Fragrance in Travel Literature- Letters of Travel by Mrs. L. C. Lane

Letters of travel (1886)
Lane, L. C., Mrs


The merchants are often dressed in the costume
of the country from which they come. One of
the most benignant and kindly countenances I
ever saw was that of an Algerian sitting by his
commodities and looking with grave but gentle
expression upon a little boy, half embracing him;
he was an unusually large man, with delicate
skin, full white beard, and a white turban of ample
folds which, in the dim light of declining day,
gave an increased expression of softness to his
whole figure.
In another direction you come upon a conglom-
eration of little shops with nothing but perfumes
and essences from the East. The floor of these
tiny shops, which the one occupant almost fills, is
about as hio^h above the street as a table, and
wide enough for three persons to stand comfortably
before it; the shop is hardly so deep as it is wide;
in the centre, sitting cross-legged on the floor,
is the merchant, very likely dressed in a long,
gay-flowered silk robe, with tasseled girdle around
his waist, and becoming turban, his nargileh near
at hand, while at either side and behind him,
within reach of his hand without rising, are the
shelves containing his wares, bottles (large, small
and of every shape) filled with essential oil, attar
of roses, etc., and pastes or gums of pungent
flavor and fragrance, costly enough to be made
into balls hardly larger than a pea. These dealers
are usually rather elegant in their manners and
are quite liberal with their wares, with which they
smear your gloves and face and moisten yourhand-
kerchief, as if they were not selling them at as near
their weight in gold as they can make you pay.

As we are about to leave the church we meet at
its porch a procession of children which we soon
beein to think includes all the children in France.
As they pass into the church and before its
brilliantly lighted altars without stopping, we follow
them without, when lo! from the long, broad and
winding flights of stone steps leading up to the
church we look down on a sea of heads filling the
Place du Palais where, half an hour ago, a scattered
dozen were passing hither and thither. This crowd
is entering the square from two different directions.
What does it mean? It is the first procession of
the Year of Jubilee, which, occurring once in
twenty-five years, gives plenary indulgence to all
who join in three processions, each time visiting
four different churches.

For an hour or more we stand and watch them
winding slowly up the hill ; it is one of those quiet
days when heaven and earth are hushed and Nature
becomes a poem. The morning breeze holds its
breath, the sweet-scented flowers fill the air with
fragrant incense, and the trees of early Spring
gently drop their tributes of beauty ; Nature listens
in silence to the voice of worship, and tunes herself
in harmony with the scene. But the silence is not
all unbroken ; the hushed breeze trembles to the
sweet voices of a hundred maidens breaking into
joyful song, and, as the music swells louder and
louder, the heavens seem to rejoice m the gladness
of youth ; anon the gentle voices of a sisterhood
of nuns mingle soft chant and holy praise, and as
they pass, you look upon them half envying the
peace they seem to have found, half regretting
for them the joys they seem to have missed.

How long from Copenhagen to Chris-
tiania ? " we asked landlord, steam-
boat-clerk and captain, and captain,
steamboat-clerk and landlord all replied twenty-
two hours, which in our innocence or ignorance
we believed. It was a splendid day when, with
trembling stomachs, we went on board the steamer
that was to carry us from Denmark to Norway.
As from her beautiful harbor we looked back
towards the quaint old city of Copenhagen, lying
there in the midst of bright blue waters, verdant
with her grand old trees and fragrant with the
name and fame of her Thorwaldsen, she looked
like a beautiful flower dropped from Olympian
Gardens, and clasping the girdle of the goddess of
the sea. Yet, beautiful as is the picture she thus
makes, and more so to him who has learned to know
and love her than to the approaching stranger, she
would doubtless have gained in perspective beauty
were there rising ground on which to lift up prom-
inent buildings, or had Nature surrounded her
with a background of hills.

Opposite the house and on the other side of the
road were pine woods extending half a mile down
to the lake. Here we made sitting-room and
lounging place, still enjoying the fresh air fragrant
with purity. Sitting here we were, to our surprise,
accosted in English by a man who, as it proved,
had served many years in the navy of the United
States. He had learned to speak English with a
strong Irish brogue, and seemed also to have
caught the Irish vivacity of character, the more
remarkable to us as we compared it with the quiet
character of his son, our host. He was as great
an anomaly here in these Norwegian wilds as is
Petrified Charley, the Swede, guide in the petrified
forest of Californi.

Within the house the arrangements for cooking-
were a model of simplicity ; there was nothing but
an elevated hearth some two and a-half feet high
and five or six feet long ; there was neither crane
to hang a kettle upon, nor oven to bake in ; nothing
but three little iron triangles some two inches high,
on which the iron kettles were set over the coals
or the blazing sticks of the row of separate little
fires ; an iron pot and a triangle seem to be all
that is needed to commence housekeeping in Nor-
way ; with such a aiisine many of our fresh Irish
servant-girls would be saved great perplexity and
many a sufferer be cured of his dyspepsia. Yet
our simple meals here were a feast ; such tea I had
hardly tasted in all Europe ; fragrant coffee quite
innocent of chiccory or other alloy ; rich, thick
cream which we heaped on the boiled potatoes
white and lio^ht as the fresh-fallino- snow, and
sweet golden butter. We did not before know
that food so innocent of fraud still existed in the
world, and we left Tinnefos refreshed in body,
and in our faith in human nature, coffee and
cream.