drew a sketch of it, so that it is pretty well known. Our house faced the road and the opposite gardens, and it was flanked on one side by the Mosque and on the other by the Hammám (Turkish Bath), and there were gardens at the back. On the other side of the road were apricot trees, whose varying beauty of bud and leaf and flower and fruit can be better imagined than described. Among these apricot orchards I had a capital stable for twelve horses, and a good room attached to it for any number of saises, or grooms, and beyond that again was a little garden, through which the river wended its way. So much for the exterior. Now to come indoors. As one entered, first of all came the courtyard, boldly painted in broad stripes of red and white and blue, after the manner of all the courtyards in Damascus. Here too splashed the fountain, and all around were orange, lemon, and jessamine trees. Two steps took one to the líwán, a raised room open one side to the court, and spread with carpets, divans, and Eastern stuffs. It was here, in the summer, I was wont to receive. On the right side of the court was a dining-room, and on the left a cool sitting-room, when it was too hot to live upstairs. All the rest of the space below was left to the servants and offices. Upstairs the rooms ran around two sides of the courtyard. A long terrace occupied the other two sides, joining the rooms at either end. This terrace formed a pleasant housetop in the cool evenings. We spread it with mats and divans, and used to sit among the flowers and shrubs, and look over Damascus and sniff the desert air beyond.

The Burtons’ House Salahíyyeh, Damascus.
From a sketch by the late Lord Leighton

Of course this house was not the Consulate, which was in the city, close to the Serai, or Government House.

I think the charm of our house lay chiefly in the gardens around it. We made a beautiful arbour in the garden opposite — a garden of roses and jessamine; and we made it by lifting up overladen vines and citrons, and the branches of lemon and orange trees, and supporting them on a framework, so that no sun could penetrate their luxuriant leafage. We put a divan in this arbour, which overlooked the rushing river; and that and the housetop were our favourite places to smoke on cool summer evenings.

By this time you will probably have discovered my love for animals, and as soon as I had arranged our house at Damascus the first thing I did was to indulge in my hobby of collecting a menagerie. First of all we bought some horses, three-quarter-breds and half-breds. Thorough-bred Arabs, especially mares, were too dear for our stable, and would have made us an object of suspicion. In the East, where there are official hands not clean of bribes, an Arab mare is a favourite bribe, and I had many such offers before I had been at Damascus long; but I refused them all. Richard always gave me entire command of the stable, and so it was my domain. Living in solitude as I did very much, I discovered how companionable horses could be. There was no speech between us, but I knew everything they said and thought and felt, and they knew everything I said to them. I did not confine my purchases entirely to horses. I bought a camel and a snow-white donkey, which latter is the most honourable mount for grand visiting. I also picked up a splendid Persian cat in the bazaars, and I had brought over with me a young pet St. Bernard dog, two brindle bull-terriers and two of the Yarborough breed, and I added later a Kurdish pup. I bought three milk goats for the house, and I had presents of a pet lamb and a nimr (leopard), which became the idol of the house. The domestic hen-yard was duly stocked with all kinds of fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, and guinea-fowls, and in the garden and on the terrace and the housetop I kept my pigeons. This collection was my delight. I cannot say that they were a happy family. After a time I trained them into living together in something like harmony, but it took a very long time. I added to my family also from time to time half-famished dogs which I had rescued from the streets, or ill-treated and broken-down donkeys, which I purchased from some cruel master. In the course of time it became a truly wonderful gathering.

The animals in the East seem to me to be almost more intelligent than those at home. They certainly have a way of showing their likes and dislikes very strongly. When I first came to Damascus, fond though I was of animals, I found that most of them shied at me. I do not think that they had been accustomed to an Englishwoman at close quarters. For instance, I went for a walk one day, and met a small boy leading a donkey laden with radishes, as high as a small tree. I suppose that I was strange-looking, for at the sight of me the donkey kicked up his heels and threw all the radishes about for a hundred yards around. The poor little boy set up a howl. I ran to help him, but the more I tried the more the donkey ran away, and at last I understood by signs that the donkey was shying at me, so I threw the boy a coin and retreated, and sent another boy to help him. We called to an old man riding a shabby-looking horse, but the moment the horse saw me it did exactly the same thing, and nearly flung the old man off. My sides ached with laughing. Fancy being so queer that the animals take fright at one!

I think before I go further I ought to give some general idea of the city of Damascus as it appeared to me. I have already said that my first sight of the city was one of disappointment; but when I got to know it better its charm grew upon me, and I shall never till I die like any place so well. Damascus, as I suppose every one knows, is the largest town in Syria. In shape it is rather like a boy’s kite, with a very long tail. The tail of the kite is the Maydán, the poorest part of Damascus, but rich in ruined mosques and hammáms, and houses which at first sight look as though they are in decay. But when we got to know these houses better, we found that marble courts, inlaid chambers, arabesque ceilings, often lay behind the muddy exteriors. The city itself is divided into three quarters: the Jewish in the southern part, the Moslem in the northern and western, and the Christian in the eastern. The Moslem quarter is clean, the Christian quarter dirty, and the Jewish simply filthy. I often had to gallop through it holding my handkerchief to my mouth, and the kawwasses running as though they had been pursued by devils. Everywhere in Damascus, but especially in this quarter, the labyrinthine streets are piled with heaps of offal, wild dogs are gorged with carrion, and dead dogs are lying about. One must never judge Damascus, however, by externals: every house has a mean aspect in the way of entrance and approach. This is done purposely to deceive the Government, and not to betray what may be within in times of looting. You often approach through a mean doorway into a dirty passage; you then enter a second court, and you behold a marvellous transformation. You find the house thoroughly cleaned and perfumed, paved courts with marble fountains and goldfish, orange and jessamine trees, furniture inlaid with gold and ebony and mother-o’-pearl, and stained-glass windows. In the interior of one of the most beautiful houses I saw in Damascus the show-room was very magnificent, upholstered in velvet and gold, and with divans inlaid with marble, mother-o’-pearl, ebony, and walnut, and there were tesselated marble floors and pavements and fountains; but en revanche, God knows where they sleep at all. One of the ladies I went to call on first in her house was a very young and pretty bride, only a fortnight married. She was gaudily dressed, with about £2,000 worth of diamonds on her head and neck, but the stones were so badly set they looked like rubbish. She rolled from side to side in her walk, which is a habit very chic.

Notwithstanding her internal grandeur, Damascus is but a wreck of her former splendour, albeit a beautiful wreck. Ichabod! her glory has departed; not even the innumerable domes and minarets of her multitudinous mosques can reinstate her.

I think I ought to touch on the bazaars, as they form such an integral part of the life of Damascus. Many of them were very beautiful, all huddled together in a labyrinth of streets, and containing almost everything which one could want. I used to love to go with my Arab maid and wander through them. There was the saddlery bazaar, where one could buy magnificent trappings for one’s Arab steeds, saddle-cloths embossed with gold, bridles of scarlet silk, a single rein which makes you look as if you were managing a horse by a single thread, and bridles of silver and ivory. There was a shoemaker’s bazaar. How different from a shoeshop in England! The stalls were gorgeous with lemon-coloured slippers, stiff red shoes, scarlet boots with tops and tassels and hangings, which form part of the Bedawi dress. There was a marqueterie bazaar, where one found many lovely things inlaid with choice woods, mother-o’-pearl, and steel. And there was the gold and silver bazaar, where the smiths sat round in little pens, hammering at their anvils. Here one could pick up some most beautiful barbarous and antique ornaments, filigree coffee-cup holders, raki cups of silver inlaid with gold, and many other beautiful things too numerous to mention. There was another bazaar where they sold attar and sandal-wood oil; and yet another where one could buy rich Eastern stuffs and silks, the most beautiful things, which would make a fine smoking suit for one’s husband, or a sortie de bal for oneself. Here also you can buy izárs to walk about the bazaars incognita. They are mostly brilliantly hued and beautifully worked in gold. There was also the divan, where one bought beautiful stuffs, gaudy Persian rugs, and prayer-carpets for furnishing the house. There was the bazaar where one bought henna, wherewith to stain the hands, the feet, and the finger-nails. And last, but by no means least, there was the pipe or narghíleh bazaar, which contained the most beautiful pipe-sticks I ever saw, and the most lovely narghílehs, which were made in exquisite shapes and of great length in the tube. The longer the narbish, or tube, the higher your rank, and the greater compliment you pay to your guest. I used to order mine to be all dark chocolate and gold, and to measure from four to six yards in length, and I never had less than twelve narghílehs in the house at once, one of which I kept for my own particular smoking, and a silver mouthpiece which I kept in my pocket for use when visiting. I cannot hope in a short space to exhaust the treasures of these gorgeous bazaars. I can only say in conclusion that there were also the bazaars for sweetmeats, most delectable; for coffee, of which one never tastes the like out of Damascus; and every kind of bric-à-brac.

No account of Damascus, not even a bird’s-eye-view, would be complete without some mention of the great Mosque, whither I was wont now and again to repair. When I went, I of course took off my boots at the entrance, and put on my lemon-coloured slippers, and I was always careful to be as respectful and as reverent as if I were in my own church, and to never forget to leave a trifle for the poor, and to give a substantial tip when I went out. The Mosque was a magnificent building, with a ceiling of beautiful arabesques; the floor of limestone like marble, covered with mats and prayer-carpets. One of the most beautiful domes had windows of delicately carved wood, whose interstices were filled with crystal. There was a large paved court with a marble dome and fountain; and there were three minarets, which it was possible to ascend and from them to look down upon Damascus. It was up one of these minarets that the Duchesse de Persigny ascended, and when prayer was called she refused to come down. The Shaykh sent all kinds of emissaries and entreaties, to whom she replied: “Dites au Shaykh que je suis la Duchesse de Persigny, que je me trouve fort bien ici, et que je ne descendrai que quand cela me plaira.” She did not please for three-quarters of an hour. She also visited cafés which Moslem women do not visit, and shocked the kawwasses so much that they begged the French Consul not to send them to guard her, as they were losing their reputation! But to return to our muttons. This superb Mosque has alternately served as a place of worship for many creeds: for the Pagans as a temple, for the Christians as a cathedral, and for the Moslems as a mosque. Like Damascus, it has had its vicissitudes, and it has been taken captive by Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Assyrians, and Turks.

The Court of the Great Mosque, Damascus.

The Hammám, or Turkish Bath, is another feature of Damascus, and was one of my favourite haunts. I first went to the Hammám out of curiosity, and was warmly welcomed by the native women; but I was rather shocked. They squat naked on the floor, and, despoiled of their dress and hair and make-up, are, most of them, truly hideous. Their skins are like parchment, and baggy; their heads as bald as billiard-balls. What little hair they have is dyed an orange red with henna. They look like the witches in Macbeth, or at least as if they had been called up from out of the lower regions. They sit chatting with little bundles of sweets and narghílehs before them. An average Englishwoman would look like an houri amongst them; and their customs were beastly, to use the mildest term. The Hammám was entered by a large hall, lit by a skylight, with a huge marble tank in the centre and four little fountains, and all around raised divans covered with cushions. Here one wraps oneself in silk and woollen sheets, and after that proceeds to pass through the six marble rooms. The first is the cold room, the next warmer, the third warmer still, until you come to the sudarium, the hottest room of all. First they lather you, then they wash you with a lif and soap, then they douche you with tubs of hot water, then they shampoo you with fresh layers of soap, and then douche again. They give you iced sherbet, and tie towels dipped in cold water round your head, which prevent you fainting and make you perspire. They scrub your feet with pumice-stone, and move you back through all the rooms gradually, douche you with water, and shampoo you with towels. You now return to the large hall where you first undressed, wrap in woollen shawls, and recline on a divan. The place is all strewn with flowers, incense is burned around, and a cup of hot coffee is handed and a narghíleh placed in your mouth. A woman advances and kneads you as though you were bread, until you fall asleep under the process, as though mesmerized. When you wake up, you find music and dancing, the girls chasing one another, eating sweetmeats, and enjoying all sorts of fun. Moslem women go through a good deal more of the performance than I have described. For instance, they have their hair hennaed and their eyebrows plucked. You can also have your hands and feet hennaed, and, if you like it, be tattooed. The whole operation takes about four hours. It is often said by the ignorant that people can get as good a hammám in London or Paris as in the East. I have tried all, and they bear about as much relation to one another as a puddle of dirty water does to a pellucid lake. And the pellucid lake is in the East.

Then the harems. I often spent an evening in them, and I found them very pleasant; only at first the women used to ask me such a lot of inconvenient questions that I became quite confused. They were always puzzled because I had no children. One cannot generalize on the subject of harems; they differ in degree just as much as families in London. A first-class harem at Constantinople is one thing, at Damascus one of the same rank is another, while those of the middle and lower classes are different still. As a rule I met with nothing but courtesy in the harems, and much hospitality, cordiality, and refinement. I only twice met with bad manners, and that was in a middle-class harem. Twice only the conversation displeased me, and that was amongst the lower class. One of the first harems I visited in Damascus was that of the famous Abd el Kadir (of whom more anon), which of course was one of the best class. He had five wives: one of them was very pretty. I asked them how they could bear to live together and pet each other’s children. I told them that in England, if a woman thought her husband had another wife or mistress, she would be ready to kill her and strangle the children if they were not her own. They all laughed heartily at me, and seemed to think it a great joke. I am afraid that Abd el Kadir was a bit of a Tartar in his harem, for they were very prim and pious.

So much for the city of Damascus.

In the environs there were many beautiful little roads, leading through gardens and orchards, with bubbling water, and under the shady fig and vine, pomegranate and walnut. You emerged from these shady avenues on to the soft yellow sand of the desert, where you could gallop as hard as you pleased. There were no boundary-lines, no sign-posts, nothing to check one’s spirits or one’s energy. The breath of the desert is liberty.

Chapter XII

Early Days at Damascus


Though old as history itself, thou art fresh as breath or spring, blooming as thine own rosebud, as fragrant as thine own orange flower, O Damascus, Pearl of the East!

As soon as we had settled in our house I had to accustom myself to the honours of my position, which at first were rather irksome to me; but as they were part of the business I had to put up with them. I found my position as the wife of the British Consul in Damascus very different from what it had been in Brazil. A consul in the East as envoyé of a Great Power is a big man, and he ranks almost as high as a Minister would in Europe. Nearer home a consul is often hardly considered to be a gentleman, while in many countries he is not allowed to go to Court. In the East, however, the Consular service was, at the time I write, an honoured profession, and the envoyés of the Great Powers were expected to keep up a little state, especially the English and the French. They had a certain number of Consular dragomans, or gentleman secretaries, in distinction to the travelling dragoman, who bears the same relation as a courier in Europe. They also had a certain number of kawwasses, who look like cavalry soldiers. The Consulate at Damascus was then quite like a diplomatic post, and I felt like a Minister’s wife, and was treated accordingly. For instance, every time I went outside my door I was attended by four kawwasses, with swords and uniforms much ornamented, also a dragoman interpreter. The duty of these four attendants was to clear the way before and behind me, and I assure you it was far more pain than pleasure to me to see mules, horses, donkeys, camels, little children, and poor old men thrust out of the way, as if I were sacred and they were all dirt. How they must have cursed me! I told my kawwasses that I did not wish them to show themselves officious by doing more than was absolutely necessary for the dignity of the British Consulate and the custom of the country. But their escort certainly was necessary to a great extent. When the common people saw a kawwass, they knew one was of importance, and made way for one; otherwise a woman could not walk the streets of Damascus without being molested: even the famished herds of dogs seemed to know the difference between kawwass and no kawwass. The danger from dogs was that they collected and ran in packs, and you were almost caught in the eddy of wild and half-starved dogs if you were not guarded.

I hate pomp and ceremony of all kinds, except where it is absolutely necessary; but in this case I could not dispense with it. The French Minister’s wife was hissed in the streets of Constantinople because she chose to dispense with her escort. A Protestant clergyman’s wife was nearly struck by a Turkish soldier for brushing against him with her petticoats, thus rendering him, according to his religion, unclean. Besides, women in the East want a guard. A missionary young lady who came up in the coupé of the diligence from Beyrout to Damascus had an unpleasant experience. A Persian, who called himself a gentleman, was inside, and kissed her all the way up. She, poor little idiot! saw no way out of the transaction, but came and threw herself on Richard’s protection several days after, and there was an ugly row. She had the Persian arrested, and tried him. If anybody had tried that sort of game on with me, I should have made an example of him myself, and taken the law in my own hands, whoever he was. An escort was therefore necessary. I can understand how some consuls’ wives, sometimes vulgar, ill-conditioned women, might get elated at this newly acquired importance, and presume upon it until they became unbearable. I found the lack of privacy very trying at first, but I was anxious to bear it because I saw that English influence at Damascus required lifting a great many pegs higher than our predecessor left it. The only member of our English noblesse the people had hitherto known in Damascus was Lady Ellenborough, of whom more anon.

As soon as we were settled down I had to begin my receptions. I fixed my reception day on Wednesday; and it was no trifle, for the visitors came all day long. One native lady told me indignantly that she had been to see me three times on my reception day, and had been refused. I said, “When did you come? and how could it happen that I had never heard of it?” She answered almost angrily, “I came at daylight, and again at sunrise, and again at eight o’clock.” I said it was rather early; and though I was an early riser, it was just possible that I had not made a suitable toilet to receive her. On my reception day the dragomans interpreted for me. The kawwasses, in full dress of scarlet and gold, kept guard by turns, and the servants were engaged incessantly in bringing up relays of narghílehs, chibouques, cigarettes, sweetmeats, sherbet, Turkish coffee and tea. My visitors sat on the divans, cross-legged or not, according to their nation, and smoked and chatted. If there were Moslem women, I had two separate reception-rooms, and went from one to the other, as the women will not unveil before strange men. It was a most tiring day; for not only did people come all through the day, but I was obliged to concentrate all my thought not to make a mistake in etiquette. There were many grades and ranks to be considered, and the etiquette in receiving each guest was different according to the rank. The dragoman in attendance upon me would whisper until I knew it, “One step,” or “Two steps,” or “Half across the room,” or “The door.” I thus knew exactly the visitor’s rank, and by what term to address him, from the lowest to the highest. Of course, in receiving natives, the method of receiving men and women was different. I advanced to meet the women; we mutually raised our finger-tips to our hearts, lips, and foreheads. They then seized my hand, which I snatched away to prevent their kissing it (it sounds rude, but it isn’t; it is the essence of politeness), and I kissed them on both cheeks. I personally removed their veils and their izárs. When they took their leave, I reveiled them, and accompanied them to the door. With the men I did not shake hands: we saluted at a distance. If my visitor was a well-bred man, he would not expect me to rise, but would come and kiss my hand, and had to be pressed two or three times before he would consent to sit down. The only man I was in the habit of rising for was the Wali, or Governor-General of Syria, because he represented the Sultan, and he in his turn paid me a similar respect. When he left, I accompanied him to the door of the room, but never to the street door. Moreover, it was de rigueur every time a visitor came that coffee, tea, or sherbet should be offered him, and that I should take it with him and drink first. It was a custom with the natives, and I could not omit it; but when I first held my receptions I found it a great tax upon me, and mixing so many drinks gave me indigestion. Afterwards I grew more wary, and merely moistened my lips. Another thing I used to do at my earlier receptions was to make tea and coffee and carry them round myself, while the dragomans would lazily sit and look on. I didn’t understand this at all, so I told them to get up and help me, and they willingly handed tea and coffee to any European, man or woman, but not to their native ladies, who blushed, begged the dragomans' pardon, and stood up, looking appealingly at me, and praying not to be served. So I found it the easiest thing to wait on the native women myself, though I felt very indignant that any man should feel himself degraded by having to wait on a woman.

I must now mention three of my principal visitors, each of whom afterwards played a large part, though a very different part, in our life at Damascus.

First of all was the Wali, or Governor-General of Syria. I received him in state one day. He came in full uniform with a great many attendants. I seated him in proper form on a divan with pipes and coffee. He was very amiable and polite. He reminded me of an old tom-cat: he was dressed in furs; he was indolent and fat, and walked on his toes and purred. At first sight I thought him a kind-hearted old creature, not very intelligent and easily led. The last quality was true enough; for what disgusted me was that Syria was really governed by dragomans, and the Wali or any other great man was a puppet. For instance, if the Consul wanted to see the Wali, he had to send one of his dragomans to the Wali’s dragomans, and they arranged between them just what they liked. The two chief men met each other, attended by two dragomans, who reported every word of the conversation round Damascus. These men easily made people enemies; and the lies, mischief, and scandal they originated were beyond imagination. I have said that my first impression of the Wali was as of a well-fed cat; but I soon discovered that the cat had claws, for he quickly became jealous of Richard’s influence, and during our two years’ sojourn at Damascus he was one of our worst enemies.

Another, and the most interesting of all the personages who attended my receptions, was Lady Ellenborough, known at Damascus as the Honourable Jane Digby El Mezráb.26 She was the most romantic and picturesque personality: one might say she was Lady Hester Stanhope’s successor. She was of the family of Lord Digby, and had married Lord Ellenborough, Governor-General of India, a man much older than herself, when she was quite a girl. The marriage was against her wish. She was very unhappy with him, and she ran away with Prince Schwartzenburg when she was only nineteen, and Lord Ellenborough divorced her. She lived with Prince Schwartzenburg for some years, and had two or three children by him, and then he basely deserted her. I am afraid after that she led a life for a year or two over which it is kinder to draw a veil. She then tired of Europe, and conceived the idea of visiting the East, and of imitating Lady Hester Stanhope and other European ladies, who became more Eastern than the Easterns. She arrived at Beyrout, and went to Damascus, where she arranged to go to Baghdad, across the desert. For this journey a Bedawin escort was necessary; and as the Mezráb tribe occupied the ground, the duty of commanding the escort devolved upon Shaykh Mijwal, a younger brother of the chief of this tribe. On the journey the young Shaykh fell in love with this beautiful woman, and she fell in love with him. The romantic picture of becoming a queen of the desert suited her wild and roving fancy. She married him, in spite of all opposition, according to the Mohammedan law. At the time I came to Damascus she was living half the year in a house just within the city gates; the other half of the year she passed in the desert in the tents of the Bedawin tribe, living absolutely as a Bedawin woman. When I first saw her she was a most beautiful woman, though sixty-one years of age. She wore one blue garment, and her beautiful hair was in two long plaits down to the ground. When she was in the desert, she used to milk the camels, serve her husband, prepare his food, wash his hands, face, and feet, and stood and waited on him while he ate, like any Arab woman, and gloried in so doing. But at Damascus she led a semi-European life. She blackened her eyes with kohl, and lived in a curiously untidy manner. But otherwise she was not in the least extraordinary at Damascus. But what was incomprehensible to me was how she could have given up all she had in England to live with that dirty little black — or nearly so — husband. I went to see her one day, and when he opened the door to me I thought at first he was a native servant. I could understand her leaving a coarse, cruel husband, much older than herself, whom she never loved (every woman has not the strength of mind and the pride to stand by what she has done); I could understand her running away with Schwartzenburg; but the contact with that black skin I could not understand. Her Shaykh was very dark — darker than a Persian, and much darker than an Arab generally is. All the same, he was a very intelligent and charming man in any light but as a husband. That made me shudder. It was curious how she had retained the charming manner, the soft voice, and all the graces of her youth. You would have known her at once to be an English lady, well born and bred, and she was delighted to greet in me one of her own order. We became great friends, and she dictated to me the whole of her biography, and most romantic and interesting it is. I took a great interest in the poor thing. She was devoted to her Shaykh, whereat I marvelled greatly. Gossip said that he had other wives, but she assured me that he had not, and that both her brother Lord Digby and the British Consul required a legal and official statement to that effect before they were married. She appeared to be quite foolishly in love with him (and I fully comprehend any amount of sacrifice for the man one loves — the greater the better), though the object of her devotion astonished me. Her eyes often used to fill with tears when talking of England, her people, and old times; and when we became more intimate, she spoke to me of every detail of her erring but romantic career. It was easy to see that Schwartzenburg had been the love of her life, for her eyes would light up with a glory when she mentioned him, and she whispered his name with bated breath. It was his desertion which wrecked her life. Poor thing! she was far more sinned against than sinning.

Our other friend a Damascus was the famous Abd el Kadir. Every one knows his history: every one has heard of his hopeless struggles for the independence of Algeria; his capture and imprisonment in France from 1847 to 1852, when he was set free by Louis Napoleon on the intercession of Lord Londonderry. More than that, Louis Napoleon was magnanimous enough to pension him, and sent him to Damascus, where he was living when we came, surrounded by five hundred faithful Algerians. He loved the English, but he was very loyal to Louis Napoleon. He was dark, and a splendid-looking man with a stately bearing, and perfectly self-possessed. He always dressed in snow white, turban and burnous, with not a single ornament except his jewelled arms, which were superb. He was every inch a soldier and a sultan, and his mind was as beautiful as his face. Both he and Richard were Master-Sufi, and they greatly enjoyed a talk together, both speaking purest Arabic.

When I look back on those dear days and friends in Damascus, my eyes fill and my heart throbs at the memories which crowd upon me. When I think of all those memories, none is dearer to me than the recollection of the evenings which we four — Lady Ellenborough, Abd el Kadir, Richard, and myself — used to spend together on the top of our house. Often after my reception was over and the sun was setting, we used to ask these two to stay behind the others and have a little supper with us, and we would go up to the roof, where it was prepared, and where mattresses and the cushions of the divans were spread about, and have our evening meal; and after that we would smoke our narghílehs, and talk and talk and talk far into the night, about things above, things on the earth, and things under the earth. I shall never forget the scene on the housetop, backed as it was by the sublime mountain, a strip of sand between it and us, and on the other three sides was the view over Damascus and beyond the desert. It was all wild, romantic, and solemn; and sometimes we would pause in our conversation to listen to the sounds around us: the last call to prayer on the minaret-top, the soughing of the wind through the mountain-gorges, and the noise of the water-wheel in the neighbouring orchard.

I have said we smoked, and that included Lady Ellenborough and myself. I must confess to the soft impeachment, despite insular prejudices; and I would advise any woman who sojourns in the East to learn to smoke, if she can. I am no admirer of a big cigar in a woman’s mouth, or a short clay; but I know of nothing more graceful or enjoyable than a cigarette, and even more so in the narghíleh, or even the chibouque, which, however, is quite a man’s pipe.

I must add that when we were in the East Richard and I made a point of leading two lives. We were always thoroughly English in our Consulate, and endeavoured to set an example of the way in which England should be represented abroad, and in our official life we strictly conformed to English customs and conventions; but when we were off duty, so to speak, we used to live a great deal as natives, and so obtained experience of the inner Eastern life. Richard’s friendship with the Mohammedans, and his perfect mastery of the Arabic and Persian languages and literature, naturally put him into intimate relations with the oriental authorities and the Arab tribes, and he was always very popular among them, with one exception, and that was the Turkish Wali, or Governor, aforesaid. Richard was my guide in all things; and since he adapted himself to the native life, I endeavoured to adapt myself to it also, not only because it was my duty, but because I loved it. For instance, though we always wore European dress in Damascus and Beyrout, we wore native dress in the desert. I always wore the men’s dress on our expeditions in the desert and up the country. By that I mean the dress of the Arab men. This is not so dreadful as Mrs. Grundy may suppose, as it was all drapery, and does not show the figure. There was nothing but the face to show the curious whether you were a man or a woman, and I used to tuck my kuffiyyah up to only show my eyes. When we wore Eastern clothes, we always ate as the Easterns ate. If I went to a bazaar, I frequently used to dress like a Moslem woman with my face covered, and sit in the shops and let my Arab maid do the talking. They never suspected me, and so I heard all their gossip and entered into something of their lives. The women frequently took me into the mosque in this garb, but to the harím I always went in my European clothes. Richard and I lived the Eastern life thoroughly, and we loved it.

We went to every kind of ceremony, whether it was a circumcision, or a wedding, or a funeral, or a dervish dance, or anything that was going on; and we mixed with all classes, and religions, and races, and tongues. I remember my first invitation was to a grand fête to celebrate the circumcision of a youth about ten years of age. He was very pretty, and was dressed in gorgeous garments covered with jewellery. Singing, dancing, and feasting went on for about three days. The ceremony took place quite publicly. There was a loud clang of music and firing of guns to drown the boy’s cries, and with one stroke of a circular knife the operation was finished in a second. The part cut off was then handed round on a silver salver, as if to force all present to attest that the rite had been performed. I felt quite sick, and English modesty overpowered curiosity, and I could not look. Later on, when I grew more used to Eastern ways, I was forced to accept the compliment paid to the highest rank, and a great compliment to me as a Christian, to hold the boy in my arms whilst the ceremony was being performed. It was rather curious at first to be asked to a circumcision, as one might be asked to a christening in England or a “small and early.”

For the first three months of my life at Damascus I only indulged in short excursions, but Richard went away on longer expeditions, often for days, sometimes on business and sometimes to visit the Druze chiefs. I have said that our house was about a quarter of an hour from Damascus, and whilst Richard was away on one of these expeditions I broke through a stupid rule. It was agreed that I could never dine out or go to a soirée in Damascus, because after sunset the roads between Damascus and our house on the hillside were infested with Kurds. I was tired of being “gated” in this way, so I sent to the Chief of Police, and told him I intended to dine out when I chose and where I chose, and to return at all hours — any hours I pleased. He looked astonished, so I gave him a present. He looked cheerful, and I then told him to make it his business that I was never to be attacked or molested. I showed him my revolver, and said, “I will shoot the first man who comes within five yards of me or my horse.” I went down twice to Damascus while Richard was away the first time, and I found all the gates of the city open and men posted with lanterns everywhere. I took an escort of four of my servants, and I told them plainly that the first man who ran away I would shoot from behind. I came back one night at eleven o’clock, and another at two o’clock in the morning, and nothing happened.

When I knew that Richard was coming back from the desert, I rode out to meet him about eight miles. I did not meet him until sunset. He said he knew a short cut to Damascus across the mountains, but we lost our way. Night came on, and we were wandering about amongst the rocks and precipices on the mountains. We could not see our hands before our faces. Our horses would not move, and we had to dismount, and grope our way, and lead them. Richard’s horse was dead-beat, and mine was too fiery; and we had to wait till the moon rose, reaching home at last half dead with fatigue and hunger.

Our daily life at Damascus, when we were not engaged in any expedition or excursion, was much as follows: We rose at daybreak. Richard went down every day to his Consulate in the city at twelve o’clock, and remained there till four or five. We had two meals a day — breakfast at 11 a.m., and supper at dusk. At the breakfast any of our friends and acquaintances who liked used to drop in and join us; and immediately after our evening meal we received friends, if any came. If not, Richard used to read himself to sleep, and I did the same. Of Richard’s great and many activities at Damascus, of his difficult and dangerous work, of his knowledge of Eastern character and Eastern languages, of his political and diplomatic talents, all of which made him just the man for the place, I have written elsewhere. Here I have to perform the infinitely harder task of speaking of myself. But in writing of my daily life at Damascus I must not forget that my first and best work was to interest myself in all my husband’s pursuits, and to be, as far as he would allow me to be, his companion, his private secretary, and his aide-de-camp. Thus I saw and learnt much, not only of native life, but also of high political matters. I would only say that my days were all too short: I wish they had been six hours longer. When not helping Richard, my work consisted of looking after my house, servants, stables and horses, of doing a little gardening, of reading, writing, and studying, of trying to pick up Arabic, of receiving visits and returning them, of seeing and learning Damascus thoroughly, and looking after the poor and sick who came in my way. I often also had a gallop over the mountains and plains; or I went shooting, either on foot or on horseback. The game was very wild round Damascus, but I got a shot at red-legged partridges, wild duck, quail, snipe, and woodcock, and I seldom came home with an empty bag. The only time I ever felt lonely was during the long winter nights when Richard was away. In the summer I did not feel lonely, because I could always go and smoke a narghíleh with the women at the water-side in a neighbour’s garden. But in the winter it was not possible to do this. So I used to occupy myself with music or literature, or with writing these rough notes, which I or some one else will put together some day. But more often than not I sat and listened to the stillness, broken ever and anon by weird sounds outside.

So passed our life at Damascus.

26 Miss Stisted speaks of her as "Jane Digby, who capped her wild career by marrying a camel-driver,” and animadverts on Lady Burton for befriending her. The Shaykh was never a camel-driver in his life, and few, I think, will blame Lady Burton for her kindness to this poor lady, her countrywoman, in a strange land.

Chapter XIII

Through the Desert to Palmyra


Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?

The Song of Solomon.

The oracles are dumb;
No voice or hideous hum
Runs through the archèd roof in words deceiving.


Richard had wished ever since he came to Damascus to visit Palmyra, or Tadmor, in the wilderness. It is about one hundred and fifty miles distant in the open desert. His main reason for going there was his private wish to explore, but it was also his official duty to open up the country, now infested with hordes of wild Bedawin tribes, who attacked, robbed, and killed right and left. Several Englishmen had been to Palmyra, but always with a large escort of the tribe of El Mezráb, and Richard wanted to break through the system which this tribe had of practically levying blackmail upon travellers, which often meant as much as six thousand francs, as each man in the escort costs about £2 a head. We decided therefore to go without any Bedawin escort, to show that it could be done, and thus to throw open this most interesting part of Syria to travellers. At first a lot of people wanted to join us in the expedition; but when it came to the point they gradually sneaked away, and many of them wept and wished us good-bye, and thought it madness. Indeed, so much was said that I set out with more than a suspicion that we were marching to our deaths. But Richard wished it, and that was enough for me. He never permitted any obstacle to hinder his progress. He made up his mind to travel without the tribe of El Mezráb, and he gave me the option of going with him, and I said, as I always said, “I will follow you to the death.” It was rather funny to find the excuses which people made for not going with us. One had business in Beyrout, another was ill, the third had married, and so on. So when the day of departure dawned (April 1; I had been in Damascus three months) our faithful friends dwindled down to two — the Russian Consul, and a French traveller, the Vicomte de Perrochel.

On the morning of our departure we had a very lively breakfast. As I have said, it was our custom to let our friends drop in for this meal, and on this occasion we found ourselves surrounded by every kind of Eastern figure. They evidently thought us mad — especially me. My dress was very picturesque, and I was vain enough to turn myself round and round, at their request, that they might view it, which they did with cries of admiration. It consisted of large yellow button boots and gaiters, and English riding-habit with the long ends of the skirt tucked in to look like their Eastern baggy trousers, an Eastern belt with revolver, dagger, and cartridges. My hair was all tucked up under the tarbash, and I wore one of the Bedawin veils to the waist, only showing a bit of face. The veil was of all colours, chiefly gold braid, bound by a chocolate and gold circlet near the forehead. Richard slung over my back and round my neck a whistle and compass, in case of my being lost. I had brought out two first-rate horses, both stallions, one half-bred, the other three-quarters; they were called Salim and Harpash. An Arab was to ride one, and lead the second when I was riding something else. The first stallion would be good for travelling and fighting, and the second for bolting, if needful. I knew I had to ride erect half a day at a stretch, which meant about fifteen or twenty miles.

We set forth with great pomp and ceremony; for the Mushir, or Commander-in-chief, and a large cavalcade saw us out of the city, and exchanged affectionate farewells outside the gates, evidently not expecting to see us again. This being the first day, we made only a three hours’ march; it cleared us of Damascus and its environs, and we camped early on the edge of the desert. I cannot convey to you the charm of a Syrian camp. I shall never forget my first night in the desert. The horses were all picketed about; the men were lying here and there in the silvery moonlight, which lit up our tripod and kettle; and the jackals howled and capered as they sniffed the savoury bones. People talk of danger when surrounded by jackals, but I have always found them most cowardly; they would run away if a pocket-handkerchief were shaken at them. It was the prettiest thing to see them gambolling about in the moonlight; but after we had turned in a strange effect was produced when a jackal, smelling the cookery, ran up round the tent, for the shadow on the white canvas looked as large as a figure exaggerated in a magic lantern. During my first night under canvas I was awakened by hearing a pack coming — a wild, unearthly sound. I thought it was a raid of the Bedawin rushing down upon us, and that this was the war-cry; but the weird yell swept down upon us, passed, and died away in the distance. I grew to love the sound.

The next morning the camp began stirring at dawn. It was bitterly cold. We boiled water and made some tea. We hurried our dressing, saw the animals fed and watered, tents struck, things packed up, and the baggage animals loaded and sent on ahead with orders to await us at Jayrúd. We always found it better to see our camp off ahead of us, otherwise the men loitered and did not reach the night-halt in time. We started a little later. The way to Jayrúd was across a sandy plain, with patches of houses here and there, and a village at long intervals. A village on the outskirts of the desert means twenty or thirty huts of stones and mud, each shaped like a box, and exactly the same colour as the ground. We breakfasted in a ruined mosque. After that we started again, and came to a vast plain of white sand and rock, which lasted until we reached Jayrúd. It was about fifteen hours’ ride from Damascus. A little way outside Jayrúd we were caught in a sand-storm, which I shall never forget. Richard and I were both well mounted. When it came on, he made a sign in which direction I was to go. There was no time to speak, and we both galloped into the storm as hard as we could pelt. The sand and wind blinded me, and I had no idea where I was going. Once I did not see that I was riding straight at a deep pit; and though Arab horses seldom or never leap, mine cleared it with one bound. After that I was wiser, and I threw the reins on Salim’s neck, for his eyes were better than mine. This continued for three hours, and at last we reached Jayrúd, where we had arranged to halt for the night.

Jayrúd is a large clean village in the middle of the salt and sandy plain. We stopped for the night with Da’as Agha, who was a border chieftain, and a somewhat wild and dangerous character, though Richard knew how to tame him. His house was large and roomy, with spacious walls and high-raftered ceilings. While we were at supper crowds of villagers collected to see us, and the courtyard and the house were filled with and surrounded by all sorts of guests from different Bedawin tribes. Camels were lying about, baggage was piled here and there, and horses were picketed in all directions; it was a thoroughly oriental picture.

An unpleasant incident happened. I had engaged a confidential man as a head servant and interpreter. He was an Arab, but he spoke French. He was an exceedingly clever, skilful man, and Richard told him off to wait on me during the journey, and to ride after me when needful. When we got to Jayrúd, as soon as I dismounted, I took Richard's horse and my own and walked them up and down to cool. As soon as my man and another came up I gave them the reins, saying, “After our hard ride in the sand-storm take as much care of the horses as though they were children.” He answered, “Be rested, Sitti”; but an unpleasant smile came across his face, which might have warned me. I ought to have mentioned that three times since we had set out from Damascus he had ridden short across me when we were at full gallop. The first time I begged him not to do so, as it was very dangerous, and the second time I threatened him, and the third time I broke my hunting-whip across his face. He merely said, “All is finished,” and hung back. However, I did not think anything more of it, and I went in and had my supper. While we were eating, and my back was turned, he threw the reins of my horse to a bystander, and, drawing a sword, he cut the throat of the good, useful, little horse which I had hired for him, and which he had been riding all day. I saw people running, and heard a certain amount of confusion while I was eating; but being very tired and hungry, I did not look round. Presently somebody let it out. I rose in a rage, determined to dismiss the man at once; but Richard checked me with a word, and pointed out the unwisdom of making him an open enemy, and desired me to put a good face on the matter till the end of the journey. The explanation of the little beast’s conduct was this. He had really wanted to ride a thorough-bred horse, but it was ridden instead by my dragoman’s brother, and his rage had been uncontrollable when he saw the coveted animal caracolling before him. Moreover, he had a spite against me, and he thought that if he killed his own horse I should give him a better one, by some process of oriental reasoning which I do not pretend to understand. However, he was, mistaken, for I mounted him after that on the vilest old screw in the camp.

Next morning we woke early. Mules, donkeys, camels, horses, and mares were screaming and kicking, and the men running about cursing and swearing. In such a Babel it was impossible to feel drowsy. I felt very faint as we set out from Jayrúd. The salt marshes in the distance were white and glistening, and the heat spread over them in a white mist which looked like a mirage bearing fantastic ships. We breakfasted at the next village, Atneh, in a harím, the women having all gone out. It was the house of a bride, and she had hung all her new garments round the walls, as we display our wedding presents pour encourager les autres. When the women came back, the men retired from the harím. Atneh was the last settlement, the last water, the last human abode between Jayrúd and Karyatyn — a long distance. After this we had a lengthy desert ride in wind and rain, sleet and hail, and the ground was full of holes; but it was a splendid ride all the same. The Arabs, in their gaudy jackets, white trousers, and gold turbans, galloped about furiously, brandishing and throwing their lances, and playing the usual tricks of horsemanship — jeríd. We met a terrible storm of thunder and lightning, and between-whiles the fiery sun sent down his beams upon a parched plain. The desert ground was alternately flint, limestone, and smooth gravel; not a tree or shrub, not a human being or animal, was to be seen. The colours were yellow sand and blue sky, blue sky and yellow sand, yellow and blue for ever.

We arrived at dusk at the spot where we had told our advance guard to pitch the tents. We found everything ready, and after our horses were cared for we dined. That night for the first time we slept in our clothes, with revolvers and guns by our sides. The men took turns to keep watch, so that we might not be surprised by a Ghazu, a tribe of six or seven hundred Bedawin, who go out for marauding purposes. The Ghazis charge furiously, with their lances couched. If you have the pluck to stand still until they are within an inch of your nose, and ask what they want, they drop their lances; for they respect courage, but there is no mercy if you show the white feather. We meant to say to them, “We are the English and Russian Consuls travelling on business. If you touch us, there will be consequences; if you want a present you shall have it; but you are not to shame us by taking our horses and arms, and if you insist we will fight.” There was a driving wind that night, and I feared the exposure and hardship if the tents were blown down and the fire blown out, as it threatened. We could scarcely keep a lamp or candle alight. No Ghazis came.

We rose next morning in the cold, dark, misty, and freezing dawn. We had some difficulty in starting our camp; the horses were shivering, and the muleteers and camel-men objected. We had a long and lonely ride through the same desolate valley plain as yesterday, banked on either side in the distance by naked, barren mountains, and we were very thankful when the sun came out. We breakfasted at a ruined khan, and changed our horses. Then we rode on and on, seemingly for an age, with no change; not a bird nor a tree nor a sound save the clattering of our horses’ hoofs. At length, when within an hour of Karyatayn, we got a little excitement. On slightly rising ground about five miles off we espied, by the aid of field-glasses, something which we discovered to be a large party of mounted Bedawin. We sounded our whistles, and our stragglers came in till we all were collected. I ought to mention here that from the time of our leaving Damascus, stragglers had joined us continually from every village. Naturally the number of our camp-followers became great, until we assumed a most formidable appearance, numbering nearly eighty in all. As soon as our stragglers reached us we formed a line, and the opposite party did the same. They then galloped to meet us, and we did likewise. When within a quarter mile of each other we pulled up, and they pulled up. We fully expected a charge and a skirmish, so we halted in a line and consulted; they did the same. Three of us then rode out to meet them; three horsemen of their line then did likewise. They hailed us, and asked us who we were and what we wanted. We told them we were the English and Russian Consuls passing to Palmyra, and asked in our turn who they were. They replied that they were the representatives of the Shaykh of Karyatayn, and his fighting men, and that they bore invitations to us. They then jumped down from their horses and kissed my hand. We were greeted on all sides, and escorted in triumph to the village; the men riding jeríd — that is, firing from horseback at full speed, hanging over by one stirrup with the bridle in their mouths, quivering their long lances in the air, throwing and catching them again at full gallop, yelling and shouting their war-cries. It was a wild and picturesque scene. So we entered Karyatayn, went to the house of the Shaykh, and dispatched a note to him.

His dwelling was a big mud house, with a large reception-room, where we found a big fire. There was a separate house for the harím, which appeared numerous, and I was to sleep there in a room to myself. Before dinner, while we were enjoying the fire and sitting round the rug, a fat young Turkish officer entered with an insolent look. Thinking he had come with a message from Omar Beg, a Hungarian brigadier-general in the Turkish service who was stationed here, we saluted in the usual manner. Without returning it, he walked up, stepped across us, flung himself on our rug, leaned on his elbow, and with an impertinent leer stared in our faces all round until he met Richard’s eye, which partook of something of the tiger kind, when he started and turned pale. Richard called out, “Kawwasses!” The kawwasses and two wardis ran into the room. “Remove that son of a dog.” They seized him, fat and big as he was, as if he had been a rabbit; and although he kicked and screamed lustily, carried him out of the house. I saw them give him some vicious bumps against the walls as they went out of the door into the village, where they dropped him into the first pool of mud, which represented the village horse-pond. By-and-by Omar Beg came down to dine with us. We all sat round on the ground and ate of several dishes, chiefly a kid stuffed with rice and pistachios. After dinner we reported to Omar Beg the conduct of his sous-officier, and he said that we had done very well, and he was glad of the opportunity of making an example of him, for he was a bad lot; and a Turkish soldier when he is bad is bad indeed. He had committed a gross insult against us, and it is always best in the East to resent an insult at once.

Our next day was a pleasant, lazy day, during which we inspected Karyatayn at our leisure. We rested, read, and wrote, and made a few extra preparations for the march. I went to call on the wife of Omar Beg, who was the daughter of the well-known German savant Herr Mordtmann. She was living with her husband quite contentedly in this desolate place, in a mud hut, and her only companions were a hyena and a lynx, which slept on her bed. The hyena greeted me at the gate; and though I was not prepared for it, I innocently did the right thing. It came and sniffed at my hands, and then jumped up and put its paws on my shoulder and smelt my face. “Oh,” I thought, “if it takes a bit out of my cheek, what shall I do?” But I stood as still as a statue, and tried not to breathe, looking steadily in its eyes all the while. At last it made up its mind to be friendly, jumped down, and ran before me into the house. Here I found the lynx on the divan, which sprang at me, mewed, and lashed its tail till Madame Omar came. She was a charming German lady; but her husband kept her secluded in the harím like a Moslem woman. She told me I had done quite the right thing with the hyena. If people began to scream, it took a pleasure in frightening them. I found this out a little later, for it got into Richard’s room, and I found him, the Russian Consul, and the Vicomte de Perrochel all sitting on the divan with their legs well tucked under them, clutching their sticks, and looking absurdly uncomfortable at the affreuse bête, as the Vicomte called it.

I had had a tiring day, and was glad to go to the harím that night and turn into my little room. But, alas! no sooner had I got in there than about fifty women came to pay me a visit. By way of being gracious, I had given a pair of earrings to the head wife of the Shaykh, and that caused the most awful jealousy and quarrelling among them. I was dying to go to bed, but they went on nagging at one another, until at last a man, a husband or a brother, came of his own accord to tell them to take leave, and upon their refusing he drove them all out of the room like a flock of sheep. Fortunately I had a bolt to my door, so that I was able to shut them out. My sleep, however, was very much disturbed, for they kept on trying the doors and the shutters nearly all night. They have an intense curiosity concerning European women, and during my toilet next morning I could see fifty pairs of eyes at fifty chinks in the windows and doors. It was really very embarrassing, because I could not tell the sex of the eyes, though I imagined that they belonged to my visitors of the night before. Dressing as I did en Amazone seemed to afford them infinite glee; and when I arrived at the cloth nether garments of my riding-habit, they went into shrieks of laughter. However, I put a bold face on it, and sallied forth to the square of the village, where I found the rest of our party. Our horses were being led up and down by the soldiers; our camels with water in goats’ skins, and our baggage beasts, our camp-followers, and our free-lances, were drawn up on one side. Omar Beg accompanied us out of the village with a troop of cavalry, and started us with forty dromedaries, each carrying two soldiers. The cavalcade looked very fine, and when Omar Beg took his leave of us we were about one hundred and sixty strong.

We had a long day’s march through the desert. It was very hot. We went through a wild defile, rested, and climbed up a mountain. We then returned to the plains, and in the afternoon we saw a mirage — castles and green fields. We were late in finding our tents, and very tired. Again we did not undress, but slept with our weapons by our sides.

The next morning we set out again at 6.30. We rode towards a mountain in the distance, and defiled by a picturesque and dangerous ledge amongst craggy peaks. We had heard that the Bedawin knew of a well hereabouts, and we determined to find it. We discovered it, and so abolished the worst difficulty which travellers had to undergo in visiting Palmyra. We rested by the well, which was full of the purest water. When sitting by it, we heard guns echoing like thunder in the mountains. We thought it might mean a Bedawin attack; but probably it was a signal, and they found us too strong. They were on our track the whole time. After an hour we descended once more into the arid plain, and rode on and on. At last we descried dimly the khan which was to be our night halt. It seemed quite close, but the nearer we rode the farther it seemed. We reached it at last, a fine old pile, deserted and solitary, which looked splendid in the sunset. Our camp by moonlight will ever live in my memory: the black tents, the animals picketed, the camels resting, the Turkish soldiery seated around, and the wild men and muleteers singing and dancing.

On this night, as on all nights, I had always plenty to do. It was Richard’s business to take the notes and sketches, observations and maps, and to gather all the information. I acted as his secretary and aide-de-camp. My other business was to take care of the stable, see that the horses were properly groomed, and look after any sick or wounded men. My duties varied according to the place in which we halted for the night. If it were near an inhabited place, Richard sat in state on his divan, and received the chiefs with narghílehs and sherbet. I saluted, and walked off with the horses, and saw that they were properly groomed and fed. Sometimes I groomed my own horse and Richard’s too, if I did not feel sure that they would be properly attended to. I would then go back to my husband, sit on the divan at a respectful distance and in a respectful attitude, speak if spoken to, and accept, if invited, a little sherbet or a narghíleh. I then saluted, went again to see that the horses were properly picketed for the night, prepared my husband’s supper, and returned to his tent for supper and bed; and the next day the same over again. So far as I could I made myself useful, and adapted myself to my surroundings as an Eastern woman would have done.

The next day, our eighth from leaving Damascus, we went out of camp at 6.30, and rode over the hot stony desert for five hours. Suddenly we descried a small lake, but about one hundred and fifty Bedawin were there before us. At first we thought it was a Ghazu; but we found afterwards that it was only a party of one hundred and fifty watering their animals; they could not attack us until they had time to collect their men, and mustered some six hundred strong. However, they looked “nasty”; and as our stragglers were all over the place, to attract their attention, and bring us together, I asked Richard’s leave to make a display of tir. We put an orange on a lance-point seventy yards off. I had the first shot. By good luck I hit, and by better luck still they did not ask for a second, which I might have missed, so that I came off with a great reputation. Everybody fired in turns, and all our people came up by degrees, until we mustered enough to fight any Ghazu, if necessary. We then formed into a single line, and rode until the remainder of the day. We approached Palmyra thus, cheering and singing war-songs; and I am sure that we must have looked very imposing.

The first sight of Palmyra is like a regiment of cavalry drawn up in a single line; but as we got nearer gradually the ruins began to stand out one by one in the sunlight, and a grander sight I have never looked upon, so gigantic, so extensive, so desolate was this splendid city of the dead rising out of, and half buried in, a sea of sand. One felt as if one were wandering in some forgotten world.

The Shaykh of Palmyra and his people came out to greet us, and he conducted us to his house. We approached it over the massive blocks of stone that formed the pavement and by a flight of broad steps. The interior of Palmyra resembles a group of wasps’ nests on a large scale, clinging to the gigantic walls of a ruined temple. The people were hideous, poor, ragged, dirty, and diseased, nearly every one of them afflicted with ophthalmia. What have the descendants of the great Zenobia done to come to this? We dined at the Shaykh’s house, and had our coffee and pipes. Later we returned to our camp, which consisted of our five tents and ten for the eighty soldiers. It was picturesquely placed, close to the east of the grand colonnade of Palmyra, for the sake of being near the wells, and the animals were picketed as much as possible in the shelter, for during our sojourn there we suffered from ice and snow, sirocco, burning heat, and furious sou’westers. We had two sulphurous wells, one to bathe in, and the other to drink out of. Everybody felt a little tired, and we went to bed early. It was the first night for eight days that we had really undressed and bathed and slept, and it was such a refreshment that I did not wake for twelve hours. My journal of the following morning contains a very short notice. We were considerably refreshed, and attended to our horses and several camp wants. We lounged about till breakfast and wrote our diaries. It was scorchingly hot weather. We were here for five days, so we did not begin serious work until noon.

So many travellers have described Palmyra that it is not necessary for me to describe it again, and I suppose that everybody knows that at one time it was ruled over in the days of its splendour by Zenobia, a great queen of the East. She was an extraordinary woman, full of wisdom and heroic courage. She was conquered by the Romans after a splendid reign, and the Emperor Aurelian caused her to be led through Rome bound in fetters of gold. The city must once have been magnificent, but it was now a ruin. The chief temple was that of the Sun. The whole city was full of columns and ruined colonnades. One of the great colonnades is a mile long.

I saw something of the inner life of Palmyra, the more so because I wore a dress very much like that of a man. So attired I could go almost where I liked, and enter all the places which women are not deemed worthy to see. My chief difficulty was that my toilet always had to be performed in the dead of night. The others never appeared to make any, except in the stream, which was too public for me, and I did not wish to appear singular.

In another way my masculine garment had its drawbacks, for I always used to forget that they regarded me as a boy, and I never could remember not to go into the haríms. Once or twice I went into them, and the women ran away to hide themselves screaming and laughing at my appearance; and I remember once or twice, on being remonstrated with, pointing to my chin to plead my youth, and also my ignorance of their customs. I passed Palmyra as Richard’s son; and though it was a little awkward at first, I soon fell into my part, and remembered always to be very respectful to my father, and very silent before him and the elders. Often in my character of boy I used to run and hold Richard’s stirrup as he alighted from his horse, and sat on the edge of the divan while he talked to the Shaykhs of Palmyra. I always tried to adapt myself as far as possible to the customs of the country where I found myself, and I think I may say without flattery that I had a good many capabilities for being a traveller’s wife. I could ride, walk, swim, shoot, and defend myself if attacked, so that I was not dependent on my husband; and I could also make myself generally useful — that is to say, I could make the bed, arrange the tent, cook the dinner, if necessary wash the clothes by the river-side, and mend them and spread them to dry, nurse the sick, bind and dress wounds, pick up a smattering of the language, make the camp of natives respect and obey me, groom my own horse, saddle him, learn to wade him through the rivers, sleep on the ground with the saddle for a pillow, and generally to rough it and do without comforts.

We spent five days at Palmyra. The first was devoted to a general inspection of the place. The second, we visited the Temple of the Sun and the Towers of the Tombs. These latter are tall square towers, four storeys in height; and each tower contains apertures for bodies like a honeycomb. I noticed that all the carving was of the rudest and coarsest kind. There was no trace of civilization anywhere, no theatre, no forum, nothing but a barbarous idea of splendour, worked out on a colossal scale in columns and temples. The most interesting thing was the Tombs. These were characteristic of Palmyra, and lined the wild mountain-defile entrance to the city, and were dotted about on the mountain-sides. It was a City of Tombs, a City of the Dead. I was much struck too with the dirtiness of the people of Palmyra, which dirtiness results in pestilence, ophthalmia, and plagues of flies.

The third day two officers, the Shaykh of Palmyra and another, dined with us in our tents, and after dinner we strolled about the ruins by moonlight, and when we were tired we sat down in a large ring on the sand, and the soldiers and muleteers danced a sword-dance with wild cries to musical accompaniments and weird songs. I shall never forget the exceeding beauty of the ruins of Palmyra by moonlight. The following day we explored the caves, and found human bones and things, which I helped Richard to sort, much to the disgust of the Vicomte de Perrochel, who was shocked at my want of sensibility, and said that a Frenchwoman would certainly have had hysteria. We also explored the ruins, and wrote descriptions of our journey to Palmyra. We had all retired to rest, when I was aroused by hearing a roaring like that of a camel. I ran out of my tent to see what was the matter; and being guided by a noise to the servants’ quarters, I found the kitchen assistant in convulsions, and the rest holding him down. It was a Syrian disease, a sort of epilepsy. They all wanted to tread on his back, but I would not let them do it. I got some hot brandy and restoratives, and gave him a good dosing between his clenched teeth. The result was he came to in an hour and a half, sensible, but very tipsy; but he managed to kiss my hand and thank me. The last day was Easter Sunday. We performed our Sunday service in one of the ruined temples, we wrote our journals, and prepared for departure on the morrow. The next day we left Palmyra. We should have done better to have remained there fifteen days instead of five. I wish we had taken ropes and ladders, planks to bridge over broken staircases, and a crowbar. We might then have thoroughly examined three places which we could not otherwise do: the Palace of the Pretty, the Palace of the Maiden, and the Palace of the Bride, the three best Tower Tombs.

We left camp at dawn, and a terribly hot day it was. We encamped at 8 p.m. in a mountain defile. We were all dead-beat, and so were the horses. At night I had fever, and a hurricane of wind and rain nearly carried our tents away. On the second day we rode from dawn to sunset, with the driving wind and the sand in our faces, filling eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. I felt so cold, tired, and disheartened, that as I sat in my saddle and rode along I cried for about two hours, and Richard and the others laughed at me. Whilst I was crying we saw a body of mounted Bedawin dodging about in the mountains. So I dried my eyes, and rode on as hard as I could pelt until we reached Karyatayn at sunset; but I had to be lifted off my horse, and could not stand for some minutes.

Arab Camel-Drivers.

All clamoured to rest one day at Karyatayn. We had already been riding for two days hard, and were simply done up. The muleteers mutinied, and said that their backs were broken and their beasts dead-beat. There was only one person in the camp not tired, and that was Richard, who seemed made of cast iron. He said, “You may all remain here, but I shall ride on to Damascus alone, for on Friday the English and Baghdad mails come in, and I must be at my post.” All the responsibility then fell upon me, for they all said if I would remain they would be glad. But the idea of Richard riding on alone through the desert infested with Bedawin was not to be entertained by me for one moment, so I said, “On we go.”

The next morning we left early. I tried at first to ride in the panniers of one of the camels; but it bumped me so unmercifully that after half an hour I begged to be let down. Camel-riding is pleasant if it is at a long trot; but a slow walk is very tedious, and I should think that a gallop would be annihilation. When I got down from my camel, I mounted my horse, and galloped after the rest, and in time got to my place behind Richard. I always rode a yard or two behind him. In the East it would not have been considered respectful for either wife or son to ride beside a husband. We got to Jayrúd at dark, and we saw hovering near us a party of Bedawin, armed and mounted; they eventually retired into the mountains. But when we got back to Damascus, we heard that all through our journey the bandits had been watching us, and would have attacked us, only they were afraid that our rifles would carry too far.

The next day was the last. We started at sunrise, and rode all day, reaching home at 8 p.m. I had not realized the beauty of Damascus until then. After all those days in the desert it seemed a veritable garden of Paradise. First of all we saw a belt of something dark lining the horizon; then we entered by degrees under the trees, the orchards, and the gardens. We smelt the water from afar like a thirsty horse; we heard its gurgling long before we came to it; we scented and saw the limes, citrons, and watermelons. We felt a mad desire to jump into the water, to eat our fill of fruit, to lie down and sleep under the delicious shade. At last we reached our door. The house seemed to me like a palace of comfort. A warm welcome greeted us on all sides; and as every one (except Richard) and all the horses were dead-beat, they all stayed with us for the night.

Chapter XIV

Bludán in the Anti-Lebanon


Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.

Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.

The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.

The Song of Solomon.

During the next few weeks at Damascus there was an outbreak of cholera, which gave me a great deal of trouble at the time. Several people died in great agony, and I did what I could to check the outbreak. I made the peasants wash and fumigate their houses and burn the bedding, and send to me for medicine the moment a person was taken ill. Fortunately these precautions checked the spread of the disease; but along the cottages at the river-side there was also an epidemic of scarlet fever more difficult to keep within bounds. I secured the services of a kind-hearted French surgeon, who attended the patients, and I myself nursed them. I wore an outside woollen dress when attending cases, and this I hung on a tree in the garden, and never let it enter my house. I also took a bag of camphor with me to prevent infection. However, after a time I was struck down by one of those virulent, nameless illnesses peculiar to Damascus, which, if neglected, end in death, and I could not move without fainting. An instinct warned me to have a change of air, and I determined to go to Beyrout. Two hours out of Damascus I was able to rise, and at the half-way house at Buká‘a I could eat, and when I arrived at Beyrout after fourteen hours’ journey I felt almost well. I had three weeks’ delicious sea-bathing at Beyrout; and while there we kept Her Majesty’s birthday at the Consulate-General with great pomp and ceremony. We also made several little expeditions. Richard went farther afield than I did, to Tyre, Sidon, Carmel, and Juneh. I was too weak to go with him, which I regretted very much, as I would have given a great deal to have visited the grave of Lady Hester Stanhope.

On June 14 we turned our faces homewards to Damascus, and as we journeyed over the Lebanons and descended into the plain I could not help feeling the oriental charm of the scene grow upon me. Beyrout is demi-fashionable, semi-European; but Damascus is the heart of the East, and there is no taint of Europeanism about it. As I was nearing Damascus in the evening I fell in love with it. The first few weeks I had disliked it, but gradually it had grown upon me, and now it took a place in my heart from which it could never be thrust forth. I saw how lovely it was, bathed in the evening sun, and it seemed to me like home — the home that I had dreamed of in my childhood long ago. I cannot tell what worked this charm in me; but henceforth my affections and interests, my life and work, knitted and grew to that Damascus home of ours, where I would willingly have remained all my days. I knew that mine was to be the wanderer’s life, and that it is fatal for the wanderer to make ties and get attached to places or things or people; but in spite of this presentiment, I greedily drank in whilst I could all the truths which the desert breathes, and learnt all I could of oriental mysteries, and set my hands to do all the good work they could find, until they were full to overflowing.

Ten days after our return to Salahíyyeh we had a severe shock of earthquake. Richard and I were sitting in an inner room, when suddenly the divan began to see-saw under us, and the wardrobe opposite to bow down to us. Fortunately no harm was done; but it was an unpleasant sensation, like being at sea in a gale of wind.

As Damascus began to be very hot about this time, we moved to our summer quarters at Bludán, about twenty-seven miles across country from Damascus in the Anti-Lebanon. It was a most beautiful spot, right up in the mountains, and comparatively cool. We threaded the alleys of Bludán, ascended steep places, and soon found ourselves beyond the village, opposite a door which opened into a garden cultivated in ridges up the mountain. In the middle stood a large barn-like limestone hall, with a covered Dutch verandah, from which there was a splendid view. This was our summer-house; it had been built by a former consul. Everybody who came to see us said, “Well, it is glorious; but the thing is to get here.” It was a veritable eagle’s nest.

We soon settled down and made ourselves comfortable. The large room was in the middle of the house, looking on to the verandah, which overhung the glorious view. We surrounded it with low divans, and the walls became an armoury of weapons. The rooms on either side of this large room were turned into a study for Richard, a sleeping-room, and a study and dressing-room for me. We had stabling for eight horses. There were no windows in the house, only wooden shutters to close at night. The utter solitude and the wildness of the life made it very soothing and restful.

One of my earliest experiences there was a deputation from the shaykhs and chiefs of the villages round, who brought me a present of a sheep, a most acceptable present. Often when alone at Bludán provisions ran short. I remember once sending my servants to forage for food, and they returned with an oath, saying there was nothing but “Arab’s head and onions.” I don’t know about the Arab’s head, but there was no doubt about the onions. I often used to dine off a big raw onion and an oatmeal cake, nothing better being forthcoming.

In many ways our days at Bludán were the perfection of living. We used to wake at dawn, make a cup of tea, and then sally forth accompanied by the dogs, and take long walks over the mountains with our guns in search of sport. The larger game were bears, gazelles, wolves, wild boars, and a small leopard. The small game nearer home were partridges, quail, and woodcock, with which we replenished our larder. I am fond of sport; and, though I say it, I was not a bad shot in those days. The hotter part of the day we spent indoors reading, writing, and studying Arabic. At twelve we had our first meal, which served as breakfast and luncheon, on the terrace. Sometimes in the afternoon native shaykhs or people from Beyrout and Damascus would come and visit us. When the sun became cooler, all the sick and poor within fifteen or sixteen miles round would come to be doctored and tended. The hungry, the thirsty, the ragged, the sick, and the sore filled our garden, and I used to make it my duty and pleasure to be of some little use to them. I seldom had fewer than fifteen patients a day, half of them with eye diseases, and I acquired a considerable reputation as a doctor. We used to dine at seven o’clock on the terrace. After dinner divans were spread on the housetop, and we would watch the moon lighting up Hermon whilst the after-dinner pipe was being smoked. A pianette from Damascus enabled us to have a little music. Then I would assemble the servants, read the night prayers to them, with a little bit of Scripture or of Thomas à Kempis. The last thing was to go round the premises and see that everything was right, and turn out the dogs on guard. And so to bed. Richard used to ride down into Damascus every few days to see that all was going well; so I was often left alone.

I must not linger too long over our life at Bludán. Mr. E. H. Palmer, afterwards Professor of Arabic at Cambridge, and Mr. Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake, who had done much good work in connexion with the Palestine Exploration, came to us about this time on a visit, and we made many excursions from Bludán with them, some short and some long. We used to saunter or gypsy about the country round, pitching our tents at night. I kept little reckoning of time during these excursions. We generally counted by the sun. I only know that we used to start at dawn, and with the exception of a short halt we would ride until sunset, and often until dusk, and sleep in the desert.

One of our most interesting excursions was to Ba’albak, which is far more beautiful, though smaller, than Palmyra; and it can be seen without danger — Palmyra cannot. The ruins are very beautiful. The village hangs on to the tail of the ruins — not a bad village either, but by comparison it looks like a tatter clinging to an empress’s diamond-bespangled train. The scenery around is wild, rocky, and barren.


When we arrived at Ba’albak, the Governor and the chief people rode out to receive us. Our horses’ hoofs soon rang under a ruined battlement, and we entered in state through the dark tunnels. Horses were neighing, sabres were clanking; it was a noisy, confusing, picturesque scene. We tented for the night in the midst of the grand court of the ruins. In the morning the ladies of the Governor’s harím paid me a visit in my tent. With their blue satin and diamonds, they were the most elaborately dressed women I had seen for a long time. We stayed at Ba'albak several days, and explored the ruins thoroughly. It is the ancient Heliopolis. One of the most striking things amid its rocky tombs and sepulchral caves and its Doric columns and temples was the grand old eagle, the emblem of Baal. On Sunday I heard Mass at the Maronite chapel, and returned the call of the ladies aforesaid. In the evening we dined with the Governor, who illuminated his house for us. We passed a most enjoyable evening. I spent most of the time in the harím with the ladies. They wished me to tell them a story; but as I could not recite one fluently in Arabic, the Governor allowed me as a special favour to blindfold our dragoman, and take him into the harím as an interpreter, the Governor himself being present the whole time to see that the bandage did not come off. One night Mr. Drake and I lit up the ruins with magnesium. The effect was very beautiful. It was like a gigantic transformation scene in a desert plain. Every night the jackals played round our tents in the moonlight, and made the ruins weird with strange sights and sounds.

We left Ba’albak at dawn one morning, and rode to the source of the Lebweh. The water bursts out from the ground, and divides into a dozen sparkling streams. Of all the fountains I have ever seen, there is not one so like liquid diamonds as this. We picketed our horses under a big tree, and slept for a while through the heat of the day. At 4.30 p.m., when it was cooler, we rode on again to Er Ras. When we arrived we met with a furious, rising wind. We stopped there for the night, and the next morning galloped across the plain to Buká'a. We had a long, tiring ride, finally reaching a clump of trees on a height, where we pitched our camp. The Maronite chiefs were jeríding in the hollow. They came to dinner with us, and I gave them a present of some cartridges, which appeared to make them very happy.

The next day we continued to ride up a steep ascent. At last we stood upon a mountain-range of crescent form, ourselves in the centre, and the two cusps to the sea. Turning to the side which we had ascended and looking below, the horizon was bounded by the Anti-Lebanon, with the plain of Buká‘a and the ruins of Ba’albak beneath and far away. From this point we could see the principal heights of the Lebanon, for which we were bound, to make excursions from the Cedars. We had a painful descent for an hour and a half, when we reached the famous Cedars of Lebanon, and camped beneath them. We pitched our tents among the Cedars, under the largest trees. They are scattered over seven mounds in the form of a cross. There are five hundred and fifty-five trees, and they exude the sweetest odours. We spent a very pleasant time camping under their grateful shade.

At last the day came for our party to break up, Mr. Palmer and Mr. Tyrwhitt-Drake en route for England and Richard and I to return to Bludán. So we parted.

It took Richard and myself many days to get back to our home. After parting with our friends, we resolved to visit the Patriarch, Primate of Antioch and of all the East; and escorted by a priest and the shaykh we travelled by way of a short cut and terrible descent of three hours. It was no better than a goat-path. We at last arrived at Dimán, the summer residence of the Patriarch, a conventual yet fortress-like building on an eminence, commanding a view of the whole of his jurisdiction. We were charmed with the reception which his Beatitude gave us. We were received by two bishops and endless retainers. The Patriarch, dressed in purple, sat in a long, narrow room like a covered terrace. We of the Faith knelt and kissed his hands, and the others bowed low. His Beatitude seemed delighted with Richard, and at dinner he sat at the head of the table, with me on his right and Richard on his left. We then went to see the chapel and the monks, and the view from the terrace, where we had coffee. His Beatitude gave me a number of pious things, amongst others a bit of the true Cross, which I still wear.

After we left the Patriarch’s we found a dreadful road. Our horses had literally to jump from one bit of rock to another. It consisted of nothing but débris of rocks. The horses were dead-beat long before we had done our day’s work, and we had to struggle forward on foot. Night found us still scrambling in the dark, worn out with fatigue and heat. I felt unable to go another step. At last, about nine o’clock, we saw a light, and we hoped it was our camp. We had yet some distance to go, and when we reached the light we found a wretched village of a few huts. It was so dark that we could not find our way into the shedlike dwellings. We had lost our camp altogether. At last, by dint of shouting, some men came out with a torch and welcomed us. Tired as I was, I saw all the horses groomed, fed, watered, and tethered in a sheltered spot for the night. We were then able to eat a water-melon, and were soon sound asleep on our saddle-cloths in the open.

The next day’s ride was as bad. The scenery, however, was very wild and beautiful. We breakfasted at the place we ought to have arrived at the previous night, and then we resumed our second bad day in the Kasrawán, the worst desert of Syria. The horses were tired of jumping from ledge to ledge. We passed some Arab tents, and camped for the night.

The following morning we rode to the top of Jebel Sunnin, one of the three highest points in Syria, and we had another six hours of the Kasrawán, which is called by the Syrians “The road of Gehenna.” We were terribly thirsty, and at last we found a little khan, which gave us the best leben I ever tasted. I was so thirsty that I seemed as if I could never drink enough. I could not help laughing when, after drinking off my third big bowl, the poor woman of the khan, in spite of Arab courtesies, was obliged to utter a loud “Máshálláh!” We were still surrounded by amphitheatre-shaped mountains, with the points to the Sea of Sidon. The sunset was splendid, and the air was cool and pleasant. We debated whether to camp or to go on; but the place was so tempting that we ended by remaining, and were repaid by a charming evening.

The next day we rode quietly down the mountains. We enjoyed a grand view and a pleasant ride, but it was as steep as a railway-bank; and we came at last to another little khan, where we breakfasted. The Anti-Lebanon rose on the opposite side. Miss Ellen Wilson, who had a Protestant mission at Zahleh in this district, asked us to her house, and we accepted her hospitality for the night, instead of remaining in our tents. We stayed at Miss Wilson’s for a few days; and we visited and were visited by the Governor of Zahleh, the Bishop, and other dignitaries. Richard was taken with fever. I nursed him all night, and caught the complaint. We both suffered horribly, in spite of every attention on the part of our friends. Richard soon shook off his illness, but I did not; I fancied I could not get well unless I went home to Bludán.

So at sunset on August 11, after we had been at Miss Wilson’s rather more than a week, our horses were made ready. I was lifted out of bed and put into a litter. We wound out of Zahleh, descended into the plain, and began to cross it. I was so sorry for the men who had to carry my litter that I begged to be allowed to ride. I told my Arab stallion Salim to be very quiet. We went at foot’s pace till 1 o’clock a.m. in bright moonlight across the plain. Then we passed regular defiles, where once or twice the horses missed their footing, and struck fire out of the rocks in their struggles to hold up. At two o’clock in the morning I felt that I was going to drop out of my saddle, and cried for quarter. The tents were hastily half pitched, and we lay down on the rugs till daylight. By that time I had to repair to my litter again, but I felt so happy at coming near home that I thought I was cured. As we neared Bludán I was carried along in the litter, and I lay so still that everybody thought that my corpse was coming home to be buried. The news spread far and wide, so I had the pleasure of hearing my own praises and the people’s lamentations.

We had not long returned to Bludán before a great excitement arose. When we had been home about a fortnight, on August 26, Richard received at night by a mounted messenger two letters, one from Mr. Wright, chief Protestant missionary at Damascus, and one from the chief dragoman at the British Consulate, saying that the Christians at Damascus were in great alarm; most of them had fled from the city, or were flying, and everything pointed to a wholesale massacre. Only ten years before (in 1860) there had been the most awful slaughter of Christians at Damascus; and though it had been put down at last, the embers of hatred were still smouldering, and might at any time burst into a flame. Now it seemed there had been one of those eruptions of ill-feeling which were periodical in Damascus, resulting from so many religions, tongues, and races being mixed up together. The chief hatred was between the Moslems and the Christians, and the Jews were fond of stirring up strife between them, because they reaped the benefit of the riot and anarchy. It appeared that the slaughter day was expected on August 27 — on the morrow. It had been so timed. All the chief authorities were absent from Damascus, as well as the Consuls, and therefore there would be nobody to interfere and nobody to be made responsible. We only got notice on the night before, the 26th. Richard and I made our plans and arrangements in ten minutes, and then saddled the horses and cleaned the weapons. Richard would not take me to Damascus, however, because, as he said, he intended to protect Damascus, and he wanted me to protect Bludán and Zebedani. The feeling that I had something to do took away all that remained of my fever. In the night I accompanied Richard down the mountain. He took half the men, and left me half. When we got into the plain, we shook hands like two brothers, and parted, though it might have been that we should never see one another again. There were no tears, nor any display of affection, for emotion might have cost us dear.

Richard rode into Damascus, put up his horse, and got to business. When he stated what he had heard, the local authorities affected to be surprised; but he said to them, “I must telegraph to Constantinople unless measures are taken at once.” This had the desired effect, and they said, “What will you have us do?” He said, “I would have you post a guard of soldiers in every street, and order a patrol at night. Issue an order that no Jew or Christian shall leave their houses until all is quiet.” These measure were taken at once, and continued for three days; not a drop of blood was shed, and the flock of frightened Christians who had fled to the mountains began to come back. In this way the massacre at Damascus was averted. But I may mention that some of the Christians who had run away in panic to Beyrout, as soon as they were safe, declared that there had been no danger whatever, and they had not been at all frightened. I grieve to say it, but the Eastern Christian is often a poor thing. But all this is to anticipate.

When I had parted from Richard in the plain, I climbed up to my eagle’s nest at Bludán, the view from which commanded the country, and I felt that as long as our ammunition lasted we could defend ourselves, unless overpowered by numbers. Night was coming on, and of course I had not the slightest idea of what would happne, but feared the worst. I knew what had happened at the previous massacre of Christians at Damascus; and flying, excited stragglers dropped in, and from what they said one would have supposed that Damascus was already being deluged in blood, and that eventually crowds of Moslems would surge up to Bludán and exterminate us also. I fully expected an attack, so I collected every available weapon and all the ammunition. I had five men in the house; to each one I gave a revolver, and a bowie-knife. I put one on the roof with a pair of elephant guns carrying four-ounce balls, and a man to each of the four sides of the house, and I commanded the terrace myself. I planted the Union Jack on the flagstaff at the top of the house, and I turned my bull terriers into the garden to give notice of any approach. I locked up a little Syrian girl whom I had taken into my service, and who was terribly frightened, in the safest room; but my English maid, who was as brave as any man, I told off to supply us with provisions and make herself generally useful. I then rode down the hill to the American Mission and begged them to come up and take shelter with me, and then into the village of Bludán to tell the Christians to come up to me on the slightest sign of danger. I gave the same message to the handful of Christians at Zebedani. I rode on to the Shaykhs, and asked them how it would be if the news proved true. They told me that there would be a fight, but they also said, “They shall pass over our dead bodies before they reach you.” It was a brave speech and kindly meant; but if anything had happened I should have been to the fore. I did not wish the Shaykhs to think I was afraid, or wanted their protection against their co-religionists.

When all preparations were completed, I returned to the house, and we waited and watched, and we watched and waited for three days. Nobody came, except more flying stragglers with exaggerated news. After having made all my preparations, I can hardly explain my sensations, whether they were of joy or of disappointment. The suspense and inaction were very trying. I was never destined to do anything worthy of my ancestress, Blanche Lady Arundell, who defended Wardour Castle against the Parliamentary forces.

During the three days we were in suspense a monster vulture kept hovering over our house. The people said it was a bad omen, and so I fetched my little gun, though I rather begrudged the cartridge just then; and when it was out of what they call reach, I had the good luck to bring it down. This gave them great comfort, and we hung the vulture on the top of the tallest tree.

At last at midnight on the third day a mounted messenger rode up with a letter from Richard, saying that all was well at Damascus, but that he would not be back for a week.

After this excitement life fell back into its normal course at Bludán, and the only variations were small excursions and my doctoring. À propos of the latter, I can tell some amusing anecdotes. Once a girl sent to me saying she had broken her leg. I had a litter constructed, hired men, and went down to see her. When I came near the place where she was, I met her walking. “How can you be walking with a broken leg?” I said. She lifted up her voice and wept; she also lifted up her petticoat and showed me a scratch on her knee that an English baby would not have cried for. Sometimes women would come and ask me for medicine to make them young again, others wished me to improve their complexions, and many wanted me to make them like Sarai of old. I gently reminded them of their ages, and said that I thought that at such a time of life no medicines or doctors could avail. “My age!” screamed one: “why, what age do you take me for?” “Well,” I answered politely, “perhaps you might be sixty” (she looked seventy-five). “I am only twenty-five,” she said in a very hurt tone of voice. “Well then,” I said, “I must congratulate you on your early marriage, for your youngest daughter is seventeen, and she is working in my house. Anyway it is really too late to work a miracle.”

On another occasion I received a very equivocal compliment. A woman came to me and begged for medicines, and described her symptoms. The doctor was with me, but she did not know him. He said in French, "Do not give her anything but a little effervescing magnesia. I won’t have anything to do with her; it is too late, and risks reputation.” I did as he bade me, simply not to seem unkind. The next day she was dead. Soon afterwards a young man of about twenty came to me and said, “Ya Sitti, will you give me some of that nice white bubbling powder for my grandmother that you gave to Umm Saba the day before yesterday? She is so old, and has been in her bed these three months, and will neither recover nor die.” “Oh thou wicked youth!” I answered; “begone from my house! I did but give Umm Saba a powder to calm her sickness, for it was too late to save her, and it was the will of Allah that she should die.”

I will here mention again my little Syrian maid, to whom I had taken a fancy at Miss Wilson’s Mission, where I first met her, and I took her into my service. She was a thorough child of Nature, quite a little wild thing, and it took me a long time to break her into domestic habits. She was about seventeen years of age, just the time of life when a girl requires careful guiding. When she first came to us, she used to say and do the queerest things. Some of them I really do not think are suited to ears polite; but here are a few.

One day, when we were sitting at work, she startled me by asking:

“Lady, why don’t you put your lip out so?” pouting a very long under-lip.

“Why, O Moon?”

“Look, my lip so large. Why all the men love her so because she pout."

“But, O Moon, my lip is not made like yours; and, besides, I never think of men.”

“But do think, Lady. Look, your pretty lip all sucked under.”

I know now how to place my lip, and I always remember her when I sit at work.

On another occasion, seeing my boxes full of dresses and pretty trinkets, and noticing that I wore no jewellery, and always dressed in riding-habits and waterproofs for rough excursions, and looked after the stables instead of lying on a divan and sucking a narghíleh, after the manner of Eastern women, she exclaimed:

“O Lady, Ya Sitti, my happiness, why do you not wear this lovely dress?” — a décolletée blue ball-dress, trimmed with tulle and roses. “I hate the black. When the Beg will come and see his wife so darling, he will be so jealous and ashamed of himself. I beg of you keep this black till you are an old woman, and instead be joyful in your happy time.”

After she had been in the house a fortnight, her ideas grew a little faster; and speaking of an old sedate lady, and hoping she would do something she wished, she startled me by saying, “If she do, she do; and if she don’t, go to hell!”

“The Moon,” Lady Burton’s Syrian Maid

The girl was remarkably pretty, with black plaits of hair confined by a coloured handkerchief, a round baby face, large eyes, long lashes, small nose, and pouting lips, with white teeth, of which she was very proud: a temperament which was all sunshine or thunder and lightning in ten minutes. She had a nice, plump little figure, encased in a simple, tight-fitting cotton gown, which, however, showed a stomach of size totally disproportionate to her figure. Seeing this, I said gently:

“O Moon, do wear stays! When you get older, you will lose your pretty figure. You are only seventeen, and I am past thirty, and yet I have no stomach. Do let me give you some stays.”

She burst into a storm of tears and indignation at being supposed to have a fault of person, which brought on a rumbling of the stomach. She pointed to it, and said:

“Hush! do you hear, Lady? She cry because she is so great.”

Our kawwass having picked up a little bad language on board ship from the sailors, was in the habit of saying wicked words when angry, and the Moon imitated him. The Moon, on being told to do something one day by my English maid, rapped out a volley of fearful oaths, and my maid fled to me in horror. I was obliged to speak very seriously to the Moon, and told her that these were bad words used by the little gutter-boys in England when they had bad parents and did not know God.

Our dragoman, I regret to say, once took liberties with her. She complained to me.

“O Lady, all the men want my lip and my breast. Hanna he pulled me, and I told him, ‘What you want? I am a girl of seventeen. I have to learn how I shall walk. You know the Arab girl. Not even my brother kiss me without leave. Wait till I run and tell Ya Sitti.’”

This frightened Hanna, a man like a little old walnut, with a wife and children, and he begged her not to do so. But she came and told me, and I replied:

“O Moon, the next time he does it, slap his face and scream, and I will come down and ask him what he takes my house to be. He shall get more than he reckons on.”

There was a great deal of ill-feeling simmering between the Moslems and Christians all this summer, and there were many squabbles between them. Sometimes the Christians were to blame, and needlessly offended the susceptibilities of the Moslems. I was always very careful about this, and would not eat pig for fear of offending the Moslems and Jews, though we were often short of meat, and I hungered for a good rasher of bacon. I used to ride down to Zebedani, the next village to Bludán, to hear Mass, attended by only one servant, a boy of twenty. The people loved me, and my chief difficulty was to pass through the crowd that came to kiss my hand or my habit, so I might really have gone alone. I would not mention this but that our enemies misreported the facts home, and it went forth to the world that I behaved like a female tyrant, and flogged and shot the people. How this rumour arose I know not, for I never shot anybody, and the only time I flogged a man was as follows. I do not repent it, and under similar circumstances should do the same over again.

One day I was riding alone through the village of Zebedani; as usual every one rose up and saluted me, and I was joined by several native Christians. Suddenly Hasan, a youth of about twenty-two, thrust himself before my horse, and said, “What fellows you fellahin are to salute this Christian woman! I will show you the way to treat her.” This was an insult. I reined in my horse; the natives dropped on their knee, praying me not to be angry, and kissed my hands, which meant, “For Allah’s sake bear it patiently! We are not strong enough to fight for you.” By this time quite a crowd had collected, and I was the centre of all eyes. “What is the meaning of this?” I asked Hasan. “It means,” he answered, “that I want to raise the devil to-day, and I will pull you off your horse and duck you in the water. I am a Beg, and you are a Beg. Salute me!” Salute him indeed! I did salute him, but hardly in the way he bargained for. I had only an instant to think over what I could do. I knew that to give him the slightest advantage over me would be to bring on a Consular and European row, and a Christian row too, and that if I evinced the smallest cowardice I should never be able to show my face again. I had a strong English hunting-whip, and was wearing a short riding-habit. So I sprang nimbly from my saddle, and seized him by the throat, twisting his necktie tightly, and at the same time showering blows upon his head, face, and shoulders with the butt-end of my whip till he howled for mercy. My servant, who was a little way behind, heard the noise at this moment, and, seeing how I was engaged thought that I was attacked, and flew to the rescue. Six men flung themselves upon him, and during the struggle his pistol or blunderbuss went off, and the ball whizzed past our heads to lodge in the plaster wall. It might have shot me as well as Hasan, though afterwards this fact was used against me. The native Christians all threw themselves on the ground, as they often do when there is any shooting. The brother of Hasan then dragged him howling away from me. I mounted my horse again, and rode on amid the curses of his brothers. “We will follow you,” they shouted, “with sticks and stones and guns, and at night we will come in a party and burn your house, and whenever we meet an English son of a pig we will kill him.” “Thank you for your warning,” I said; “you may be quite sure I shall be ready for you.”

I went home and waited to see if any apology would be offered, but none came. The Shaykhs came up, and the Christians told me if I allowed this insult to pass in silence they would be unable to stay in the village, they were too few. I waited, however, some time, and then wrote an account of the affair and sent it to Damascus to the Wali. The Wali, who at that time was not ill-disposed towards Richard, behaved like a gentleman. He expressed regret at the incident, and sent soldiers up to burn and sack the home of Hasan and his family, but I interceded and got them off with only a few weeks’ imprisonment. The father of the youth Hasan, accompanied by about fifty of the principal people, came up to beg my pardon the morning after the insult. I, however, received them coldly, and merely said the affair had passed out of my hands. But I begged them off all the same.

There was a sequel to this story, which I may as well mention here. The following summer, when we were at Bludán, Hasan and I became great friends. One day, after doctoring him for weak eyes, I said, “What made you want to hurt me, O Hasan, last summer?” He replied, “I don’t know; the devil entered my heart. I was jealous to see you always with the Shaykhs and never noticing us. But since I have got to know you I could kill myself for it.” He had an excellent heart, but was apt to be carried off his head by the troubles of the times. I may mention that I reported the matter to the Consul-General, who had also received the story in another form; to wit, that I had seen a poor Arab beggar sitting at my gate, and because he did not rise and salute me I had drawn a revolver and shot him dead. This is a specimen of Turkish falsehood.

Chapter XV

Gathering Clouds


One who never turned his back, but marched breast forward;
 Never doubted clouds would break;
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph
 Held, we fall to rise again; are baffled, to fight better;
Sleep, to wake!


In October Richard and I left Bludán to return to our winter quarters at Salahíyyeh, Damascus. But as we were in a mood for excursions, we went by a longer and roundabout route. We had a delightful ride across the Anti-Lebanon, and then we went by way of Shtora across a mountain called Jebel Báruk, and then a long scramble of six hours led us to the village of Báruk, a Druze stronghold in a wild glen on the borders of the Druze territory. We did not find our tents; but it did not signify, as we were among friends and allies, who welcomed us. We went at once to the Shaykh’s house. Richard was always friendly with the Druzes; and as they played an important part in our life at Damascus, I think that I had better give some description of them. They are a fine, brave people, very athletic. The men are tall, broad, and stalwart, with splendid black eyes, and limbs of iron. They have proud and dignified manners, and their language is full of poetry. The women are faithful wives and good mothers. They wear a long blue garment and a white veil. The whole face is hidden except one eye. I remember once asking them if it took a long time to decide which was the prettier eye, at which small joke they were much amused.

We remained for the night with the Shaykh, and had breakfast with him in the morning, and then went on to Mukhtára, which is the centre of the Lebanon Druzes. It was a most interesting ride; and whilst we were still in the barren plain a band of horsemen came out to meet us in rich Druze dress, and escorted us through a deep defile, and then up a rocky ascent to a Syrian palace, the house of the Sitt Jumblatt, which is situated in olive groves on the heights. Arrived at the house, we were cordially received by the Sitt Jumblatt — a woman who was the head of the princely family of the Lebanon Druzes — with all the gracious hospitality of the East, and with all the well-bred ease of a European grande dame. She took us into the reception-room, when water and scented soap were brought in carved brass ewers and basins, incense was waved before us, and we were sprinkled with rose-water, whilst an embroidered gold canopy was held over our heads to concentrate the perfume. Coffee, sweets, and sherbet were served, and then I was shown to a very luxurious room.

The following morning we spent in visiting the village schools and stables, and in listening to the Sitt's grievances, on which she waxed eloquent. At night we had a great dinner, and after dinner there were dancing and war-songs between the Druzes of the Lebanon and the Druzes of the Haurán. They also performed pantomimes and sang and recited tales of love and war until far into the night.

The next day we started early. I was sorry to leave, for the Sitt Jumblatt and I had formed a great friendship. We rode to B’teddin, the palace of the Governor of the Lebanon, where we were received with open arms. Five hundred soldiers were drawn up in a line to salute us, and the Governor, Franco Pasha, welcomed us with all his family and suite. After our reception we were invited to the divan, where we drank coffee. Whilst so engaged invisible bands struck up “God Save the Queen”; it was like an electric shock to hear our national hymn in that remote place — we who had been so long in the silence of the Anti-Lebanon. We sprang to our feet, and I was so overcome I burst into tears.

In the morning we rode back to Mukhtára, where we went to the house of the principal Druze Shaykh, and were most graciously received. I love the Druzes and their charming, courteous ways. Whilst staying here we made several excursions, and among others we ascended Mount Hermon. The Druze chiefs came from all parts to visit us.

After some days we left. Richard was to go home by a way of his own, and I was to return escorted by a Druze Shaykh. Poor Jiryus, my sais, walked by my side for a mile when I started, and after kissing my hand with many blessings, he threw his arms round Salim’s neck and kissed his muzzle. Then he sat down on a rock and burst into tears. Richard had dismissed him for disobeying orders. My heart ached for him, and I cried too.

Shaykh Ahmad and I descended the steep mountain-side and then galloped over the plain till we came to water and some Bedawin feeding their flocks. The Shaykh gave one fine fellow a push, and roughly ordered him to hold my horse and milk his goats for me. The man refused. “What,” I said very gently, “do you, a Bedawin, refuse a little hospitality to a tired and thirsty woman?” “O Lady,” he replied quickly, “I will do anything for you — you speak so softly; but I won’t be ordered about by this Druze fellow.” I was pleased with his manliness, and he attended to my wants and waited on me hand and foot.

We camped out that night, and the night after. I was always fond of sleeping in the tent, and would never go into the house unless compelled to do so. This time, however, our tents were pitched on low ground close to the river, with burning heat by day and cold dews by night. So I got the fever, and I lay in a kind of stupor all day. The next morning I heard a great row going on outside my tent. It turned out to be the Druze Shaykh and our dragoman quarrelling. Shortly after Shaykh Ahmad came into my tent, and in a very dignified way informed me that he wished to be relieved of his duty and return home. I laughed, and refused to allow him to depart. “What, O Shaykh,” said I, “will you leave a poor, lone woman to return with no escort but a dragoman”; and he immediately recanted.

Richard joined me here for a night, and then in the morning went off by another route to explore some district round about. I also did some exploring in another direction.

So we went on from day to day, camping about, or rather gypsying, in the desert among the Bedawin. I got to love it very much. I often think with regret of the strange scenes which became a second nature to me: of those dark, fierce men, in their gaudy, flowing costumes, lying about in various attitudes; of our encampments at night, the fire or the moonlight lighting them up, the divans and the pipes, the narghílehs and coffee; of their wild, mournful songs; of their war-dances; of their story-telling of love and war, which are the only themes. I got to know the Bedawin very well during that time, both men and women; and the more I knew them the better I liked them.

I remember one night, when Richard and I were in our tent, we lay down on our respective rugs, and I put out the light. Suddenly Richard called to me, “Come quick! I am stung by a scorpion.” I struck a match and ran over to his rug, and looked at the place he pointed to; but there was a mere speck of blue, and I was convinced it was only a big black ant. He did not mind that, so I lay down again. Hardly had I done so when he called out, “Quick, quick, again! I know it is a scorpion.” I again struck a light, ran over, plunged my hand inside his shirt near the throat, and drew it out again quickly with a scorpion hanging by its crablike claws to my finger. I shook it off and killed it; but it did not sting me, being, I suppose, unable to manage a third time. I rubbed some strong smelling salts into Richard’s wounds, and I found some raki, which I made him drink, to keep the poison away from his heart. He then slept, and in the morning was well.

While we were gypsying about in this way we received an invitation to a Druze wedding at Arneh, near Mount Hermon. Richard went to it one way and I another. Whenever we separated, the object was to get information of both routes to our meeting-place, and thus save time and learn more. On meeting, we used to join our notes together.

The wedding was a very pretty one. The bridegroom was a boy of fifteen; and the bride, a Shaykh’s daughter, was about the same age. There was a great deal of singing and dancing, and they were all dressed in their best costumes and jewellery. I was invited to the harím of the bride’s house, where we had a merry time of it. Whilst we were enjoying our fun the girls blew out all our lights, and we were left in the darkness. The bride ran and threw her arms round me, for protection perhaps, and then commenced such a romping and screaming and pinching and pulling that I hardly knew where I was. It was evidently considered a great frolic. After a few minutes they lit the candles again. At last the bride, robed in an izár and veiled, mounted a horse astraddle, and went round to pay her last visit to her neighbours as a maiden. Coming back, the bride and the bridegroom met in the street, and then we all adjourned to her father’s house, where there were more ceremonies and festivities. At midnight we formed a procession to take the bride to her bridegroom’s house, with singing, dancing, snapping of fingers, and loud cries of “Yallah! Yallah!” which lasted till 2 a.m. Then the harím proceeded to undress the bride. We were up all night, watching and joining in different branches of festivities.

The wedding over, we returned home to Salahíyyeh by slow stages. It was a terribly hot road through the desert. I suffered with burning eyeballs and mouth parched with a feverish thirst. I know nothing to equal the delight with which one returns from the burning desert into cool shades with bubbling water. Our house seemed like a palace; and our welcome was warm. So we settled down again at Damascus.

We had a troublesome and unpleasant time during the next few months, owing to a continuation of official rows. There were people at Damascus always trying to damage us with the Government at home, and sending lying reports to the Foreign Office. They were most unscrupulous. One man, for instance, complained to the Foreign Office that I had been heard to say that I had “finished my dispatches,” meaning that I had finished the work of copying Richard’s. Imagine a man noting down this against a woman, and twisting it the wrong way.

I think that the first shadow on our happy life came in July of this year, 1870, when I was at Bludán. An amateur missionary came to Damascus and attempted to proselytize. Damascus was in a very bad temper just then, and it was necessary to put a stop to these proceedings, because they endangered the safety of the Christian population. Richard was obliged to give him a caution, with the result that he made the missionary an enemy, and gave him a grievance, which was reported home in due course.

Another way in which we made enemies was because Richard found it necessary to inform the Jews that he would not aid and abet them in their endeavours to extort unfair usury from the Syrians. Some of the village Shaykhs and peasantry, ignorant people as they were, were in the habit of making ruinous terms with the Jews, and the extortion was something dreadful. Moreover, certain Jewish usurers were suspected of exciting massacres between the Christians and the Moslems, because, their lives being perfectly safe, they would profit by the horrors to buy property at a nominal price. It was brought to the notice of Richard about this time that two Jewish boys, servants to Jewish masters who were British-protected subjects, had given the well-understood signal by drawing crosses on the walls. It was the signal of the massacre of 1860. He promptly investigated the matter, and took away the British protection of the masters temporarily. Certain Israelite money-lenders, who hated him because he would not wink at their sweating and extortions, saw in this an opportunity to overthrow him; so they reported to some leading Jews in England that he had tortured the boys, whom he had not, in point of fact, punished in any way beyond reproving them. The rich Jews at home, therefore, were anxious to procure our recall, and spread it about that we were influenced by hatred of the Jews. One of them had even the unfairness to write to the Foreign Office as follows:

“I hear that the lady to whom Captain Burton is married is believed to be a bigoted Roman Catholic, and to be likely to influence him against the Jews.”

In spite of woman’s rights I was not allowed to answer him publicly. When I heard of it, I could not forbear sending a true statement of the facts of the case to Lord Granville, together with the following letter:

“My Lord,

“I have always understood that it is a rule amongst gentlemen never to drag a lady’s name into public affairs, but I accept with pleasure the compliment which Sir — — pays me in treating me like a man, and the more so as it enables me to assume the privilege of writing to you an official letter, a copy of which perhaps you will cause to be transmitted to him.

“Sir — — has accepted the tissue of untruths forwarded by three persons, the chief money-lenders of Damascus, because they are his co-religionists. He asserts that I am a bigoted Roman Catholic, and must have influenced my husband against them. I am not so bigoted as Sir — —; for if three Catholics were to do one-half of what these three Jews have done, I would never rest until I had brought them to justice. I have not a prejudice in the world except against hypocrisy. Perhaps, as Damascus is divided into thirty-two religions, my husband and I are well suited to the place. We never ask anybody’s religion, nor make religion our business. My husband would be quite unfitted for public life if he were to allow me to influence him in the manner described, and I should be unworthy to be any good man’s wife if I were to attempt it. My religion is God’s poor. There is no religious war between us and the Jews, but there is a refusal to use the name of England to aid three rich and influential Jews in acts of injustice to, and persecution of, the poor; to imprison and let them die in gaol in order to extort what they have not power to give; and to prevent foreign and fraudulent money transactions being carried on in the name of Her Majesty’s Government. Also it has been necessary once or twice to prevent the Jews exciting the Moslems to slaughter, by which they have never suffered, but by which they gratify their hatred of the Christians, who are the victims. I think nobody has more respect for the Jewish religion than my husband and myself, or of the Jews, as the most ancient and once chosen people of God; but in all races some must be faulty, and these must be punished. There are three mouths from which issue all these complaints and untruths; and what one Jew will say or sign the whole body will follow without asking a question why or wherefore, nor in Damascus would their consent be asked. It is a common saying here that ‘everybody says yes to them because they have the money.’ These three men count on the influence of men like Sir — —, and one or two others, and impose upon their credulity and religious zeal to get their misdeeds backed up and hidden. But will such men as these protect a fraudulent usurer because he is a Jew?

“I enclose a true statement of the case, and also some private letters, one from our chief and best missionary, which will show you something of the feeling here in our favour.

“I have the honour to be, my Lord,

“Your most obedient and humble servant,

“Isabel Burton.

“To the Earl Granville, etc., etc.,
“Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.”

To this I can only add: if the Shylocks of Damascus hated me, so much the more to my credit.

There were many temptations to turn us from the path of right, if we had a mind to go. Politics at Damascus were most corrupt, and bribes were freely offered to us both from all sides. They did not seem to understand our refusal of anything of the kind. It had evidently been the custom. Richard had as much as £20,000 offered him at once, and personally I had no end of temptations to accept money when I first came to Damascus. If we had taken gold and ignored wrongs, we might have feathered our nests for ever, and doubtless have retired with much honour and glory. But we would not. In this way I refused several Arab horses which I would have given worlds to accept, for I was passionately fond of Arab horses, and could not afford to buy them; but as we should have been expected to do unjust things in return, or rather to allow unjust things to be done, I refused them. I had more jewels offered me than I should have known what to do with, but refused them all; and I take some credit to myself in this matter, because I might have accepted them as gifts without any conditions, and I like diamonds as much as most women, or rather I like their value.

In November we had quite an event in Damascus — the wedding of the Wali’s daughter. It was the most splendid wedding I ever beheld. It lasted five days and nights. The men celebrated it in one house, and the women in another. We mustered several hundred in all. I was among the intimes, and was treated en famille. By my side throughout was Lady Ellenborough, looking like an oriental queen, and the charming young wife of our Italian Consul, whose dress was fresh from Italy. The dresses were wonderful in richness, diamonds blazing everywhere. But one custom took my fancy: the best women wore simply a plain cashmere robe, and no ornaments, but loaded all their jewels on one or two of their slaves, who followed them, as much as to say, “If you want to see all my fine things, look behind me; it is too great a bore to carry them myself.”

On the eve of the wedding there was a long procession of female relatives, and we all sat round in the large hall. Every woman in the procession bore branches of lights; and the bride was in the middle, a beautiful girl of fifteen or sixteen. Her magnificent chestnut hair swept in great tresses below her waist, and was knotted and seeded with pearls. She was dressed in red velvet, and blazed all over with precious stones. Diamond stars were also glued to her cheeks, her chin, and her forehead; and they were rather in the way of our kissing her, for they scratched our faces. She was a determined-looking girl, but she had been crying bitterly, because she did not want to be married. She sat on the divan, and received our congratulations sullenly, looking as though she would rather scream and scratch.

On the marriage morn we were up betimes. The harím had begged of me to wear an English ball-dress, that they might see what it was like. I said, “I will do what you ask, but I know that you will be shocked.” “Oh no,” they replied; “we are quite sure we shall be delighted.” So I wore a white glacé silk skirt, a turquoise blue tunic and corsage, the whole affair looped up and trimmed with blush roses, and the same flowers in my hair. Thus arrayed I appeared before the harím. They turned me round and round, and often asked me if I were not very cold about the shoulders; if it were really true that strange men danced with us and put their arms round our waists, and if we didn’t feel dreadfully ashamed, and if we really sat and ate and drank with them. I could not answer all these questions over and over again, so I said I would describe a European ball by interpreter. They hailed the idea with delight. I stood up and delivered as graphic an account as I could of my first ball at Almack’s, and they greeted me at intervals with much applause.

The marriage was a simple but most touching ceremony. We were all assembled in the great hall. The Wali entered, accompanied by the women of the family; the bride advanced, weeping bitterly, and knelt and kissed her father’s feet. The poor man, with emotion, raised her and clasped a girdle of diamonds round her waist, which was before ungirdled; it was part of her dower. No one could unclasp it but her husband, and this concluded the ceremony. Shortly afterwards the bride was borne in procession to the bridegroom’s house, where she received the kisses and congratulations of all the women present. After about half an hour she was conducted to a private room by a female relative, and the bridegroom to the same room by a male relative. The door was shut, and the band played a joyous strain. I asked what was going to happen, and they told me that the bridegroom was allowed to raise her veil, to unclasp her belt, and to speak a few words to her in the presence of their relatives. This was the first time they had really seen one another. What an anxious moment for a Moslem woman!

Shortly after this we went on an expedition to visit the Wuld Ali, a chief who was much dreaded by those of other tribes. Richard and I rode into the encampment alone. When first the tribe saw our two dusky figures galloping across the sand in the evening, they rode out to meet us with their lances couched; but as soon as they were close enough to recognize Richard they lowered their weapons, jumped off their horses and kissed our hands, galloped in with us, and held our stirrups to alight. I need not say that we received all the hospitality of a Bedawin life. Richard wanted to patch up a peace between the Wuld Ali and the Mezráb tribe, but in this he did not succeed.

We had a delightful ride when leaving one encampment for another, and several of the Bedawin accompanied us. As we mounted Richard whispered to me, “Let’s show those fellows that the English can ride. They think that nobody can ride but themselves, and that nothing can beat their mares.” I looked round, and saw their thorough-bred mares with their lean flanks. I did not know how it would be with our half-breds; but they were in first-rate condition, full of corn and mad with spirits. So I gave Richard my usual answer to everything he said: “All right; where you lead I will follow.” As soon as the “Yallah!” was uttered for starting, we simply laid our reins on our horses’ necks, and neither used spur nor whip nor spoke to them. They went as though we had long odds on our ride. We reached the camp for which we were bound an hour and a half before the Bedawin who were to have come with us. Neither we nor our horses had turned a hair. Their mares were broken down, and the men were not only blown and perspiring, but they complained bitterly that their legs were skinned. “Ya Sitti,” said one, “El Shaitan himself could not follow you.” “I am sorry,” I replied, “but our kaddishes would go; we wanted to ride with you.”

When we returned from this expedition we went to Beyrout, where we spent our Christmas. We ate our Christmas dinner with the Consul-General, and his dragoman told me an astounding story about myself which was news to me, as such stories generally are. He said that, a certain Jewish usurer at Damascus had told him that, when I met his wife at the wedding of the Wali’s daughter, I tore her diamonds off her head, flung them on the ground, and stamped on them, saying that they were made out of the blood of the poor. I was amused at this monstrous fabrication, but I was also annoyed. In England there may be much smoke but little fire, but in the East the smoke always tells that the fire is fierce, and one must check a lie before it has time to travel far. Knowing what certain Jews in England had reported about me before, I lost no time in putting matters to rights with the authorities, and dispatched the following letter to the Foreign Office:

January 27, 1871.

“My Lord,

“I trust you will exempt me from any wish to thrust myself into public affairs, but it is difficult for Captain Burton to notice anything in an official letter concerning his wife, neither can we expect the Damascus Jews to know the habits of gentlemen. They respect their own haríms, yet this is the second time I am mentioned discreditably in their public correspondence. In one sense it may be beneficial, as I can give you a better idea of the people Captain Burton has to deal with than official language allows of, and from which my sex absolves me.

“My offences against the Jews are as follows:

“I once said ‘Not at home’ to — — because I heard that he had written unjust complaints to the Government about my husband. Later on the Wali gave a fête to celebrate the marriage of his daughter. I was invited to the harím during the whole feast, which lasted five days and nights. The Wali’s harím and the others invited made, I dare say, a party of three hundred and fifty ladies. I need not say that men were not admitted; their festivities were carried on in another house. The — harím was amongst the invited. As I supposed that they knew nothing of what was going on, I was not desirous of mortifying them by any coldness in public, and accordingly I was as cordial to them as I had always been. On the last day the wife of — separated herself from her party, and intruded herself into the Consulesses’ divan. We were all together; but there was often a gathering of the Consulesses for the sake of talking more freely in European languages, Turkish being the language spoken generally, and Arabic being almost excluded. I received her very warmly, begging her to be seated, and conversed with her; but she would talk of nothing but her husband’s business. I said to her, ‘Pray do not let us discuss this now; it is not the time and place in public, where all can hear us.’ She replied, ‘I want to talk of this and nothing else. I came for that only.’ I said, ‘You are a good woman, and I like you, and do not want to quarrel with you. Why speak of it? We are two women. What do we know of business? Leave it for our husbands.’ She replied, ‘I know business very well, and so do you. I will speak of it.’ I then said, ‘If you do, I fear I shall say something unpleasant.’ She replied, ‘I do not mind that, and I will come and see you.’ I said, ‘Pray do; I shall be delighted.’ And so we shook hands and parted.

“Six weeks after I came to Beyrout, and found that it was popularly reported by the Jews that I had torn Madame —‘s diamonds from her hair on this occasion, thrown them on the ground, and stamped upon them. — — arrived soon after me; and hearing from some mutual friends that this report had reached me, he came to see me, and told me that it had been invented by his enemies. I replied that I thought it very likely, and that he need not mind. He then told me that his family, and his wife in particular, were very fond of me, and that she had recounted our interview at the wedding to him just as above, and as a proof of their friendly feelings they were coming to see me to invite me to a soirée.

“With many regrets for trespassing so long on your valuable time,

“I am, my Lord,
“Your faithful and obedient servant,

“Isabel Burton.

“The Earl Granville,
“Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."

A gentleman, Mr. Kennedy, from the Foreign Office at home, was staying at the Consul-General’s at Beyrout, so we thought it right to invite him to Damascus, and he accepted our invitation a few weeks later.

As this was an official visit we made every preparation. I met him at Shtora, the half-way house between Beyrout and Damascus, and travelled with him in the diligence. At the last station we found the Wali’s carriage and a troop of soldiers as a guard of honour, and we then journeyed in it to our house. The next morning Mr. Kennedy visited the Consulate, and apparently found everything straightforward and satisfactory, and he paid official calls with Richard. During the next few days I showed him most of the sights of Damascus, and one evening I gave a large soirée in his honour. Mr. Kennedy was fain to own that in its way it was unique. He had never seen a party like the one I was able to assemble. We had thirty-six different races and creeds and tongues: grey-bearded Moslems, fierce-looking Druzes, a rough Kurdish chief, a Bedawin shaykh, a few sleek Jewish usurers, every one of the fourteen castes of Christians, the Protestant missionaries, and all the Consuls and their staffs; in fact, everything appertaining to public life and local authority, culminating in the various Church dignitaries, bishops, and patriarchs. The triple-roomed hall, with fountains in the middle, lighted with coloured lamps; the bubbling of the water in the garden; the sad weird music in the distance; the striking costumes; the hum of the narghílehs; the guttural sound of the conversation; the kawwasses in green, red, blue, and gold, gliding about with trays of sherbet, sweets, and coffee, — all combined to make the quaintest scene.

I should like to mention an anecdote here. In the garden next to ours there was a large wooden door, which swung always on its hinges. It made such a noise that it kept Mr. Kennedy awake at night. The garden belonged to an old woman, and I asked her to have her gate fastened. She sent back an answer that she could not, as it had been broken for years, and she had not the money to spare to mend it. So I took the law into my own hands. The next night Mr. Kennedy slept well. At breakfast he remarked the circumstance, and asked how I had managed about the door. “If you look out of the window,” I answered, “you will see it in the courtyard. I sent two kawwasses yesterday to pull it down at sunset.” He put on that long official face, with which all who are in the service of Her Majesty’s Government are familiar, and said, “Oh, but you must really not treat people like that. Supposing they knew of these things at home?” “Suppose they did!” I said, laughing. I had ordered that, after Mr. Kennedy’s departure that day, the gate was to be replaced and mended at my expense. The next time the old woman saw me she ran out exclaiming, “O thou light of my eyes, thou sunbeam, come and sit a little by the brook in my garden, and honour me by drinking coffee; and Allah grant that thou mayest break something else of mine, and live for ever; and may Allah send back the great English Pasha to thy house to bring me more good luck!” However, the “great English Pasha” did not return, for that evening a mounted escort with torches and the Wali’s carriage came to convey him and myself to the gare of the diligence, and we reached Beyrout that evening.

Nothing of importance happened at Damascus during the next few months. It was a terribly cold winter. We were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of Lord Stafford and Mr. Mitford, to whom we showed the sights. We had a few other visitors; but on the whole it was a sad winter, for there was famine in the land. The Jewish usurers had bought up wheat and corn cheap, and they sold grain very dear; it was practically locked up in the face of the starving, dying multitude. It was terrible to see the crowds hanging round the bakers’ shops and yearning for bread. I used to save all the money I could — alas that I could not save more! — and telling a kawwass and man to accompany me with trays, I used to order a couple of sovereigns’ worth of bread and distribute it in the most destitute part of our suburb. I never saw anything like the ravenous, hungry people. They would tear the trays down, and drag the bread from one another’s mouths. I have sat by crying because I felt it mockery to bring so little; yet had I sold everything we possessed, I could not have appeased the hunger of our village for a single day. I wondered how those men who literally murdered the poor, who kept the granaries full, and saw unmoved the vitals of the multitude quivering for want, could have borne the sight! Surely it will be more tolerable for the cities of the Plain in the day of judgment than for them.

Chapter XVI

Jerusalem and the Holy Land


Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.

Psalm cii. 14.

IT had long been our desire to visit Palestine and the Holy Land thoroughly, and so in March, 1871, we determined to set out. Richard wished me to go by sea and meet him at Jerusalem, as he was going by land with Mr. Drake, who had now returned from England; so I travelled across to Beyrout, with the intention of going from there by sea to Jaffa at once. But when I reached the harbour of Beyrout there was such a rough sea that I judged it better to wait for another steamer. So I put up at the hotel at Beyrout, where I made my first acquaintance with Cook’s tourists. They swarmed like locusts over the town, in number about one hundred and eighty; and the natives said of them, “These are not travellers; these are Cookii.” Certainly they were a menagerie of curious human bipeds. I lunched and dined with them every day at the table d’hôte, and mingled with them as freely as possible, for they interested me greatly, and I used to try and classify them much as an entomologist would classify his beetles and insects. One lady of forbidding appearance was known as “the Sphinx.” When on an expedition, it was the custom to call the “Cookii” at 5 a.m., and strike the tents at six. It appears that her bower falling at the stroke of six disclosed the poor thing in a light toilet, whence issued a serious quarrel. She wore an enormous, brown, mushroom hat, like a little table, decorated all over with bunches of brown ribbon. Then there was a rich vulgarian, who had inveigled a poor gentleman into being his travelling companion, in return for his expenses. And didn’t he let us know it! This was his line of conversation at the dinner table: “You want wine, indeed! I dare say. Who brought you out, I should like to know? No end of expense. Who pays for the dinner? Who paid for the ticket? What do I get in return? No end of expense.” And so on, and so on. I longed to drop a little caustic into Dives, but I was afraid that poor Lazarus would have had to pay for it afterwards.

I embarked on the next steamer bound for Jaffa. She was the smallest, dirtiest, and most evil smelling I have ever boarded, and that is saying a good deal. We had a horrid night, very rough, and the first-class cabin became so abominable that I joined the deck passengers, and I longed to be a drover and lie with the cattle. My little Syrian maid was with me, and she was very ill. Jaffa was a rough place for landing, but we accomplished it after some little difficulty. It is a pretty, fez-shaped town on the hillside.

We remained twenty-four hours in Jaffa, and then rode on to Ramleh. The gardens around this town were exceedingly beautiful, groves of orange trees, citrons, and pomegranates. We soon entered the Plain of Sharon. The whole road was green and pretty. The country was a beautiful carpet of wild flowers. We reached Ramleh early, and I went at once to the Franciscan Monastery. The monk who acted as porter received me very stiffly at first, until he knew all about me, and then he became very expansive. They put my Syrian girl and me into a clean bedroom with embroidered muslin curtains and chintz tops. At night the monastery was full, and we were served by the monks. When I saw the company assembled in the refectory at supper, I did not wonder at the porter receiving me with such caution. They snorted and grunted and spat and used their forks for strange purposes. If I had not been so hungry, I could not have eaten a bit, though I am pretty well seasoned through living with all kinds of people.

We started early next morning in delightful weather, and I was highly excited by our near approach to Jerusalem. There were several other travellers along the road, all bound for the Holy City. We occupied seven and a half hours on the journey. We passed two cafés on the road, impromptu donkey sheds, where we found good Turkish coffee and narghílehs; and there were shady orange groves, and fields of marigolds, poppies, and such-like. At last I reached the crest of the hill, and beheld Jerusalem beneath me. I reined in my horse, and with my face towards the Sepulchre gazed down upon the city of my longing eyes with silent emotion and prayer. Every Christian bared his head; every Moslem and Jew saluted. We rode towards the Jaffa Gate, outside of which were stalls of horses and donkeys, and a motley crowd, including lines of hideous-looking lepers. I went to the Damascus Hotel, a comfortable and very quiet hostel, with no tourists or trippers, of which I was glad, for I had come on a devotional pilgrimage. In the evening I was able to sit on the terrace and realize the dream of my life. The sun was setting on the Mount of Olives, where our Saviour’s feet last touched the earth; the Mosque of Omar glittered its rosy farewell; the Arch of Ecce Homo lay beneath; the Cross of the Sepulchre caught the ruddy glow; out beyond were the Mountains of Moab, purple and red in the dying day; and between me and them, deep down I knew, lay the Dead Sea.

My reverie was awakened by the arrival of Richard with the horses and the sais and Habíb. Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake was with him.

The next morning we were out early. First we rode to see the Stone of Colloquy on the road to Bethany, so called because it is believed that, when Martha came to tell Jesus that her brother Lazarus was dead, the Saviour sat upon this stone whilst He conversed with her. It is a little table of rock about a yard long. We then went over a jagged country to Bethany, a short hour’s journey from Jerusalem. Bethany is now nothing but a few huts and broken walls in a sheltered spot. We went to see the tomb of Lazarus, which is a small empty rock chamber. About forty yards to the south we were shown the supposed house of Martha and Mary. We passed a little field where Christ withered the tree, marked by an excavation in the rock, where there is always a fig. The way we returned to Jerusalem was that by which Jesus rode upon the ass in triumph upon Palm Sunday, down the Mount of Olives, and in at the Golden Gate of the Temple.

Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem.

On the south of the American cemetery there is a little spot of desolate land, which is the site of a house where, when all was over, our Blessed Lady lived with St. John. Here she passed her last fifteen years; here she died at the age of sixty-three, and was buried near the Garden of Gethsemane. All that remains of the site of this small dwelling are some large stones, said to be the foundations. We then visited the Cœnaculum, or the room of the Last Supper. An ancient church, which is now converted into a mosque, is built on the site of the Last Supper room. It is a long hall with a groined roof, and some say that it is the actual site, built with other materials. We then visited the house of Caiaphas, and in the afternoon we sat in the English burial-ground on Mount Zion, talking and picking a flower here and there.

Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake was our dear friend and travelling companion. He was a young man full of promise for a brilliant Eastern and scientific career. He was tall, powerful, fair, manly, distinguished for athletic and field sports; his intellectual qualities, and his mastery of languages, Arabic and others, were so great that he made me wonder how at twenty-four years of age a young man could know so much. He was a thorough Englishman, the very soul of honour.

I should weary and not edify if I were to describe all we saw at Jerusalem. I have written of it more fully elsewhere,27 and I can never hope to convey the remarkably vivid way in which it brought home to me the truth of the Gospel narrative. But I think there are two spots which I ought to describe: one is the Calvary Church, and the other is the Holy Sepulchre.

There are six holy spots on Mount Calvary. In the church itself, about four or five yards on the right hand, at the head of the staircase before you advance up the church, the black-and-white rose in the marble shows where our Saviour was stripped. Three yards farther, before an altar, a slab covers the spot where they nailed Him to the Cross; and a little farther on, at the High Altar, the Sacrifice was consummated. The High Altar is resplendent; but one wishes it were not there, for all one’s interest is concentrated upon a large silver star underneath it. On hands and knees I bowed down to kiss it, for it covered the hole in the rock where the Cross, with our dying lord upon it, was planted. I put my arm into the hole, and touched it for a blessing. On the right hand is the hole of the good thief’s cross, and on the left the bad thief’s, each marked by a black marble cross. The cleft in the solid rock which opened when “Jesus, crying with a loud voice, gave up the ghost,” and “the earth quaked and the rocks were rent,” is still visible. You can see it again below, in the deepest part of the church, where lies Adam’s tomb. The surface looks as if it were oxidized with blood, and tradition says that this colour has ever remained upon it.

We will now proceed from Calvary to the Holy Sepulchre. Entering the Basilica, the vast church where the Holy Sepulchre is, we find a little chapel enclosing the grave. It stands under the centre of the great dome, which covers the whole Basilica. The Holy Sepulchre itself, all of it cut in one solid rock, consists of a little ante-chamber and an inner chamber containing a place for interment. It is carved out of the stone in the form of a trough, which had a stone slab for a covering, and it is roofed by a small arch, also cut in the rock. When St. Helena prepared for building the Basilica with the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary, she separated the room containing the sacred tomb from the mass of rock, and caused an entrance vestibule to be carved out of the remainder. Would that St. Helena had contented herself with building indestructible walls round the sacred spots and left them to Nature, marking them only with a cross and an inscription! They would thus have better satisfied the love and devotion of Christendom, than the little, ornamented chapels which one shuts one’s eyes not to see, trying to realize what had once been. In the ante-chamber are two columns, and in the middle is the stone on which the angel sat when it was rolled back from the Sepulchre. Christians of every race, tongue, and creed burn gold and silver lamps day and night before the grave, so that the chapel inside is covered with them, and priests of each form of Christian faith officiate here in turn. The exterior of the Sepulchre is also covered with gold and silver lamps, burnt by different Christians. Fifteen lamps of gold hang in a row about the grave itself. The Turks hold the keys. In going in or coming out all kneel three times and kiss the ground. After you cross the vestibule, which is dark, you crouch to pass through the low, rock-cut archway by which you enter the tomb. You kneel by the Sepulchre, which appears like a raised bench of stone; you can put your hands upon it, lean your face upon it, if you will, and think and pray.

I was in Jerusalem all through Holy Week, from Palm Sunday until Easter Day, and I attended all the services that I could attend, and so kept the week of our Lord’s Passion in the Holy City. On Good Friday I went to the “Wailing-place of the Jews” by the west wall of the enclosure around the Mosque of Omar, an old remain of the Temple of Solomon, and listened to their lamentations, tears, prayers and chants. They bewailed their city, their Temple, their departed glory, on the anniversary of the day when their crime was accomplished and Christ was crucified. The scene and the hour made me think deeply. I shall never forget either the scene in the Basilica on Holy Saturday, when the Patriarch undressed to show that he had nothing with him to produce the Greek fire, and bared his head and feet, and then, in a plain surplice, entered the Sepulchre alone. Five minutes later the “Sacred Fire” issued, and a really wonderful scene followed. All the congregation struggled to catch the first fire. They jumped on each other’s heads, shoulders, and backs; they hunted each other round the church with screams of joy. They pass it to one another; they rub it over their faces, they press it to their bosoms, they put it in their hair, they pass it through their clothes, and not one of this mad crowd feels himself burnt. The fire looked to me like spirits on tow; but it never went out, and every part of the Basilica is in one minute alight with the blaze. I once believed in this fire, but it is said now to be produced in this manner: In one of the inner walls of the Sepulchre there is a sliding panel, with a place to contain a lamp, which is blessed, and for centuries the Greeks have never allowed this lamp to go out, and from it they take their “Sacred Fire.” Richard was assured by educated Greeks that a lucifer box did the whole business, and that is probable; but be that so or not, there was a man-of-war waiting at Jaffa to convey the “Sacred Fire” to St. Petersburg.

It was later on in the day, after we had made an excursion to see the Convent of the Cross, that Richard, Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake, and I went off to explore the Magharat el Kotn, also called the Royal Caverns. They are enormous quarries, the entrance to which looks like a hole in the wall outside Jerusalem, not far from the Gate of Damascus. We crept in, and found ourselves lost in endless artificial caves and galleries. Richard and Mr. Drake were delighted with them; but I soon left the enthusiasts, for the caves did not interest me. I had kept Lent fasting; I had attended all the long ceremonies of Holy Week; and I was therefore very tired on this day, Holy Saturday, the more so because I had not only attended my own Church’s ceremonies, but all those of every sect in Jerusalem. So I gave up exploring the caves, and sauntered away to the northernmost point of Mount Bezetha, and saw the Cave of the Prophet Jeremias. It was here that he wrote his Lamentations.

I then climbed up to a large cave somewhat to the left, above that of Jeremias, where I could look down upon Jerusalem. Here, worn out with fatigue, fasting, and over-excitement, I lay down with my head upon the stone, and slept a long sleep of two hours, during which time I dreamed a long, vivid dream. Its details in full would occupy a volume. Byron says: “Dreams in their development have breath and tears and torture and the touch of joy. They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts and look like heralds of eternity. They pass like the spirits of the past; they speak like sibyls of the future.” The spirit of Jeremias might have touched the stone upon which I slept, or Baruch might have dwelt there. I dreamed for hours, and then I awoke. A goat-herd had entered the cave, and I half fancy he had shaken me, for he looked scared and said, “Pardon, Ya Sitti; I thought you were dead.”

The bells of the Sepulchre were giving out their deep-tongued notes and re-echoing over the hills. I looked at my watch; it was the Ave Maria — sunset. I came back with a rush to reality; all my dream views vanished, and the castles in the air tumbled down like a pack of cards. Nothing remained of my wondrous dream, with its marvellous visions, its stately procession of emperors, kings, queens, pontiffs, and ministers — nothing remained of them all, but only my poor, humble self, private and obscure, still to toil on and pray and suffer. I had to rouse myself at once, and almost to run, so as to pass the gates before I was locked out of the city for the night. No one would have thought of looking for me in that cave. I should certainly have been reported as murdered. When I arrived home it was long past sunset, but Richard and Mr. Tyrwhitt-Drake had not returned from their visit to the Caves of Magharat el Kotn. The gates of Jerusalem were shut, and I felt seriously alarmed, lest they should have met with some accident; so before settling myself to write my dream, I ordered my horse and rode back to the Damascus Gate to propitiate the guard and to post a kawwass at the gate, that I might get into the city again. It was pitch dark; so I went down myself to the caves, which were miles long and deep, with lights and ropes. After a quarter of an hour’s exploration I met them coming back, safe. As soon as we got home I locked myself in my room and wrote down the incidents of my dream.

The next morning, Easter Sunday, I was up before dawn, and had the happiness of hearing two Masses and receiving Holy Communion in the Sepulchre. I was the only person present besides the celebrant and the acolyte. During the day we walked round about Jerusalem, and visited many sacred spots.

On Easter Monday in the afternoon we rode over bad country to the Cave of St. John the Baptist, where he led the life of a hermit and prepared for his preaching. It was a small cave, and there is a bench in it cut in the stone, which served the Baptist as a bed. The priests now celebrate Mass on it.

On Easter Tuesday one of Her Majesty’s men-of-war arrived at Jaffa, and a number of sailors rode up to Jerusalem in the evening, and kept high festival. It sounded strange in the solemn silence of the Holy City to hear the refrains of “We won’t go home till morning” until past midnight. But a truce to sentiment; it did me good to hear their jolly English voices, so I ordered some drink for them, and sent a message to them to sing “Rule Britannia” and “God save the Queen” for me, which they did with a hearty good-will. They made the old walls ring again.

On Wednesday we went to Bethlehem. There is a monastery over the holy places where the Nativity took place. You descend a staircase into the crypt, which must have formed part of the old khan, or inn, where Mary brought forth our Lord. The centre of attraction is a large grotto, with an altar and a silver star under it, and around the star is written, “Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est.” The manger where the animals fed is an excavation in the rock.

The next day, having exhausted the objects of interest in and about Bethlehem, we continued our travels. We rode on to Hebron, an ancient town lying in a valley surrounded by hills. The houses are old and ruinous. One cannot go out upon one’s roof without all the other roofs being crowded, and cries of “Bakshísh” arise like the cackle of fowls. There is a mosque of some interest, which we explored; but it was very disappointing that Richard, who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and who was considered as having a right to enter where Moslems enter, could not be admitted by the Hebronites to the cave below the mosque, the only part which was not visited by travellers. The answer was, “If we went, you should go too; but even we dare not go now. The two doors have been closed, one for seventy years, and the other for one hundred and fifty years.” Speaking generally, we found Hebron a dirty, depressing place, full of lazy, idle people, and a shaykh told us that there was not a Christian in the place, as though that were something to be proud of.

On Low Sunday we left Hebron and rode back to Jerusalem, where I enjoyed several days quietly among the holy sites. While we were there we were invited by the Anglican Bishop Gobat to a soirée, which we enjoyed very much indeed, and we met several very interesting people, including Mr. Holman Hunt.

On April 24 we left Jerusalem. Quite a company went with us as far as Bir Ayyúb — Joab’s Well. Then our friends rode back to Jerusalem; Richard and Mr. Tyrwhitt-Drake went in another direction; and I remained alone with servants, horses, and baggage. I sent them on in advance, and turned my horse’s head round to take a long, last look at the sacred walls of Jerusalem. I recited the psalm “Super flumina Babylonis illic sedimus,” and then after a silent meditation I galloped after my belongings.

After half an hour’s riding through orchards and grass I came to a wide defile two or three miles long, winding like a serpent, and the sides full of caves. I climbed up to some to describe them to Richard. The country was truly an abomination of desolation, nothing but naked rockery for miles and miles, with the everlasting fire of the sun raining upon it.

There was a monastery in the defile at the end, a Greek Orthodox monastery. They say that whatever woman enters the monastery dies. I had a great mind to enter it as a boy, for I was very curious to see it. However, I thought better of it, and pulled the ends of my habit out of my big boots and presented myself at the door of the monastery in my own character. The monk who played janitor eyed me sternly, and said, “We do not like women here, my daughter; we are afraid of them.” “You do not look afraid, Father,” I said. “Well,” he answered, laughing, “it is our rule, and any woman who passes this door dies.” “Will you let me risk it, Father?” I asked. “No, my daughter, no. Go in peace.” And he slammed the door in a hurry, for fear that I should try. So I strolled off and perched myself on an airy crag, from which I could look down upon the monastery, and I thought that at any rate the monks liked to look at that forbidden article, woman, for about sixty of them came out to stare at me. When Richard and Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake arrived, they were admitted to the monastery, and shown over everything, which I thought very hard, and I was not greatly reconciled by being told that there was really nothing to see. We camped here for the night. The sun was still tinting the stone-coloured hills, the dark blue range of Moab, when a gong sounded through the rocks, and I saw flocks of jackals clamber up to the monastery to be fed, followed by flights of birds. The monks tame all the wild animals.

Next day we went off to the Dead Sea. We had read in guide-books that the way to it was very difficult, but we did not believe it. I wish we had, for our ride to it across the desert was terrible. The earth was reeking with heat, and was salt, sulphurous, and stony. We were nearly all day crossing the Desert of Judah, and at last our descent became so rugged and bad that our baggage mules stuck fast in the rocks and sand. We had to cut away traps and cords, and sacrifice boxes to release them. We could see the bright blue Dead Sea long before we reached it, but we had to crawl and scramble down on foot as best we could under the broiling sun. It reminded me more of a bleak and desolate Lake Geneva than anything else. While we were waiting for the mules and baggage we tried to hide from the sun, and tied the horses to bits of rocks. Then we plunged into the sea, and had a glorious swim. You cannot sink. You make very little way in the water, and tire yourself if you try to swim fast. If a drop of the water happens to get into your eye, nose, or mouth, it is agonizing; it is so salt, hard, and bitter. Next day I felt very ill from the effects of my bath. In the first place, I was too hot to have plunged into the cold water at once; and, in the second place, I stopped in too long, because, being the only woman, and the place of disrobing being somewhat public, the others kept out of sight until I was well in the water, and when the bath was ended I had to stay in the water until Richard and Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake had gone out and dressed, all the time keeping my head of course discreetly in the other direction, so that by the time they had finished I had been nearly an hour in the Dead Sea, and the result was I suffered from it. After bathing we dined on the borders of the sea. The colours of the water were beautiful, like the opal; and the Mountains of Moab were gorgeous in the dying light.

The next day we rode over very desolate country to Neby Musa, the so-called tomb of Moses, and we camped for the night on the banks of the Jordan. I was very feverish, weak, and ill. All the others bathed in the sacred river, but I only dipped my head in and filled three bottles to bring home for baptisms. I was most anxious to bathe in Jordan, and I cried with vexation at not being able to do so in consequence of my fever. In the cool of the following afternoon we rode to Jericho, which consists of a few huts and tents; a small part of it is surrounded by pleasant orchards. It was hard to imagine this poor patch of huts was ever a royal city of palaces, where cruel Herod ruled and luxurious Cleopatra revelled.

The Dead Sea.

Next morning we rode out of the valley of the Jordan, which, fringed with verdure, winds like a green serpent through the burning plain of the desert. We encamped for the night at Bethel, where Jacob dreamed of his ladder. I felt so ill — all that Dead Sea again — that it was proposed that we should ride on to Náblus next day, about ten hours distant, and that we should encamp there for four or five days to let me recover.

We rode over endless stony hills, relieved by fruitful valleys. I felt very ill, and could scarcely go on; but at last we arrived at our camping ground. It was by a stream amidst olive groves and gardens outside Náblus. As this was the boundary between the Damascus and the Jerusalem consular jurisdiction, we now considered ourselves once more upon our own ground. We stayed at Náblus four days, and visited all the places of interest in it and around it, which I have not time to dwell upon now.

We left Náblus in the early morning, and after a delightful ride through groves and streams we entered Samaria, where, however, we did no more than halt for a space, but rode on to Jennin, where we camped for the night. There were several other camps at Jennin besides our own — two of Englishmen, and likewise an American and a German camp — five camps in all. We had quite a foregathering in the evening; and a glorious evening it was, with a May moon. The little white village with its mosque peeped out of the foliage of palm trees and mulberry groves.

We left early next morning, and rode to Scythopolis, where we camped.

The next morning Richard and Mr. Drake went on ahead to take some observations; I jogged on more leisurely behind, and our camp was sent on to Nazareth. Everywhere the earth was beautifully green, and carpeted with wild flowers. The air was fresh and balmy, and laden with the scents of spring. I passed the black tents of some Arabs, who gave me milk to drink. We also passed one well, where we watered the horses. It was a perfect day, but I was alone. We rode on until we came to Nain, and thence to Endor. Here we reposed under some fig trees for an hour, and were twice insulted for so doing. The district around Nazareth was very turbulent. First came some “big-wig” with a long name, who, thinking I was only an Englishwoman, told me to “get up,” and said he “didn’t care for consuls, nor English, nor kawwasses.” A poor woman standing by begged me to go out again into the sun, and not shade myself under the figs, and thus displease this great man. You see, when I was sitting down, he thought that by my voice and face I was a woman, and as long as my servants only addressed me in coarse Arabic he bounced accordingly. But when I arose in my outraged dignity, and he saw my riding-habit tucked into my boots, he thought that I was a boy, or rather a youth; and I flourished my whip and cried, “You may not, O Shaykh, care for consuls, nor English, nor kawwasses, but I am going to make you care for something.” Thereupon he jumped up as nimble as a monkey, and ran for his life. Then the villagers, thinking me the better man of the two, brought me milk for driving him away. He was soon succeeded by a fellah with half a shirt, who came out of his way to insult a stranger, and asked me by what right we sat under the shady figs; but the sais gave him a knock with his knobbed stick, and after that we were left in peace. Endor consists of about twenty wretched huts on the side of a hill, and the women look like descendants of the original witch. I went to a big fountain where crones were drawing water, dreadful old women, who accused me of having the Evil Eye, which made my servant very nervous. Blue eyes are always considered to be dangerous in the East. I said, “You are quite right, O ye women of Endor; I was born with the Evil Eye”; whereupon they became very civil, that I might not hurt them. We then descended into the plain between Endor and Nazareth, and it was so hot and close that I fell asleep on my horse for fully an hour. At last we reached the Vale of Nazareth. I was glad to ride into the camp, where I found all our former travellers. They were very hospitable, and gave me shelter until our tents were pitched. The camps were all pitched in a small plain without the town. Our camp was near the Greek Orthodox Church, and hidden from the others by a slight eminence.

At sunrise next morning a Copt wanted to enter my tent, either for stealing or some other purpose. I was still in bed, half awake, and I heard the servants tell him to go. He refused, and was very insolent. He took up stones, and threw them, and struck the men. The noise awoke me thoroughly. I got up, and watched the proceedings through the top of my tent wall. I called out to my servants to leave him alone; but by this time they were angry, and began to beat the Copt. A little affair of this sort among the people would hardly be noticed in the usual way; but as ill-luck would have it, the Greeks, whom it didn't concern, were coming out of church, and seeing a quarrel they joined in it and sided with the Copt. Our servants were only six, and the Greeks were one hundred and fifty. Richard and Mr. Tyrwhitt-Drake, hearing the noise, ran out of their tents half dressed to see what was the matter, and said and did everything to calm the people. They were received with a hail-storm of stones, each the size of a melon, which seemed to darken the air for several minutes. A rich and respectable Greek called out, “Kill them all; I’ll pay the blood money.” Our Druze muleteer called out, “Shame! This is the English Consul of Damascus on his own ground.” Another Greek shouted, “So much the worse for him.” I put on some clothes while the fighting was going on, and watched Richard. As an old soldier accustomed to fire, he stood perfectly calm, though the stones hit him right and left. Most men under such pain and provocation would have fired, but he contented himself with marking out the ringleaders, to take them afterwards. I ran out to give him two six-shot revolvers, but before I got within stone’s reach he waved me back; so I kept near enough to carry him off if he were badly wounded, and put the revolvers in my belt, meaning to have twelve lives for his if he were killed. Seeing that he could not appease the Greeks, and three of the servants were badly hurt, and one lay for dead on the ground, Richard pulled a pistol out of Habíb’s belt and fired a shot into the air. I understood the signal, and flew round to the other camps and called all the English and Americans with their guns. When they saw a reinforcement of ten armed English and Americans running down to them, the cowardly crew of one hundred and fifty Greeks turned and fled. But for this timely assistance, we none of us should have been left alive. The whole affair did not last ten minutes.

We found out afterwards that the cause of the Greek ill-feeling originated with the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Nazareth, who had snatched away a synagogue and cemetery from British-protected Jews, against which arbitrary proceeding Richard had strongly protested. Richard went later in the day to report what had happened to the Turkish official, the Káim-makám, and to ask for redress, but he was unable to do anything. He had only twelve zaptíyeh (policemen), armed with canes! So we had to wait at Nazareth five days, until Richard sent to St. Jean d’Acre for soldiers. The Greeks were at first very insolent; but when they found that Richard was in earnest about having the offenders punished, they came in a body to beg pardon. The Bishop also sent to say that he deeply regretted the part he had taken. But whilst the Greeks were so occupied in our presence, they were manufacturing the most untruthful and scandalous report of the affair, which they sent to Damascus and Beyrout, to St. Jean d’Acre and to Constantinople, which was signed and sealed by the Bishop and endorsed by the Wali of Syria, who never waited or asked for one word of explanation from Richard.

The Greeks said, in their report, that we began the quarrel, and many other things absolutely false. For instance, they stated that Richard fired upon them several times when they were playing games; that he entered the church armed to profane it, tore down the pictures, broke the lamps, and shot a priest; and that I also went forth in my nightgown, and, sword in hand, tore everything down, and jumped and shrieked upon the débris, and did many other unwomanly things. This report was actually signed and sealed by the Bishop and by the Wali, and forwarded, unknown to us, to Constantinople and London. Naturally Richard’s few enemies at home tried to make capital out of the accident.

The whole day after the brutal attack upon us we had to do all the work of our tents and the cooking and attend to our horses ourselves. Even if we had wished to move away from Nazareth we could not have done so with four of our servants disabled and helpless. Dr. Varden and myself were entirely occupied with the suffering men. Richard and Mr. Tyrwhitt-Drake took charge of the tents and horses, and the doctor sent me a woman to help to cook, as it was necessary to prepare soup and invalid food for the wounded, who, in consequence of their injuries, suffered from fever. Richard’s sword arm was injured by stones, and the sprained muscles were not thoroughly cured for two years afterwards. Besides this, we had to be prepared for a night attack of revenge. And what with the whispering of the Turkish soldiers, who had come from St. Jean d’Acre, the evident excitement prevailing in the town, and the barking of dogs, the nights were not peaceful enough to admit of sleep.

On May 10 we left Nazareth, and every one came out to see our departure. Our exit was over a steep country composed of slabs of slippery rock, but we soon got into a better district, over flowery plains, now and then varied by difficult passes and tracks. We camped for the night by the Lake of Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee. Next day we hired a boat and went round the lake. Towards night there was a glare behind the mountains, as if some town in the neighbourhood was on fire. We could not sleep in consequence of the stifling heat, and flies and mosquitoes were numerous. The day after I went off to the hot baths of Hamath, or Emmaus. They were salt and sulphuric. In the middle of the bath-house was a large marble basin, through which the water passed, with little rooms around. Here people bathed for bone-aches. The women advised me to enter cautiously. I laughed; and by way of showing them that Englishwomen were accustomed to water and were not afraid, I plunged in for a swim. But I soon repented. I felt as if I had jumped into boiling water. My skin was all burnt red, and I began to be faint. However, on leaving the bath I felt much invigorated, and lost all the fever and illness resulting from my swim in the Dead Sea.

The next morning we galloped round the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. In the afternoon we rode to Safed, where we camped for the night. Safed is a town of considerable size, and surrounded by beautiful gardens. There is a large Jewish quarter, and from the hour of our coming the Jews were all hospitality and flocked to our tents to greet us. It was very hot at Safed in the daytime; and when we left the next day we had a most trying ride across a country burnt black with the recent prairie fire. We encamped for the night in a lonely spot, which turned out to be a perfect paradise for mosquitoes, spiders, scorpions, and other pests, but a perfect hell for us. We could do nothing but wrap ourselves up completely in sheets, and walk up and down all night long by the camp-fires, while the jackals howled outside. When the morning light came, we were able to laugh at one another’s faces, all swollen with bites and stings. Mine was like the face one sees in a spoon.

I need not dwell upon the next three days, because they were all exactly alike. We rode all day and camped at night until the morning of May 19 dawned. In the cool light we entered the Plain of Damascus. We halted for breakfast under a favourite fig tree, where were shade, water, and grass. We then ambled for three and a half hours over the barren plain, until at last we arrived on the borders of the green groves around Damascus. We entered our own oasis. Oh how grateful were the shade, the cool water, and the aromatic smells! One hour more and we entered our own little paradise again, and met with a cordial greeting from all. It was a happy day. I did not know it then, but our happy days at Damascus were numbered.

27 The Inner Life of Syria, Palestine, and the Holy Land, by Isabel Burton, 2 vols.

Chapter XVII

The Recall


I call to mind the parting day
That rent our lives in twain.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

On returning to Damascus, Richard made the necessary explanations concerning the riot at Nazareth to the authorities, and he concluded that the “village row” was ended. I also wrote a full and accurate account of the affair to Sir Henry Elliot, our Ambassador at Constantinople (who had kindly expressed his willingness to hear from me when I had anything special to communicate), to supplement Richard’s report. Sir Henry had telegraphed to know what it all meant.

As Richard had still a fortnight’s leave on hand, he thought he would use it by going to return the visit of the Druzes, who had paid us many friendly visits during our two years’ sojourn at Damascus, and had asked Richard to come and see them in the Haurán. He called upon the Wali before his departure, and told him of his projected visit. The Wali expressed his gladness, and said, “Go soon, or there will be no water.” He also wrote to the Consul-General at Beyrout to acquaint him of his intention, and started with Mr. Tyrwhitt-Drake.

I was left behind. A few days after Richard had gone, the Wali, with whom I had always been on friendly terms, wrote me an extraordinary letter. He accused Richard of having made a political meeting with the Druze chiefs in the Haurán, and of having done great harm to the Turkish Government. I knew that he had done nothing of the kind, and so I wrote to the Wali and told him that he had been deceived, and asked him to wait until Richard came home. I pointed out to him how fond people were of inventing and circulating falsehoods to make mischief between him and the Consuls. He pretended to be satisfied. But a Turkish plot had been laid on foot of which I knew nothing. A disturbance had been purposely created between the Bedawin and the Druzes, which enabled the Turkish Government to attack the Druzes in the Haurán. The Wali let Richard go in order to accuse him of meddling. The fact was, the Wali had intended a little campaign against the Druzes, and was endeavouring, by means known only to the unspeakable Turk, to stir up sedition among them, in order to have an excuse for slaughtering them; but Richard had, unknowingly, spoiled the whole plan by counselling the Druzes to submit. It was that which made the Wali so angry, for it spoilt his plot; and he reported that Richard meddled with Turkish affairs and agitated for his recall. I wrote again to Sir Henry Elliot, stating the true facts of the case. For, as I told our Ambassador, I heard that the “Home Government is actually contemplating pleasing a handful of bad people, headed by this Wali, by probably removing my husband from the very place for which his natural gifts and knowledge fit him,” and I asked him, who knew the East, to acquaint Lord Granville how matters stood.

One day while Richard was still away, a European, who was a favourite of the Wali, asked me what day Richard would return to Damascus, and by what road. I asked why he wanted to know. “Because,” he said, “my child is to be baptized, and I want him to be present.” I found out the next day that the christening was fixed for the day before Richard’s return, and I was asked; so that the man had not given me the true reason for wanting to know when Richard was coming back. I scented danger, and by a trusty messenger I instantly dispatched a warning to Richard to “look out for tricks.” By God’s blessing it was in time. Richard changed his road, and from a concealed shelter he watched the progress of a Ghazu, or armed band, beating the country, looking for some one. By whom they were sent, whom they were looking for, and for what fell purpose may be imagined.

My heart was torn with anxiety. Nevertheless I went to the christening, and kept a calm exterior. I felt a qualm when a certain Greek said to me, with a meaning, unpleasant smile, “There is a telegram or something important arrived for you.” “Oh, is there?" I said coolly; “well, I dare say I shall get it when I go home.” Presently a kawwass came in, and saluted and said, “The Consul is returned, Sitti, and wants you.” Making my excuses, I retired from the festivities; and jumping on my horse, I galloped home, where I found Richard safe and sound. The telegram, which was quite unimportant, did not arrive until several hours later. Had the Ghazu fallen in with Richard, the verdict would have been, “Fallen a prey to his wild and wandering habits in the desert.” But it was not God’s will that he should be removed in this way.

About this time the trouble with the Shazlis also came to a head. The Shazlis were Sufis, or mystics, esoterics of El Islam, who tried to spiritualize its material portions. Richard was most interested in them, and he used to study them and their history. The mystic side of their faith especially appealed to him. He thought he saw in it a connexion between Sufiism in its highest form and Catholicism; and indeed it was so. He followed it up unofficially, disguised as a Shazli, and unknown to any mortal except myself. He used to mix with them, and passed much of his time in the Maydán at Damascus with them. Many of the Shazlis were secretly converted to Christianity in the spring of 1870. It was only natural that it should be so, for there was a link between the highest form of Sufiism and the true Catholic Church. Before long the news of these conversions leaked out, and the Wali determined to crush conversion, because it would add to European influence, of which he was already jealous, and he persecuted and imprisoned the converts. Richard endeavoured to protect them, and thus brought himself into conflict with the Wali.

Richard thought very seriously of this revival of Christianity in Syria, and wrote to the Protestant missionaries about it. He also wrote to Sir Henry Elliot and to Lord Granville on the subject, so impressed was he with its vigour and vitality. And indeed there was a remarkable revival going on below the surface. The persecutions to which the Shazlis had been subjected had caused the movement to grow with redoubled force, and the number of converts increased from day to day. Many were secretly baptized, and many more were yearning for baptism. Richard knew all this, and sympathized with the converted Shazlis heart and soul. Indeed I think he was never nearer a public profession of Catholicity than at that time. What he might have done for them, if he had had the chance, I know not; but the chance was denied him.

The next week or two went by without anything important happening. On June 25 we went by the Wali’s invitation to a grand review at El Haneh, the first ever seen in Syria. Nothing could exceed the kindness and courtesy of the Wali. Indeed every one was very kind to me, the only woman present. We had fireworks and dinner, and then wild native dances, and after a pleasant drive home to Damascus in Abd el Kadir’s carriage.

About this time the heat was very great; not a breath of air was stirring, night or day. We felt like the curled-up leaves of a book. Food or sleep was impossible to us. Every one who could fled from Damascus. I refused to go to summer quarters because Richard could not go too, and I would not shirk anything he had to bear. At last, however, I fell ill of fever, and Richard sent me away to Bludán.

One night, when I was sitting alone, I heard a great noise against the door. I seized the only thing handy, a big stick, and ran out. A large serpent had been attracted by a bowl of milk put on the terrace for my large white Persian cat, who was valiantly defending her milk against the snake. It raised up its long neck and hissed at me; but I hit it with my stick a foot away from its tail, which is the proper place to paralyze a snake. It tried to make away, but was unable, and then I killed it. It was two yards and a half long, and as thick as a child’s arm. It had a flat head, and was of a bluish silver colour. Another night, when I went up to the housetop, a large wolf sprang over my head. I ran in for my gun, but though I was not gone an instant the wolf was out of my reach. After a few weeks Richard came up and joined me at Bludán with Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake.

During this summer we made many excursions to pleasant spots around Bludán, and we used to invite the Shaykhs and principal people to meet us. We would choose a spot near water, or near Bedawin tents, or a melon plantation; and arriving at the appointed place, we would eat and drink, make a fire, roast and prepare our coffee, and have a siesta. These impromptu picnics were very pleasant, and we always found the Bedawin charming. Those days were very pleasant ones; our lives were peaceful, useful, and happy. But suddenly there came a bolt from the blue. On August 16, 1871, the blow fell.

That morning at Bludán the horses were saddled at the door, and we were going for a ride, when a ragged messenger on foot stopped to drink at the spring, and then came up to me with a note. I saw it was for Richard, and took it into the house to him, never thinking what it contained. It was a curt letter from the Vice-Consul of Beyrout, informing Richard that, by the orders of his Consul-General, he had arrived at Damascus the previous day, and had taken charge of the Consulate.

Richard and Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake were in the saddle in five minutes, and galloped into Damascus without drawing rein. Richard would not let me go with him. A few hours later a mounted messenger came back to Bludán with these few written words: “Do not be frightened. I am recalled. Pay, pack, and follow at convenience.” I was not frightened; but I shall never forget what my feelings were when I received that note. Perhaps it is best not to try to remember them.

The rest of the day I went about trying to realize what it all meant. When I went to bed that night, my mind was full of Richard, and I had one of my dreams, a terribly vivid dream. I dreamed that Something pulled me by the arm. I sat up in bed, and I could still see and feel it, and it said in a loud whisper “Why do you lie there? Your husband wants you. Get up and go to him."

I lay down again, and tried to sleep; but again it happened, and yet again — three successive times; and big drops of sweat were on my forehead. My English maid, who slept in the room, said, “Are you walking about and talking, madam?” “No,” I said; “but somebody is. Are you?” “No,” she answered, “I have not stirred; but you’ve been talking in your sleep.”

I could bear it no longer, for I believed that the Presence was real. I sprang out of bed, dressed, went to the stable, saddled my horse, and though everybody said I was mad, and wanted to thrust me back to bed again, I galloped out into the night.

I rode for five hours across country, as though it were a matter of life and death, over rock and through swamps, making for Shtora, the diligence station. I shall never forget that night’s ride. Those who know the ground well will understand what it meant to tear over slippery boulders and black swamps in the darkness of the night. My little horse did it all, for I scarcely knew where I was going half the time. But no one will ever persuade me that in that ride I was alone. Another Presence was with me and beside me, and guarded my ways, lest I dashed my foot against a stone.

Three or four of my servants were frightened, and followed me afar off, but I did not know it then. At last I came in sight of Shtora, the diligence station. The half-hour’s rest had expired, the travellers had taken their places, and the diligence was just about to start. But God was good to me. Just as the coachman was about to raise his whip, he turned his head in the direction whence I was galloping. I was hot, torn, and covered with mud and dust from head to foot; but he knew me. I was too exhausted to shout, but I dropped the reins on my horse’s neck, and held up both my arms as they do to stop a train. The coachman saw the signal, he pulled in his horses and took me into the diligence, and told the ostler to lead my dead-beat horse to the stable.

The diligence rumbled over the Lebanon, and reached Beyrout twenty-four hours before the steamer sailed — the steamer by which Richard was going back to England. For when once he had received his recall, he never looked behind him, nor packed up anything, but went straight away from Damascus, though it was the place where he had spent two of the happiest years of his life. As the diligence turned into Beyrout I caught sight of him, walking alone about the streets, and looking sad and serious. Not even a kawwass was sent to attend him, though this is always the usual courtesy paid a Consul in the East, nor was there any show of honour or respect. The jackals are always ready to slight the dead lion. But I was there, thank God; and he was so surprised and rejoiced when he greeted me that his whole face was illuminated. But he only said, “Thank you. Bon sang ne peut mentir.” We had twenty-four hours to take comfort and counsel together. It was well that I was with him. Everybody called, and everybody regretted, except our Consul-General, who cut us. The French Consul-General made us take up our abode with him for those twenty-four hours. I do not know whether Richard felt the neglect or not. I only know that I felt it terribly. Any Consul with one atom of good feeling would at least have paid his fallen colleague proper respect until he had quitted Eastern ground; but the disgrace was to himself, not to Richard.

At four o’clock the following day I went on board the steamer with Richard, and wished him good-bye, and saw the steamer off to England. On returning to the quay, I found his faithful servant Habíb, who had also followed Richard all the way, but had arrived just ten minutes too late, only in time to see the steamer go out. He flung himself down on the quay in a passion of tears.

I took the night diligence back to Damascus. In spite of the August weather it was a cold, hard, seven hours’ drive over the Lebanon. I had brought nothing with me; my clothes were dry and stiff, and I was dead tired. On the road I passed our honorary dragoman. From sheer habit I called out to him, but he quickly reminded me that I had no official position now, for he turned his head the other way, and passed me by. I sent a peasant after him, but he shook his head and rode on. It was one of my reminders that “Le roi est mort.” I suppose the rule extends everywhere, but perhaps the king’s widow feels it most. It was not all like this though, for I shall never forget the kindness which was showered upon me by many during my last days in Syria.

In due time I arrived at the khan, or diligence station, where I had left my horse two days previously. I slept there for two hours. Early next morning I rode to see a friend, who kindly insisted on my staying a day with her. Here Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake, a kawwass, and servant and horse met me, and escorted me back to Bludán. I arrived home ill, tired, and harassed. I was thankful to find there a woman friend who had come over to keep me company. She was as much grieved as I was myself, and we wept together.

After the insults and neglect which had been meted out to us at Beyrout, I expected in Damascus, where official position is everything, and where women are of no account, that I should be, figuratively speaking, trampled underfoot. I was mistaken. I can never describe the gratitude, affection, and respect which were showered upon me during my last days in Syria. The news of our recall spread like wildfire. All the surrounding villagers poured in. The house and gardens at Bludán were always full of people — my poor of course, but others too. Moslems flung themselves on the ground, shedding bitter tears, and tearing their beards with grief for the loss of the man whose life the Wali had the audacity to report they wished to take. They kept asking, “What have we done that your Government should take him away from us?” “Let some of us go over to your land, and kneel at the feet of your Queen, and pray that he may be sent back to us again.” This thing went on for days and days, and I received from nearly all the country round little deputations of Shaykhs, who bore letters of affection or condolence or praise. I loved Syria so dearly it broke my heart to leave it, and always with me was the gnawing thought: How shall I tear the East out of my heart, and adapt myself again to the bustling, struggling, everyday life of Europe?

I lost no time in settling our affairs at Bludán. I paid all the bills, packed Richard’s boxes and sent them to England, broke up our establishment at Bludán, and had all that was to accompany me transferred to Damascus.

Two nights before I left Bludán I had another dream. Again Something came to me in the night, and pulled me and whispered, “Go and look after that Bedawi boy, whose grandmother took him away when you were treating him for rheumatic fever.” I was tired and miserable, and tried to sleep. I was pulled again. I remonstrated. A third time I was pulled by the wrist. “Go, go, go!” said the voice. “I will go,” I answered. At dawn I rode out in the direction where I knew his tribe was encamped. After three hours I saw some black tents in the distance, but before I got to them I met an old crone with a burden covered with sacking on her back. “Is that the boy?” I asked. “Yes,” she said; “he is very bad, and wanted to be taken to you, so I was bringing him.” I got down from my horse, and assisted her to lay the boy on the sand. I saw that death was near; he looked so wistfully at me with his big black eyes. “Is it too late?” he whispered. “Yes, my boy, it is,” I said, taking hold of his cold hand. “Would you like to see Allah?” “Yes,” he said, “I should. Can I?” “Are you very sorry for the times you have been naughty and said bad words?” “Yes,” he said; “if I get well, I will be better and kinder to grandmother.” I parted his thick, matted hair, and, kneeling, I baptized him from the flask of water I always carried about at my side. “What is that?” asked the old woman, after a minute’s silence. “It is a blessing,” I answered, “and may do him good.” I remained with him until he seemed to become insensible. I could not wait longer, as night was coming on; so I rode back, for I could do no good. I felt sure he would not see the sun rise.

When all my sad preparations were finished at Bludán, I bade adieu to the Anti-Lebanon with a heavy heart, and for the last time, choking with emotion, I rode down the mountain and through the Plain of Zebedani, with a very large train of followers. I had a sorrowful ride into Damascus. Just outside the city gates I met the Wali, driving in state with all his suite. He looked radiant, and saluted me with much empressement. I did not return his salute. However, the next time we met I had the laugh of him, for he looked very much less radiant a few days later, when the news of his own recall reached him. He fought hard to stay; and I do not wonder, for he had a splendid position. But none of Richard’s enemies have ever flourished.

At Damascus I had to go through the same sad scenes, on a much larger scale, that I had gone through at Bludán. Many kind friends, native and European, came to stay about me till the last; in fact, my farewells threatened to assume the character of a demonstration. This I was most anxious to avoid. My one anxiety now was to get away as quietly as possible. I made my preparations for departure from Damascus in the same way as I had done at Bludán. I arranged to sell everything, pay all debts, and pack and dispatch to England our personal effects. I made innumerable adieux, and tried to make provision and find a happy home for every single being, man or beast, that had been dependent upon us.

Two Moslems came to me, and offered to shoot down certain official enemies of mine from behind a rock as they passed in their carriage. A Jew also came to me, and offered to put poison in their coffee. I declined both offers, which they did not seem to understand; and they said that I was threatened and in danger, but I slept in perfect security, with all the windows and doors open. My last act was to go into our little chapel, and dress it with all the pious things in my possession. When the day of the sale of our goods arrived, I could not bear to sit in the house; so I went up to the mountain behind, and gazed down on my Salahíyyeh in its sea of green, and my pearl-like Damascus and the desert sand, and watched the sunset on the mountains for the last time.

My preparations for departure necessarily took some time. But Richard having gone, I had no place, no business, at Damascus, and I felt that it would be much better taste to leave. I began to perceive that the demonstrations in our favour were growing, and threatened to become embarrassing. The Moslems were assembling in cliques at night, and were having prayers in the mosques for Richard’s return. They continually thronged up to the house with tears and letters begging him to return, and I saw that my presence and my distress excited them the more.

Unfortunately I did not complete everything until September 12, which obliged me to brave the unlucky 13th. As half the town wanted to accompany me part of the road, and I was afraid that a demonstration might result, I determined to slip away quietly by night. Abd el Kadir and Lady Ellenborough were in the secret, and they accompanied me as far as the city gates, where I bade them an affectionate farewell. The parting with Lady Ellenborough affected me greatly. I was the poor thing’s only woman friend. As she wrung my hand these were her last words: “Do not forget your promise if I die and we never meet again.”28 I replied, “Inshallah, I shall soon return.” She rode a black thorough-bred Arab mare; and as far as I could see anything in the moonlight, her large sorrowful blue eyes, glistening with tears, haunted me.

It was thus, accompanied on my journey by Mr. Drake and two faithful dragomans, who had never deserted me, and who put themselves and all they possessed at my disposal, that I stole away from Damascus an hour before dawn.

I shall never forget that ride across the desert. I felt my heart sink as I jogged along for weary miles, wishing mental good-byes to every dearly loved object. I had felt fever coming on for some days, but I had determined not to be ill at Damascus. Now that I had left it, however, a reaction set in. When I reached that part of the Lebanon looking down upon the sea far above Beyrout, my fever had increased to such an extent that I became delirious, and I had to be set down on the roadside. Half an hour farther on the road was the village of my little Syrian girl, who was accompanying me back to England. I was carried to her father’s house and lay there for ten days very ill, and was nursed by her and my English maid. It was a trying time; but the whole family showed me every kindness and attention, and I had every comfort that the place could afford. Many friends, both English and native, came to visit me from Beyrout and from the villages round about. From here I wrote a long letter to Lord Derby, who had appointed us to Damascus, stating the true facts of the case, and exposing the falsehoods, so far as I knew them, which had led Lord Granville to weakly consent to our recall. I never rested till that cloud was lifted.

I went down to Beyrout as soon as I was well enough to move, and embarked in the Russian ship Ceres; the same ship, strange to say, that had brought me from Alexandria to Beyrout, when I first turned my face towards Damascus. As we were about to steam out an English vice-consul in the Levant gaily waved his hand to me, and cried out, “Good-bye, Mrs. Burton; I have been sixteen years in the service, and I have known twenty scoundrels go unpunished, but I never saw a consul recalled except for something disgraceful — certainly never for an Eastern pasha. You will find it is all right when you get home; they would hardly do such a thing to a man like Burton.”

We arrived at Alexandria, and I went to a hotel. I dislike Alexandria very much, and was glad to get away on board of a P. & O., the Candia, to Southampton. It was all right as far as Malta, but after that we had some very rough weather. At last our ship sighted the lights of Portland Bill, and I knew that I was at home again. These lights at night look like two great eyes, and there is always excitement when they are first seen. All the English on board rushed on deck and cheered Hurrah! It is odd how we exiles love our country, our home, and our friends; it is curious how little they think about us.

On October 14, 1871, I landed again in Old England.

28 Lady Ellenborough referred to her biography, which she had dictated to Lady Burton — the true story of her life, which Lady Burton had promised to publish for her, to clear away misrepresentations. In consequence of difficulties which subsequently arose Lady Burton did not publish it.

Chapter XVIII

The True Reasons of Burton’s Recall

No might nor greatness in mortality
Can censure ‘scape: back-wounding calumny
The whitest virtue strikes. What king so strong,
Can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue?


At this point of the narrative it is necessary to turn aside to deal with Miss Stisted’s impeachment of Lady Burton, in the matter of her husband’s recall from Damascus.

Miss Stisted asserts that the true cause of Burton’s recall was Isabel his wife, who had espoused with more zeal than discretion the cause of the Shazli converts to Christianity. She adds: “And while her husband, continually absent exploring or attending to the duties of his Consulate, knew nothing, or next to nothing, about her dangerous proceedings, she impressed upon the people that she acted with his full permission and approval.”29 It was (according to Miss Stisted) Isabel’s “imprudence and passion for proselytizing” which so enraged the Moslems and the Turkish authorities against Burton that they clamoured for his recall. Thus it is argued that “the true cause of the terrible crash in 1871” was Isabel, and Isabel alone.

This, in brief, is the sum and substance of Miss Stisted’s indictment of Lady Burton on this point. She makes her accusation without adducing a scrap or shred of evidence in support of it, and she makes it in the teeth of the most positive evidence on the other side. Let us examine her charges in the light of facts.

Fortunately, in searching for the true reasons of Burton’s recall from Damascus, I am not dependent, like Miss Stisted, on a mere opinion of my own, nor am I dependent on the testimony of Lady Burton, which, though correct in every detail, might be refused acceptance, on the plea that it was biassed. The true reasons are to be found in an official Blue Book,30 which contains a review of the whole case. This book publishes the complete correspondence, official and otherwise, for and against Burton, and comprises a review of his Consulship at Damascus from the time he was appointed, in November, 1868, to the day of his recall, in August, 1871.

It is impossible to read this correspondence dispassionately without wondering how it was that Burton was not removed from his post at Damascus before. In the brief space of two years he seems to have managed to set against himself almost every creed, nationality, and interest in Damascus. From the time he went there to the day he was recalled it was little but one long strife. Complaints to his Consul-General at Beyrout, to his Ambassador at Constantinople, to his Chief at the Foreign Office, were incessant; and as they came not from one part of the community of Damascus only, but from several, it is a marvel that the authorities at the Foreign Office, who love nothing better than that things should run, or seem to run, smoothly at the embassies and consulates, were so patient and long-suffering. That they were so forbearing was, I think, largely due to his wife — this same Isabel who, according to Miss Stisted, was responsible for her husband’s recall and the consequent ruin of his official career. It was Isabel who fought Burton’s battles on every charge against him, and she defended him against every attack. Her letters to Lord Granville, to Sir Henry Elliot, Ambassador at Constantinople, to the Consul-General at Beyrout, to Lord Derby and other influential friends in England, and to the permanent officials at the Foreign Office, explaining and defending her husband’s action in every particular, are marvels of special pleading. They are not published, because they would fill volumes; but they can be produced, if necessary.

My contention is, that Isabel had nothing to do with her husband’s recall from Damascus. On the contrary, had it not been for her, he would have been recalled long before. I also submit that she had very little to do in the matter of the Shazlis, and that little she did with her husband’s full consent and approval. Burton alone was responsible for his recall in that he managed to offend nearly every part of the community at Damascus, and so gave the Turkish authorities, who disliked him from the first, an excuse for demanding his recall. I do not say that he was wrong in every instance — far from it; he was often in the right; only it is possible to do the right thing in the wrong way, and this Burton generally did.

And now for the proofs. It is necessary to begin at the beginning. From the first Burton took up his work at Damascus with “pinioned arms,” to use his own phrase. In other words, he started with a prejudice against him. Lord Derby (then Lord Stanley), as we know, gave him the appointment; but before it was confirmed Lord Clarendon succeeded Lord Stanley at the Foreign Office, and in the interval Burton’s enemies, chiefly Protestant missionaries, who feared he was anti-missionary, took steps to work upon Lord Clarendon to prevent his appointment going forward. So strong and influential was this opposition that Lord Clarendon sent for Burton specially, and had a long conversation with him. He told him that “very serious objections” to his appointment at Damascus had reached the Foreign Office, and, although he allowed the appointment to go forward, on receiving from Burton assurances that the objections were unfounded, he warned him that, if the feeling stated to exist against him on the part of the authorities and people at Damascus should prevent the proper performance of his Consular duties, it would be the duty of the Government immediately to recall him.

In a subsequent letter Lord Clarendon directed his Secretary to repeat to Burton what he had already told him verbally.31

To this letter Burton replied: “I once more undertake to act with unusual prudence, and under all circumstances to hold myself, and myself only, answerable for the consequences.”32

Whether or not he acted with “unusual prudence” the following will show:

1. His difference with the English missionaries. — The first unpleasantness occurred in June and July, 1870, with the Superintendent of the British Syrian School at Beyrout. This gentleman, who was a Protestant missionary, came to Damascus to proselytize, and to distribute tracts among the Moslems, and doubtless acted with little discretion. Burton reprimanded him, and reported him to the Foreign Office. In this no doubt he was right; but his manner of doing it apparently inflamed many against him, especially the wife of the missionary aforesaid, who vigorously espoused her husband’s cause, and in this was supported officially by the Consul-General at Beyrout. The matter blew over for a time, but the attack was renewed again in 1871, and there was constant friction going on the whole time of Burton’s sojourn at Damascus between himself and the missionary and his wife and their friends, who were very influential persons in Syria.

2. His squabble with the Druzes. — This occurred in 1870. Here we find Burton protecting the missionaries against certain Druzes, who had plundered and maltreated two English missionaries travelling amongst them. Burton’s method of punishing the Druzes was summary. He wished to impose a fine upon them. This the Consul-General at Beyrout refused to impose, and again Burton came into conflict with his Consul-General. It was obvious that, whether the Druzes deserved to be fined or not, the man to impose the fine was not the British Consul, but the Turkish Governor-General, as they were Turkish subjects. In this matter therefore, although Burton acted with the best intentions, he exceeded his jurisdiction.

3. His dispute with the Jews. — This was one of the most serious affairs in which Burton was engaged; and here again, though there is no doubt that he was perfectly right in what he did, his manner of doing it gave dire offence. He curbed the rapacity of some Jewish money-lenders, under British protection, who wished to “sweat” the native peasantry for the payment of their unjust debts, and desired the British Consul to help them in their extortions. This Burton rightly refused to do. And a little later he arrested two Jewish boys, servants of British-protected Jews, for drawing crosses on the walls — the usual sign for an outbreak of Christian persecution at Damascus — and took away temporarily the British protection from their masters. This gave the usurers the opportunity they had been waiting for, and they wrote to the Foreign Office an untrue and unjust report, saying that the Consul was full of hatred against the Jews, and demanding his recall. Lord Granville sent a special letter, requesting to know the truth of these charges, which he described as “most serious.” Fortunately Burton was able to satisfy him, and the storm blew over. But the Jews neither forgot it nor forgave him.

4. The Greeks stone him at Nazareth. — Lady Burton has already given a long account of this incident, and there is no reason to doubt the correctness of her description. Here we find that the Greek Bishop and his people disliked Burton because he had exposed a fraudulent transaction of theirs with the Jews. But whatever was the cause, there was no doubt that they were opposed to him; and the riot, which arose from an apparently accidental cause, was really an outbreak of bitterly hostile feeling against the British Consul. The Greek Bishop of Nazareth at once drew up a grossly exaggerated report of the proceedings, which was endorsed by the Wali of Syria, and forwarded to the authorities at home. Will it be believed that Burton never sent home any report of the affair until some weeks afterwards, when he returned to Damascus, and found a telegram awaiting him from the British Ambassador at Constantinople, asking what it all meant? His silence in this matter, though not intentional, created the very worst impression among the authorities at home. Sir Henry Elliot wrote to Isabel subsequently:

“I received versions of the affair from different quarters, without having a word of explanation from Captain Burton, from whom I got letters of a date much subsequent to the occurrence.”33

Considering how very fond Burton was of referring all sorts of questions on the internal government of Syria, with which he had nothing to do, to his Ambassador at Constantinople, his silence on this occasion, in a matter with which he had all to do, was, to say the least, somewhat unfortunate.

5. His dispute with the Wali. — The Wali (the Turkish Governor-General of Syria) was, from the first, exceedingly jealous of Burton, because of his knowledge of Eastern affairs, and his habit of interfering with the internal government of the country, with which he had no concern. Corrupt though Turkish rule undoubtedly was, and is, it was no part of the British Consul’s duty to be perpetually meddling in disputes between the Wali and his subjects. Sir Henry Elliot wrote to Isabel, in reply to a letter of hers excusing her husband:

“I should not be frank if I allowed you to suppose that your letters had satisfied me that there were not grounds for the complaints which have been made of Captain Burton going beyond the proper attributions of a Consul, who ought to be very careful to avoid encroaching upon the domain of the legitimate authorities, who are responsible for the administration of their district, when he is not. He can be of great service as long as there is a proper understanding with the Government, but a very dangerous state of things is created if he makes himself a rival authority to whom the disaffected think that they can look for redress." 34

This (there is no doubt about it) Burton was always doing; and his knowledge of oriental affairs and methods made him all the more formidable to the Wali. Matters came to a head when Burton went to visit the Druzes in the Haurán, a month or two before his recall. By some means or other he spoiled the Wali’s game in that quarter; and this incensed the Governor so much against him that he tried first to have him assassinated in the desert, and that failing, demanded his recall. Of the incident Burton himself says:

“I was not aware that the Wali (Governor-General) had a political move in the Haurán which he did not wish me to see, or that, seeing, it was the signal for him to try and obtain my recall.”35

If this matter had stood alone, perhaps it would not have been sufficient ground for his recall; but coming as it did on the top of all the others, it was, I think, the most potent factor.

There was another little annoyance too about this time — that is, just before Burton’s recall. It had reference to the case of one Hasan, a Moslem converted to Christianity, whom the Wali wanted to punish, but whom Burton protected against him. Burton’s action in this matter was chivalrous and generous no doubt, but it did not tend to make him any better friends with the Wali at a time when the irritation between them was already at its height. With regard to what followed, I think that I had better give Burton’s own words, as they will show very distinctly what were the culminating causes of his recall:

“He (the Wali) actually succeeded in causing the Foreign Office to confine me to Damascus at a time when the climate was peculiarly hot and unwholesome — mid-July. I was suffering from fever, and the little English colony was all in summer quarters. He affected to look upon a trip to the Haurán as an event pregnant with evil to his administration, and actually composed a circular from me to the Druzes. I was compelled, in return, to make known Rashid Pasha’s maladministration of Syria, his prostitution of rank, his filling every post with his own sycophants, who are removed only when they have made money enough to pay for being restored; his fatuous elevation of a Kurdish party; his perjuries against the Druzes; his persistent persecution of Moslem converts to Christianity in the teeth of treaties and firmans; his own sympathy with the Greeks, and through them with Russia; and, finally, his preparations for an insurrection in Syria, should Egypt find an opportunity of declaring her independence. I meanwhile continued to push my demand for the six million piastres claimed by British subjects in Syria. My list shows a grand total of eleven, and of these five are important cases. On July 4, 1871, I wrote to the Foreign Office and to the Ambassador, urging that a Commission be directed to inquire into the subject and to settle the items found valid. I expressed a hope that I might be permitted personally to superintend the settlement of these debts, with whose every item the study of twenty-one months had made me familiar, and another six months would have seen Syria swept clean and set in order. On August 16, 1871, I was recalled suddenly, on the ground that the Moslems were fanatical enough to want my life. I have proved that to be like all the rest of Rashid Pasha’s reports — utterly false.”36

With regard to the reasons given by Lord Granville for Burton’s recall, I may say that, in a letter which he sent under Flying Seal, dated July 22, 1871, and which reached Burton on the day of his recall, he recapitulated the dispatch written to Burton by Lord Clarendon on his appointment to Damascus, reminding him of the conditions under which he was appointed to the post, and saying that the complaints which he had received from the Turkish Government in regard to his recent conduct and proceedings rendered it impossible that he should allow him to continue to perform any Consular functions in Syria, and requesting him to make his preparations for returning to England with as little delay as possible.37

I think that the foregoing statements will fully explain the true reasons which led to the recall of Burton from Damascus. It will be seen that in the above charges against Burton the question of the Shazlis does not enter; and in the face of all this evidence, how is it possible to maintain that Isabel was the true cause of her husband’s recall? The converted Shazlis, whose cause she is supposed to have espoused with fanatical zeal, hardly entered into the matter at all. Indeed, in the whole of the Blue Book from which I have quoted, there is only one reference to the Shazlis, and that is in a letter which Burton addressed to Sir Henry Elliot on the revival of Christianity among them. Miss Stisted says that Burton was as likely to assist in increasing the number of the Syrian Christians, “of whom he had the lowest opinion,” “as to join in a Shakers’ dance.” Yet in this letter to his official chief Burton dwells at length on the revival of Christianity in Syria, and calls attention to the persecution and increasing number of the converted Shazlis, and asks for instructions as to what he is to do. “The revival,” he says, “is progressing,” and “this persecution,” and he regards it in the "gravest light.”38 Also in a special letter to the Protestant missionaries Burton writes:

“Meanwhile I take the liberty of recommending to your prudent consideration the present critical state of affairs in Syria. A movement which cannot but be characterized as a revival of Christianity in the land of its birth seems to have resulted from the measure adopted by the authorities and from the spirit of inquiry which your missions have awakened in the breasts of the people. The new converts are now numbered by thousands: men of rank are enrolling themselves on the lists, and proselytizing has extended even to the Turkish soldiery.”39

All this bears out Isabel’s statement that her husband was interested in the Shazlis; but, all the same, it does not enter into the question of his recall. Even if it did, so far from acting without her husband’s consent in this matter (and she really did very little), she did nothing without his approval, for he actively sympathized in the case of the Shazlis. His letters to the missionaries and to Sir Henry Elliot form proof of this; and in face of this documentary evidence the “Shakers’ dance” theory does not hold good. Miss Stisted, however, makes her assertion without any evidence, and says that Lord Granville evaded the main question when sounded on the subject of Burton’s recall. How she became aware of the inner mind of Lord Granville is not apparent, and under the circumstances dispassionate readers will prefer the testimony of the Blue Book to her cool assumption of superior knowledge. Something more than mere assertion is needed to support a charge like this.

Equally baseless too is the insinuation against Isabel contained in the following passage:

“Significant enough it is to any unprejudiced reader that the next appointment [i.e. of Burton’s] was to a Roman Catholic country.40

The "unprejudiced reader" would probably see the significance in another light — the significance of refusing to appoint Burton again to a Mohammedan country, and of repeatedly refusing him the post he coveted at Morocco.

None of these accusations or innuendoes against Isabel can be entertained when confronted with sober facts; they are in short nothing but the outcome of a jealous imagination. Isabel the cause of her husband’s recall, the ruin of his career! She through whose interest Burton had obtained the coveted post at Damascus; she who fought his battles for him all round; she who shielded him from the official displeasure; she who obeyed his lightest wish, and whose only thought from morning to night was her husband’s welfare and advancement; she who would have died for him, — this same woman, according to Miss Stisted, deliberately behind her husband’s back ran counter to his wishes, fanned the flame of fanaticism, and brought about the crash which ruined his career! Was there ever a more improbable charge? But the accusation has overshot the mark, and, like the boomerang, it returns and injures no one but its author.

29 Miss Stisted's Life of Sir Richard Burton, p. 360. This book was published December, 1896, eight months after Lady Burton’s death.

30 The Case of Captain Burton, Late H. B. M. Consul at Damascus. Clayton & Co., Parliamentary Printing Works, 1872.

31 Vide Letter from Foreign Office to Captain Burton, June 19, 1869 (Blue Book, p. 2).

32 Letter of Captain Burton to Foreign Office, June 21, 1869 (Blue Book, p. 2).

33 Letter from Sir Henry Elliot to Lady Burton, July 12, 1871.

34 Letter from Sir Henry Elliot to Lady Burton, July 12, 1871.

35 Blue Book, p. 75.

36 Blue Book, pp. 140, 141.

37 Vide Letter from Lord Granville to Captain Burton, under Flying Seal, care of Consul-General Eldridge, July 22, 1871 (Blue Book, p. 109).

38 Vide Letter of Captain Burton to Sir Henry Elliot, July 14, 1871 (Blue Book, pp. 95, 96).

39 Letter from Captain Burton to the Rev. E. B. Frankel, Rev. J. Orr Scott, Miss James, Rev. W. Wright, and Rev. John Crawford, Bludán, July 19, 1871 (Blue Book, p. 92).

40 Miss Stisted's Life of Burton, p. 361.

Chapter XIX

The Passing of the Cloud


Tell whoso hath sorrow
Grief shall never last:
E’en as joy hath no morrow,
So woe shall go past.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

The recall from Damascus was the hardest blow that ever befell the Burtons. They felt it acutely; and when time had softened the shock, a lasting sense of the injury that had been done to them remained. Isabel felt it perhaps even more keenly than her husband. The East had been the dream of her girlhood, the land of her longing from the day when she and her lover first plighted their troth in the Botanical Gardens, and the reality of her maturer years. But the reality had been all too short. To the end of her life she never ceased to regret Damascus; and even when in her widowed loneliness she returned to England twenty years after the recall, with her life’s work well-nigh done, and waiting as she used to say, for the "tinkling of his camel’s bell,” her eyes would glow and her voice take a deeper note if she spoke of those two years at Damascus. It was easy to see that they were the crowning years of her life — the years in which her nature had full play, when in the truest sense of the term she may be said to have lived. From the time they left Damascus, though there were many years of happiness and usefulness in store for her husband and herself, things were never quite the same again. The recall seems to mark a turning-point in her life. Many of the dreams and enthusiasms of her youth were gone, though her life’s unfinished work and stern reality remained. To use her own words, “Our career was broken.”

Isabel felt the slur on her husband which the recall involved more acutely than he. Burton, though stung to the quick at the treatment the Foreign Office meted out to him for doing what he conceived to be his duty (and certainly the manner of his recall was ungracious almost to the point of brutality), was not a man given to show his feelings to the world, and he possessed a philosophy which enabled him to present a calm and unmoved front to the reverses of fortune. With his wife it was different. She was not of a nature to suffer in silence, nor to sit down quietly under a wrong. As she put it, “Since Richard would not fight his own battles, I fought them for him,” and she never ceased fighting till she had cleared away as much as possible of the cloud that shadowed her husband’s official career.

On arriving in London, she set to work with characteristic energy. It was a very different home-coming to the one she had anticipated. Two years before she had set out in the best of health and spirits, with every prospect of a long and prosperous career at Damascus for her husband and herself. Now, almost without warning, they had come home with their prospects shattered and their career broken. Nevertheless these untoward circumstances served in no way to weaken her energies; on the contrary, they seemed to lend her strength.

She found her husband occupying one room in an obscure hotel off Manchester Square, engaged as usual with his writings, and apparently absorbed in them. He seemed to have forgotten that such a place as Damascus existed. She found that he had accepted his recall literally. He had made no defence to the Foreign Office, nor sought for any explanation. He had treated the affair de haut en bas, and had left things to take their course. He in fact expressed himself to her as “sick of the whole thing,” and he took the darkest view of the future. “Are you not afraid?” he asked her, referring to their gloomy prospects. “Afraid?” she echoed. “What, when I have you?” This was the day she came back. He did not refer to the subject again, but returned to his manuscripts, and apparently wanted nothing but to be left alone.

But his wife knew him better; she knew that deep down under his seeming indifference there was a rankling sense of injustice. Her first step was to arouse him to a sense of the position. To discuss verbally matters of this kind with him, she had learnt by experience, was not easy; so she wrote to him to the following effect, and put the note between the leaves of a book he was reading:

“You tell me you have no wish to re-enter official life. Putting my own interests quite out of the question, when there are so few able men, and still fewer gentlemen, left in England, and one cannot help foreseeing very bad times coming, it makes one anxious and nervous to think that the one man whom I and others regard as a born leader of men should retire into private life just when he is most wanted. Now you are not going to be angry with me; you must be scolded. You have fairly earned the right to five or six months of domestic happiness and retirement, but not the right to be selfish. When the struggle comes on, instead of remaining, as you think, you will come to the fore and nobly take your right place. Remember I have prophesied three times for you, and this is the fourth. You are smarting under a sense of injustice now, and you talk accordingly. If I know anything of men in general, and you in particular, you will grow dissatisfied with yourself, if your present state of inaction lasts long.”

What the immediate result of this remonstrance was it is not possible to say; but Isabel’s next move was to go down to the Foreign Office, where she was already well known as one with whom the usual official evasions were of no avail. She always called herself “a child of the Foreign Office,” and she had many friends there among the permanent officials. She brought every influence she could think of to bear. She went to the Foreign Office day after day, refusing to take “No” for an answer, until at last she simply forced Lord Granville to see her; and when he saw her, she forced him to hear what she had to say. The interview resulted in his saying “that he would be happy to consider anything she might lay before him on the subject of Captain Burton’s recall from Damascus.” He could hardly have said less, and he could not well have said more. However, she took him very promptly at his word. She occupied herself for three months in getting up her husband’s case, and in inducing him to consent to its being put clearly before Lord Granville. By way of going to the root of the matter she insisted on knowing from the Foreign Office the true reasons of his recall. They gave her a long list — the list set forth in the previous chapter. She answered them point by point. Burton of course helped, and the thing was done in his name. The whole matter was subsequently published in the form of a Blue Book — the book before referred to.

The controversy between Isabel and the Foreign Office, if it can so be called, ended in January, 1872, three months after her return to England; and it terminated in a dialectical triumph for her, and the offer of several small posts for her husband, which he indignantly refused. Among others, Burton was offered Para, but would not take it. “Too small a place for me after Damascus,” he said.

The Burtons went into inexpensive lodgings, and waited for the brighter days which were slow in dawning. With characteristic pride and independence they kept their difficulties to themselves, and none knew how hard their struggle was at this time. The Burtons received a good deal of kindness in the way of hospitality. There was a general impression that they had been unfairly treated by the Government, and their friends were anxious to make it up to them. They paid many pleasant visits; among others, to one of their kindest friends, Lady Marian Alford. At her house they met Lord Beaconsfield; and at one of her parties, when the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh were present, by request of the hostess Burton dressed as a Bedawin shaykh, and Isabel as a Moslem woman of Damascus. She was supposed to have brought the Shaykh over to introduce him to English society; and though many of those present knew Burton quite well, none of them recognized him in his Arab dress until he revealed himself. The Burtons also attended a banquet at the Mansion House, which interested them more than a little; and when they wanted to make remarks — and they were in the habit of expressing themselves very freely — they spoke Arabic, thinking no one would understand it. Suddenly a man next them interrupted their criticisms by saying also in Arabic, “You are quite right; I was just thinking the same thing”: the which shows how careful one should be at public dinners.

Early in June, 1872, Burton sailed for Iceland at the request of a certain capitalist, who wished to obtain reports of some sulphur mines there, and who promised him a liberal remuneration, which eventually he did not pay. He, however, paid for Burton’s passage and travelling expenses; but as he did not pay for two Isabel was unable to accompany her husband, and during his absence she took up her abode with her father and mother. Afterwards she was very glad that she had done this. For some time past the health of Mrs. Arundell had given cause for anxiety. She had been a confirmed invalid since her stroke of paralysis ten years before, but she had borne up marvellously until the last few months, when it was visible to every one that she was failing. The end came very suddenly. Her dearly loved daughter Isabel was with her at the last. The loss of her mother, to whom she was devotedly attached, was a severe blow to Isabel. Mrs. Arundell was a woman of strength of character, ability, and piety, and possessed rare qualities of head and heart. It is scarcely necessary to say that the little cloud which had arisen between mother and daughter on the occasion of Isabel’s marriage had long since passed away; indeed it was of the briefest duration, and Mrs. Arundell came to love Burton as a son, and was very proud of him.

At the end of June, about ten months after the date of the recall from Damascus, official favour smiled upon the Burtons again. Lord Granville wrote and asked Isabel if her husband would accept the Consulate of Trieste, just vacant by the death of Charles Lever, the novelist.

Isabel was praying by her mother’s coffin that their troubles might pass away when the letter arrived, and it came to her like an answer to prayer, for their prospects were just then at their gloomiest. She at once wrote to her husband in Iceland, and was able soon after to send his acceptance of the post to Lord Granville.

Trieste, a small commercial consulate with £600 a year salary and £100 office allowance, was a sad drop after Damascus, at £1,000 a year and work of a diplomatic order. But the Burtons could not afford to refuse the offer, for their needs were pressing, and they took it in the hope of better things, which never came. Burton had a great desire to become Consul at Morocco, and he thought Trieste might lead thither. Alas! it did not; and the man who had great talents, a knowledge of more than a score of languages, and an unrivalled experience in the ways of Eastern life and oriental methods, was allowed to drag out eighteen years in the obscurity of a second-rate seaport town, where his unique qualifications were simply thrown away. He had had his chance, and had lost it. He was not a “safe man”; and England, or rather the Government, generally reserves — and wisely — the pick of the places in the public service for “safe men.” Officialdom distrusts genius — perhaps rightly; and Burton was a wayward genius indeed. However, at Trieste he could hardly get into hot water. The post was a purely commercial one; there was no work which called for any collision with the local authorities. Austria, the land of red tape, was very different to Syria. There was no Wali to quarrel with; there were no missionaries to offend, no Druzes or Greeks to squabble with; and though there were plenty of Jews, their money-lending proclivities did not come within the purview of the British Consul, and the Austrian authorities would have resented in a moment the slightest meddling with their jurisdiction. But if Burton could do no harm, he could also do little good; and his energies were cribbed, cabined, and confined. On the other hand, he was following at Trieste a distinguished man in Charles Lever, and one who, like himself, had literary tastes. It is impossible to deny that Lord Granville showed discrimination in appointing him there at the time. Trieste was virtually a sinecure; the duties were light, and every liberty was given to Burton. He was absent half his time, and he paid a vice-consul to do most of his work, thus leaving himself ample leisure for travel and his literary labours. If his lot had been thrown in a more active sphere, his great masterpiece, Alf Laylah wa Laylah (The Arabian Nights), might never have seen the light.

Isabel and her husband lost no time in making preparations for their departure. In the month of September Burton returned from Iceland, and the third week in October he left England for Trieste by sea. His wife was to adhere to her usual plan of “pay, pack, and follow” — to purchase in London the usual stock of necessary things, and follow as soon as might be by land.

In November Isabel crossed the Channel, and ran straight through to Cologne. At Cologne she saw the sights, and proceeded by easy stages down the Rhine to Mayence, and thence to Frankfort. From Frankfort she went to Wurzburg, where she called on the famous Dr. Döllinger. Thence to Innsbruck, and so on to Venice. It was fourteen years since she had visited Venice. The last occasion was during the tour which she had taken with her sister and brother-in-law before her marriage. She says: “It was like a dream to come back again. It was all there as I left it, even to the artificial flowers at the table d’hôte: it was just the same, only less gay and brilliant. It had lost the Austrians and Henry V. Court. It was older, and all the friends I knew were dispersed.” Her first act was to send a telegram to Trieste announcing her arrival, and the next to gondola all over Venice. Towards evening she thought it would be civil to call on the British Consul, Sir William Perry. The old gentleman, who was very deaf, and apparently short-sighted, greeted her kindly, and mumbled something about “Captain Burton.” Isabel said, “Oh, he is at Trieste; I am just going to join him.” “No,” said Sir William, “he has just left me.” Thinking he was rather senile, she concluded that he did not understand, and bawled into his ear for the third time, “I am Mrs. Burton, not Captain Burton, just arrived from London, and am on my way to join my husband at Trieste.” “I know all that,” he said impatiently. “You had better come with me in my gondola; I am just going to the Morocco now, a ship that will sail for Trieste.” Isabel said, “Certainly”; and much puzzled, got into the gondola, and went on board. As soon as she got down to the ship’s saloon, lo! there was her husband writing at a table. “Halloo!” he said; “what the devil are you doing here?” “Halloo!” she said; “what are you doing here?” And then they began to explain. It turned out that neither of them had received the other’s telegrams or letters.

A few days later they crossed over to Trieste. The Vice-Consul and the Consular Chaplain came on board to greet them, but otherwise they arrived at Trieste without ceremony; in fact, so unconventional was their method of arrival, that it was rumoured in the select circles of the town that “Captain Burton, the new Consul, and Mrs. Burton took up their quarters at the Hôtel de la Ville, he walking along with his gamecock under his arm, and she with her bull-terrier under hers.” It was felt that they must be a very odd couple, and they were looked at rather askance. This distrust was probably reciprocated, for at first both Isabel and her husband felt like fish out of water, and did not like Trieste at all.

Chapter XX

Early Years at Trieste


Turn thee from grief nor care a jot,
Commit thy needs to fate and lot,
Enjoy the present passing well,
And let the past be clean forgot.
For what so haply seemeth worse
Shall work thy weal as Allah wot;
Allah shall do whate’er he will,
And in his will oppose him not.

Alf Laylah Wa Laylah
(Burton’s “Arabian Nights“).

Isabel soon began to like Trieste; the place grew upon her, and later she always spoke of it as “my beloved Trieste.” She has left on record in her journal her early impressions:

“Trieste is a town of threes. It has three quarters: the oldest, Citta Vecchia, is filthy and antiquated in the extreme. It has three winds: the bora, the winter wind, cold, dry, highly electrical, very exciting, and so violent that sometimes the quays are roped, and some of the walls have iron rails let in, to prevent people being blown into the sea; the sirocco, the summer wind, straight from Africa, wet, warm, and debilitating; and the contraste, which means the two blowing at once and against each other, with all the disadvantages of both. It has three races: Italians, Austrians, and Slavs. They are all ready to cut each other’s throats, especially the Italians and the Austrians; and the result is that Trieste, wealthy though she is, wants all modern improvements, simply because the two rival parties act like the two bundles of hay in the fable, and between them the ass starves. North of Ponte Rosso is Germania, or the Austrian colony, composed of the authorities, the employés, and a few wealthy merchants, who have a crazy idea of Germanizing their little world, an impossible dream, for there are twelve thousand Italians in Trieste, who speak a sort of corrupted Venetian. One thousand of these are very rich, the others very poor. However, whether rich or poor, the Italianissimi hate their Austrian rulers like poison; and in this hatred they are joined by the mass of the wealthy Israelites, who divide the commerce with the Greeks. The wealthy Italianissimi subscribe handsomely to every Italian charity and movement, and periodically and anonymously memorialize the King of Italy. The poor take a delight in throwing large squibs, called by courtesy ‘torpedoes,’ amongst the unpatriotic petticoats who dare to throng the Austrian balls; for though Trieste is Austrian nominally, it is Italian at heart. The feud between the Italians and the Austrians goes to spoil society in Trieste; they will not intermingle. The Slavs also form a distinct party.

“I found these discordant elements a little difficult to harmonize at first. But Richard desired me to form a neutral house, as at Damascus, where politics and religion should never be mentioned, and where all might meet on a common ground. I did so, with the result that we had friends in all camps. There was an abundance of society of all kinds: Austrian, Italian, and what Ouida has called the haute Juiverie. We were in touch with them all, and they were all good-natured and amiable. Society in Trieste did not care whether you were rich or poor, whether you received or did not receive; it only asked you to be nice, and it opened its arms to you. I dare say my visiting list, private and consular, comprised three hundred families; but we had our own little clique intime, which was quite charming, and included some sixty or seventy persons.

“We women had what Richard used to call ‘hen parties’ (Kaffee gesellschaft), which is really five o’clock tea, where we would dance together, play, sing, recite, and have refreshments; but a man, except the master of the house, was never seen at these gatherings. En revanche, we had plenty of evening entertainments for both sexes.

“Some curious little local customs still lingered at Trieste. One of them was, when two friends or relations met in society, after embracing affectionately, they were wont to drop one another an elaborate curtsey. The visiting hours were from twelve till two, an impossible time; and men were expected to call in white cravats, kid gloves and evening dress. When I first came to Trieste, I was often invited en intime to afternoon tea, and was told to come ‘just as you are, my dear.’ I took the invitation literally of course; and when I arrived, I used to find the other ladies décolletées, and blazing with diamonds. I remember feeling very awkward at appearing in an ordinary costume, but my hostess said to me, ‘You know, my dear, we are so fond of our jewels; it gives us pleasure to dress even for one another; but do not do it if it bores you.’ However, later I always took care to do it, on the principle that when one is at Rome one should do as Rome does. Apart from these little social peculiarities Trieste was the most hospitable and open-hearted town, and people entertained there, if they entertained at all, on a lavish scale and right royally.

“The population of Trieste was very interesting, though a strange medley. To the east of the town the Wallachian cici, or charcoal-dealers, wore the dress of the old Danubian homes whence they came. Then there was the Friulano, with his velvet jacket and green corduroys (the most estimable race in Trieste). He was often a roaster of chestnuts at the corners of the street, and his wife was the best balie (wet nurse). She was often more bravely attired than her mistress. The Slav market-women were also very interesting. I loved to go down and talk with them in the market-place. They drove in from neighbouring villages with their produce for sale in a kind of drosky, the carretella as it was called, with its single pony harnessed to the near side of the pole. Some of the girls, especially those of Servola, were quite beautiful, with a Greek profile, and a general delicacy of form and colour which one would hardly expect to find amongst the peasantry. But their eyes were colourless; and their blonde hair was like tow — it lacked the golden ray. The dresses were picturesque: a white triangular head-kerchief, with embroidered ends hanging down the back; a bodice either of white flannel picked out with splashes of colour, or of a black glazed and plaited stuff; a skirt of lively hue, edged with a broad belt of even livelier green, blue, pink, or yellow; white stockings; and short, stout shoes. The ornaments on high days and holidays were gold necklaces and crosses, a profusion of rings and pendants. This of course was the contadina, or peasant girl. Opposed to her was the sartorella, or little tailoress, which may be said to be synonymous with the French grisette. I always called Trieste Il Paradiso delle Sartorelle, because the sartorella was a prominent figure in Trieste, and Fortune’s favourite. She was wont to fill the streets and promenades, especially on festa days, dressed à quatre épingles, powdered and rouged and coiffée as for a ball, and with or without a veil. She was often pretty, and generally had a good figure; but she did not always look ‘nice’; and her manners, to put it mildly, were very dégagées. There were four thousand of these girls in Trieste, and they filled the lower-class balls and theatres. There was a sartorella in every house, off and on. For example, a family in Trieste always had a dress to make or a petticoat, and the sartorella came for a florin a day and her food, and she worked for twelve hours, leaving off work at six, when she began her ‘evening out.’ I am fain to add the sartorella was often a sort of whited sepulchre. She was gorgeously clad without, but as a rule had not a rag, not even a chemise, underneath, unless she were ‘in luck.’ ‘In luck,’ I grieve to say, meant that every boy, youth, and man in Trieste, beginning at twelve and up to twenty-five and twenty-eight, had an affaire with a sartorella; and I may safely assert, without being malicious, that she was not wont to give her heart — if we may call it so — gratis. She was rather a nuisance in a house; though after I had been in Trieste a little while I discovered that she was an indispensable nuisance, because there was always some mending or sewing to be done. She generally turned the servants’ heads by telling them that she was going to be married to a real graf (count) as soon as he was independent of his parents — a sort of King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid over again, I suppose.


“Trieste was a beautiful place, especially the view round our bay. The hills were covered with woodland and verdure; the deep blue Adriatic was in the foreground, dotted with lateen sails; and the town filled the valley and straggled up the slopes. The sky was softly blue on a balmy day; the bees and birds, the hum of insects, the flowers and fresh air, and the pretty, animated peasants, combined to form a picture which made one feel glad to live.

“The charm of Trieste is that one can live exactly as one pleases. Richard and I drew out a line for ourselves when we first went to Trieste, and we always kept to it as closely as we could. We rose at 3 or 4 a.m. in summer, and at 5 a.m. in winter. He read, wrote, and studied all day out of consular hours, and took occasional trips for his health; and I learned Italian, German, and singing, and attended to my other duties. We took our daily exercise in the shape of an hour’s swimming in the sea, or fencing at the school, according to the weather. What with reading, writing, looking after the poor, working for the Church or for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, my day was all too short.

“The prettiest thing in Trieste was the swimming school. It was moored out at the entrance to the harbour. We used to reach it in a boat, and get hold of Tonina, the old woman who provided us with the camerino, or little stall to undress in, and who would grin from ear to ear at our chaff and the thought of her bakshísh. The women’s costumes were short trousers, with bodice or belt of blue serge or white alpaca trimmed with red. We plunged into the great vasca or basin, an acre of sea, bottomless, but enclosed on all sides with a loaded net, to keep out the sharks. There were twelve soldiers to teach beginners. They used to begin with a pole and rope, like a fishing-rod and line, and at the end of the rope was a broad belt, which went round the waist of the beginner, and you heard the incessant, ‘Eins, zwei, drei’ of the drill. Next they would lead the beginners round the edge of the basin with a rope, like pet dogs. But we adepts in swimming plunged in head first from a sort of trapeze, or from the roofs of the dressing-rooms, making a somersault on the way. The swimmers did the prettiest tricks in the water. Young married women met in the middle to shake hands and hold long conversations. Scores of young girls used to romp about, ducking each other under and climbing on each other’s backs for support, and children of three or four used to swim about like white-bait, in and out, among us all. One stout old lady used to sit lazily in the water, like a blubber fish, knitting, occasionally moving her feet. We used to call her ‘the buoy,’ and held on to her when we were tired.”

It was the custom of Isabel and her husband, whenever they went to a new place, to look out for a sort of sanatorium, to which they might repair when they wanted a change or were seedy or out of sorts. Thus, when Burton was sent to Santos, they chose São Paulo; when they were at Damascus, they pitched on Bludán; and as soon as they arrived at Trieste, they lighted upon Opçina. Opçina was a Slav village high above Trieste, and about an hour’s drive from it. This height showed Trieste and the Adriatic spread out like a map below, with hill and valley and dale waning faintly blue in the distance, and far away the Carnian Alps topped with snow. There was an old inn called Daneu’s, close to an obelisk. They took partly furnished rooms, and brought up some of their own furniture to make up deficiencies and give the place a homelike air. It was their wont to come up to Opçina from Saturday to Monday, and get away from Trieste and worries. They always kept some literary work on hand there; and sometimes, if they were in the mood for it, they would stay at Opçina for six weeks on end. The climate was very bracing.

Isabel always looked back on these few first years at Trieste as pleasant ones. After the storm and stress of Damascus, and the anxiety and depression consequent upon their recall, she found Trieste a veritable “restful harbour.” They varied their life by many journeys and excursions. Their happy hunting-ground was Venice. Whenever they could they would cross over there, order a gondola, and float lazily about the canals. She says of this time: “We lived absolutely the jolly life of two bachelors, as it might be an elder or a younger brother. When we wanted to go away, we just turned the key and left.”

It was not until they had been at Trieste six months that they settled down in a house, or rather in a flat at the top of a large building close to the sea. They began their housekeeping with very modest ideas; in fact, they had only six rooms. But Burton and his wife were fond of enlarging their boundaries, and in course of time these six rooms grew until they ran round the whole of the large block of the building. Here they lived for ten years, and then they moved to the most beautiful house in Trieste, a palazzo a little way out of the town.

One of their first expeditions was to Loretto. Thence they went to Rome, where they made the acquaintance of the English Ambassador to the Austrian Court and his wife, Sir Augustus and Lady Paget, with whom they remained great friends all the time they were at Trieste. Isabel also met Cardinal Howard, who was a cousin of hers. He was one of her favourite partners in the palmy days of Almack’s, when he was an officer in the Guards and she was a girl. Now the whirligig of time had transformed him into a cardinal and her into the wife of the British Consul at Trieste. As a devout Catholic Isabel delighted in Rome and its churches, though the places which she most enjoyed visiting were the Catacombs and the Baths of Caracalla. At Rome she got blood-poisoning and fever, which she took on with her to Florence, where they stayed for some little time. At Florence they saw a good deal of Ouida, whom they had known for some years. From Florence they went to Venice, crossed over to Trieste just to change their baggage, and then proceeded to Vienna. There was a great Exhibition going on at Vienna, and Burton went as the reporter to some newspaper. They were at Vienna three weeks, and were delighted with everything Viennese except the prices at the hotel, which were stupendous. They enjoyed themselves greatly, and were well received in what is perhaps the most exclusive society in Europe. Among other things they went to Court. Isabel attended as an Austrian countess, and took place and precedence accordingly, for the name Arundell of Wardour is inscribed in the Austrian official lists of the Counts of the Empire. There was a difficulty raised about Burton, because consuls are not admissible at the Court of Vienna. Isabel was not a woman to go to places where her husband was not admitted, and she insisted upon having the matter brought before the notice of the Emperor, though the British Embassy clearly told her the thing was impossible — Burton could not be admitted. When the Emperor heard of the difficulty through the Court officials, he at once solved it by saying that Burton might attend as an officer of the English army. The incident is a trifling one, but it is one more illustration of the untiring devotion of Isabel to her husband, and her sleepless vigilance that nothing should be done which would seem to cast a slur upon his position.41

When the Burtons returned to Trieste, Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake, who had been with them much at Damascus, and had accompanied them on their tour in the Holy Land and many other journeys in the Syrian Desert, arrived. The visit of their friend and fellow-traveller seemed to revive their old love of exploration as far as the limits of Trieste would admit, and among other excursions they went to see a great fête at the Adelsberg Caverns. These caves were stalactite caverns and grottoes not far from Trieste, and on the day of the fête they were lighted by a million candles. One of the caverns was a large hall like a domed ballroom, and Austrian bands and musicians repaired thither, and the peasants flocked down from the surrounding villages in their costumes, and made high revelry. Burton maintained that these caves were the eighth wonder of the world, but the description of them here would occupy too much space. Suffice it to say, in the words of Isabel, “When God Almighty had finished making the earth, He threw all the superfluous rocks together there.” From these caves they went to Fiume, and explored the Colosseum there, which, though not so famous as that of Rome, almost rivals it in its ruins and its interest. Another excursion was to Lipizza, the Emperor of Austria’s stud farm. It was about two hours from Trieste, and the stables and park were full of herds of thorough-bred mares, chiefly Hungarians and Croats. Lipizza was alway a favourite drive of the Burtons.

“Charley’s” visit revived many memories of Damascus, and he was the bearer of news from many friends there. He seemed to bring with him “a breath from the desert,” and they were loath to let him go. They accompanied him to Venice, where he took his leave of them; and they never saw him again. He died the following year at Jerusalem, at the age of twenty-eight. He was buried in the English burial-ground on Mount Zion, the place where they had all three sat and talked together and picked flowers one afternoon three years before. It was largely at his suggestion that Isabel determined to write her Inner Life of Syria, and she unearthed her note-books and began to write the book soon after he left. He was a great friend, almost a son to them, and they both felt his loss bitterly.

About this time Maria Theresa, Contessa de Montelin, ex-Queen of Spain, when she was on her death-bed, sent for Isabel, and charged her to keep up, maintain, and promote certain pious societies which she had started in Trieste. One of these was “The Apostleship of Prayer,” whose members, women, were to be active in doing good works, corporally and spiritually, in Trieste. This guild was one of two good works to which Isabel chiefly devoted herself during her life at Trieste. The other was a branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the care of animals generally, a subject always very near her heart. “The Apostleship of Prayer,” the legacy of the ex-Queen of Spain, so grew under Isabel’s hand that the members increased to fifteen thousand. They elected her president, and she soon got the guild into thorough working order, dividing the members into bands in various quarters of the city of Trieste.

There is not much to relate concerning Isabel’s life at Trieste for the first few years. It was uneventful and fairly happy: it would have been quite happy, were it not for the regret of Damascus, where they were then hoping to return, and the desire for a wider sphere of action. Both she and her husband managed to keep in touch with world in a wonderful way, and did not let themselves drop out of sight or out of mind. One of the reliefs to the monotony of their existence was that, whenever an English ship came into port with a captain whom they knew, they would dine on board and have the delight of seeing English people, and they generally invited the captain and officers and the best passengers back again. The Burtons had a good many visitors from England, most of them well-known personages, who, when they stopped at Trieste, a favourite resting-place for birds of passage, always made a point of calling upon them. Among others was Lord Llandaff, then Mr. Henry Matthews, who had many things in common with Isabel. Owing to their lives being cast on different lines, they only saw one another at intervals, but they always entertained a feeling of mutual friendship. From the many letters he wrote to her I am permitted to publish this one:

“Dear Mrs. Burton,

“Of course I have not forgotten you. I never forget. Was it last week, or sixteen years ago, that you were standing in this room with the chequered sunlight shining through the Venetian blind upon you, as you discoursed about Heaven and Grace and an attorney in the City who was not one of the elect?

“I never knew you were in Venice this autumn, and, as it happened, it was fortunate I did not go to Trieste to see you, since you were away. I grieve very much to hear of your bad health. It seems to me you do too much. The long list of occupations which you call ‘repose’ is enough to wear out any constitution, even one which is so admirably knit as yours. Don’t be like the lady in Pope’s satire, and ‘die of nothing but a rage to live.’ There is one part of your labours, however, for which I, with all the rest of the world, shall be thankful; and that is your new book. I shall look for it with impatience, and feel sure of its success.

“I wish you were not going to Arabia; but I know how you understand and fulfil the part of wife to a knight-errantry of discovery. Be as prudent and sparing of yourself as you can.

“Yours ever,

“Henry Matthews.”

After they had been at Trieste two years, at the end of 1874 Burton proposed that his wife should go to England and transact some business for him, and bring out certain books which he had written. He would join her later on. Isabel was exceedingly unwilling to go; but “whenever he put his foot down I had to do it, whether I would or no.” So she went, and arrived in London in December, after an uneventful journey.

Isabel found her work cut out for her in London. Her husband had given her several pages of directions, and she tried to carry them out as literally as possible. She had to see a number of publishers for one thing, and to work up an interest in a sulphur mine for another. She says: “I got so wrapped up in my work at this time that sometimes I worked for thirteen hours a day, and would forget to eat. I can remember once, after working for thirteen hours, feeling my head whirling, and being quite alarmed. Then I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to eat all day.” She had also the proof-sheets to correct of her own book, which was going through the press. She was in London without her husband for four months, and during that time she had a great shock. A paragraph appeared in The Scotsman announcing Burton’s death, and speaking of her as his widow. She telegraphed to Trieste at once, and packed up. Just as she was starting she got a telegram from him saying, “I am eating a very good dinner at table d’hôte.”

Early in May Burton joined her on a lengthy leave of absence, and they did a great deal of visiting, and enjoyed themselves generally. Isabel’s Inner Life of Syria was published at this time, and she was very anxious about it. It had taken sixteen months to write. The evening of the day on which it made its appearance she went to a party, and the first person she saw whom she knew was a well-known editor, who greeted her with warm congratulations on her book. She says, “It made me as happy as if somebody had given me a fortune.”

From the portrait by the late Lord Leighton.

The favourable reception which was accorded to The Inner Life of Syria, which was largely devoted to a defence of her husband's action when Consul at Damascus, encouraged Isabel to proceed further on his behalf. So she wrote to, or interviewed, every influential friend she knew, with a view of inducing the Government to make Burton K. C. B., and she prepared a paper setting forth his claims and labours in the public service, which was signed by thirty or forty of the most influential personages of the day. She also induced them to ask that Burton should either return to Damascus, or be promoted to Morocco, Cairo, Tunis, or Teheran. Unfortunately her efforts met with no success, though she renewed them again through another source three years later. In one sense, however, she succeeded; for though she could not convert the Government to her view, the press unanimously took up the cause for Burton, and complained that the Government did not give him his proper place in official life, and called him the “neglected Englishman.” As for Burton himself, he took no part in this agitation, except to thank his friends and the press generally for their exertions on his behalf.

They went down to Oxford at Commemoration to visit Professor Jowett and others. At Oxford they met with an ovation. In London they passed a very pleasant season, for private personages seemed anxious to make up for official neglect. This year Frederick Leighton’s famous picture of Burton was exhibited in the Royal Academy. Among other celebrated people whom they met was Mr. Gladstone, at Lord Houghton’s. Of Burton’s meeting with Mr. Gladstone Isabel relates the following: “Very late in the evening Mrs. Gladstone said to me, 'I don’t know what it is; I cannot get Mr. Gladstone away this evening’; and I said to her, ‘I think I know what it is; he has got hold of my husband, Richard Burton, and they are both so interested in one another, and have so many points of interest to talk over, that I hope you will not take him away.’”

The season over, Burton started on another trip to Iceland; and Isabel was left alone, during which time she paid some visits to the Duke and Duchess of Somerset at Bulstrode, always kind friends of hers, and to Madame von Bülow at Reigate. Madame von Bülow was the wife of the Danish Minister in London, and one of Isabel’s most intimate friends — a friendship which lasted all her life.

When Burton returned from Iceland, he went off to Vichy for a cure, and rejoined his wife in London in the autumn; and they went out a great deal, chiefly in scientific, literary, and artistic circles. This year was in some respects one of the pleasantest of Isabel’s life. Her book had come out, and was a great success; she had been fêted by all her friends and relations; and though her efforts to obtain promotion for her husband had not met with the success which they deserved, yet the kind encouragement which she received from influential friends, who, though not members of the Government, were yet near the rose, made her hope that better days were soon to come.

In December Burton, finding that he had still six months’ leave, asked his wife where she would like to go best. She answered, “India.” It had long been her desire to go there with her husband, and get him to show her all the familiar spots which he had described to her as having visited or lived at during his nineteen years’ service in India. Burton was delighted with the idea. So they got a map, cut India down the middle lengthways from Cashmere to Cape Comorin, and planned out how much they could manage to see on the western side, intending to leave the eastern side for another time, as the season was already too far advanced for them to be able to see the whole of India.

41 Lady Burton thus describes her visit to the Austrian Court: “I was very much dazzled by the Court. I thought everything was beautifully done, so arranged as to give every one pleasure, and somehow it was the graciousness that was in itself a welcome. I shall never forget the first night that I saw the Empress — a vision of beauty, clothed in silver, crowned with water-lilies, with large rows of diamonds and emeralds round her small head and her beautiful hair, and descending all down her dress in festoons. The throne-room is immense, with marble columns down each side — all the men arranged on one side and all the women on the other, and the new presentations with their ambassadors and ambassadresses nearest the throne. When the Emperor and Empress came in, they walked up the middle, the Empress curtseying most gracefully and smiling a general gracious greeting. They then ascended the throne, and presently the Empress turned to our side. The presentations first took place, and she spoke to each one in her own language, and on her own particular subject. I was quite entranced with her beauty, her cleverness, and her conversation. She passed down the ladies’ side, and then came up that of the men, the Emperor doing exactly the same as she had done. He also spoke to us. Then some few of us whose families the Empress knew about were asked to sit down, and refreshments were handed to us — the present Georgina Lady Dudley sitting by the Empress. It was a thing never to be forgotten to have seen those two beautiful women sitting side by side. The Empress Frederick of Germany — Crown Princess she was then — was also there, and sent for some of us on another day, which was in many ways another memorable event, and her husband also came in.” (Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Isabel his wife, vol. ii., pp. 24, 25).

Chapter XXI42

The Journey to Bombay


As we meet and touch each day
The many travellers on the way,
Let every such brief contact be
A glorious helpful ministry —
The contact of the soil and seed,
Each giving to the other’s need,
Each helping on the other’s best,
And blessing each, as well as blest.

On December 4, 1875, we left London for Trieste, en route for India. It was not a cheerful day for saying good-bye to Old England and dear friends. There was a fog as black as midnight, thick snow was lying about the streets, and a dull red gloom only rendered the darkness visible and horrible. The great city was wrapped in the sullen splendours of a London fog. “It looks,” said Richard, “as if the city were in mourning for some great national crime.” “No,” I said, “rather let us think that our fatherland wears mourning for our departure into exile once more.” I felt as if I could never rise and face the day that morning. However, we had to go, so there was nothing to do but put our shoulders to the wheel. We lunched with my father and family by lamplight at one o’clock in the day. We prolonged the “festive” meal as much as we could, and then set out, a large family party, by the 4.45 train to Folkestone. We all had supper together at Folkestone, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The next day my relations wished me good-bye — always a hard word to say. One parting in particular wrung my heart: I little thought then I should meet no more my brother Rudolph, the last of my four dear brothers, all of whom died young by untoward accidents. It was strange I was always bidding good-bye to them every three or four years. One ought to have been steeled to parting by now. Nevertheless every time the wrench was as keen as ever.

We stopped in Folkestone until Tuesday, and then Richard and I got into a sleigh, which took us over the snow from the hotel to the boat. We had a very cold crossing, but not a rough one; and as we neared Boulogne we even saw a square inch or so of pale blue sky, a sight which, after London, made us rejoice.

The old port at Boulogne stretched out its two long lean arms to our cockle-shell of a steamer, as though anxious to embrace it. I thought, as we came into the harbour, how much this quaint old town had been bound up with my life. I could never see it without recalling the two years which I had spent in Boulogne years ago, and going over again in my mind the time when I first saw Richard — the day of my life which will always be marked with a great white stone. He was a young lieutenant then on furlough from India, just beginning to spring into fame, and I a mere girl, who had seen nothing of life but one hurried London season.

We stayed at Boulogne two days, and we wandered about all over the place together, calling back to our memory the scenes of our bygone youth. We walked on the old Ramparts where we first made acquaintance, where Richard used to follow my sister Blanche and myself when we were sent out to learn our lessons al fresco. We even saw the wall where he chalked up, “May I speak to you?” and I chalked back, “No; mother will be angry.” I hunted out my little brother’s grave too, and planted it with fresh rose trees; and I visited my old friend Carolina, the Queen of the Poissardes. She was still a beautiful creature, magnificent in her costume. She reminded me of a promise I had made her in the old days, that if ever I went to Jerusalem I would bring her a rosary. I little dreamt then that I should marry Richard Burton, or that he would be Consul at Damascus, or that I should go to Jerusalem. Yet all these things had come to pass. And so I was able to fulfil my promise, to her great delight.

From Boulogne we went to Paris, which I found terribly changed since the Franco-German War. The marks of the terrible Siege were still burnt upon its face; and this applied not only to the city itself, but to the people. The radical changes of the last five years, and the war and the Commune, had made a new world of Paris. The light, joyous character of the French was no doubt still below the surface, but the upper crust was then (at least so it struck me) one of sulkiness, silence, and economy run mad, a rage for lucre, and a lust pour la revanche. Even the women seemed to have given up their pretty dresses, though of course there were some to be seen. Yet things were very different now to what they had been under the splendours of the Second Empire, that Empire which went “like a dream of the night.” The women seemed to have become careless, an unusual thing in Parisiennes: they even painted badly; and it is a sin to paint — badly. I am afraid that I am one of the very few women who do not like Paris. I never liked it, even in its palmy days; and now at this time I liked it less than ever. I was so glad to leave at the end of the week, and to move out of the raw, white fog sunwards. We had a most uncomfortable journey from Paris to Modane, and the officials at the Customs seemed to delight in irritating and insulting one. When I was passing into the custom-pen, I was gruffly addressed, “On ne passe pas!” I said, “On ne passe pas? Comment on ne passe pas?” The only thing wanting, it seemed, was a visiting-card; but the opportunity of being safely insolent was too tempting to the Jack-in-office for him to pass it over. I could not help feeling glad these braves had never reached Berlin; they would have made Europe uninhabitable. France was charming as an empire or as a monarchy, but as a brand-new republic it was simply detestable.

We went on to Turin, where we stayed for a day or two; and while here I sent a copy of my Inner Life of Syria to the Princess Margherita of Savoy, now Queen of Italy, who was pleased to receive the same very graciously. From Turin we went to Milan, where we lapsed into the regular routine of Italian society, so remarkable for the exquisite amenity of its old civilization (as far as manners are concerned), and for the stiffness and mediæval semi-barbarism of its surroundings. As an instance of this we had occasion to call on a personage to whom we had letters of introduction. We sent in our letters with a visiting-card by the porter, asking when we should call. The reply was, “Va bene,” which was pleasant, but vague. We took heart of grace, and asked at the door, “Is the Signor Conte visible?” The janitor replied, “His Excellency receives at 8 o’clock p.m.” We replied, “At that time we shall be on the railway.” The domestic, with leisurely movement, left us in the hall, and dawdled upstairs to report the remarkable case of the importunate English. By-and-by he returned, and showed us into the saloon, a huge, bare, fireless room, with a few grotesque photographs and French prints on the walls, and a stiff green sofa and chairs. The Signor Conte kept us waiting twenty minutes, whilst he shaved and exchanged his dressing-gown for the suit of sables which is the correct raiment of the Latin race. Nothing could be more polished than his manners. He received us with a cordiality which at once won our hearts. But we were introduced to him by a bosom friend; our pursuits and tastes were the same. Why then could not he ask us up to his cosy study to give us coffee and a cigarette? “Sarebbe proprio indecente” (“It would really be too rude”), was the reply, although both he and we would have liked it extremely. So for want of time to crack this hard nutshell we never got at the kernel.

From Milan we went to Venice, which we found enveloped in a white fog, with a network of lagoons meandering through streets of the foulest mud. Venice is pre-eminently a hot-weather city. In winter, with her cold canals and wet alleys, deep rains and dense mists, her huge, unwarmed palaces, and her bare, draughty hotels, she is a veritable wet place of punishment. We stayed in Venice for some days, and made several pleasant acquaintances. I had with me a German maid, who had never seen Venice. She went in a gondola for the first time, and was at the highest pitch of excitement at finding that all was water. She marvelled at the absence of cabs and dust, and exclaimed perpetually, “Nothing but water, water everywhere”; which we naturally capped with, “But not a drop to drink,” until I believe she fancied that drink was the only thing we English ever thought of.

On December 23 we went across to Trieste by the midnight boat, and next morning I was at Trieste again, my much-loved home of four years and a half. I found it all to a hair as I had left it just a year ago, for I had been absent twelve months in England. Christmas Night, however, was a little sad. We had accepted an invitation for a Christmas dinner, and had given the servants leave to go out to see their friends; but Richard was unfortunately taken ill, and could not dine out, and he went to bed. Of course I stayed with him; but we had nobody to cook for us, nor anything to eat in the house except bread and olives. I went to the pantry and foraged, and with this simple fare ate my Christmas dinner by his bedside.

We stopped in Trieste eight days, just to pack up and complete arrangements for our tour; and on the last day of the old year we left for Jeddah. We were aware that we were starting for India two or three months too late, and would have to encounter the heat and fatal season to accomplish it; but as Richard said, “Consuls, like beggars, can’t be choosers,” and we were only too glad to be able to go at all. Everybody was most kind to us, and a lot of friends came to a parting midday dinner, and accompanied us to our ship to see us off. The Government boat, containing the Capitaine du Port and the sailors, in uniform, took us to our ship, an honour seldom accorded to any but high Austrian officials; and the Duke of Würtemberg, Command-in-chief at Trieste, and several others came to wish us “God-speed.” I shall never forget their kindness, for I appreciated the honour which they did to Richard. It is strange how much more willing those in authority abroad were to do him justice than the Government at home.

The run from Trieste to Port Said occupied six days and six nights. Our ship was the Calypso (Austrian Lloyd’s), a good old tub, originally built for a cattleboat. We were the only passengers, and, with the captain and his officers, we made a family party, and I was never more comfortable on board ship in my life. The voyage to Port Said has been so often described that I need not dwell upon it again. We had fair weather for the first five days, and then there was a decided storm, which, however, did not last long. One gets so knocked about in a steamer that baths are impossible; one can only make a hasty toilet at the most, being obliged to hold on to something, or be knocked the while from one end of the cabin to the other; one dines, so to speak, on the balance, with the food ever sliding into one’s lap. Our boat danced about throughout the voyage in a most extraordinary manner, which made me think that she had but little cargo. I spent most of the time on deck, “between blue sea and azure air,” and I did a good deal of reading. I read Moore’s Veiled Prophet of Khorassán and other books, including Lalla Rookh and The Light of the Harím; also Smollet’s Memoirs of a Lady of Quality, which I found coarse, but interesting. Some one told me that a course of Smollett was more or less necessary to form one for novel-writing, so I took that and The Adventures of Roderick Random on board to study, in case I should ever write a novel. I felt rather displeased when Smollett’s Lady of Quality married her second husband, and quite bouleversée long before I arrived at her fifteenth lover.

Port Said shows itself upon the southern horizon in two dark lines, like long piles or logs of wood lying upon the sea, one large and one some small. These are the white town and the black town, apparently broken by an inlet of sea, and based upon a strip of yellow sand. The sea is most unwholesome and stagnant. The houses of Port Said looked like painted wooden toys. The streets were broad, but the shops were full of nothing but rubbish, and were surround by dogs and half-naked, dark-brown gutter-boys. There is a circular garden in the centre of the European part, with faded flowers, and a kiosk for the band to play in. The most picturesque and the dirtiest part is the Arab town, with its tumble-down houses and bazar. The people wear gaudy prints and dirty mantles bespangled with gold. There were a great many low-class music-halls and gambling- and dancing-saloons. Port Said is in fact a sort of Egyptian Wapping, and I am told the less one knows about its morals the better.

While we were strolling about the Arab part, my German maid, who was in an Eastern place for the first time, came upon a man filling a goat-skin with water. She saw a pipe and the skin distending, and heard the sound. She had often heard me say how cruel the Easterns were to animals; and knowing my tenderness on that point, she ran after me in a great state of excitement, and pulled my arm, crying out, ”O Euer Gnaden! The black man is filling the poor sow with gas! Do come back and stop him!”

Port Said.

The next morning early we began to steam slowly up the long ditch called the Canal, and at last to the far east we caught a gladdening glimpse of the desert — the wild, waterless Wilderness of Sur, with its waves and pyramids of sand catching the morning rays, with it shadows of mauve, rose pink, and lightest blue, with its plains and rain-sinks, bearing brown dots, which were tamarisks (manna trees). The sky was heavenly blue, the water a deep band of the clearest green, the air balmy and fresh. The golden sands stretched far away; an occasional troop of Bedawin with their camels and goats passed, and reminded me of those dear, dead days at Damascus. It all came back to me with a rush. Once more I was in the East. I had not enjoyed myself so much with Nature for four years and a half. With the smell of the desert air in our nostrils, with Eastern pictures before our eyes, we were even grateful for the slowness of the pace at which we travelled. They were the pleasantest two days imaginable, like a river picnic. We reached Suez, with its air of faded glory, at length; and there we shipped a pious pilot, who said his prayers regularly, and carefully avoided touching my dog. Of course he was from Mecca; but, unhappily for his reputation, the first night spent at Jeddah gave him a broken nose, the result of a scrimmage in some low coffee-house.

At last we neared Jeddah, the port of Mecca. The approach was extraordinary. For twenty miles it is protected by Nature’s breakwaters, lines of low, flat reefs, barely covered, and not visible until you are close upon them. There was no mark or lighthouse save two little white posts, which might easily be mistaken for a couple of gulls. In and out of these reefs the ship went like a serpent. There was barely passage for it between them; but of course no pilot would attempt it save in broad daylight. At length we reached the inner reef. We found the open roadstead full of ships, with hardly room to swing, and a strong north-west wind, so that we could not get a place. We ran right into the first at anchor, the Standard, a trading-ship of Shields, built of iron. Richard and I were standing on the bridge, and he touched my arm and said:

“By Jove! We’re going right into that ship.”

“Oh no,” I answered; “with the captain and the pilot on the bridge, and all the crew in the forecastle, it can only be a beautiful bit of steering. We shall just shave her.”

The words were scarcely out of my mouth when smash went our bulwarks like brown paper, and our yardarms crumpled like umbrellas. I had jokingly threatened them with the “thirteenth” the day before, but they had laughed at me.

“Il tredici!” shouted the second officer, as he flew by us.

The crews of both ships behaved splendidly, and the cry on board our ship was, “Where is the English captain? I do not see him.”

“No,” we answered, “you do not see him, but we can hear him.” And sure enough there he was all right, and swearing quite like himself. There is nothing like an Englishman for a good decisive order; and who can blame him if he adds at such times a little powder to drive the shot home?

We were about three hours disentangling ourselves.

I was delighted with my first view of Jeddah. It is the most bizarre and fascinating town. It looks as if it were an ancient model carved in old ivory, so white and fanciful are the houses, with here and there a minaret. It was doubly interesting to me, because Richard came here by land from his famous pilgrimage to Mecca. Mecca lies in a valley between two distant ranges of mountains. My impression of Jeddah will always be that of an ivory town embedded in golden sand.

We anchored at Jeddah for eight days, which time we spent at the British Consulate on a visit. The Consulate was the best house in all Jeddah, close to the sea, with a staircase so steep that it was like ascending the Pyramids. I called it the Eagle’s Nest, because of the good air and view. It was a sort of bachelors’ establishment; for in addition to the Consul and Vice-Consul and others, there were five bachelors who resided in the building, whom I used to call the “Wreckers,” because they were always looking out for ships with a telescope. They kept a pack of bull-terriers, donkeys, ponies, gazelles, rabbits, pigeons; in fact a regular menagerie. They combined Eastern and European comfort, and had the usual establishment of dragomans, kawwasses, and servants of all sizes, shapes, and colour. I was the only lady in the house, but we were nevertheless a very jolly party.

Our first excursion was to Eve’s Tomb, as it is called, a large curious building in a spacious enclosure. Two or three holy people are buried here, and the place commands a lovely view of the distant mountains, beyond which lies Mecca.

The inhabitants of Jeddah are very interesting in many ways. There are some two hundred nautch-girls there; but they are forbidden to dance before men, though I have heard that the law can be evaded on occasions. In the plains there are two different types of Arabs: the Bedawin, and the “settled men.” The latter are a fine, strong, healthy race, though very wild and savage. We used frequently to ride out into the desert and make excursions. I would have given anything to have gone to Mecca. It was hard to be so near, and yet to have to turn round and come back. There was a rumour that two Englishmen had gone up to Mecca for a lark, and had been killed. This was not true. But all the same Mecca was not safe for a European woman, and it was not the time to show my blue eyes and broken Arabic on holy ground. I therefore used to console myself by returning from our expeditions in the desert through the Mecca Gate of Jeddah, and then riding through the bazars, half dark and half lit, to see the pilgrims’ camels. The bazars literally swarmed with a picturesque and variegated mob, hailing from all lands, and of every race and tongue. We were not interfered with in any way; though had it been 1853, the year when Richard went to Mecca, to have taken these rides in the desert, and to have walked through the Mecca Gate, would most certainly have cost us our lives. I also saw the khan where Richard lived as one of these pilgrims in 1853, and the minaret which he sketched in his book on Mecca. While we were at Jeddah the Governor and all those who knew the story of his pilgrimage to Mecca called on us, and were very civil.

Arab Camel-Drivers.

Our days at Jeddah were very pleasant ones. In the evening we used to sit outside the Consulate, and have some sherry and a cigarette, and play with the dogs. One evening Richard came in and discovered me anxiously nursing what I thought was a dying negro. He was very angry, for he found him to be only drunk, and there was a great shout of merriment among all our colony in the Consulate — “my boys,” as I used to call them — when the truth came out. These terrible boys teased the negro by putting snuff up his nose. They were awful boys, but such fun. They were always up to all sorts of tricks. When the food was bad, they used to call the cook in, and make him eat it. “What’s this?” they would say. “No! no! Massa; me lose caste.” “Hold your tongue, you damned scoundrel! Eat it directly.” One day it was seven big smoked onions which the cook had to consume. I am bound to say that it had a good effect upon him, for the table was certainly excellent after this. I wish we could follow some such plan in England with our cooks. Even more did I wish we could do so at Trieste. I thought the dogs were worse than the boys. There were about ten bull-dogs in the house. They used to worry everything they saw, and sent every pariah flying out of the bazars. Since I left Jeddah I heard that the natives had poisoned all these dogs, which I really think served the boys right, but not the dogs. I remember too, on one or two occasions, when we were riding out Meccawards, my horse was so thin and the girths were so large that my saddle came round with me, and I had a spill on the sand, which greatly delighted the boys, but did not hurt me.

I was so sorry to part with them all; we were good friends together. But after eight exceedingly pleasant days at Jeddah we received notice to embark, and we had to say good-bye and go on board the Calypso. The sea was very rough, and I sat on a chair lashed to the deck. The Calypso was bound for Bombay, and had taken on board at Jeddah and stowed away some eight hundred pilgrims, who were returning to India from Mecca. They were packed like cattle, and as the weather was very rough the poor pilgrims suffered terribly. The waves were higher than the ship. I crawled about as well as I could, and tried to help the pilgrims a little. The second day one of them died, and was buried at sunset. I shall never forget that funeral at sea. They washed the body, and then put a strip of white stuff round the loins, and a bit of money to show that he is not destitute when he arrives in the next world. Then they tied him up in a sheet, and with his head and feet tied he looked just like a big white cracker. He was then laid upon a shutter with a five-pound bar of iron bound to his feet, and after a short Arabic prayer they took him to the side and hurled him over. There was no mourning or wailing among the pilgrims. On the contrary, they all seemed most cheerful over this function; and of course, according to their way of thinking, a man would be glad to die, as he went straight to heaven. But I am bound to say that it had a most depressing effect upon me, for we had twenty-three funerals in twelve days. They seemed to take it very much as a matter of course; but I kept saying to myself, “That poor Indian and I might both be lying dead to-day. There would be a little more ceremony over me, and (not of course including my husband) my death would cast a gloom over the dinner-table possibly a couple of days. Once we were shunted down the ship’s side, the sharks would eat us both, and perhaps like me a little better, as I am fat and well fed, and do not smell of cocoa-nut oil; and then we would both stand before the throne of God to be judged — he with his poverty, hardships, sufferings, pilgrimage, and harmless life, and I with all my faults, my happy life, my luxuries, and the little wee bit of good I have ever done or ever thought, to obtain mercy with; only equal that our Saviour died for us both.”

I can hardly express what I suffered during that fortnight’s voyage on board the pilgrim-ship. It was an experience which I would never repeat again. Imagine eight hundred Moslems, ranging in point of colour through every shade from lemon or café au lait to black as ebony; races from every part of the world, covering every square inch of deck, and every part of the hold fore and aft, packed liked sardines, men, women, and babies, reeking of cocoa-nut oil. It was a voyage of horror. I shall never forget their unwashed bodies, their sea-sickness, their sores, the dead and the dying, their rags, and last, but not least, their cookery. Except to cook or fetch water or kneel in prayer, none of them moved out of the small space or position which they assumed at the beginning of the voyage. Those who died did not die of disease so much as of privation and fatigue, hunger, thirst, and opium. They died of vermin and misery. I shall never forget the expression of dumb, mute, patient pain which most of them wore. I cannot eat my dinner if I see a dog looking wistfully at it. I therefore spent the whole day staggering about our rolling ship with sherbet and food and medicines, treating dysentery and fever. During my short snatches of sleep I dreamt of these horrors too. But it was terribly disheartening work, owing to their fanaticism. Many of them listened to me with more faith about food and medicines because I knew something of the Korán, and could recite their Bismíllah and their call to prayer.

At last we arrived at Aden, where a troop of Somali lads came on board, with their bawling voices and their necklaces and their mop-heads of mutton wool, now and then plastered with lime. They sell water, firewood, fowls, eggs, and so forth. We landed at Aden for a few hours. It is a wild, desolate spot; the dark basalt mountains give it a sombre look. Richard and I spent some hours with the wife of the Governor, or Station Commandant, at her house. It was terribly hot. I think it was Aden where the sailors reappeared who had died and gone to a certain fiery place; and and on being asked why they came back, they replied that they had caught cold, and had got leave to come home and fetch their blankets!

We returned at half-past four in the afternoon to our ship and the pilgrims. The weather that night became very rough, and during the night a Bengali fell overboard. His companion, who witnessed the accident, said nothing; and on being asked later where he was, replied casually, “I saw him fall overboard about three hours ago." Such are the ways of these peculiar pilgrims. They have no more sympathy for one another than cattle. None would give a draught of water to the dying; and as for praying over the corpses before throwing them overboard, if they could help it they would scarcely take the trouble. It was too rough all the next day for reading or writing; and to add to our discomfort two Russian passengers got drunk, and fought at the table, and called each other “liar and coward,” “snob and thief,” “spy and menial,” and other choice epithets. However, their bark was worse than their bite, for they cooled down after they had succeeded in upsetting us all.

I staggered about on deck for the next few days as much as possible, and again did what I could for the pilgrims, but it was weary work. I doctored several of them, but our Russian passengers aforesaid brought me word later that when those who must in any case have expired, died, the others said it was I who poisoned them; and that was all the thanks I got for my pains. If it were so, I wonder why did the whole ship run after me for help? One old man said, “Come, O bountiful one, and sit a little amongst us and examine my wife, who has the itch, and give her something to cure it.” But I got wary, and I said, “If I were to give her any medicine, she will presently die of weakness, and I shall be blamed for her death.” However, I did what I could. In some of the cases I asked my maid to come and help me; but she turned away in disgust, and said, “No thank you; I have the nose of a princess, and cannot do such work.” And really it was horrible, for many came to me daily to wash, clean, anoint, and tie up their feet, which were covered with sores and worms.

On January 30 a north-east wind set in with violence. Every one was dreadfully sick. The ship danced like a cricket-ball, and the pilgrims howled with fright, and six died. The next day the weather cleared up, and it lasted fine until we reached Bombay. We had a delightful evening, with balmy air, crescent moon, and stars, and the Dalmatian sailors sang glees. That day another pilgrim died, and was robbed. His body was rifled of his bit of money as he lay dying, and they fought like cats before his eyes for the money he had been too avaricious to buy food with and keep himself alive.

At last, betimes, on February 2, the thirty-third day after leaving Trieste, a haze of hills arose from the eastward horizon, and we knew it to be India. Then the blue water waxed green, greenish, and brown, like to liquid mud. The gulls became tamer and more numerous, and jetsam and flotsam drifted past us. We sighted land very early. As we were running in the pilot came alongside, and called up to the captain, “Have you any sickness on board?” The answer was, “Yes.” “Then,” said the pilot, “run up the yellow flag. I will keep alongside in a boat, and you make for Butcher’s Island” (a horrible quarantine station). I was standing on the bridge, and, seeing the yellow flag hoisted, and hearing the orders, felt convinced that there was a mistake. So I made a trumpet with my hands, and holloaed down to the pilot, “Why have you run up that flag? We have got no disease.” “Oh yes you have; either cholera or small-pox or yellow jack.” “We have nothing of the sort,” I answered. “Then why did the captain answer ‘Yes’?” he replied. “Because it is the only English word he knows,” I cried. Then he asked me for particulars, and said he would go off for the doctor, and we were to stand at a reasonable distance from Bombay. This took place in a spacious bay, surrounded by mountains, a poor imitation of the Bay of Rio. Presently the doctor arrived. Richard explained, and we were allowed to land. I shall never forget the thankfulness of the pilgrims, or the rush they made for the shore. They swarmed like rats down the ropes, hardly waiting for the boats. They gave Richard and me a sort of cheer, as they attributed their escape from quarantine to our intervention. Indeed, if we had been herded together a few more days, some disease must have broken out.

And thus we set foot in India.

42This and the next chapter are compiled from the original notes from which Lady Burton wrote her A. I. E. and sundry letters and diaries. By so doing I am able to give the Indian tour in her own words.

Chapter XXII



Where’er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart, untravelled, fondly turns to thee.


On arriving at Bombay, we housed ourselves at Watson’s Esplanade Hotel, a very large building. We went to see the sights of the town, and I was very much interested in all that I saw, though the populace struck me as being stupid and uninteresting, not like the Arabs at all. As I was new to India I was much struck by the cows with humps; by brown men with patches of mud on their foreheads, a stamp showing their Brahmin caste; by children, and big children too, with no garments except a string of silver bells; and by men lying in their palanquins, so like our hospital litter that I said, “Dear me! The small-pox must be very bad, for I see some one being carried to the hospital every minute.” The picturesque trees, the coloured temples, and the Parsee palaces, garnished for weddings, also impressed themselves upon my mind.

The Caves of Elephanta.

The next day we made an excursion to see the Caves of Elephanta. These caves are on an island about an hour’s steaming from Bombay. They are very wonderful, and are natural temples, or chapels, to Shiva in his triune form, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and other gods, and are carved or hewn out of the solid rock. The entrance to the caves is clothed with luxuriant verdure.

The day following a friend drove us with his own team out to Bandora, about twelve miles from Bombay, where he had a charming bungalow in a wild spot close to the sea. We drove through the Máhim Woods — a grand, wild, straggling forest of palms of all kinds, acacias, and banyan trees. The bungalow was rural, solitary, and refreshing, something after the fashion of the Eagle’s Nest we had made for ourselves at Bludán in the old days in Syria. Towards sunset the Duke of Sutherland (who, when Lord Stafford, had visited us at Damascus) and other friends arrived, and we had a very jolly dinner and evening. It was the eve of a great feast, and young boys dressed like tigers came and performed some native dancing, with gestures of fighting and clawing one another, which was exceedingly graceful.

The feast was the Tabút, or Mūharram, a Moslem miracle play; and on our return to Bombay I went to see it. I had to go alone, because Richard had seen it before, and none of the other Europeans apparently cared to see it at all. The crowd was so great I had to get a policeman’s help. They let me into the playhouse at last. The whole place was a blaze of lamps and mirrors. A brazier filled with wood was flaring up, and there was a large white tank of water. It was an extraordinary sight. The fanaticism, frenzy, and the shrieks of the crowd made a great impression on me. The play was a tragedy, a passion play; and the religious emotion was so intense and so contagious that, although I could not understand a word, I found myself weeping with the rest.

Among other things, during our stay at Bombay, we went to the races at Byculla, a very pretty sight, though not in the least like an English racecourse. The Eastern swells were on the ground and in carriages, and the Europeans in the club stand. There was only one good jockey, and whatever horse he rode won, even when the others were more likely. There was an Arab horse which ought to have beaten everything, but the clumsy black rider sat like a sack and ruined his chances. I saw that at once, and won nine bets one after another.

We went to a great many festivities during our stay at Bombay. Among other things we breakfasted with a Persian Mirza, who knew Richard when he was at Bombay in 1848. After breakfast — quite a Persian feast — I visited his harím, where we women smoked a narghíleh and discussed religious topics, and they tried to convert me to El Islam. I also went to the wedding feast of the daughter of one of the most charming Hindú gentlemen, whose name is so long that I do not quote it, a most brilliant entertainment. I also went to some steeplechases and a garden-party at Parell (Government House). There was a large attendance, and much dressing; it was something like a mild Chiswick party. I amused myself with talking to the Bishop. I also went to the Byculla ball, which was very well done. While at Bombay I saw the mango trick for the first time. It is apt to astonish one at first to see a tree planted and grow before one’s eyes without any apparent means to accomplish it. The Indian jugglers are clever, but I have seen better at Cairo. We were tired of the child being killed in the basket, and the mango trick soon became stale.

On February 21 we left Bombay for Mátherán, up in the mountains. We went by train to Narel; but the last stage of the journey, after Narel, had to be performed on horseback, or rather pony-back. We rode through seven miles of splendid mountain scenery, an ascent of two thousand seven hundred feet. Carriages could not come here unless they were carried upon the head like the philanthropist’s wheelbarrows by the Africans of Sierra Leone. Our road was very rough, and our ponies stumbled and shied at the dogs. I was badly dressed for the occasion. My small hired saddle cut me; it was loose, and had too long a stirrup; and although we were only two hours ascending, and six hours out, I was tired by the time we arrived at Mátherán.

The next day we were up betimes. I was delighted with the wooded lanes and the wild flowers, the pure atmosphere, and the lights and shadows playing on the big foliage. We looked down on magnificent ravines among buttressed-shaped mountains. The fantastic Gháts rose up out of the plain before us. On clear days there was a lovely view of Bombay and the sea with the bright sun shining upon it. The scenery everywhere was grand and bold. We made several excursions in the neighbourhood, and I found the natives, or jungle people, very interesting.

On the 23rd we left Mátherán. We started early in the morning for Narel, walked down the steep descent from Mátherán, then rode. We arrived hot and a little tired at Narel station, and the train came in at 10 a.m. We mounted the break, and much enjoyed the ascent of the Highlands, arriving in about three hours at Lanauli on the Bhor Ghát. At Lanauli we found a fairly comfortable hotel, though it was terribly hot. What made the heat worse was that most of the houses at Lanauli were covered with corrugated-iron roofs, which were bad for clothes, as they sweated rusty drops all over the room, which left long stains on one’s linen and dresses. I came away with everything ruined. The air was delicious, like that of São Paulo or Damascus in the spring.

Panorama Point and the Bhao Madin Hills, Mátherán.

The next morning we were up and off at dawn to the Karla Caves. There was brought to the door at dawn for Richard a jibbing, backing pony, with vicious eyes, and for me a mangy horse like a knifeboard, spavined, with weak legs, and very aged, but nevertheless showing signs of “blood.” On top of this poor beast was a saddle big enough for a girl of ten, and I, being eleven stone, felt ashamed to mount. However, there was nothing else to be done. We rode four miles along the road, and then crossed a river valley of the mountains. Here we descended, and had to climb a goatlike path until we came to what looked like a gash or ridge in the mountain-side, with a belt of trees. When we got to the top, we sat on the stones, facing one of the most wonderful Buddhist temples in India. It was shaped just like our cathedrals, with a horseshoe roof of teak-wood, which has defied the ravages of time. The Brahmins keep this temple. On either side of the entrances are splendid carved lions, larger than life. A little temple outside is consecrated by the Brahmins to Devi. We were not allowed to go nearer to this goddess than past a triangular ornament covered with big bells; but they lit it for us and let us peep in, and it disclosed a woman’s face and figure so horribly ugly as to give one a nightmare — a large, round, red face, with squinting eyes, open mouth, hideous teeth, and a gash on her cheek and forehead. She is the Goddess of Destruction, and is purposely made frightful.

It was very hot returning. My poor horse suddenly faltered, giving a wrench to my back, and bringing my heart into my mouth when it almost sat down behind. We passed troops of Brinjari, whose procession lasted for about two miles. This is a very strong, wild race, which only marries among its own tribe. The women were very picturesquely dressed, and glared at me defiantly when I laughed and spoke to them. They carried their babies in baskets on their heads. We got home about 11 a.m., so that we had made our excursion betimes.

After breakfast and bath we went to the station. Soon our train came up, and after a two and a half hours’ journey through the Indrauni river valley we arrived at Poonah. The next day we drove all about Poonah, and went to see the Palace of the Peshwas, in the Indian bazar. It is now used as a library below and a native law courts above. Then we went to Parbat, the Maharatta chief’s palace. There are three pagodas in this building, and one small temple particularly struck me. As it was sunset the wild yet mournful sound of tom-tom and kettle and cymbal and reed suddenly struck up. I could have shut my eyes and fancied myself in camp again in the desert, with the wild sword-dances being performed by the Arabs.

The following day at evening we left Poonah for Hyderabad. We travelled all night and next day, and arrived towards evening. Hyderabad lies eighteen hundred feet above sea-level. As most people know, it is by far the largest and most important native city in India, and is ruled over by our faithful ally the Nizam. Richard and I were to be the guests of Major and Mrs. Nevill; and our kind friends met us cordially at the station. In those days Major Nevill was the English officer who commanded the Nizam’s troops; and though he ranked as Major, he was really Commander-in-chief, having no one over him except Sir Salar Jung. Mrs. Nevill was the eldest daughter of our talented predecessor in the Consulate at Trieste, Charles Lever, the novelist. She was most charming, and a perfect horsewoman. We had delightful quarters in Major Nevill’s “compound.” The rooms were divided into sleeping- and bath-rooms, and tents were thrown out from either entrance. The front opened into the garden. Two servants, a man and a woman, were placed at our disposal. In short, nothing was wanting to our comfort. That night we went to a dinner-party and ball at Government House — Sir Richard and Lady Meade’s.

Next morning we were up betimes, and out on elephants to see the town. It was my first mount on an elephant, and my sensations were decidedly new. The beasts look very imposing with their gaudy trappings; and as we rode through Hyderabad we were most cordially greeted by all. The houses were flat, something like those of Damascus; and the streets were broad and spanned by high arches, whose bold simplicity was very striking. The Nizam’s palace, at least a mile long, was covered with delicate tracery; and many a mosque, like lacework, rose here and there. But the cachet of all in Hyderabad was size, boldness, and simplicity.

After inspecting the town we proceeded to the palace of Sir Salar Jung. We found him a noble, chivalrous, large-hearted Arab gentleman, of the very best stamp; and throughout our stay at Hyderabad he was most kind to us. His palace contained about seven courts with fountains, and was perfectly magnificent; but unfortunately, instead of being furnished with oriental luxury, which is so grand and rich, it was full of European things — glass, porcelain, and bad pictures. One room, however, was quite unique: the ceiling and walls were thickly studded with china — cups, saucers, plates, and so forth — which would have aroused the envy of any china-maniac in London. Sir Salar entertained us to a most luxurious breakfast, and when that was over showed us a splendid collection of weapons, consisting of swords, sheaths, and daggers, studded with gorgeous jewels. After that we inspected the stables, which reminded me somewhat of the Burlington Arcade, for they were open at both ends, and the loose boxes, where the shops would be, opened into a passage running down the centre. There were about a hundred thorough-bred Arab and Persian horses. When we left Sir Salar, he presented me with four bottles of attar of roses.

The next few days formed a round of festivity. There were breakfasts, dinner-parties at the Residency and elsewhere, with a little music to follow, and many excursions. Sir Salar Jung lent me a beautiful grey Arab, large, powerful and showy. He had never before had a side-saddle on, but he did not seem to mind it a bit. Among other places we visited the palace of the Wikar Shums Ool Umárá, one of the three great dignitaries of the Nizam’s country, where we were received with great honour by a guard of soldiers and a band of music. The Wikar was a thin, small, well-bred old gentleman, with a yellow silk robe and a necklace of large emeralds. He was attended by a fat, jolly son in a green velvet dressing-gown, and one tall, thin, sallow-faced youth, who looked like a bird with the pip. We had a capital breakfast. The hall was full of retainers and servants, who pressed me to eat as they served the dishes, and “Take mutton cutlet, ’im very good” was whispered in my ear with an excellent English accent. We then visited the jewellery of the palace, a most beautiful collection; and the sacred armour, which surpasses description. At last we saw something very unique — an ostrich race. The man mounts, sits back, puts his legs under the wings, and locks his feet under the breast. The birds go at a tremendous pace, and kick like a horse.

The next day we witnessed an assault-of-arms. There were about two hundred performers, and three hundred to look on. There were some very good gymnastics, sword exercises, single-stick, and so on. They also showed us some cock-fighting, and indeed all sorts of fighting. They fight every kind of animal, goats, birds, even quails and larks, which are very plucky, and want to fight; but they pull them off if they want to ill-use one another too much. I did not care to see this, and went away.

The next day we drove to the country palace of the Amir el Kebir. He was the third of the three great men in Hyderabad, who jointly managed the Nizam’s affairs. The other two were Sir Salar Jung, Regent and Prime Minister, and the Wikar Shums Ool Umárá. They were all relations of the Nizam. Here again was a beautiful palace in gardens, full of storks, pigeons, and other birds. Besides birds, there were flowers; and all the gardens and terraces were covered with their beautiful purple Indian honeysuckle. We inspected the town also, each riding on a separate elephant. And when that was over every one went back to breakfast with the Amir; and a charming breakfast it was, with delicious mangoes. Our host wore a lovely cashmere robe, like a dressing-gown, and gorgeous jewels.

Our last recollections of Hyderabad were brilliant, for Sir Salar Jung gave a magnificent evening fête. One of the large courts of the palace was illuminated: the starlight was above us, the blaze of wax lights and chandeliers lit up every hall around the court, and coloured lamps and flowers were everywhere. There was a nautch, which I thought very stupid, for the girls did nothing but eat sweetmeats, and occasionally ran forward and twirled round for a moment with a half-bold, semi-conscious look; and only one was barely good-looking. Perhaps that is the nautch to dance before ladies; but in Syria, I remember, they danced much better without being “shocking.” We had a most delicious dinner afterwards, at which we were waited on by retainers in wild, picturesque costumes. When that was over, the band played. We walked about and conversed, were presented with attar of roses, and went home.

The next morning we went to Secunderabad. It was a prosperous European station, with three regiments, but nothing interesting. We proceeded on elephants to Golconda, a most interesting place; but as no European has ever been permitted to enter it, I can only describe what we were allowed to see without. We viewed the town from outside, and saw a hill covered with buildings. The throne-hall, with arched windows, they say is a mere shell. The King’s palace and defences occupy the mound which is in the midst of the town. The town proper is on the flat ground. It is surrounded by walls, battlements and towers, and reminded me of old Damascus and Jerusalem. In it dwells many an old feudal chief. Past these walls no European or Christian has ever been allowed. The Tombs of the Kings are very ancient, and are situated outside the town. We were admitted to these, and they reminded me of the Tower Tombs of Palmyra. They were enormous domes, set on a square, broad base, the upper section beautifully carved, or covered with Persian tiles, which bore Arabic and Hindústani inscriptions. Abdullah’s tomb and that of his mother are the best. The prevailing style in both is a dome standing on an oblong or square, both of grey granite. The predominant colour is white, and in some cases picked out with green. There was also a beautiful garden of palm trees and a labyrinth of arches. We wandered about this romantic spot, of which we had heard so much, and thought of all the mines and riches of Golconda. It was a balmy night when we were there; fireflies spangled the domed tombs in the palm gardens, lit by a crescent moon. I could not forget that I was in the birthplace of the famed Koh-i-noor.

We returned to Hyderabad, and next morning we rose at four o’clock, and took the train at seven to return to Bombay. Our kind host and hostess, the Nevills, and Sir Richard Meade, the Governor, came to see us off. We had a comfortable carriage, and the railway officials were most kind and civil; but the heat was so great that they were walking up and down periodically to arouse the passengers, as they have occasionally been found dead, owing to the heat; and two or three cases happened about that time.

When we got down to Bombay, we found it all en fête for the departure of the Prince of Wales, who was then doing his celebrated Indian tour. I shall never forget the enthusiasm on that occasion. The Prince was looking strong and well, brown, handsome, and happy, and every inch a Royal Imperial Prince and future Emperor. He went away taking with him the hearts of all his subjects and the golden opinions of all true men and women.

We stayed at Bombay some little time, and among other things we visited the Towers of Silence, or Parsee charnel-house, the burying-place of the “Fire Worshippers,” which are situated on a hill-summit outside Bombay. We ascended by a giant staircase, half a mile long, overhung by palms and tropical vegetation. We obtained a splendid view of Bombay from this eminence, which we should have enjoyed had it not been that the palms immediately around us were thick with myriads of large black vultures, gorged with corpses of the small-pox and cholera epidemic, which was then raging in Bombay. The air was so heavy with their breath that (though people say it was impossible) I felt my head affected as long as we remained there. These myriads of birds feed only on corpses, and of necessity they must breathe and exhale what they feed upon. They fattened upon what bare contact with would kill us; they clustered in thousands. This burying-place, or garden, was full of public and private family towers. The great public tower is divided into three circles, with a well in the middle. It has an entrance and four outlets for water. First, there is a place for clothes, and a tank, like a huge metal barrel lying on its side. Here the priests, who are the operators, leave their garments. A large procession of Parsees, having accompanied the body as far as this spot, turn and wait outside the tower. The priests then place the body, if a man, in the first circle; if a woman, in the second circle; if a child, in the third: in the centre there is the door, well covered with a grating. The priests then stay and watch. The vultures descend; they fly round the moment they see a procession coming, and have to be kept at bay until the right moment. The body is picked clean in an hour by these vultures. It is considered very lucky if they pick out the right eye first instead of the left, and the fact is reported by the priests to the sorrowing relatives. When the bones are perfectly clean, a Parsee priest pushes them into the well. When rain comes, it carries off the ashes and bones; and the water runs through these four outlets, with charcoal at the mouths to purify it, before entering and defiling the earth, which would become putrid and cause fever. The Parsees will not defile the earth by being buried in it, and consider it is an honour to have a living sepulchre. The vultures have on an average, when there is no epidemic, about three bodies a day, so that they can never be said to starve. The whole thing struck me as being revolting and disgusting in the extreme, and I was glad to descend from this melancholy height to Bombay.

We had a good deal of gaiety during our stay in Bombay, and every one was most kind. We saw many interesting people, and made many pleasant excursions which were too numerous to be mentioned in detail here.

I have given a description of the Parsee burial-ground, and I think at the risk of being thought morbid that I must also describe our visit to the Hindú Smáshán, or burning-ground, in the Sonápur quarter, where we saw a funeral, or rather a cremation. The corpse was covered with flowers, the forehead reddened with sandalwood, and the mouth blackened. The bier was carried by several men, and one bore sacred fire in an earthenware pot. The body was then laid upon the pyre; every one walked up and put a little water in the mouth of the corpse, just as we throw dust on the coffin; they then piled more layers of wood on the body, leaving it in the middle of the pile. Then the relatives, beginning with the nearest, took burning brands to apply to the wood, and the corpse was burned. The ashes and bones are thrown into the sea. It was unpleasant, but not nearly so revolting to me as the vultures in the Parsee burying-ground. All the mourners were Hindú except ourselves, and they stayed and watched the corpse burning. Shortly the clothes caught fire, and then the feet. After that we saw no more except a great blaze, and smelt a smell of roasted flesh, which mingles with the sandalwood perfume of Bombay. The Smáshán, or burning-ground, is dotted with these burning-places.

A very interesting visit for me was to the Pinjrapole, or hospital for animals sick, maimed, and incurable. It was in the centre of the native quarter of Bombay, and was founded forty years ago by Sir Jamsetji Jijibhoy, who also left money for its support. I was told that the animals here were neglected and starved; but we took them quite unawares, and were delighted to find the contrary the case. There were old bullocks here that had been tortured and had their tails wrung off, which is the popular way in Bombay of making them go faster. There were orphan goats and calves, starving kittens and dogs. The blind, the maimed, the wounded of the animal creation, here found a home. I confess that I admire the religion that believes in animals having a kind of soul and a future, and permits their having a refuge where at least no one can hurt them, and where they can get food and shelter. God is too just to create things, without any fault of their own, only for slow and constant torture, for death, and utter annihilation.

Turning now to society at Bombay, and indeed Indian society generally, I must say that it is not to be outdone for hospitality. There is a certain amount of formality about precedence in all English stations, and if one could only dispense with it society would be twice as charming and attractive. I do not mean of course the formality of etiquette and good-breeding, but of all those silly little conventions and rules which arise for the most part from unimportant people trying to make themselves of importance. Of course they make a great point about what is called “official rank” in India, and the women squabble terribly over their warrants of precedence: the gradations thereof would puzzle even the chamberlain of some petty German court. The Anglo-Indian ladies of Bombay struck me for the most part as spiritless. They had a faded, washed-out look; and I do not wonder at it, considering the life they lead. They get up about nine, breakfast and pay or receive visits, then tiffen, siesta, a drive to the Apollo Bunder, to hear the band, or to meet their husbands at the Fort, dine and bed — that is the programme of the day. The men are better because they have cricket and polo. I found nobody stiff individually, but society very much so in the mass. The order of precedence seemed to be uppermost in every mind, and as an outsider I thought how tedious “ye manners and customs of ye Anglo-Indians” would be all the year round.

I found the native populace much more interesting. The great mass consists of Konkani Moslems, with dark features and scraggy beards. They were clad in chintz turbans, resembling the Parsee headgear, and in long cotton coats, with shoes turned up at the toes, and short drawers or pyjamas. There were also Persians, with a totally different type of face, and clothed in quite a different way, mainly in white with white turbans. There were Arabs from the Persian Gulf, sitting and lolling in the coffee-houses. There were athletic Afghans, and many other strange tribes. There were conjurers and snake-charmers, vendors of pipes and mangoes, and Hindú women in colours that pale those of Egypt and Syria. There were two sorts of Parsees, one white-turbaned, and the other whose headgear was black, spotted with red. I was much struck with the immense variety of turban on the men, and the choli and headgear on the women. Some of the turbans were of the size of a moderate round tea-table. Others fit the head tight. Some are worn straight, and some are cocked sideways. Some are red and horned. The choli is a bodice which is put on the female child, who never knows what stays are. It always supports the bosom, and she is never without it day or night, unless after marriage, and whilst she is growing it is of course changed to her size from time to time. They are of all colours and shapes, according to the race. No Englishwoman could wear one, unless it were made on purpose for her; but I cannot explain why.

The Borah (Native) Bazar, Bombay.

Bombay servants are dull and stupid. They always do the wrong thing for preference. They break everything they touch, and then burst into a “Yah, yah, yah!” like a monkey. If you leave half a bottle of sherry, they will fill it up with hock, and say, “Are they not both white wines, Sá‘b?” If you call for your tea, the servant will bring you a saucer, and stare at you. If you ask why your tea is not ready, he will run downstairs and bring you a spoon, and so on. As he walks about barefoot you never hear him approach. You think you are alone in the room, when suddenly you are made to jump by seeing a black face close to you, star-gazing. If you have a visitor, you will see the door slowly open, and a black face protruded at least six times in a quarter of an hour. They are intensely curious, but otherwise as stolid as owls.

On April 16 we started for Máhábáleshwar, the favourite of all the sanatoria in India, save the Neilgherries, which are so far off as to be a very expensive journey from Bombay. Máhábáleshwar, in the Western Gháts, is therefore largely visited by Europeans from Bombay. We left Bombay by the 1.15 express train, reaching Poonah in seven hours. The air was like blasts out of a heated furnace. We dined at Poonah at a very comfortable inn. The distance from Poonah to Máhábáleshwar was seventy-five miles by road; so as we were going on the same evening we ordered a trap, and after dinner we set forth.

I cannot say it was a comfortable journey, for the springs of the trap were broken, and projections were sticking through the hard, narrow cushions in all directions into our unhappy bodies. Nevertheless we enjoyed the drive very much. It was a charming night, the moon late, being in last quarter. We saw a great Moslem fête coming out of Poonah at night. The hills were illuminated in patterns and letters. We slept when it was dark, and I remember we drank a great deal of water, for it was a most thirsty night. At 6 a.m. we passed a wayside bungalow at Soorool, where we brought out our basket and tea, and had milk from the cow belonging to the old soldier who kept the bungalow. At the foot of the third steep mountain, Pasarni, we passed through Wye (Wahi), one of the prettiest and most interesting places, with the prettiest women in Western India, besides being a village of temples and holy tanks. The general effect of the temples, which were strewn about in all sizes and shapes, was that of a series of blancmange moulds.

At Wahi we alighted from the trap, and our ascent up the steep Pasarni Ghát was performed for us by sixteen coolies. It occupied us about two hours, and was very hot and dusty, and cruelly hard work; but the coolies did it much better than horses could have done. Once we came to a travelling bungalow, and stopped a few minutes to tie up some of our broken springs. After this we were very tired, and the last thirteen miles seemed almost insupportable. At last we entered the verdure of Máhábáleshwar at the summit, 4,780 feet above sea-level; but the inaccessibility of the place is compensated for by its interest when you arrive there, just as Palmyra is more precious than Ba’albak.

When at last we arrived we were thoroughly tired out. We dined, and went to bed. We had been out twenty-five hours, and had had no sleep for forty-one hours. I did not even remember the end of my dinner, and I have no recollection of how I got into bed for very sleepiness. We lodged at the Máhábáleshwar Hotel, which was very cheap, clean, and comfortable.

The next morning we were up at 5 a.m., and drove in a tonga, a sort of tea-cart, with small tattoo ponies, to Elphinstone Point, and to see the temples. It was a most enjoyable excursion; but it was quite spoiled for me by the brutal way in which the driver beat the poor little “tats” with his thick cowhide whip. It was misery to me. I got quite nervous; I bullied the driver, took his whip away, promised him bakshísh if he would not do it, and finally tried to drive myself. Then the foolish ponies stood stock-still directly I took the reins, and would not budge without the whip. At this point Richard cut in, and swore at the driver for being so cruel, and scolded me for spoiling an excursion by my ridiculous sensibilities. Then my fox-terrier put in her oar, and tried to bite the coachman for beating the ponies; and not being allowed, she laid her head on my shoulder and went into hysterics — the tears actually ran down her cheeks. We had a grand view from Elphinstone Point, and the temples also were interesting. We were glad to get back again at 9 a.m., for the sun was very trying. We made several pleasant excursions during our stay, and people were very kind. All the same, I did not greatly care for Máhábáleshwar. There was too much society; one could not ruralize enough. “Sets” are the rule, and priggishness is rampant, even in the primeval forest. Our visit was a brief one, and then we returned to Bombay.

After two days at Bombay Richard and I set sail in the British Indian Steamship Company’s Rajpootna for distant and deserted Goa, a thirty-six hours’ passage. It was a calm, fine evening when we started, but intensely hot. The next day there was a heavy swell, and many were ill. I went to bed thoroughly tired out, expecting to land the next morning. About five o’clock, as the captain told me overnight not to hurry myself, I got up leisurely. Presently a black steward came down, and said:

“Please, ma’am, the agent’s here with your boat to convey you ashore. The captain desired me to say that he’s going to steam on directly.”

I was just at the stage of my toilet which rendered it impossible for me to open the door or come out, so I called through the keyhole:

“Please go with my compliments to the captain, and beg him to give me ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, and tell my husband what is the matter.”

“I will go, ma’am,” he answered; “but I am afraid the captain can’t wait. It is his duty to go on.”

“Go!” I shouted; and he went.

In two minutes down came the negro again.

“Captain says it’s impossible; in fact the ship’s moving now.”

Well, as we were tied to time and many other things, and could not afford to miss our landing, I threw on a shawl and a petticoat, as one might in a shipwreck, and rushed out with my hair down, crying to the steward:

“Bundle all my things into the boat as well as you can; and if anything is left, take it back to the hotel at Bombay.”

I hurried on deck, and to my surprise found that the steamer was not moving at all. Richard and the captain were quietly chatting together, and when they saw me all excited and dishevelled they asked me the cause of my undress and agitation. When I told them, the captain said:

“I never sent any message of the kind. I told you last night I should steam on at seven, and it is now only five.”

I was intensely angry at the idea of a negro servant playing such a practical joke. I was paying £10 for a thirty-six hour’s passage; and as I always treated everybody courteously, it was quite uncalled for and unprovoked. I thought it exceedingly impertinent, and told the captain so. Nevertheless he did not trouble to inquire into the matter. The Bishop of Ascalon, Vicar-Apostolic at Bombay, was on board, and I told him about it, and he said that he had been treated just in the same way a year before on the same spot. The idea that such things should be allowed is a little too outrageous. Suppose that I had been a delicate and nervous passenger with heart complaint, it might have done me a great deal of harm.

A large boat arrived to take us and our baggage ashore. We were cast adrift in the open sea on account of a doubtful shoal. We had eight miles to row before we could reach Goa. Fortunately there was no storm. We rowed a mile and a half of open sea, five miles of bay, and one and a half of winding river, and at last landed on a little stone pier jutting a few yards into the water. We found a total absence of anything at Goa but the barest necessaries of life. There was no inn and no tent. We had either to sleep in our filthy open boat, or take our tents and everything with us. Goa is not healthy enough to sleep out al fresco. Fortunately a kind-hearted man, who was the agent of the steamers, and his wife, seeing the plight we were in, conceded us a small room in their house with their only spare single bed. Luckily we had one of those large straw Pondicherry reclining-chairs, which I had just bought from the captain of the steamer, and a rug; so Richard and I took the bed in turns night about, the other in the chair. We did not mind much, for we had come to see Goa, and were used to roughing it; but I confess that I like roughing it better out of doors than inside. There was little to be bought in Goa; but all that the residents had to give they offered with alacrity. It is the worst climate I ever was in, and I have experienced many bad ones. The thermometer was not nearly so high as I have known it in other places, but the depression was fearful. There was not a breath of air in Goa even at night, and the thirst was agonizing; even the water was hot, and the more one drank the more one wanted: it was a sort of purgatory. I cannot think how the people manage to live there: the place was simply dead; there is no other word for it. Of all the places I have ever been to, in sandy deserts and primeval forests, Goa was the worst. However, Richard wanted to revisit it, and I wanted to see it also with a particular object, which was to pay my respects to the shrine of the Apostle of India, St. Francis Xavier, which is situated in Old Goa.

We hired the only horse in the country, a poor old screw of a pony, broken down by mange and starvation and sores; and we harnessed him to the only vehicle we could find, a small open thing of wood made in the year 1 B.C., with room for two persons only. The wheels were nearly off, and the spring of one side was broken. The harness was made of old rusty chains and bits of string tied together. Our coachman and footman were two boys in little dirty shirts, with something round the loins kept together with bits of twine, and bare legs peeping out underneath like two sticks of chocolate.

Our first drive was to Cazalem, a place which reminded me of the Barra at Santos, in Brazil. Here several Europeans lived, I mean native Portuguese, mainly officials of the Government. As Richard wrote a book about Goa when he was there some thirty years before, there is not much that I can add to his description of the place.

Our next drive was to Old Goa, where is the tomb of St. Francis Xavier. Nothing is left of Old Goa but churches and monasteries. In the distance, with its glittering steeples and domes, it looks a grand place; but when we entered it, I found it to be a city of the dead — indeed it was the very abomination of desolation. The Bom Jesus is the church dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, my favourite saint, on account of his conversion of so many unbelievers. It is after the same pattern as all other Portuguese churches, a long, whitewashed, barn-shaped building. The object of my devotion, the tomb, is contained in a recess on a side of the altar dedicated to Xavier, and consists of a magnificently carved silver sarcophagus, enriched with alto relievi, representing different acts of the Saint’s life. Inside is a gold box containing the remains of the Saint, shown to people with a great feast once in a century.

We made many excursions around and about Goa. In consequence of the dreadful climate they had of course to be either very early or very late. I shall never forget the moonlight scenery of the distant bay. The dull grey piles of ruined, desolate habitations, the dark hills clothed with a semi-transparent mist, the little streams glistening like lines of silver over the plain, and the purple surface of the creek — such was our night picture of Goa. We made two boat expeditions together — one to see a coffee plantation, in which is a petrified forest. Each expedition occupied two or three days. We embarked for the first in a filthy boat, full of unmentionable vermin, and started down the river in the evening, with storms of thunder and lightning and wind preluding the monsoon. On arrival we toiled up two miles of steep, rocky paths through cocoa groves. At the bottom of the hill was a little rivulet, and pieces of petrified wood were sticking to the bank. As we ascended the hill again we found the petrifications scattered all over the ground; they were composed chiefly of palms and pines; and most interesting they were. We returned from this expedition with our skins in a state of eruption from the bites of the lice and the stings of the mosquitoes.


Our last day at Goa was a very pleasant one. We had received a telegram saying the steamer would pass outside Goa at midnight, and would pick us up for the return journey to Bombay. These steamers are due once a fortnight, and this one was long past her time. Everybody was sorry that we were leaving, and we had great hospitality. In the morning we were entertained at breakfast by a gentleman who owned the largest and the best house in Goa. We had every variety of native food and fruit in abundance, good cool air and water — the latter produced by hanging the earthen water-bottles in the window, clothed with wet hay or grass. We were, in all, ten at table, native and European. Then the heat came on, and we had to retire. In the evening we were taken for an excursion in a boat to Cazalem. We coasted along for an hour, and sang glees under a fine moon, accompanied by a heavy swell. We were carried ashore on the shoulders of the natives, and were heralded first by the watch-dogs and then by the European inmates, who did not expect us. They were assembled in the verandah playing cards by the light of torches. We passed a merry evening and returned to Goa by carriage. The seat gave way, and we had to sit on the edges.

On our return the night was dark, but we at once started in a large open boat, with four men to row and one to steer, to reach our steamer bound for Bombay, which, as I have already explained, did not pass nearer Goa than eight miles. We rowed down the river, and then across the bay for three hours, against wind and tide, bow on to heavy rollers, and at last reached the mouth of the bay, where is the Fort. We remained bobbing about in the open sea in the trough of the great waves for a considerable time, and a violent storm of rain, thunder, and lightning came on, so we put back to the Fort to find shelter under some arches. Then we went to sleep, leaving the boat wálá to watch for the steamer.

At 1.30 I was awakened by the sound of a gun booming across the water. I sprang up and aroused the others; but we could not see the lights of the steamer, and turned to sleep. An officer passed out of the Fort, and I fancied he said to another man that the ship was in; but he only looked at us and passed on. Presently I felt more fidgety, and making a trumpet of my hands I called out to the Secretary, who answered back that the ship had been laying to three-quarters of an hour, and that we should have gone off when the gun fired. People are so lazy and indolent in this climate that he did not trouble to let us know it before, though he was left there for that purpose. If we had not happened to have the mails and the agent with us in the boat, the ship would have gone on without us, which would have been an appalling disaster. So I stirred them up, and we were soon under way again and out to sea. By-and-by I saw the lights of the steamer, which looked about three miles off. Knowing the independence of these captains and the futility of complaints, I trembled lest the steamer should put farther to sea, and determined that no effort of mine should be spared to prevent it.

Richard slept or pretended to sleep, and so did some of the others; but I managed adroitly to be awkward with the boat-hook, and occasionally to prick their shins. I urged the boat wálás on with perpetual promises of bakshísh. Everybody except myself was behaving with oriental calm, and leaving it to Kismet. It was of no use doing anything to Richard, so I pitched into the Secretary, who really had been most kind.

“Can’t you shout ‘Mails?’” I cried to him, as we got nearer. “They might hear you. You can shout loud enough when nobody wants to hear you.”

At last, after an hour of anxiety, we reached the ship; but heavy seas kept washing us away from the ladder. No one had the energy to hold on to the rope, or hold the boat-hook to keep us close to her, so at last I did it myself, Richard laughing all the while at their supineness, and at my making myself so officious and energetic. But it was absolutely necessary. An English sailor threw me the rope. "Thanks," I cried, as I took advantage of an enormous wave to spring on to the ladder; “I am the only man in the boat to-night.” All came on board with us, and we had a parting stirrup-cup, in which they drank my health as “the only man in the boat.” We then said farewell to our friends and to Goa.

We stayed at Bombay no longer than was absolutely necessary, and we embarked on our return journey to Trieste in the Austrian Lloyd’s Minerva. It was an uneventful voyage, take it altogether. There were a good many passengers on board, who grumbled greatly at the food, as the manner is, and it was certainly a very hot and uncomfortable voyage. We stopped at Aden again, and passed Jeddah. Thence we steamed to Suez, where we anchored.

Here Richard and myself and six others left the ship to have a little run through Egypt, and we were soon surrounded by a number of Richard’s old friends of Mecca days. It was a lovely evening when we landed, familiar to all who know Suez, with its blue sea, yellow sands, azure sky, and pink-and-purple mountains. Our visit was to Moses’ Wells, about three miles in the Arabian Desert — a most picturesque spot, surrounded by tropical verdure, intermingled with fellah huts. The most romantic spot was a single tiny spring under an isolated palm tree, all alone on a little hillock of sand in the desert, far from all else. I said to Richard, “That tree and that spring have been created for each other, like you and I.” We took our kayf for some hours with the Arabs, and we had some delicious Arab coffee and narghíleh with them.

We remained a fortnight in Egypt, or rather more; and after then we embarked in another Lloyd’s, the Apollo, for Trieste, where we arrived very quickly. I was glad to get back to the beautiful little city again, to receive the ever-warm greetings of our friends.

Chapter XXIII

Trieste Again


The busy fingers fly; the eyes may see
Only the glancing needle that they hold;
But all my life is blossoming inwardly,
And every breath is like a litany;
While through each labour, like a thread of gold,
Is woven the sweet consciousness of thee.

On their return from India Isabel and her husband settled down at Trieste, and pursued for the most part a quiet literary life. It was summer, and they swam a good deal by way of recreation, and went frequently to Opçina. They started a habit of not dining at home, and of asking their intimates to meet them at one café or another, where they would sup in the open air, and drink the wine of the country and smoke cigarettes. These pleasant evenings were quite a feature of their life at this time. Their house too became the centre of many a réunion, and a Mecca to which many a literary pilgrim and social, scientific, and political celebrity turned his steps when travelling by way of Trieste. There is no better description of the Burtons’ life at Trieste at this time than that which appeared in The World in 1877, written by Burton’s old Oxford friend, Mr. Alfred Bates Richards. Lady Burton has quoted it in full in her Life of her husband; but I think that a small part of it which relates to herself will bear repeating here:

“Captain and Mrs. Burton are well, if airily, lodged in a flat composed of ten rooms, separated by a corridor, with a picture of our Saviour, a statuette of St. Joseph with a lamp, and the Madonna with another lamp burning before it. Thus far the belongings are all of the Cross; but no sooner are we landed in the little drawing-rooms than signs of the Crescent appear. Small, but artistically arranged, the rooms, opening in to one another, are bright with oriental hangings, with trays and dishes of gold and silver, brass trays and goblets, chibouques with great amber mouthpieces, and all kinds of Eastern treasures mingled with family souvenirs. There is no carpet; but a Bedawin rug occupies the middle of the floor, and vies in brilliancy of colour with Persian enamels and bits of good old china. There are no sofas, but plenty of divans covered with Damascus stuffs. Thus far the interior is as Mussulman as the exterior is Christian; but a curious effect is produced among the oriental mise en scène by the presence of a pianoforte and a compact library of well-chosen books. There is too another library here, greatly cherished by Mrs. Burton; to wit, a collection of her husband’s work in about fifty volumes. On the walls there are many interesting relics, medals, and diplomas of honour, one of which is especially prized by Captain Burton. It is the brevet de pointe earned in France for swordsmanship. Near this hangs a picture of the Damascus home of the Burtons, by Frederick Leighton.

“As the guest is inspecting this bright bit of colour, he will be aroused by the full strident tones of a voice skilled in many languages, but never so full and hearty as when bidding a friend welcome. The speaker, Richard Burton, is a living proof that intense work, mental and physical, sojourn in torrid and frozen climes, danger from dagger and from pestilence, ‘age’ a person of good sound constitution far less than may be supposed. . . .

“Leading the way from the drawing-rooms, or divans, he takes us through bedrooms and dressing-rooms furnished in Spartan simplicity, with the little iron bedsteads covered with bear-skins, and supplied with writing- tables and lamps, beside which repose the Bible, the Shakspeare, the Euclid, and the Breviary, which go with Captain and Mrs. Burton on all their wanderings. His gifted wife, one of the Arundells of Wardour, is, as becomes a scion of an ancient Anglo-Saxon and Norman Catholic house, strongly attached to the Church of Rome; but religious opinion is never allowed to disturb the peace of the Burton household, the head of which is laughingly accused of Mohammedanism by his friends. The little rooms are completely lined with rough deal shelves, containing perhaps eight thousand or more volumes in every Western language, as well as in Arabic, Persian, and Hindústani. Every odd corner is piled with weapons, guns, pistols, boar-spears, swords of every shape and make, foils and masks, chronometers, barometers, and all kinds of scientific instruments. One cupboard is full of medicines necessary for oriental expeditions or for Mrs. Burton’s Trieste poor, and on it is written ‘The Pharmacy.’ Idols are not wanting, for elephant-nosed Gumpati is there cheek by jowl with Vishnu.

“The most remarkable objects in the room just alluded to are the rough deal tables, which occupy most of the floor space. They are almost like kitchen or ironing tables. There may be eleven of them, each covered with writing materials. At one of them sits Mrs. Burton, in morning négligé, a gray choga — the long loose Indian dressing-gown of camel’s hair — topped by a smoking-cap of the same material. She rises and greets her husband’s old friend with the cheeriest voice in the world. ‘I see you are looking at our tables; every one does. Dick likes a separate table for every book, and when he is tired of one he goes to another. There are no tables of any size in Trieste, so I had these made as soon as I came. They are so nice. We may upset the ink-bottles as often as we like without anybody being put out of the way. These three little rooms are our “den,” where we live, work and receive our intimes; and we leave the doors open, so that we may consult over our work. Look at our view!’ From the windows, looking landward, one may see an expanse of country extending over thirty or forty miles, the hills covered with foliage, through which peep trim villas. Beyond the hills higher mountains dotted with villages, a bit of the wild Karso peering from above. On the other side lies spread the Adriatic, with Miramar, poor Maximilian’s home and hobby, lying on a rock projecting into the blue water, and on the opposite coast are the Carnian Alps, capped with snow. ‘Why we live so high up,’ explained Captain Burton, ‘is easily explained. To begin with, we are in good condition, and run up and down stairs like squirrels. We live on the fourth story because there is no fifth. If I had a campagna, and gardens and servants, and horses and carriages, I should feel tied, weighed down in fact. With a flat and two or three maid-servants one has only to lock the door and go. It feels like “light marching order,” as if we were always ready for an expedition; and it is a comfortable place to come back to. Look at our land-and-sea-scape: we have air, light, and tranquillity; no dust, no noise, no street smells. Here my wife receives something like seventy very intimate friends every Friday — an exercise of hospitality to which I have no objection save one, and that is met by the height we live at. There is in every town a lot of old women of both sexes, who sit for hours talking about the weather and the scandal of the place and this contingent cannot face the stairs.’ . . .

“The ménage Burton is conducted on the early rising principle. About four or five o’clock our hosts are astir, and already in their ‘den,’ drinking tea made over a spirit-lamp, and eating bread and fruit, reading and studying languages. By noon the morning’s work is got over, including the consumption of a cup of soup, the ablution without which no true believer is happy, and the obligations of a Frankish toilet. Then comes a stroll to the fencing-school, kept by an excellent broadswordsman, an old German trooper. For an hour Captain and Mrs. Burton fence in the school, if the weather be cold; if it be warm, they make for the water, and often swim for a couple of hours.

“Then comes a spell of work at the Consulate. ‘I have my Consulate,’ the chief explains, ‘in the heart of the town. I do not want my Jack Tar in my sanctum; and when he wants me he has generally been on the spree, and got into trouble.’ While the husband is engaged in his official duties, the wife is abroad promoting a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a necessary institution in southern countries, where, on the purely gratuitous hypothesis that the so-called lower animals have no souls, the utmost brutality is shown in the treatment of them. ‘You see,’ remarks our host, ‘that my wife and I are like an elder and younger living en garçon. We divide the work. I take all the hard and the scientific part, and make her do all the rest. When we have worked all day, and have said all we have to say to each other, we want relaxation. To that end we have formed a little “Mess” with fifteen friends at the table d’hôte of the Hôtel de la Ville, where we get a good dinner and a pint of the country wine made on the hillside for a florin and a half. By this plan we escape the bore of housekeeping, and are relieved from the curse of domesticity, which we both hate. At dinner we hear the news if any, take our coffee, cigarettes, and kirsch outside the hotel, then go home and read ourselves to sleep, and to-morrow da capo.’”

This summer, while at Gorizia, Isabel saw again the Comte de Chambord (Henri V. of France) and the Comtesse. She had been received by them at Venice before her marriage, and they remembered her and sent for her. They were staying at Gorizia with a small Court. Isabel had an audience of them twice, and they desired that she should dine with them. She had to explain that she had nothing but a travelling-dress; but they waived that objection, and allowed her to “come as she was.” This incident will seem a small thing to many; but it was a great thing to Isabel, for like many members of old English Catholic families, she was a strong Legitimist, and she appreciated the kindness which was shown to her by this king and queen de jure with their shadowy Court and handful of faithful followers, more than if they had come into their own and received her royally at the Tuileries.

A little later Burton took it into his head to make an expedition to Midian in Arabia. Many years before, in his Arab days, Burton had come upon this golden land (though at that time he thought little of gold and much of reputation); and a quarter of a century later, seeing Egypt suffering from lack of the precious metal, and knowing that Midian belonged to Egypt, he asked leave of the Foreign Office to go to Cairo, where he imparted his views on the subject of the wealth of the Mines of Midian to Khedive Ismail. His Highness was so much impressed that he equipped an expedition in a few days, and sent Burton to explore the land. His report of the possibilities of the Mines of Midian was so promising that the Khedive engaged him to come back the following winter, and himself applied to the English Foreign Office for the loan of Burton’s services. Burton accordingly went again to Midian, and discovered the region of gold and silver and precious stones. He sketched the whole country, planned an expedition, and brought back various metals for analysis. The Khedive was delighted with the prospect of wealth untold, and he made contracts with Burton which, had they been carried out, would have placed him and his wife in luxury for their lives. It used to be a joke with the Burtons at this time that they would die “Duke and Duchess of Midian.” Unfortunately Ismail Khedive abdicated just when the third expedition was about to come off, and the new Khedive, Tewfik, did not consider himself bound by any act of his father. The English Government would not stir in the matter, and so Burton not only lost his chance of realizing a large fortune, but also the money which he and his wife had got together for paying expenses in connexion with the expedition, and which they thought would surely have been refunded. The only gain was that Burton wrote some interesting books on the Land of Midian, its history, and its inhabitants. Until the day of her death Lady Burton never ceased to believe in the vast wealth which was lying waste in the Mines of Midian, and used to wax quite enthusiastic about it.

Isabel was anxious to accompany her husband on his first expedition to Midian; but as there was not enough money for both of them, she had to make the usual sacrifice and stay at home. During her husband’s absence she spent most of her time at Opçina and up in the mountains, as she was busily engaged in correcting the proofs of one of his books.

When Burton started on his second expedition to Midian, it was arranged between him and his wife that, as Ismail Khedive was in such a very good humour, Isabel should make her way out to Cairo, and induce the Khedive to send her after her husband to Midian. She was eager and impatient to start, and as soon as she could possibly complete her arrangements she went on board an Austrian Lloyd’s and made the voyage from Trieste to Alexandria. When she arrived at the latter place, she found a letter from her husband, “You are not to attempt to join me unless you can do so in proper order.” This rather upset her plans, as she did not know what “proper order” meant. She therefore went on at once to Cairo, made her representations in the proper quarter, and then returned to Suez. After remaining there some time in a state of great impatience, she was informed that a ship was going to be sent out, and that she was to have the offer of going in her, though it was intimated to her privately that the Khedive and the Governor, Said Bey, very much hoped that she would refuse. She had no intention of refusing, and the next morning she went down to the ship, which was an Egyptian man-of-war, the Senaar. It was to anchor off the coast until the expedition returned from the desert, and then bring them back. The captain, who was astonished at her turning up, received her with honour. All hands were piped on deck, and a guard and everything provided for her. Notwithstanding their courtesy, Isabel’s woman’s instinct told her that she was a most unwelcome guest — far more unwelcome than she had anticipated. She saw at once that the situation was impossible, and prepared to beat a graceful retreat. So, after looking round the quarters prepared for her, she thanked the captain and officers exceedingly for their courtesy, and explained, to their evident relief, that she would not trouble them after all. She returned to the town, took some small rooms at the Suez Hotel, and applied herself to literary work. The reason she gave as an excuse for her change of mind was that her expedition would be too dangerous, as she would have to cross the Red Sea in an open sambuk with head-winds blowing, and then to find her way alone across the desert upon a camel to Midian. The danger, however, would hardly have weighed with her, for she was always careless of her own safety. The real reason was that she was afraid of injuring her husband’s prospects with the Khedive.


She was at Suez some time. At last, after many weeks, the Governor sent her a slip of paper saying, “The Senaar is in sight.” It was the ship by which Burton returned. She went on board to welcome him, and found him looking very ill and tired. The Khedive sent a special train to meet him on his return from Midian, and the Burtons went at once to Cairo, where they were received with great éclat.

From Cairo the Burtons went back to Trieste, or rather to Opçina, for a brief rest, and then proceeded to London. From London they went to Dublin, where they joined the annual meeting of the British Association. Burton delivered several lectures, and Isabel was busy writing her A. E. I. (Arabia, Egypt, and India). From Dublin they returned to London, which they made their headquarters for some time, breaking their stay in town by many country visits. The most memorable of these was a visit to Lord and Lady Salisbury at Hatfield, where they again met Lord Beaconsfield, who, strange to say, though he had much in common with the Burtons — notably a love of the East and mysticism, and had a liking for them, and for Isabel especially, with whom he was wont to discuss her favourite Tancred, his book — never did anything for them, though he must have known better than most men how Burton was thrown away at a place like Trieste. Perhaps Burton’s strong anti-Semitic views had something to do with this neglect.

It was during this stay in London that the Burtons attended a meeting on spiritualism, at which Burton read a paper. On the subject of Lady Burton’s attitude towards spiritualism we shall have something to say later; but it is better to interpolate here a speech which she made at this meeting, as it explains her views in her own words:

“It appears to me that spiritualism, as practised in England, is quite a different matter to that practised in the East, as spoken of by Captain Burton. Easterns are organized for such manifestations, especially the Arabs. It causes them no surprise; they take it as a natural thing, as a matter of course; in short, it is no religion to them. Easterns of this organization exhale the force; it seems to be an atmosphere surrounding the individual; and I have frequently in common conversation had so strong a perception of it as to withdraw to a distance on any pretext, allowing a current of air to pass from door or window between them and myself. There is no doubt that some strange force or power is at work, trying to thrust itself up in the world, and is well worthy of attention. When I say ‘new,’ I mean in our hemisphere. I believe it to be as old as time in Eastern countries. I think we are receiving it wrongly. When handled by science, and when it shall become stronger and clearer, it will rank very high. Hailed in our matter-of-fact England as a new religion by people who are not organized for it, by people who are wildly, earnestly seeking for the truth, when they have it at home — some on their domestic hearth, and others next door waiting for them — it can only act as a decoy to a crowd of sensation-seekers, who yearn to see a ghost as they would go to a pantomime; and this can only weaken and degrade it, and distract attention from its possible true object — science. Used vulgarly, as we have all sometimes seen it used, after misleading and crazing a small portion of sensitive persons, it must fall to the ground." 43

Early in February, 1879, her book A. E. I. came out, and the publisher was so pleased with it that he gave a party in honour of the authoress. There were seventeen guests, and there were seventeen copies of the book piled in a pyramid in the middle of the table. After supper one was given to each guest. They must have made a merry night of it, for Isabel notes that the gaieties began at 11 p.m. and did not end until 5 a.m. Notwithstanding this auspicious send-off, the book did not reach anything like the success achieved by her first work, The Inner Life of Syria.

The longest leave comes to an end, and it was now time to return to Trieste. Burton started ahead as was his wont, leaving his wife to “pay, pack, and follow.” She paid and she packed, and when she was leaving the house to follow a beggar woman asked her for charity. She gave her a shilling, and the woman said, “God bless you! May you reach your home without an accident.” She must have had the Evil Eye; for the day after, when Isabel arrived in Paris, en route for Trieste, she tumbled down the hotel stairs from top to bottom, arriving at the bottom unconscious. She was picked up and put to bed. When she came to herself she exclaimed, “Do not send the carriage away; I must get my work done and go on.” But when she attempted to rise, she fainted again. The visible injuries resolved themselves into a bad sprain and twisted ankle. After the fourth day she had herself bound up and conveyed to the train. She travelled straight through to Turin. There she had to be carried to an inn, as she was too ill to go on. The next day she insisted on being packed up again, and travelled to Mestre. The heat was intense, and she had to wait four hours in the wretched station at Mestre, during which she suffered great pain. Then she travelled on by the post-zug, a slow train, and arrived at Trieste at half-past eight in the morning where her eyes were gladdened by seeing her husband waiting to receive her on the platform. She was carried home and promptly put to bed.

This illustrates the literal way in which she used to obey her husband’s slightest directions. He told her to follow him “at once,” and she followed him, not even resting on account of her accident. In fact it is absolutely true to say that nothing short of death would have prevented her from carrying out his slightest instructions to the letter.

The accident which she met with in Paris turned out to be more serious than she had at first supposed. It was a long time before she could leave her bed. She had injured her back and her ankle very badly, and she underwent a long course of massage and baths; but she never permanently got quite well again. She said herself, “Strength, health, and nerve I had hitherto looked upon as a sort of right of nature, and supposed that everybody had them; I never felt grateful for them as a blessing, but I began to learn what suffering was from this date.” Henceforth we see her not as the woman who was ready to share any dare-devil adventure or hair-breadth escape, and who revelled in a free and roving life of travel, but rather as the wife, whose thoughts now turned more than ever to the delights of home, and how to add to her husband’s domestic comforts.

Expressions of sympathy and goodwill were called forth by her accident from friends far and wide. Among others, Lady Salisbury wrote:

“Dear Mrs. Burton,

“We were all very sorry to hear of your misfortunes, and I hope that the Viennese doctors and their baths have now cured you and restored you to perfect health. It was indeed most trying to have that accident at Paris just as you were recovering from your illness in London. I suppose you are now thinking of the preparations for your Egyptian trip, unless the new Khedive has stopped it, which he is not at all likely to have done, as its success would redound so much to his own advantage. We have been here for the last two months, and are beginning to think our holiday is over, and that we ought to go back to England again.

“Of course we have all been talking and thinking of nothing but Cabul lately. The Afghans really seem like the Constantinople dogs, quite untamable. I suppose we shall soon hear of the English troops entering Cabul and all the horrors of the punishment, which, as is usual in such cases, is almost sure to fall on the innocent instead of the guilty.

“This country seems very prosperous. People are rich and orderly, and every one seems as busy and happy as possible; the harbour is full of ships, and new houses are being built and new shops opened; and, according to M. Waddington, who was here the other day, this is the same all over France. What is the real truth about Count A—‘s resignation? Is it health or weariness, or what is it? We are all puzzled at it here. I suppose Prince Bismarck’s visit will lead to some éclaircissement.

“We hear occasionally from Lord Beaconsfield, who seems very well. He is at Hughenden. We often think of the pleasant days you spent with us at Hatfield when he was there.

“With kind regards to Captain Burton and yourself from us all,

“Believe me very sincerely yours,

“G. Salisbury.”

In the autumn Isabel went to Venice on a brief visit; but had to return shortly, as Burton had made up his mind to go once more to Egypt to try his luck about the Midian Mines. There was nothing for her to do but to see him off (there was no money for two) and remain behind to spend her Christmas alone at Trieste.

Soon after the new year Isabel began to get ill again. She had not really recovered from her fall in Paris nine months before. The doctors advised her to see a bone-setter. She wrote and told her husband, who was then in Egypt, and he replied by telegram ordering her to go home to London at once. She reached London, and went through a course of medical treatment. She notes during this dreary period a visit from Martin Tupper, who came to see her on the subject of cruelty to animals. (Burton always joked with his wife about “Tupper and the animals.") He presented her with a copy of his Proverbial Philosophy, and also wrote her the letter which is reproduced here:

“My Dear Madam,

“I hope you will allow a personal stranger, though haply on both sides a book friend, to thank you for your very graphic and interesting A. E. I. travels; may the volume truly be to you and yours an everlasting possession! But the special reason I have at present for troubling you with my praise is because in to-day’s reading of your eleventh chapter I cannot but feel how one we are in pity and hope for the dear and innocent lower animals so cruelly treated by their savage monarch, man, everywhere during this evil æon of the earth. To prove my sympathy as no new feeling, I may refer your kindly curiosity to my Proverbial Chapters on ‘The Future of Animals,’ to many of my occasional poems, and to the enclosed, which I hope it may please you to accept. You may like to know also, as a kindred spirit (and pray don’t think me boastful), that years ago, through a personal communication with Louis Napoleon, I have a happy reason to believe that the undersigned was instrumental in stopping the horrors of Altorf, besides other similar efforts for poor animals in America and elsewhere. I believe, with you, that they have a good future in prospect (perhaps in what is called the millennial era of our world), that they understand us and our language, especially as to oaths, and that those humble friends will be met and known by us in our happier state to come.

“But I must not weary you with what might be expanded into a treatise; I am confident we agree; and I know in my own experiences (as doubtless you do in yours) that the poor horses and dogs we have pitied and helped, love and appreciate and may hereafter be found capable of rewarding — in some small way — those who are good to them in this our mutual stage of trial.

“With my best regards then, and due thanks, allow me to subscribe myself

“Your very sincere servant,

“Martin F. Tupper.”

Isabel was anxious about her husband, as things in Egypt were in a very unsettled condition. Ismail Khedive had now abdicated, and Tewfik had succeeded him. This, as we know, upset all Burton’s plans; he got no farther than Egypt on his way to Midian, and remained at Alexandria eating out his heart in despair at his bad luck. One night on coming home from dinner he was attacked by a band of roughs, who hit him over the head from behind with a sharp instrument. It was supposed to be foul play with a motive, as the only thing they stole was his divining-rod for gold, which he carried about with him, and they did not take his money. He kept the loss a secret, in order that it should be no hindrance to him if he had the chance to go back to work the Mines of Midian. But that chance never came. He returned to Trieste, and did not let his wife know of the assault until she joined him there on her return from London.

In the meantime she had not been idle. Despite her ill-health when in London she had been agitating for her husband’s promotion, and had built high hopes on the kind interest of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury. Unfortunately for her Lord Beaconsfield’s last Administration collapsed in April with a crash, and her hopes were buried in the ruins. Lord Granville, who had recalled Burton from Damascus, succeeded Lord Salisbury at the Foreign Office, and she knew that she could not hope for much from Lord Granville. When she saw the turn the General Election of 1880 had taken, she made a last despairing effort to induce the out-going Government to do something for her husband before the Ministers gave up their seals. She received the following kind letter from Lady Salisbury:

My Dear Mrs. Burton,

“I received your note here yesterday, and fear it is too late to do anything, as the lists went in yesterday, and Lord Beaconsfield is with the Queen to-day. So we must bear our misfortunes as best we can, and hope for better days. I cannot help feeling that this change is too violent to last long. But who can say? It is altogether so astonishing. As regards Captain Burton, I hope you will not lose anything. So valuable a public servant will, I hope, be sure of recognition whatever Government may be in office.

“With our united kind regards to him and to you,

“Yours very sincerely,

“G. Salisbury.”

It was a sad home-coming for Isabel; for not only were her hopes, so near fruition, dashed to the ground, but she found her husband very ill from the effects of his accident and from gout. The first thing she did was to send for a doctor, and take him off to Opçina. It is sad to note that from this time we find in their letters and diaries frequent complaints of sickness and suffering. They, who had rarely known what illness meant, now had it with them as an almost constant companion. From Opçina they went to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play, which impressed them both very much, though in different ways. Isabel wrote a long description of this play, which has never been published. Burton also wrote an account, which has seen the light. When they returned to Trieste, they had a good many visitors, among others the late Mr. W. H. Smith and his family. He was always a kind friend to Isabel, as indeed he was to every one he liked. And that (like Lord Beaconsfield, Lord Salisbury, Lord Clarendon, Lord Derby, and many other leading statesmen) he had a high opinion of her abilities is, I think, evident from the following letter. Men do not write in this way to stupid women:

“Dear Mrs. Burton,

“Your kind letters have reached us since our arrival here. We were earlier in our return than we had at first intended, as Parliament was called together so soon; but our house was not ready, and my family had to stay in the country for some little time. It is very good of you to send me the Lusiads. I am keeping them for those delightful days of quiet and enjoyment which are to be had sometimes in the country, but not in these stormy days in London. Are we to have peace and quiet? Ireland will be sullenly quiet now under coercion, after having been stimulated by oratory almost to madness. South Africa is a very serious matter indeed. I am told the Dutch colonists within the Cape will remain loyal; but our reputation as an invincible race suffers with all the natives. And then the European East, nothing at present can look blacker, and all because of passionate words and hatred. I am afraid too we are low in the estimation of the people of the West, and likely to remain so.

“Your good Christmas wishes reached us long after the New Year; but we had a very pleasant Christmas at Malta with many of our old naval friends, and we spent our New Year’s Day at a little port in Elba. What a charming island it is! Small, no doubt; but not a bad prison for an Emperor if he had books and papers and some powers of self-control. Coming up to Nice we had very heavy weather; but the yacht behaved well, and it was certainly pleasanter at sea with a strong easterly wind than on shore.

“There is to be a great Candahar debate in the Lords to-night. Lord Lytton speaks remarkably well — as an old debater would — and great interest is felt in the event. All the same Candahar will be given up; and some time hence, if we have soldiers left, we shall probably have to fight our way back again to it.

“Pray give our united kind regards to Captain Burton. I shall be so glad to hear any news if anything transpires at Trieste.

“Yours very sincerely,
“W. H. Smith.”

43 Speech at the British National Association of Spiritualists, December 13, 1878.

Chapter XXIV

The Shadows Lengthen


O tired heart!
God Knows,
Not you nor I.

The next four or five years were comparatively uneventful. There was little hope of promotion from the new Government, so the Burtons resigned themselves to Trieste with what grace they might; and though they were constantly agitating for promotion and change, neither the promotion nor the change came. Burton hated Trieste; he chafed at the restricted field for his energies which it afforded him; and had it not been for frequent expeditions of a more or less hazardous nature, and his literary labours, life at the Austrian seaport would have been intolerable for him. With Isabel it was different. As the years went on she grew to love the place and the people, and to form many ties and interests which it would have been hard for her to break. Notwithstanding this she warmly seconded her husband’s efforts to obtain from the Foreign Office some other post, and she was never weary of bringing his claims before the notice of the Government, the public, and any influential friends who might be likely to help. Indeed the record of her diary during these years is one of continuos struggle on her husband’s behalf, which is varied only by anxiety for his health.

“I am like a swimmer battling against strong waves,” she writes to a friend about this time, “and I think my life will always be thus. Were I struggling only for myself, I should long before have tired; but since it is for my dear one’s sake I shall fight on so long as life lasts. Every now and then one seems to reach the crest of the wave, and that gives one courage; but how long a time it is when one is in the depths!”

To another friend she wrote:

“We have dropped into our old Triestine lives. We have made our Opçina den very comfortable. We have taken the big room and Dick’s old one, opened them, and shut the end one, which is too cold, and put in lamps, stoves, and stores and comforts of all kinds; in fact partly refurnished. I am much better, and can walk a little now; so I walk up half-way from Trieste on Saturday, Dick all the way; Sunday Mass in village, and walk; and Monday walk down. We keep all the week’s letters for here (Opçina) and all the week’s newspapers to read, and do our translations. I have begun Ariosto, but am rather disheartened. We have set up a tir au pistolet in the rooms, which are long enough (opened) to give twenty-two paces, and we have brought up some foils. The Triestines think us as mad as hatters to come up here, on account of the weather, which is ‘seasonable’ — bora, snow, and frozen fingers. I am interesting myself in the two hundred and twenty badly behaved Slav children in the village. Dick’s Lusiads are making a stir. My Indian sketches and our Oberammergau have gone to the bad. My publisher, as I told you, took to evil ways, failed, and eventually died December 10. However, I hope to rise like a phœnix out of the ashes. The rest of our week is passed in fencing three times a week, twice a week Italian, twice a week German. Friday I receive the Trieste world from twelve noon to 6 p.m., with accompaniments of Arab coffee, cigarettes, and liqueurs. Dick is always grinding at literature as usual; so what with helping Dick (we are studying something together), literature, looking after the little ménage, and philanthropic business, Church work, the animals, and the poor, I am very happy and busy, and I think stronger; albeit I have little rest or amusement, according to the doctor’s ideas. In fact I have a winter I love, a quiet Darby and Joan by our own fireside, which I so seldom get.” 44

The principal event at Trieste in 1881 appears to have been the arrival of the British squadron in July. Burton and his wife were always of a most hospitable nature; they would have spent their last penny in entertaining their friends. The first thing they did on the arrival of the squadron was to invite the captains and officers of every ship to an evening fête champêtre and ball at Opçina. In addition to this they sent out about eight hundred invitations to the captains and officers of the Austrian navy and other men-of-war anchored at Trieste, the officers of the Austrian regiments stationed there, the Governor and Staff, and the Austrian authorities, the Consular corps, and all their private friends, to the number of about one hundred and fifty of the principal people of Trieste. They turned the gardens of the little inn at Opçina into a sort of Vauxhall or Rosherville for the occasion. There were refreshment tents, and seats, and benches, and barrels of wine and beer, and elaborate decorations of flowers, and coloured lamps and flags, and no end of fireworks. When the eventful evening arrived, and everything was in full swing, the weather, which had been perfectly fine heretofore, broke up with the startling suddenness which is peculiar to the Adriatic. The heavens opened, and to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning the rain descended in torrents, flooding the tents, quenching the illuminations, and reducing the whole ground to a Slough of Despond. The guests naturally rushed for shelter to the little inn, which was much too small to accommodate them. The police made for the barrels of beer, and were soon incapable of keeping order, and a mob of villagers who had assembled to witness the festivities from without, broke through the barricades, made a raid on the refreshment tent, smashed the dishes, and carried off all the best things to eat and drink. Burton took it very philosophically; but Isabel, overcome with vexation and disappointment, burst into tears. The sight, however, of the raiders soon turned her grief to anger. She pulled herself together, got a party of young braves, sallied forth into the grounds, and made a rush for the tent. With her little band she rescued all that was left of the food and drink, and then cleared away the furniture in the lower part of the inn, told the band to play, and set her guests dancing, while she rigged up an impromptu supper-room in the garret. This spirited conduct soon restored the chaos to something like order. The guests — the majority of whom were English — unconscious of the havoc which had been wrought, enjoyed themselves right merrily, and the party did not break up until five o’clock in the morning.

The British squadron, both officers and men were well received at Trieste, and became most popular during their stay there. Isabel made great friends with the sailors, and she rescued one of them from what might have been a serious squabble. One day she saw a sailor picking the apples off a tree in the Austrian Admiral’s garden, which overhung the road. The sentry came out, and a crowd of people assembled. Jack Tar looked at them scornfully, and went on munching his apple until they laid hands on him, when he gave a sweeping backhander, which knocked one or two of them over. Everything was ripe for a row, when Isabel stepped in between the combatants, and said to the sailor, “I am your Consul’s wife, and they are trying to make you understand that these are the Austrian Admiral’s apples, and you must not eat them.” The sailor apologized, said he did not know he had done any wrong, and did not understand what they were all jabbering about; and he saluted and went. Then Isabel explained to the sentry, and generally poured oil on the troubled waters. The sailor told the story to his comrades, and thus she became very popular among them. The sailors liked Trieste so much that, when the squadron was to leave, eighteen of them did not join their ship; and when they were caught Isabel went and interceded for them, and begged the captain not to punish them severely. He said, “Oh no, the darlings; wait till I get them on board ship! I will have them tucked up comfortably in bed with nice hot grog.” Whether her intercession availed is not related.

In August, 1881, the Burtons started on a trip somewhat farther afield than was their wont for short expeditions. They went up to Veldes, a lovely spot, where there was a good inn and first-rate fishing. Burton was absent without leave from the Foreign Office; and though he had left the Consulate in charge of the Vice-Consul, his conduct was, officially speaking, irregular, and both he and his wife were afraid of meeting any one they knew. The first person they saw at the inn was the Chaplain of the British Embassy at Vienna, who might have reported the absentee Consul to his Ambassador. Burton bolted up to bed to avoid him; but Isabel thought that the better plan would be to take the bull by the horns. So she went to the Chaplain, and made a frank confession that they were truants. He burst out laughing, and said, “My dear lady, I am doing exactly the same thing myself." She then went upstairs, brought Burton down again, and the three had a convivial evening together.

After this they went on by stages to Ischl, where they parted company, Burton going to Vienna, and Isabel to Marienbad for a cure. Her stay at Marienbad she notes as mainly interesting because she made the acquaintance of Madame Olga Novikoff. Her cure over, with no good result, she joined her husband at Trieste. They stopped there one night to change baggage, and went across to Venice, where there was a great meeting of the Geographical Congress. Burton was not asked to meet his fellow-geographers, or to take any part in the Congress. The slight was very marked, and both he and his wife felt it keenly. It was only one more instance of the undying prejudice against him in certain quarters. They met many friends, including Captain Verney Lovett Cameron. In November Burton went with him to the west coast of Africa, to report on certain mines which Burton had discovered when Consul at Fernando Po. Isabel was anxious to accompany them; but it was the usual tale, “My expenses are not paid, and we personally hadn’t enough money for two, so I was left behind.”

The first part of 1882 Isabel spent without her husband, as he was absent on the Guinea coast. She fretted very much at his long absence, and made herself ill with disappointment because she was not able to join him. The following letter shows inter alia how much she felt the separation45:

“I was so pleased you liked the scourging I gave the reviewers.46 No one has answered me, and it has well spread. I don’t know how they could. All Dick’s friends were very glad. The Commentary is out, two vols. (that makes four out and four to come). The ‘Reviewers Reviewed’ is a postscript to the Commentary, and the Glossary is in that too. I wrote the ‘Reviewers’ at Duino in June last, and I enjoyed doing it immensely. I put all the reviews in a row on a big table, and lashed myself into a spiteful humour one by one, so that my usually suave pen was dipped with gall and caustic. You will have had my last, I think, from Marienbad. I then joined Dick at Vienna, where we spent a few days; and then went to Venice for the fêtes, which were marvellous, and the Queen was lovely. Then we came home, and had two charming, quiet, delicious months together; and to my joy he gave up dining out and dined at home tête-à-tête; but of course it was overshadowed by the knowledge of the coming parting, which I feel terribly this time, as I go on getting older. We left together in the Cunarder Demerara. Her route was Trieste, Venice, Fiume, Patras, Gibraltar, England. By dropping off at Fiume I got ten days on board with him. He leaves her at Gibraltar about the 7th; goes to Cadiz, Lisbon, Madeira, and Axim on the West Coast. He has to change ship four times, and this is a great anxiety to me in this stormy weather. God keep him safe! Once at Axim, the mines are all round the coast, and then I dread fever for him. He wishes to make a little trip to the Kong Mountains, and then I fear natives and beasts. Perhaps Cameron will be with him; but entre nous Cameron is not very solid, and requires a leading hand. If all goes well (D.V., and may He be merciful), we are to meet in London in March, and I hope we shall get a glimpse of you.

“I am, as you may think, fearfully sad. I have been nowhere; I neither visit, nor receive, nor go out. Men drink when they are sad, women fly into company; but I must fight the battle with my own heart, learn to live alone and work, and when I have conquered I will allow myself to see something of my friends. I dreaded my empty home without children or relatives; but I have braved the worst now. I am cleaning and tidying his room, putting each thing down in its own place; but I won’t make it luxurious this time; I have learnt by experience.”

Isabel passed the next three months at Trieste busily studying, writing, and carrying out the numerous directions contained in her husband’s letters.

Early in April her doctor discovered that she had the germs of the internal complaint of which she ultimately died. She had noticed all the year that she had been getting weaker and weaker in the fencing-school, until one day she turned faint, and the fencing-master said to her, “Why, what’s the matter with you? Your arms are getting quite limp in using the broad-sword.” She did not know what was the matter with her at the time; but soon after she became so ill that she had to take to her bed, and then her doctor discovered the nature of the malady. She did not go to the fencing-school any more after that. In the Life of her husband, speaking of the matter, Lady Burton says that her internal complaint possibly resulted from her fall downstairs in Paris in 1879; but in talking the matter over with her sister, Mrs. Fitzgerald, a year or two before her death, she recalled another accident which seems the more likely origin of her distressing malady. Once when she was riding alone in the woods in Brazil she was pursued by a brigand. As she was unarmed, she fled as fast as her horse would carry her. The brigand gave chase, and in the course of an hour’s exciting ride Isabel’s horse stumbled and threw her violently against the pommel of her saddle. Fortunately the horse recovered its footing, and she was able to get safely away from her pursuer; but the bruise was a serious one (though she thought little of it at the time), and many years later she came to the conclusion that this was the probable origin of her illness.

The third week in April she left Trieste for England to meet her husband, who was due at Liverpool in May. While she was in London she consulted an eminent surgeon on the subject of her illness, which was then at its beginning. He advised an operation, which he said would be a trifling matter. There is every probability, if she had consented, that she would have recovered, and been alive to this day. But she had a horror of the knife and anæsthetics. Nevertheless she would have braved them if it had not been for another consideration, which weighed with her most of all. She knew that an operation of this kind would lay her up for some time, and she would not be able to look after her husband on his return from his long absence. She was afraid too that the knowledge of her illness might worry him, so for his sake she refused the operation, and she kept the knowledge of her malady a secret from him. It is perhaps a little far-fetched to say that by doing this she sacrificed her life for her husband’s sake, yet in a sense she may be said to have done so. Her first thought, and her only thought, was always of him, and it is literally true to say that she would at any moment cheerfully have laid down her life that he might gain.

Isabel went to Liverpool to meet Burton on his return from Africa. He came back with Captain Lovett Cameron. There was a great dinner given at Liverpool to welcome the wanderers. The next day the Burtons went to London, where they stayed for a couple of months through the season, met many interesting people, and were entertained largely. On the last day of July they returned to Trieste.

In September Isabel went again to Marienbad for the baths, which did her no good. While there she wrote a letter to Vanity Fair anent a certain article which spoke of Burton and his “much-prized post.” She took occasion to point out his public services, and to show that the “much-prized post” was “the poor, hard-earned, little six hundred a year, well earned by forty years’ hard toil in the public service.” On returning to Trieste, she entertained many friends who arrived there for the Exhibition, and after that settled down to the usual round again.

In October Burton was suddenly ordered by the Foreign Office to go to Ghazzeh in Syria in search of Professor Palmer, their old friend and travelling companion, who was lost in the desert. There was then a chance of his being still alive, though the bodies of his companions had been found. Burton’s knowledge of the Bedawin and Sinai country was of course specially valuable in such a quest. He started at once.

After he had left Isabel went into retreat at the Convent della Osolini at Gorzia. The following were among her reflections at this period47:

“In retreat at last. I have so long felt the want of one. My life seems to be like an express train, every day bringing fresh things which must be done. I am goaded on by time and circumstances, and God, my first beginning and last end, is always put off, thrust out of the way, to make place for the unimportant, and gets served last and badly. This cannot continue. What friend would have such long-enduring patience with me? None! Certainly less a king! far less a husband! How then? Shall God be kept waiting until nobody else wants me? How ashamed and miserable I feel! How my heart twinges at the thought of my ingratitude, and the poor return I make for such favours and graces as I have received! God has called me into retreat once more, perhaps for the last time. He has created an unexpected opportunity for me, since my husband has been sent to look for poor Palmer’s body. I thought I heard Him cry, ‘Beware! Do not wait until I drive you to misfortune, but go voluntarily into solitude, prepare for Me, and wait for Me, till I come to abide with you.’

“I am here, my God, according to Thy command; Thou and I, I and Thou, face to face in the silence. Oh, speak to my heart, and clear out from it everything that is not of Thee, and let me abide with Thee awhile! Not only speak, but make me understand, and turn my body and spirit and soul into feelings and actions, not words and thoughts alone.

“My health and nerves for the past three years have rendered me less practical and assiduous in religion than I was. Then I used to essay fine, large, good works, travel, write, and lead a noble and virile life. Now I am weaker, and feel a lassitude incidental to my time of life, which I trust may pass away. I am left at home to town life, and I seem to have declined to petty details, small works, dreaming, and making lists and plans of noble things not carried out. It looks like the beginning of the end.

“I ask for two worldly petitions, quite submitted to God’s will: (1) That I may be cured, and that Dick and I may have good, strong health to be able to work and do good — if we are destined to live. (2) That if it be God’s will, and not bad for us we may get a comfortable independence, without working any more for our bread, and independent of any master save God.”

Isabel returned to Trieste when her retreat was concluded; and soon after — much sooner than she expected — her husband returned to her.

When he reached Gazzeh, Burton found Sir Charles Warren already in the field, and he did not want to be interfered with, so that Burton came home again and spent Christmas with his wife at Trieste. Thus ended 1882. Isabel notes: “After this year misfortunes began to come upon us all, and we have never had another like it.”

Early next year the Burtons left their flat in Trieste, where they had been for over ten years. Something went wrong with the drainage for one thing, and Burton took an intense dislike to it for another; and when he took a dislike to a house nothing would ever induce him to remain in it. The only thing to do was to move. They looked all over Trieste in search of something suitable, and only saw one house that would do for them, and that was a palazzo, which then seemed quite beyond their means; yet six months later they got into it. It was a large house in a large garden on a wooded eminence looking out to the sea. It had been built in the palmy days of Trieste by an English merchant prince, and was one of the best houses in the place. It had a good entrance, so wide that it would have been possible to drive a carriage into the hall. A marble staircase led to the interior, which contained some twenty large rooms, magnificent in size. The house was full of air and light, and the views were charming. One looked over the Adriatic, one over the wooded promontory, another towards the open country, and the fourth into gardens and orchards.

The Burtons’ House at Trieste.

The early part of 1883 was sad to Isabel by reason of her husband’s failing health and her own illness. In May she went alone to Bologna, at her husband’s request, for she then told him of the nature of her illness, to consult Count Mattei, of whom they had heard much from their friend Lady Paget, Ambassadress at Vienna. When she arrived at Bologna, she found he had gone on to Riola, and she followed him thither. Mattei’s castle was perched on a rock, and to it Isabel repaired.

“First,” she says, “I had to consult a very doubtful-looking mastiff; then appeared a tall, robust well-made, soldierlike-looking form in English costume of blue serge, brigand felt hat, with a long pipe, who looked about fifty, and not at all like a doctor. He received me very kindly, and took me up flights of stairs, through courts, into a wainscoted oak room, with fruits and sweets on the table, with barred-iron gates and drawbridges and chains in different parts of the room, that looked as if he could pull one up and put one down into a hole. He talked French and Italian; but I soon perceived that he liked Italian better, and stuck to it; and I also noticed that, by his mouth and eyes, instead of fifty, he must be about seventy-five. A sumptuous dinner-table was laid out in an adjoining room, with fruit and flowers. I told him I could not be content, having come so far to see him, to have only a passing quarter of an hour. He listened to all my long complaints about my health most patiently, asked me every question; but he did not ask to examine me, nor look at my tongue, nor feel my pulse, as other doctors do. He said that I did not look like a person with the complaint mentioned, but as if circulation and nerves were out of order. He prescribed four internal and four external remedies and baths. I wrote down all his suggestions, and rehearsed them that he might correct any mistakes." 48

After the interview with Count Mattei Isabel did not remain at Riola, but with all her medicines returned to Trieste. The remedies were not, however, of any avail.

In June Isabel presided over a fête of her Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and made a long speech, in which she reviewed the work from the beginning, and the difficulties and successes. She wound up as follows:

“May none of you ever know the fatigue, anxiety, disgust, heartaches, nervousness, self-abnegation and disappointments of this mission, and the small good drawn out of years of it; for so it seems to me. Old residents, and people living up the country, do say that you would not know the town to be the same it was eleven years ago, when I first came. They tell me there is quite a new stamp or horse, a new mode of working and treatment and feeling. I, the workwoman, cannot see it or feel it. I think I am always rolling a stone uphill. I know that you all hear something of what I have to put up with to carry it out — the opposition, and contentions, treachery, abuse, threats and ridicule; and therefore I all the more cherish the friendly hand such a large assembly has gathered together to hold out to me to-day to give me fresh courage. You all know how fond I am of Trieste; but it is the very hardest place I ever worked in, and eleven years of it have pretty nearly broken me up. Nevertheless I shall always, please God, wherever I am, ‘open my mouth for the dumb,’ and adhere to my favourite motto: ‘Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra.’”

For the first time this summer Isabel and her husband found that swimming in the sea, which had been one of their favourite recreations at Trieste, no longer agreed with them, and they came reluctantly to the conclusion that their swimming must go the way of the fencing, and that the days of their more active physical exercises were over. For the first time also in all the twenty-two years of their married life they began to shirk the early rising, and now no longer got up at 3 or 4 a.m., but at the comparatively late hour of 6 or 6.30 a.m. In November Burton had a serious attack of gout, which gave him agonies of pain; and it was at last borne in upon him that he would have to make up his mind henceforth to be more or less of an invalid. Simultaneously Isabel was ill from peritonitis. There seemed to be a curious sympathy between the two, which extended to all things, even to their physical health. On December 6 Burton put the following in his diary in red ink: ”This day eleven years I came here. What a shame!

Early in 1884 Isabel came in for a small legacy of £500, which was useful to them at the time, as they were far from being well off, and had incurred many expenses consequent on their change of house. She expended the whole of it in additional comforts for her husband during his illness, which unfortunately seemed to get more serious as time went on. In February he quite lost the use of his legs for eight months, which of necessity kept him much in the house. It was during this period that he began his great work Alf Laylah wa Laylah, or The Arabian Nights. When I say he began it, that is not strictly speaking correct, for he had been gathering material for years. He merely took in hand the matter which he had already collected thirty years before. He worked at it con amore, and it was very soon necessary to call in an amanuensis to copy his manuscript.

This year was uneventful. They were absent from Trieste a good deal on “cures” and short excursions. Burton’s health gave him a great deal of trouble; but whenever he was well enough, or could find time from his official duties, he devoted himself to his translation of The Arabian Nights. Isabel also worked hard in connexion with it in another way. She had undertaken the financial part of the business, and sent out no less than thirty-four thousand circulars to people with a view to their buying copies of the book as it came out.

In January and February, 1885, Burton was so ill that his wife implored him to throw up the Consular Service, and live in a place which suited him, away from Trieste. Of course that meant that they would have to live in a very small way; for if they gave up their appointment at that time and forfeited the salary, they would have been very poor. Still, so impressed was Isabel that the winter in Trieste did not agree with her husband, that she said, “You must never winter here again”; but he said, “I quite agree with you there — we will never winter here again; but I won’t throw up the Service until I either get Morocco or they let me retire on full pension.” She then said, “When we go home again, that is what we will try for, that you may retire on full pension, which will be only six years before your time.” Henceforth she tried for only two things: one, that he might be promoted to Morocco, because it was his pet ambition to be Consul there before he died, the other, failing Morocco, he should be allowed to retire on full pension on account of his health. Notwithstanding that she moved heaven and earth to obtain this latter request, it was never granted.

In the meantime they were busy writing together the index to The Arabian Nights. On Thursday, February 12, she said to him, “Now mind, to-morrow is Friday the 13th. It is our unlucky day, and we have got to be very careful."

When the morning dawned, they heard of the death of one of their greatest friends, General Gordon, which had taken place on January 26 at Kartoum; but the news had been kept from them. At this sad event Isabel writes, “We both collapsed together, were ill all day, and profoundly melancholy.”

44 Letter to Miss Bishop from Opçina, January 17, 1881.

45 Letter to Miss Bishop from Trieste, December 5, 1881.

46 This refers to Camoens: the Commentary, Life, and Lusiads. Englished by R. F. Burton. Two vols. Containing a Glossary, and Reviewers Reviewed, by Isabel Burton. 1880.

47 From her devotional book Laméd, pp. 28, 29.

48 Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Isabel his wife, vol.ii., p. 248.

Chapter XXV

Gordon and the Burtons

 Oh! bring us back once more
 The vanished days of yore,
When the world with faith was filled;
 Bring back the fervid zeal,
 The hearts of fire and steel,