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smell seems absolutely interwoven with images of torrent-crossing, cliff-falling, pouring rain, and roaring waves."
The talk fell upon associations of sense with events and places; sounds, sights, and scents, intimately connected with and vividly recalling certain occurrences of our lives. We had missed the glimpse of the baby face and little white cap from the back of the diligence that preceded us during the first portion of the day, owing to our coach having been delayed at Ventimiglia by some peculiar arrangement which required the team that had dragged us up a steep ascent to stop and bait, merely resting instead of changing, before we went on again.
The Pont St. Louis, with the picturesque ravine it crosses, had been passed, and the pretty town of Mentone was full in view, when we caught sight of the other diligence, some way on the road before us, brought once more to a stand-still, while a crowd of persons surrounded it, and its passengers were to be seen, in the distance, descending, with the baby cap among them. At this instant, an excited French official darted out from a doorway by the side of the road near us, raising his arms distractedly, and throwing his sentences up at the conductor, who understood him to say that there was no going on; that a whole garden had come tumbling down across the road just at the entrance to Mentone, and prevented passing.
We drove on to the spot, and found it was indeed so; the grounds of a villa, skirting the highway on a terraceledge, had been loosened by the many days' rain, and had fallen during the forenoon, a heap of ruins, shrubs, plants, garden-walls, flowers, borders, railings, one mass of obstruction.
With a glance at the coupé passengers, another French official (the newlyappointed frontier custom-house being close at hand) stepped forward to suggest that the "insides" could be accommodated, during the interim required for the cantonniers to do their work, at a lately-built hotel he pointed
to; but the four agreed to spend the time in walking round by the path above the obstruction, so as to see its whole extent.
The wet, percolating and penetrating through the softer soil, gradually accumulates a weight of water behind and beneath the harder and rockier portions, which dislodges them from their places, pushes them forward, and finally topples them over headlong. This is generally prevented where terrace-walls are built up, by leaving holes here and there in the structure, which allow the wet to drain through innocuously; but if, as in the present instance, this caution be neglected, many days' successive rain is almost sure to produce the disaster in question. It had a woful look, — all those garden elegances cast there, flung out upon the high-road, like discarded rubbish; pots of selected flowers, favorite seats, well-worn paths, carefully-tended beds, trailing climbers, torn and snapped branches, all lying to be shovelled away as fast as the roadmenders could ply their pickaxes and spades.
At length this task was accomplished; the diligences were hauled over the broken ground (their contents being also "hauled over at the custom-house); the passengers (after the important ceremonial of handing their passports for inspection, and having them handed back by personages who kept their countenances wonderfully) were in again and off again.
But one more torrent to cross, where the foremost coach had nearly been overset, and where the occupants of the hindmost one, profiting by example, got out and walked over the footbridge, in time to behold the owner of the British accent wave his hat triumphantly from the coupé with a hearty (English) "Huzza!" as the vehicle recovered, by a violent lurch to the left, from an equally violent one to the right, issuing scathless from the last flood that lay in the way, and then both diligences began at a leisurely pace to crawl up a long ascent of road, bordered on each side by olive-grounds; - until the
view opened to a fine stretch of prospect, now colored and vivified by a glance of the afternoon sun, - the diminutive peninsular kingdom of Monaco, lying down in the very sea, bright, and green, and fairy-like; the bold barren crag of the Turbia rock frowning sternly in front, with its antique Roman tower and modern Italian church; the rocky heights above to the right, with their foreground of olive-trees, vine-trellises, and orange-groves, interspersed with country houses; while through all wound the ever-climbing road, a white thread in the distance, with the telegraphic poles, dwindled to pin-like
dimensions, indicating its numberless turns and bends.
As the sun sank over the far western lines of the Estrelle Mountains, and the sky faded into grayish purple, succeeded by an ever-deepening suffusion of black, unpierced by a single star, the high reach of road above Villafranca Bay was passed; and, on our turning the corner of the last intervening upland, full in view came the many lights of Nice, with its castled rock, its minarets and cupolas, its stretch of sea, its look of sheltered repose;—all most welcome to sight, after our sensational journey on the Cornice Road in a great rain.
INCIDENTS OF THE PORTLAND FIRE.
NEVER had Portland looked more
beautiful than when the sunrisegun boomed across the waters, announcing the ninetieth anniversary of our independence. The sun, which on another day should look down on the city's desolation, rose unclouded over the houses, that stood forth from the foliage of the embowering elms, or nestled in their shadow; over the quaintness of the old-fashioned churches and the beauty of the more modern temples; over the stately public edifices, and the streets everywhere decked with flags and thronged with crowds of happy, well-dressed people. Of course, the popular satisfaction expressed itself in the report of pistols, guns, and fire-crack
shape of a fire-cracker, and lo! half the city was doomed.
My youngest brother, at the first sound of the bell, came and begged me to take him to the fire; so I went, to please him. Poor child! I little thought that by twelve o'clock at night there would be no place at home to lay the little head.
We found the fire near Brown's sugarhouse, where there was a large crowd already assembled. But, though the smoke and masses of flame were rising only from one house, the wind was blowing a perfect gale; and a foreboding of the calamity impending seemed to possess the spectators. There was none of the usual noise, and men appeared to look at the burning house with a feeling of awe. We did not stop there at all; and some idea of the rapid progress of the fire may be gathered from the fact, that about four squares distant, where, on the way up, we could see one fire, on our return we saw three, -two lighted by sparks from the first. We slowly retraced our way, and met people on every side quickening their steps in the direction of the fire.
About seven o'clock, mother and I thought it would be wise to pack up our silver and valuables; for it seemed as if we were directly in the path of the conflagration. Down Fore Street, and from Fore to Free, it was rushing on. The southwestern heavens were entirely shut from our view by the flames and smoke; cinders, ashes, and blazing embers were falling like rain down Middle Street, and across to Congress, as far as the eye could see. The scene was terrible; but it was soon surpassed in fearfulness, for the work of desolation was not half completed. The Irish population were the chief sufferers up to this hour. It was heart-rending to see the women rushing hither and thither, trying to save their few possessions. Here, a poor creature was dragging a mattress, followed by several little crying children, her face the picture of despair; there, another, with her family, stood over the remnants of her scanty stock. A poor woman, who was in the habit of working for us, lived near the corner of Cross and Fore Streets. She had five children and a sick husband to care for. Almost all her energies were bent in getting them to a place of safety; and the few little things which she succeeded in rescuing from the flames were afterwards stolen from her by some one of the many wretches who gathered the spoils that awful night.
It soon became evident that we must decide upon some plan of action, in case it should come to the worst. We had two married sisters, - one living in India Street, the other at the west end of the city. As the former had no family, and was alone, even her husband being away, and as the latter had three children, and a house full of company, we decided that, if we must move, it should be to India Street. We sent off one team, and my youngest brother with it, before the fire was anywhere near us; and then, while my. two little sisters assisted mother in getting things together, I worked with my brother and cousin, hanging wet blankets against the walls, pouring water on the roof, and taking other precautionary meas
ures. But all was useless. On came the fire with a steady sweep. We saw that it was idle to combat it longer, and turned all our energies to saving what we could. Our home was to be ours no longer. The dear old roof-tree, under which had assembled so many loved ones, now gone forever, — where the eyes of all our home circle first saw the light of life, where three of that number closed theirs in death, the centre of the hopes and joys of a lifetime,
was to be abandoned to the flames. It was like tearing our heart-strings to leave it so; but there was no time for lingering. With streaming eyes and aching hearts we started out, taking what we could in our hands. There was by this time no vehicle to be obtained in which we could ride; and, supporting my mother, my sisters clinging to us in silent terror, we were borne along with the crowd down Middle Street to India. I cannot remember any incidents of that walk. The hurrying throng around me, the flying sparks, and the roar of the engines, seem like the confusion of a dream.
Our sister, who met us at the door, felt perfectly secure, and had done nothing towards packing. I gave her an account of our proceedings, thinking each moment of some precious thing I might have brought away. We went to the front door, and looked out on the scene before us. The fire seemed to come on the wings of the wind. Middle Street was ablaze; Wood's marble hotel was in flames, together with the beautiful dwelling opposite. The fire leaped from house to house, and, if for a moment checked, it was but to rush on in wilder fury. Churches, one by one, were seized by the flame, and crumbled into ruin before it. No human power could arrest its fierce progress. In vain the firemen put forth a strength almost superhuman: their exertions seemed but to add to its fury. Explosion after explosion gave greater terror to the scene: buildings were successively blown up in the useless effort to bar its pathway; the fire leaped the chasm and sped on. Fugitives of ev
ery age and condition were hurrying through the streets, laden with everything imaginable, especially lookingglasses, which seem the one important thing to be saved during a fire. My brother and cousin had not yet made their appearance, nor had we seen anything of my brother-in-law, from the other end of the city. But we knew they must be at their places of business, which were now in the heart of the burning district. Swiftly the destruction hurried towards us; and people were now seen bringing in their goods and seeking shelter on our premises. O what heart-broken faces surrounded us that fearful night! Friends, and people we had never seen, alike threw themselves on our kindness; and I must say that a spirit of humanity and good-will seemed everywhere prevalent among the citizens. We were now ourselves tortured by suspense. Could we escape, or should we again have to seek refuge from the flames? Surely the work of destruction would stop before it reached India Street? The hot breath of the maddening fire, and its lurid glare, were the only response. O, if the wind would only change! But a vane, glistening like gold in the firelight, steadfastly pointed to the southeast. For one moment it veered, and our hearts almost stood still with hope; but it swung back, and a feeling of despair settled upon us.
Our house was full. One poor lady, with a little baby only a week old, lay on a sofa in one of the rooms; near her, bent over in a rocking-chair, sat an old woman who had not been out of her house for five years, with a look of hopeless bewilderment on her wrinkled face. But people were now beginning to move from our house. India Street was almost blocked up. Every kind of vehicle that went upon wheels, from a barouche to a wheelbarrow, passed by laden with furniture.
At this moment my brother and brother-in-law approached, blackened almost beyond recognition. It was not until C― spoke that I really knew him.
"We must be calm and collected, and save what we can. John is trying to get a team to carry mother up to L-'s; the rest of us will have to go to the graveyard. But John may not be successful, so you stay here, and see if you can get any one to take mother: they may do it for you, when they would n't for a man.”
I stood on the edge of the sidewalk, clinging to the horse-post, and appealed in vain to wagons going by.
"Won't you take a lady and children away from here?"
"I can't, ma'am, not if you was to give me twenty-five dollars, not if you was to give me five hundred. I'm taking a load for a gentleman now."
So it was in every case. Very many were worse off than we were, - had not even a man to help. One well-known citizen was appealed to for help, in the early part of the evening, by a poor woman, a sort of dependant of his family. He took her and her daughter, with their effects, outside the city, and returned to find India Street on fire and no means of getting through the crowd to his house, which was burned, with all that was not saved by the exertions of his wife. They had visiting them a lady whose child lay dead in the house, awaiting burial. The mother took the little corpse in her arms and carried it herself up to the other end of the city!
While I was making these vain attempts, John drove up in a light, opentopped buggy. We hurriedly got mother and E- into it, and gave into their charge the jewelry and silver, and they drove away. I could not but tremble for their safety. The road seemed impassable, so dense was the struggling crowd. On every side the fire was raging. Looking up India Street it was one sheet of flame, and equally so before us. It looked like a world on fire, for we could see no smoke, it was too near for that, - and the heat was terribly intense.
There was no time to be lost. Both our servants and M-'s were away spending the Fourth, so we had to de
pend entirely on ourselves. Our back fence was soon torn down, and we all worked as we never had before. We saved a good deal, but not one half of what we brought from our house in the first place. We had thrown things out of the window, and C and J worked hard dragging them out of the yard, until, scorched and almost suffocated, they were compelled to desist. The flames were upon us so quickly, it seemed incredible that they could have seized the house so soon after we thought we were in danger.
"Thank God, we are all safe!" cried M-, sinking upon the ground in the graveyard, where we took refuge. She tried to look cheerful; but the sight before her - her house in flames-and the thought of her husband's absence overcame her, and she burst into tears. I laid the two little girls upon the grass; and, wearied out, they soon fell asleep. It was a strange scene in that quiet old cemetery, where the dead of more than a century had lain undisturbed in their graves. Where only the reverent tread of the mourner, or of some visitor carefully threading his way among the grassy mounds, was wont to be known, crowds of frantic people were hurrying across; while here and there were family groups clustered together, watching the destruction of their property.
How long the remaining hours seemed! Would the daylight never come? The children slept on, and we four talked in low tones of the morrow.
At length, faint, rosy lights began to streak the eastern horizon, and slowly the day dawned. The sun rose unclouded above the hills, sending down his beams upon the desolation which the night had wrought, lighting up the islands and the blue waters, flecked with sail-boats.
over again in words that fearful night, and relating to each other some of those incidents of the fire which can never all be told. A little friend of ours, when leaving her home, took in her arms her doll, nearly as large as herself; obliged to flee a second time, her mother told her it was useless to try and save the doll, and she must leave it there. With many tears she laid it on the sofa, feeling, no doubt, as if she were leaving a human being to be burnt. The next day, a friend brought to her the identical dolly, which had been found in the graveyard! The little one's joy may be imagined.
One of the women in the Irish quarter picked up her big pig in her arms and carried it to a place of safety, then returned to take care of her children and furniture. A woman went by our house in the early part of the evening bent nearly double beneath the weight of a trunk strapped upon her back. We saw women that night with loads under which almost any man would have staggered in ordinary circumstances.
Before we were supposed to be in danger, I walked out with a young friend to see what progress the fire was making. At a corner we observed a woman with a child about eight years old, talking, in great agitation, to a lady, and evidently urging her to accede to some request. My companion suggested that we should see if we could. aid her in any way. As we approached,. the lady had taken the child by the hand, with the words, "What is your address?" which was given. We inquired if we could be of any service. "No, thank you," was the reply. “I asked that lady to take care of my daughter. I keep store on that street over there. My husband is out of town, and I don't know what I shall do!"— and, wringing her hands, she hurried away. I have wondered since what was the fate of the little girl thus intrusted to the care of strangers; for the lady went in the direction afterwards swept by the fire.
One family, whose house the flames did not reach until near two o'clock in