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Dagonet Abroad

Dagonet Abroad
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Title: Dagonet Abroad
Release Date: 2019-02-06
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Contents.

Some typographical errors have been corrected;The few misspellings of foreign words have not beencorrected.

(etext transcriber's note)

DAGONET ABROAD

DAGONET ABROAD

BY
GEORGE R. SIMS
AUTHOR OF
‘MARY JANE’S MEMOIRS,’ ‘THE RING O’ BELLS,’ ETC.


LONDON
CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
1895

TO
COUNT ALBERT EDWARD VON ARMFELT
THE CONSTANT COMPANION OF
DAGONET ABROAD
THESE PAGES ARE AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED
BY HIS FRIEND
GEO. R. SIMS

PREFACE

If ‘Dagonet Abroad’ is found to be mainly a record of personaladventure, my excuse must be that I have always endeavoured to attend tomy own business and leave other people’s alone. I have described thecities and peoples of Europe entirely from my own personal observation.In no instance have I described a country without visiting it. I trustthat this admission will not in any way injure my reputation as atraveller, or as a journalist.

GEO. R. SIMS.

London,
September 1, 1895.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER  PAGE
I. IN BORDEAUX1
II. IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY13
III. FROM BIARRITZ TO BURGOS26
IV. MADRID41
V. SEVILLE65
VI. GRANADA AND CORDOVA84
VII. COSAS DE ESPAÑA95
VIII. OFF TO AFRICA102
IX. ALGIERS110
X. SAINTS AND SINNERS122
XI. MONTE CARLO137
XII. GENOA154
XIII. FLORENCE166
XIV. ROME177
XV. NAPLES190
XVI. VENICE216
XVII. MILAN222
XVIII. A REVOLUTION IN TICINO227
XIX. LOCARNO238
XX. BERLIN EN PASSANT251
XXI. PRAGUE258
XXII. VIENNA269
XXIII. BUDAPEST278
XXIV. A MAD KING’S PALACE291
XXV. HOLLAND295
XXVI. ANTWERP AND BRUSSELS305

{1}

DAGONET ABROAD

CHAPTER I.
IN BORDEAUX.

I am in Bordeaux in February, and in a hotel; which hotel I am not quitesure. Over the top of the front door it is called ‘Hôtel de la Paix,’ onthe left side of the door it is called ‘Hôtel des Princes,’ on the rightside of the door it is called ‘Hôtel de Paris.’ It is three singlehotels rolled into one; but its variety of nomenclature is slightlyconfusing. It is nice to be in so many hotels all at once, but I hopethey won’t all send me in a separate bill. The key to the enigma isthis: Many hotels in Bordeaux have failed, or given up business. Thelandlord of my hotel has bought the goodwill of each, and stuck itstitle up over his own front door.

It is early in the morning and bitterly cold when I arrive, but as theday advances it gets aired. The sun comes out in the heavens and slowlygathers strength. By noon the streets are bathed in a warm glow.Bordeaux has changed from the frozen North to the sunny South. It is nolonger Siberian; it is Indian. The pavements that were frozen with thecold in the early morning are now baking with the{2} heat. I fling off myulster, and I light a cigarette and stroll forth, airily clad, to baskand revel in the golden sunlight.

At the corner of the street I come upon a great crowd dressed in black.They are waiting for a funeral. Presently a modest little open hearsedraws up. It is drawn by two horses covered from head to tail in rustyblack clothing. Two men in faded bottle-green coats jump off, and gointo a house. Presently they return with a poor, cheap, common coffin.They place it on the hearse, and throw a faded, rusty-looking pall overit. Then one of the men returns to the house, and comes back with a bigwreath of yellow immortelles. On this is executed in black beads thelegend, ‘To Raoul Laval; from his friends of the Bureau.’

I mix with the crowd. I inquire who was this Raoul Laval who is startingon his journey to the great Terminus. ‘An employé, monsieur, in thegreat shop yonder,’ is the answer. ‘So this is the funeral of a littleclerk in a big shop,’ I say to myself. ‘Why, then, this big crowd?’ Thehearse starts. Then, to my astonishment, I behold this great crowd formbehind the hearse—old men and women, young men and maidens, two andtwo, until the line of procession reaches as far as the eye can see. Thehearse is a black dot far away, and still the mourners fall in andfollow the little clerk to his grave. There are four gentlemen who holdthe tasselled cords of the pall. These are the proprietors of the greatemporium. Then come the relatives—Raoul’s mother and his wife—then allthe gentlemen in the office, then the gentlemen behind the counter andthe smart shopgirls and the humble little workgirls, the porters and thepackers, and the needlewomen, and the coachmen who drive out the carts,and the boys who deliver the parcels. Every living soul, great andsmall, rich{3} and poor, all who earn their daily bread in that bigdrapery house where Raoul Laval was a humble clerk, have turned outto-day to do him honour and to see him home.

Slowly the long line of mourners (I count 760) passes on its way up thebroad street until it is out of sight. I am left alone looking after it.Not quite alone, for an old man, who leans upon a stick and is bent withage, stands beside me, and shades his time-dulled eyes from the fiercesun, and peers through the distance to get the last glimpse of thefast-vanishing cortége. ‘It is an honour to him, poor fellow!’ I say tothe patriarch, as we turn away together; ‘a great honour for the wholefirm to have followed him like this.’ ‘Yes, monsieur,’ he answers, ‘itis an honour; but he deserves it. He has been a faithful servant to thefirm for twenty years, and everybody respected him. We shall all misshim now he is gone.’ ‘Ah! you are of the firm, too?’ ‘Yes, sir; I am theconcierge. Poor Monsieur Raoul! Always a kind word for everybody, hehad; and always at his post, monsieur—always at his post. The firm haslost a brave fellow—God rest his soul!’

Our ways divided; the old concierge went back to the shop, and Istrolled on to the busy quay, teeming with colour and movement and life.But though I looked on the great river with its forest of masts, andlistened to the babble of the thousand labourers on the quay as theyloaded and unloaded the mighty ships, my thoughts were with the littleclerk of the big drapery shop who was having so grand a funeral.

Yes, a grand funeral. The horses were broken-kneed, the coffin was cheapand common, the pall was threadbare and faded; but that great crowd ofgenuine mourners was something that a monarch might have envied. Forevery man and woman,{4} every boy and girl in that long line of witnessesto his worth, loved and respected the man. Happy Raoul Laval! Luckylittle clerk to have managed your life so well! How many of us whosenames are known to fame—how many of us who fret and fume, and wear ourhearts out in the battle for renown—would fall back into the ranks, andtoil on quietly as you did to gain such love and respect and sympathywhen our work is done, and we are put to bed to rest through the longdark night that must be passed ere we awaken to that brighter day whichno living eyes may see!

Bordeaux is big and clean, and strikes one as a healthy town. Thestreets are wide and well kept, and parks and open spaces are plentiful.The people of Bordeaux have a healthy, happy, prosperous look. They walkbriskly, instead of slouching about like the people of Marseilles. Infact, Bordeaux is the exact opposite of Marseilles. If you particularlywanted to see what cholera was like, and had to pick out a town wherethere was a fine chance of getting it, you couldn’t do better than tryMarseilles. If you wanted to escape from the epidemic, and get to a townwhere there was the least probability of its following you, you couldn’tdo better than settle in Bordeaux. I can’t put the difference betweenthe two towns in a more striking way than that.

The French equivalent of ‘carrying coals to Newcastle’ is ‘carrying wineto Bordeaux.’ You haven’t been in Bordeaux five minutes before thepresence of an enormous wine trade makes itself felt. Wine stares at youand confronts you everywhere. The wine lists in the hotels are hugevolumes. Hundreds of varieties of wines, red and white, are elaboratelyset out. First you have the names of the ‘cru’s,’ then the year, theprice, the proprietors, and the place where the wine was bottled. Youcan read{5} down a whole page of red wines, the cheapest of which is 25francs a bottle, and the dearest 100 francs. These wine lists, which arehanded to you in every hotel and restaurant, are magnificently bound inmorocco and lettered in gold, and it is set forth that the ‘cellars’from which you are drinking belong to a house founded so many yearsafter the Flood, and that it has ‘a speciality for the grand wines ofBordeaux, bottled at the châteaux, with the mark of their authenticorigin on the corks, capsules, and labels.’

If ever one drinks genuine ‘Bordeaux,’ it ought to be at Bordeaux. AtYarmouth one does not suspect the freshness of the bloater; inDevonshire one blindly accepts the cream; at Banbury nothing can shakeone’s faith in the cake; and at Whitstable one does not say to thewaiter at one’s hotel, as he hands you the oysters, ‘Waiter, are thesereally natives?’ At Bordeaux I was prepared to gulp down even the vinordinaire with the sublime faith of a Christian martyr; but, loungingon the great quays of Bordeaux, my faith sustained a shock from which itwill never recover, and this is how it happened:

I am of a curious and inquiring turn of mind. When I saw great shipsbeing unloaded, and casks of wine being piled high upon the quays, Isaid to my companion, ‘Albert Edward, mon ami’ (Albert Edward are theChristian names of my travelling companion), ‘tell me is not thisstrange? Behold, here are vessels which are actually carrying wine toBordeaux! Go and gather information.’ My companion departed, andpresently returned armed—nay, actually bristling—with facts.

The wine which we saw was wine imported from Spain. Enormous quantitiesof common Spanish wines are brought periodically from Spain to Bordeaux,and are there mixed with the ‘wines of the{6} country.’ This discovery wasa great blow to me; but I had a still greater blow when I foundtremendous cargoes of all sorts of chemicals being unloaded, and Ilearnt that these also were imported for the purpose of manufacturingBordeaux wines. Of course, the high-priced old wines are abovesuspicion; but I don’t think I shall ever recover my faith in the vinordinaire, after seeing that tremendous importation of Spanish winesand chemicals.

The fact is that Bordeaux has for a long time past been unable to meetthe tremendous demands for its wines. The phylloxera has furtherincreased the difficulty by ravaging the vineyards. So Nature havingfailed, Art steps in to supply the deficiency.

For the terrible spread of the phylloxera the growers were probablythemselves originally

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