Ida Laura Pfeiffer

Madame Ida Pfeiffer

I

The motives by which travellers are actuated are as various as their temperaments; some find the "propelling power" in the impulse of curiosity, some in the thirst for novelty; others in a strong and genuine love of knowledge; others, again, in a natural impatience of inaction, or a rebellion against the commonplaces and conventionalities of society, a yearning after the romantic and adventurous. But, generally speaking, they constitute two great classes: those who discover, and those who observe—that is, those who penetrate into regions hitherto untrodden by civilized men, and add new lands to the maps of the geographer; and those who simply follow in the track of their bolder or more fortunate predecessors, gathering up fuller, and, it may be, more accurate information. To the latter class, as this volume shows, belong our female travellers, among whom we find no companion or rival to such pioneers as a Livingstone, a Barth, a Franklin, or a Sturt. Unless, indeed, we regard as an exception the wonderful woman to whose adventures and experiences the following chapter will be devoted. Of Madame Ida Pfeiffer we think it may justly be said that she stands in the front ranks of the great travellers, and that the scientific results of her enterprise were both valuable and interesting. It has been remarked that if a spirit like hers, so daring, so persevering, so tenacious, had been given to a man, history would have counted a Magellan or a Captain Cook the more. But what strikes us as most remarkable about her was the absolute simplicity of her character and conduct; the unpretending way in which she accomplished her really great achievements; her modesty of manner and freedom from pretension. She went about the world as she went about the streets of Vienna; with the same reserve and quietness of demeanour, apparently unconscious that she was exposing herself to death, and hazards worse than death; so calmly and unaffectedly courageous that she makes us almost forget how truly grand was her heroism, how sublime was her patience, and how colossal her daring. The same reticence and simplicity are visible in every page of the published record of her personal experiences. She does not pretend to literary skill; she attempts no elaborate pictorial descriptions; she says of herself that she has neither wit nor humour to render her writings entertaining; she narrates what she has seen in the plainest, frankest manner. And she imposes upon us the conviction that she entered upon her wondrous journeys from no idle vanity, no love of fame, but from a natural love of travel, and a boundless desire of acquiring knowledge. "In exactly the same way," she says, "as the artist feels an unconquerable impulse to paint, and the poet to give free expression to his thoughts, so was I hurried away with an unconquerable desire to see the world." And she saw it as no other woman has ever seen it.


Ida Reyer was born at Vienna on the 15th of October, 1797. Her parents occupied a respectable position, and took care that she should receive a decent education; but from her earliest childhood she manifested a strong distaste for the accomplishments and amusements which were then considered "proper" for her sex. They were too tame and spiritless for her ardent nature, and she inclined towards the bolder and more robust pastimes of her brothers. Up to the age of nine she was their constant companion—wore clothes like theirs, and shared in all their games, looked with utter scorn upon dolls and toys, and thirsted after guns and swords, and the music of the drum. She says of herself that she was livelier and hardier than even her elder brothers, who were lively and hardy beyond most boys of their age. Evidently nature had gifted her with a strong constitution: she was physically as well as mentally strong. Endowed, moreover, with an heroic will, she loved the heroic in history and poetry. William Tell was one of the gods of her idolatry, and on one occasion she was found with an apple on her head, at which her brothers, like the Swiss champion, were shooting arrows!—a remarkable example of coolness of nerve and contempt of danger. For Napoleon, as the conqueror of her country, she entertained an intense feeling of hatred. In 1809 she was compelled by her mother to accompany her to the Emperor's review of his Imperial Guards at Schönbrunn; but when he approached the ground she indignantly turned her back. Her mother struck her, and by sheer force held the head of her obstinate daughter towards Napoleon. She resolutely shut her eyes, and thus was able to say that she had never seen her country's oppressor.

It was a day of sorrow for Ida when she was forced to assume the dress of her sex. She fell ill with grief and disappointment, and her parents found it necessary to allow her to retain the boy's blouse and cap, to which she was so partial. Then, as if by magic, she recovered, and resumed her favourite games. She acknowledges that feminine work filled her with contempt. Pianoforte-playing, amongst other things, seemed an occupation so inappropriate and uncongenial, that to escape those odious "exercises"—which thousands of girls, by the way, have found equally distasteful—she would frequently cut and wound her fingers severely.

We have alluded to her fondness for history. She was not less addicted to voyages and travels—to any reading, in fact, which satisfied her love of adventure. She would envy at times the condition of a postilion, and the sight of a travelling carriage would set her dreaming for hours.

She was fourteen years old before she would consent to wear petticoats. About the same time her parents placed her education in charge of a young professor, who, recognizing the high qualities of her ill-regulated character, set himself to work to develop and mature them. He was so devoted to his pupil, that she on her part became anxious to anticipate his wishes, and never felt so happy as when he was satisfied with her efforts. In truth it was the old story of Hymen and Iphigenia reversed. Her wayward and wilful nature was subdued by the influence of love; and at the cost of not a few tears, she renounced her childish caprices in order to please him, and occupied herself with the pursuits she had previously regarded so contemptuously. She took up even the most thoroughly feminine avocations, and learned to sew, and knit, and cook. Meanwhile, she was wholly ignorant of the nature of the feeling which had transformed the romp into a discreet and retiring maiden, until, at the age of seventeen, an unexpected incident awakened her to it. A Greek merchant sought her hand; her parents refused him on the score of her youth. "Hitherto," she writes, "I had had no presentiment of the violent passion which can make one either the happiest or unhappiest of women. When my mother informed me of the proposal, and I learned that I was destined to love one man and belong to him only, the impressions I had until then all unconsciously experienced, assumed a definite form, and I discovered that I could love no person except the guide of my youth." As he was not less passionately attached to her, he hastened to make a proposal, to which her parents objected on the ground of his want of fortune. The young girl openly avowed that she would never marry any other, and adhered tenaciously to her opposition. But after a while the young man felt it to be his duty to respect the decision of her parents, and his correspondence with his pupil ceased. The little romance, according to Madame Ida Pfeiffer, ended as follows:—

"Three long years passed without our meeting, and without any change taking place in my feelings. One day, when I was out walking with a friend of my mother, I accidentally met my old master; both of us involuntarily halted, but for a long time we could not speak. At length he contrived to subdue his emotions. As for myself, I was too much disturbed to be able to utter a word; I felt as if I should swoon, and returned home hastily. Two days afterwards I was seized with a fever, which at first the doctors thought would prove mortal."

Her strong constitution carried her through it. On her recovery, in her burning impatience to escape from the parental roof, she declared she would accept the first person who sought her hand, provided he was a man of a certain age; by this proviso wishing her lover to understand that her marriage was wholly due to constraint. An advocate of some repute, a Herr Pfeiffer, proposed and was accepted. This was in 1820.

A marriage made under such conditions could hardly prove a happy one. Her husband was unworthy of her. He treated her harshly, and he wasted the fortune she brought him. But for the sake of her two sons, Oscar and Alfred, she endured the miseries of her position as long as she was able, and devoted herself with assiduous self-sacrifice to their education. Meanwhile, the prosaic character of her daily life she knew how to relieve by privately indulging in dreams of travel, of adventure in far lands, and exploration in isles beyond the sunset. On the occasion of an excursion to Trieste, the sight of the sea revived in her all the old passionate longing, and the visions of her childhood became the fixed resolves and convictions of her womanhood.

Madame Ida Pfeiffer

II

At length she was free to indulge her long-cherished inclinations. Her sons stood no longer in need of her support; her husband was separated from her and was living in retirement at Lemberg; her means, though moderate, were not inadequate to the fulfilment of the projects she had in view. It was true she was forty-five years old, and that is not an age at which one usually attempts a tour round the world; but, on the other hand, it invested a woman with a certain degree of security, and it rendered more feasible an enterprise which in any case was beset with difficulties.

Having completed the necessary preparations, she set out on her first great journey in March, 1842. It was natural enough that a woman of religious temperament should be attracted to the Holy Land. She visited its holiest places, and the effect they produced upon her imagination is a proof that years and the cares of domestic life had in no wise chilled its early warmth. Returning in December, she proceeded to compile a narrative of her experiences, which was published in 1843, under the title of "Travels of a Viennese Woman to the Holy Land," and immediately obtained a worldwide popularity. Its merits, however, are not of a literary character; its attractiveness is due entirely to its simplicity and straightforwardness. The reader at once discovers that he is dealing with a writer who makes no attempt to deceive, who neither diminishes nor exaggerates, nor adapts her facts to preconceived opinions. To this we may add that Madame Pfeiffer, though an accurate, is not a profound observer.

From the sultry heat of the East she next betook herself to the sullen cold of the North; and the result of her wanderings in 1846 was a lively book upon Scandinavia and Iceland, describing perils which few men would care to confront, with evidently unaffected enjoyment.

But these comparatively short excursions were but preliminary to the great enterprise of her life, the prologue, as it were, to the five-act drama, with all its surprises, hazards, amazing situations, and striking scenes. The experience she had acquired as a traveller she resolved to utilize in the accomplishment of a tour round the world, and on this notable adventure she set out in June, 1846, being then in her fiftieth year, on board the Caroline, a Danish brig, bound for Rio Janeiro. She arrived at the Brazilian capital on the 16th of September, and remained there for upwards of two months, exclusive of the time devoted to excursions into the interior. On one of these excursions she narrowly escaped the murderer's knife. She and her companion, in a lonely spot, were overtaken by a negro, who, with a lasso in one hand and a long knife in the other, suddenly sprang upon them, and gave them to understand, more by gestures than words, that he intended to murder them, and then drag their bodies into the forest. They had no arms, having been told that the road was perfectly safe; their only defensive weapons were their parasols, with the exception of a clasp knife, which Ida Pfeiffer instantly drew from her pocket and opened, resolved to sell her life as dearly as possible. They parried their adversary's blows as long as they could with their parasols, but these did not long avail; Madame Pfeiffer's broke in the struggle, leaving only a fragment of the handle in her hand. The negro, however, dropped his knife; the courageous woman made an effort to seize it; he thrust her away with his hands and feet, recovered it, and brandishing it furiously over her head, dealt her two wounds in the upper part of the left arm. She thought she was lost, but despair nerved her to use her own knife; she made a thrust at his breast, but succeeded only in wounding him severely in the hand. At the same moment, her companion, Count Berchthold, sprang forward, and while he seized the villain from behind, Madame Pfeiffer regained her feet. All this took place in less than a minute. The negro was now roused into a condition of maniacal fury; he gnashed his teeth like a wild beast, and brandished his knife, while shouting fearful threats. The issue of the contest would probably have been disastrous, but for the opportune arrival of assistance. Hearing the tramp of horses' hoofs upon the road, the negro desisted from his attack, and sprang into the forest. A couple of horsemen turning the corner of the road, our travellers hurried to meet them, and having heard their tale, which, indeed, their wounds told eloquently enough, they leaped from their horses, and entered the wood in pursuit. Two negroes afterwards came up; the villain was captured, securely pinioned, and, as he would not walk, severely beaten, until, as most of the blows fell upon his head, Madame Pfeiffer feared the wretch's skull would be broken. Nothing, however, would induce him to walk, and the negroes were compelled to carry him bodily to the nearest house.

Our traveller was much impressed by the beauties of the tropical scenery. In one of her rambles she crossed a small waterfall; she struck right into the depths of the virgin forest, following a narrow path along the bank of a little stream. Stately-crested palms waved high above the other trees, which intertwining their inextricable boughs, formed the loveliest fairy-bowers imaginable; every stem, every branch, was garlanded with fantastic orchids; while ferns and creepers glided up the tall, smooth trunks, mingling with the boughs, and spreading in every direction waving curtains of flowers of the rarest fragrance and vividest hues imaginable. With shrill twittering cry and rapid wing flashed the humming-bird through the transparent air; the pepper-pecker, with glowing plumage, rose timorously upwards; while parrots and parroquets, and innumerable birds of beautiful appearance, enhanced, by their voices and movements, the loveliness of the scene.


From Rio Janeiro Madame Pfeiffer sailed in an English ship, the John Renwick, on the 9th of September, for Valparaiso, the great sea-port of Chili. In sailing southward, the ship touched at Santos, where the voyagers celebrated New Year's Day, and they made the mouth of the Rio Plata on the 11th of January. In these latitudes the Southern Cross is the most conspicuous object in the heavens. It consists of five shining stars, arranged in two diagonal rows. Towards the end of the month Madame Pfeiffer gazed upon the sterile cliffs and barren mountains of Patagonia, and next upon the volcanic rocks, wave-worn and wind-beaten, of Fire-Land, or Tierra del Fuego. Through the Strait of Le Main, which separates the latter from Staten Island, the voyagers passed onward to the extreme southern point of the American Continent, the famous promontory of Cape Horn. This is the last spur of the mighty mountain-chain of the Andes, and consists of a mass of huge basaltic rocks, piled together in huge disorder as by a Titan's hand.

Doubling Cape Horn they encountered a furious gale, which raged for several days; and soon discovered, like other voyagers, how little the great southern ocean deserves its name of the Pacific. "Such a storm as this," says Ida Pfeiffer, "affords much food for reflection. You are alone upon the boundless ocean, far from all human aid, and feel more than ever that your life depends upon the Most High alone. The man who, in such a dread and solemn moment can still believe there is no God, must indeed be irretrievably struck with mental blindness. During such convulsions of Nature a feeling of tranquil joy always comes over me. I very often had myself bound near the binnacle, and allowed the tremendous waves to break over me, in order to absorb, as it were, as much of the spectacle before me as possible; on no occasion did I ever feel alarmed, but always full of confidence and resignation."

Madame Pfeiffer reached Valparaiso on the 2nd of March. She was by no means pleased with its appearance. It is laid out in two long streets, at the foot of dreary hills, these hills consisting of a pile of rocks covered with thin strata of earth and sand. Some of them are crowded with houses; on one lies the church-yard; the others are sterile and solitary. The two chief streets are broad and much frequented, especially by horsemen, for every Chilian is born a horseman, and is usually mounted on a steed worthy of a good rider.

Valparaiso houses are European in style, with flat Italian roofs. Broad steps lead up into a lofty entrance-hall on the first floor, from which, through large glass doors, the visitor passes into the drawing-room and other apartments. The drawing-room is the pride, not only of every European settler, but of every native Chilian. The foot sinks into heavy and costly carpets; the walls are hung with rich tapestry; the furniture and mirrors are from European makers, and gorgeous in the extreme.

A singular custom prevails among the Chilians on the death of a little child. Such an incident is a cause of sorrow and tears in most European families; in Chili it is the occasion of a great festival. The deceased angelito, or little angel, is adorned in various ways. Its eyes, instead of being closed, are opened as wide as possible; its cheeks are painted red; then the cold rigid corpse is decked in the finest clothes, crowned with flowers, and set up on a little chair in a flower-wreathed niche. Relatives and neighbours crowd in to wish the parents joy in the possession of such an angel; and, during the first night, they keep a kind of Irish wake, indulging in the most extravagant dances, and feasting before the angelito  in a mood of the wildest merriment.


On the 1st of March our adventurous traveller, having resolved on putting a girdle round about the world, took her passage for China in the Dutch barque Lootpuit, Captain Van Wyk Jurianse. On the 26th of April, her eyes were gladdened with a view of the "island-Eden" of the Southern seas, Tahiti, the largest and most beautiful of the Society group. From the days of Bougainville, its discoverer, down to those of "the Earl and the Doctor," who recently visited it, Tahiti has moved the admiration of voyagers by the charms of its scenery. It lifts the summit of its pyramidal mass out of a wealth of luxuriant vegetation, which sweeps down to the very margin of a sea as blue as the sky above it. Cool verdurous valleys slope gently into its mountain recesses, their swelling declivities loaded with groves of bread-fruit and cocoa-nut trees. The inhabitants, physically speaking, are not unworthy of their island-home; a tall, robust, and well-knit race, they would be comely but for their custom of flattening the nose as soon as the child is born. They have thick jet-black hair and fine dark eyes. The colour of their skin is a copper-brown. Both sexes, at the time of Ida Pfeiffer's visit, preserved the custom of tattooing, the devices being often very fanciful in design, and always artistically executed.

The Tahitian women have always been notorious for their immodesty; and notwithstanding the past labours of English missionaries, the island continues to be the Polynesian Paphos. The moral standard of the population has not been raised since they came under the shadow of a French protectorate.

Madame Pfeiffer undertook an excursion to the Lake Vaihiria, assuming for the occasion a kind of masculine attire, very suitable if not peculiarly becoming. She wore, she tells us, strong men's shoes, trousers, and a blouse, which covered the hips. Thus equipped, she started off with her guide, and in the first six miles waded through about two-and-thirty brooks. Then, through a maze of ravines, she struck off into the interior. As they advanced, she noticed that the fruit trees disappeared, and that instead the slopes were covered with plantains, tarros, and marantas, the last attaining a height of twelve feet, and growing so luxuriantly that it was with some difficulty the traveller made her way through the tangle. The tarro, or taro, which is carefully cultivated, averages two or three feet in height, and has fine large leaves and tubers like those of the potato, but not so good when roasted. Very graceful is the appearance of the plantain, or banana, which varies from twelve to fifteen feet in height, and has fine large leaves like those of the palm, but a brittle reedy stem, not more than eight inches in diameter. It attains its full growth in the first year, bears fruit in the second, and then dies; thus its life is as brief as it is useful.

Tahiti is an island of many waters; through one bright crystal mountain-stream, which swept along the ravine over a stony bed, breaking and dimpling into eddies and tiny whirlpools, and in some places attaining a depth of three feet, Madame Pfeiffer and her guide waded, or half swam, two-and-sixty times. We are filled with admiration at the resolute spirit of this courageous woman, who, though the track at every step became more difficult and dangerous, persisted in pressing forward. She clambered over rocks and stones; she forced her way through intertangled bushes; and, though severely wounded in hands and feet, never faltered for a moment. At two points the ravine narrowed so considerably that the entire area was filled by the brawling torrent.

In eight hours the bold traveller and her guide had walked, waded, and clambered some eighteen miles, and attained an elevation of fully eighteen hundred feet. The lake itself was not visible until they came upon its very margin, for it lies deep down in a dark hollow among lofty precipices, which, with startling abruptness, descend to the edge of the darkling waters. To cross the lake the traveller must trust to his swimming powers, or to a curiously frail kind of boat which the natives construct on the spot with equal skill and rapidity. Ida Pfeiffer was nothing if not adventurous, and whatever was to be dared, she straightway confronted. At her request, the guide turned boat-builder. He tore off some branches of plantain, bound them together with long tough grass, laid a few leaves upon them, launched them in the water, and then requested Madame Pfeiffer to embark. She acknowledges to have felt a little hesitation, but, without saying a word, stepped "on board." Her guide took to the water like a duck, and propelled the crazy craft, which, however, made the transit of the lake, and back again, without accident.

Having fully satisfied herself with admiring the lake and its surrounding scenery, she withdrew to a little nook thatched over with leaves, where her guide quickly kindled a good fire in the Indian fashion. Cutting a small piece of wood to a fine point, and then selecting a second piece, which he grooved with a narrow and not very deep furrow, in this he rubbed the pointed stick until the fragments detached during the process began to smoke. These he flung into a heap of grass and dry leaves previously collected, and swung the whole several times round in the air until it ignited. The entire operation did not occupy more than two minutes. Some roasted plantains served for supper; after which Madame Pfeiffer retired to her lonely couch of dry leaves, to sleep as best she might. Who will refuse a tribute of admiration to the courage, self-reliance, and intrepidity of this remarkable woman? Who but must admire her wonderful physical capabilities? How many of her sex could endure for a week the exposure and fatigue to which she subjected herself year after year?

The night passed without any eventful incident, and on the following morning she accomplished the return journey in safety.


On the 17th of May she left Tahiti, the Dutch vessel in which she had embarked being bound viâ the Philippines. This rich and radiant island group they passed on the 1st of July, and the next day entered the dangerous China Sea. Soon afterwards they reached Hong Kong, which had been an English settlement since 1842. But as Madame Pfeiffer wanted to see the Chinese at home, she made no stay in this hybrid town, but ascended the Pearl River, marvelling much at the immense rice-plantations on either bank, and the quaint little country houses, with their fronts of coloured tiles, to Canton. As she approached this great seat of commerce, she was much moved by the liveliness of the scene. The river was thronged with ships and inhabited boats—with junks almost as large as the old Spanish galleons, their poops impending far over the water, and covered in with a roof, like a house; with men-of-war, flat, broad, and long, mounted with twenty or thirty guns, and ornamented in the usual Chinese mode, with two large painted eyes at the prow, that they may be the better able to see their way. Mandarins' boats she saw, with doors, and sides, and windows gaily painted, with carved galleries, and tiny silken flags fluttering from every point. And flower-boats she also saw; their upper galleries decked with flowers, garlands, and arabesques, as if they were barks fitted out for the enjoyment of Queen Titania and her fairy company. The interior is divided into one large apartment and a few cabinets, which are lighted by quaint-patterned windows. Mirrors and silken hangings embellish the sides, while the enchanting scene is completed with a liberal store of glass chandeliers and coloured paper lanterns, interspersed with lovely little baskets of fresh flowers.

It was characteristic of Madame Pfeiffer that she found access to so much which no European woman had ever seen before. She obtained entrance even into a Buddhist temple—that of Honan, reputed to be one of the finest in China. A high wall surrounds the sacred enclosure. The visitor enters first a large outer court, and thence, through a huge gateway, passes into the inner. Beneath the gateway stand the statues of war-gods, each eighteen feet high, with faces terribly distorted, and in the most threatening attitudes; these are supposed to prevent the approach of evil genii. A second portal, similarly constructed, under which the "four heavenly kings" sit enthroned, leads to a third court, surrounding the principal sanctuary, which measures one hundred feet in length, and is of equal breadth. On rows of wooden pillars rests a flat roof, from which hang glass lamps, lustres, artificial flowers, and brightly-coloured ribbons. All about the area are scattered altars, statues, vases of flowers, censers, and candelabra.

But the eye is chiefly attracted by the three shrines in the foreground, with the three coloured statues behind them, of Buddha, seated as symbolical of Past, Present, and Future. On the occasion of Madame Ida Pfeiffer's visit, a funeral ceremony was being performed in honour of a mandarin's deceased wife. Before the right and left altars stood several priests, in garments curiously resembling, as did the rites also resemble, those of the Roman Church. The mandarin himself, attended by a couple of fan-bearers, prayed before the middle altar. He kissed the ground repeatedly, and each time he did so, thin, fragrant wax tapers were put into his hands. These, after raising in the air, he handed to the priests, who then stationed them, unlighted, before the Buddha images. Meantime, the temple resounded with the mingling strains of three musicians, one of whom struck a metal ball, while another scraped a stringed instrument, and a third educed shrill notes from a kind of flute.

This principal temple is surrounded by numerous smaller sanctuaries, each decorated with images of deities, rudely wrought, but a-glow with gold and vivid colours. Special reverence seems to be accorded to Kwanfootse, a demi-god of war, and to the four-and-twenty gods of mercy. These latter have four, six, and even eight arms. In the Temple of Mercy, Madame Pfeiffer met with an unpleasant adventure. A Bonze had offered her and her companions a couple of wax tapers to light in honour of the god. They were on the point of compliance, as a mere act of civility, when an American missionary, who was one of the visitors, roughly snatched them from their hands, and gave them back to the priests, protesting that such compliance was idolatrous. It was not without difficulty they forced their way through the crowd, and escaped from the temple.

The curiosity hunters were next led to the so-called House of the Sacred Swine. These porcine treasures are as tenderly cared for as was Hamlet's mother by Hamlet's father. They reside in a spacious hall of stone, but the atmosphere, it must be owned, teems with odours that are not Sabæan. Throughout their idle existence, the swine are reverentially cherished and liberally fed; nor is the cruel knife permitted to cut short the thread of their destiny. At the time of Ida Pfeiffer's visit, only one pair were living in this otiose state, and the number seldom exceeds three pairs.


From China our adventurous lady sailed for the East Indies, "looking in" on the way at Singapore, a British settlement, which forms the meeting-place of the traders of South Asia. The scenery around it is of a rich and agreeable character, and the island on which it is situated excels in fertility of vegetation. Very pleasant the visitor finds it, to saunter among the plantations of cloves and nutmegs, the air breathing a peculiar balsamic fragrance, a concentration of sweet odours. Pepper and gambie plantations are also among the sights of Singapore. Further, it is an island of fruits. Here thrives the delectable mangosteno, which almost melts in the mouth, and enchants the palate with its exquisite flavour. Here, too, the pine-apple frequently attains the weight of four pounds. Here grows the saucroys, as big as the biggest pine-apple, green outside, and white or pale yellow inside, with a taste and perfume like that of the strawberry. And to Singapore belongs the custard-apple, which is as savoury as its compound name implies.

From Singapore, Madame Pfeiffer crossed to Point de Galle, in Ceylon. The charming appearance of this island from the sea moved her, as it moves every traveller, to admiration. "It was one of the most magnificent sights I ever beheld," she says, "that island soaring gradually from the sea, with its mountain ranges growing more and more distinctly defined, their summits lighted by the sun, while the dense cocoa-groves, and the hills, and the plains lay shrouded in cool shadows." Above the whole towers the purple mass of Adam's Peak, and wherever the eye roams, it surveys the most prodigal foliage, and glades rich in verdure, and turfy slopes deep in flowers.

Point de Galle presents a curious mixture of races. Cingalese, Kanditores, Tamils from South India, and Moormans, with crimson caftans and shaven crowns, form the bulk of the crowd that throng its streets; but, besides these, there are Portuguese, Chinese, Jews, Arabs, Parsees, Malays, Dutchmen, English, with half-caste burghers, and now and then a veiled Arab woman, or a Veddah, one of the aboriginal inhabitants of the island. Sir Charles Dilke speaks of "silent crowds of tall and graceful girls, as we at first supposed, wearing white petticoats and bodices, their hair carried off the face with a decorated hoop, and caught at the back by a high tortoise-shell comb. As they drew near, moustaches began to show, and I saw that they were men, whilst walking with them were women naked to the waist, combless, and far more rough and 'manly' than their husbands. Petticoats and chignons are male institutions in Ceylon."

With indefatigable energy of mind and body, Madame Pfeiffer visited Colombo and Kandy, the chief towns of the island. At the latter she obtained admission to the temple of Dagoba, which contains a precious relic of Buddha, namely, one of his teeth. The sanctuary enshrining it is a small chamber or cell, less than twenty feet in breadth. It is shrouded in darkness, for of windows there are none, and the door is curtained inside, still more effectually to exclude the light. Rich tapestry covers the walls and ceiling. But the principal object is the altar, which glitters with plates of silver, and is encrusted about the edges with precious stones. Upon it rests a bell-shaped case, about three feet high, and at the base three feet in diameter. It is made of silver, is elaborately gilt, and decorated with costly jewels. In the middle blazes a peacock of precious stones. Six smaller cases, said to be of gold, each diminishing in size, are enclosed within the large case, and under the last is the tooth of Buddha. It is as large as that of a great bull, so the great Indian philosopher must have had a monstrous jaw!

Madame Pfeiffer arrived at Madras on the 30th of October. Thence she proceeded to Calcutta, the city of palaces; but, of course, she adds nothing to the information furnished by a swarm of travellers. She saw the broad flood of the Ganges, and, filling a glass with its sacred water, drank to the health of the Europeans and all whom she loved.

Throughout her Indian travel she felt much vexed at being conveyed in a palanquin; it seemed a dishonouring of men to treat them as beasts of burden. However, necessity prevailed over her humanitarian scruples. Unlike the majority of Indian tourists, she went everywhere without an expensive retinue of attendants; she had but one servant, yet she contrived to go everywhere, and to see all that was to be seen. It is worth noting that she reduced the cost of travel to a minimum, and accomplished the circuit of the globe for a less sum than the rent of a furnished house in Mayfair for only a twelvemonth. It is true that she submitted to privations which the English tourist would deem insupportable; she embarked in sailing ships because they were cheaper than steamers; resorted to third-class railway carriages; avoided expensive hotels; lived always with the "masses" and on plainest fare; and dispensed with the services of dragoman or interpreter. But for all that her enjoyment was not the less, and she saw much which, had she travelled in the usual fashion, she would not have seen.

One is apt to think that a woman who accomplished such really remarkable feats of endurance and energy must have been endowed with great physical strength and robust proportions. But such was by no means the case. Her stature did not exceed—nay, was below—the average, and there was nothing masculine in her face or figure. "I smile," she says in one of her letters, "when I think of those who, knowing me only through my voyages, imagine that I must be more like a man than a woman! Those who expect to see me about six feet high, of bold demeanour, and with pistol in my belt, will find me a woman as peaceable and as reserved as most of those who have never set foot outside their native village."

At Benares she saw the bazaars, and the temples, and the palaces; the bathing in the Ganges, the burning of the dead on the bank of the sacred river, and a nautchni or dance of nautches; but her attention was chiefly drawn to the miserable fanaticism of the fakeers, who revelled in self-imposed tortures. Thus they stuck an iron hook through the flesh, and allowed themselves to be suspended by it at a height of twenty or twenty-five feet; or for long hours they stood upon one foot in the burning sunshine, with their arms rigidly extended in the air; or they held heavy weights in various positions, swinging round and round for hours together, and tearing the flesh from their bodies with red-hot pincers. One man held a heavy axe over his head as if about to fell a tree, and in this position stood immovable like a statue; another held the point of his toe to his nose. Yet, from one point of view, these men are right. What torture of the body can equal the torture of the soul? If it were possible by any amount of physical pain to still and silence the agony of conscience, who would not endure it? The greatest condemnation of the self-cruelty of the fakeers is—its uselessness.


In her tour through India Madame Pfeiffer visited Allahabad, at the junction of the Jumna and the Ganges; Agra, where she surveyed with admiring eyes the lovely Taj-Mahal, erected by the Sultan Jehan as a memorial to his favourite wife, and the Pearl Mosque, renowned for the beauty of its carving; Delhi, the ancient capital of the Moguls; the cave-temples of Ellora and Ajunta, and the great commercial port of Bombay.

Crossing the border of British India, she sailed to Bassora, and ascended the historic Tigris—so named from the tiger-like swiftness of its course—to Bagdad, that quaint Oriental city, which is associated with so many wonderful legends and not less wonderful "travellers' tales." This was of old the residence of the great Haroun-al-Raschid, a ruler of no ordinary sagacity and the hero of many a picturesque tradition, whose name the "Thousand and One Nights" have made familiar to every English reader. It is still a populous and wealthy city, with, we suspect, a future before it not less glorious than its past. Many of its houses are surrounded by blooming gardens; its shops are bright with the products of Eastern looms; and it descends in terraces to the river banks, which are lined with orchards and groves of palm. Over all extends the arch of a glowing sky.

From Bagdad Madame Pfeiffer made an excursion to the ruins of Babylon. They consist of massive fragments of walls and columns, lying on either side of the Euphrates.

On the 17th of June she joined a caravan which was bound for Mosul, a journey of three hundred miles, occupying from twelve to fourteen days, and lying across a desert country of the most inhospitable character. Madame Pfeiffer's experiences on this journey were new and interesting. One day she repaired to a small village in search of food. After wandering from hut to hut, she obtained a small quantity of milk and three eggs. These she laid in hot ashes, covering them completely; filled her leathern flask from the Tigris, and thus provided regained the encampment formed by the caravan. She ate her eggs and drank her milk with an appetite, which, to an epicure, would have been a surprise.

The manufacture of butter at this village was conducted on primitive principles. The cream was poured into a leathern bottle, and rolled about on the ground until consolidated into butter, which was then transferred to a bottle filled with water, and eventually turned out as white as snow.

Next day, when they rested during the heat, the guide of the caravan endeavoured to procure her a little shelter from the sun's pitiless glare by laying a small cover over a couple of poles let into the ground; but so small was the area thus protected, and so weak the artificial tent, that she was compelled to sit immovably in one position, as the slightest motion would have overthrown it. Shortly afterwards, when she wished to dine, she could obtain nothing but lukewarm water, bread so hard that she was obliged to soak it before it was eatable, and a cucumber without salt or vinegar.

At a village near Kerku the caravan halted for ten days. On the first day Madame Pfeiffer's patience was severely tested; for all the women of the place hastened to examine "the strange woman." First they inspected her clothes, and next wanted to take off her turban; in fact, they were inquisitive beyond all toleration. At last, Madame Pfeiffer seized one of them by the arm, and turned her out of her room with so much promptitude that she had no time to think of resistance. By the eloquence of gesture, our traveller made the others understand that, unless they withdrew at once, a similarly abrupt dismissal awaited them. She then drew a circle round her place, and forbade them to cross it; a prohibition which was strictly respected.

She had next to settle with the wife of her guide, who had besieged her the whole day, and incessantly petitioned for largesse. Fortunately her husband came on the scene, and to him Madame Pfeiffer preferred her complaint, threatening to leave his house and seek shelter elsewhere, well knowing that the Arabs consider this a great disgrace. He immediately ordered his wife to desist, and the traveller was at peace. "I always succeeded," says Madame Pfeiffer, "in obtaining my own will. I found that energy and boldness influence all people, whether Arabs, Persians, Bedouins, or others." It was this strength of will which crowned Madame Pfeiffer's enterprises with success.

Towards evening, she says, she saw, to her great delight, a caldron of mutton seething on the fire. For eight days she had eaten nothing but bread, cucumber, and a few dates; she had a great craving, therefore, for a hot and more nutritious meal. But her appetite declined when the style of cookery was forced on her notice. The old woman, her guide's mother, threw several handfuls of small grain and a large quantity of onions into a pan full of water to soften. In about half an hour she thrust her dirty hands into the water, and mixed the whole together, now and then taking a mouthful, and, after chewing it, spitting it back again into the pan! She then took a dirty rag, strained off the juice, and poured it over the flesh in the caldron. Madame Pfeiffer had firmly resolved to refuse the dish, but when it was ready her appetite was so keen, and the smell so savoury, that her resolution gave way, and she comforted herself with the reflection that she must often have eaten of food prepared in a similar manner. What we do not see, it is easy enough to tolerate.


On the 28th of June the caravan reached Erbil, anciently Arbela, the scene of one of Alexander the Great's most famous victories. Two days later they crossed the great river Sab upon rafts of inflated skins, fastened together with poles, and covered with reeds, canes, and planks. Rapidly traversing the Mesopotamian wastes, they arrived at Mosul on the 1st of July, and thence Madame Pfeiffer proceeded to inspect the ruins of Nineveh. Her description of them, however, presents no points of interest to merit quotation.

A caravan being about to start for Tabrîz, Madame Ida Pfeiffer decided that she would join it, though warned that it would traverse a country containing not a single European. But, as we have seen, she was a woman who knew not what fear was. Nothing could divert her from a fixed purpose. She had made up her mind to go to Persia, and to Persia she would go. The caravan set out on the 8th of July, and next day crossed the hills that intervene between Mesopotamia and Kurdistan. The latter country has never enjoyed a good reputation among travellers, and Madame Pfeiffer's experience of it confirmed its evil fame. The travellers were crossing a recently reaped corn-field, when half-a-dozen Kurds, armed with stout cudgels, sprang out from their hiding-place among the sheaves, and, seizing the bridles, poured out a volley of mingled oaths and menaces. One of the travellers leaped from his steed, seized his assailant by the throat, and, holding to his head a loaded pistol, indicated his determination to blow out his brains. The effect of this courageous conduct was immediate; the robbers desisted from their attack, and were soon engaged in quite a friendly conversation with those whom they had intended to plunder. At last they pointed out a good site for an encampment, receiving in return a trifling backshish, collected from the whole caravan.

A few days later, the travellers, having started at two in the morning, passed into a sublime mountain valley, which the waters of a copious stream had cleft through the solid rock. A narrow stony path followed the upward course of the stream. The moon shone unclouded, or it would have been difficult even for the well-trained horses of the caravan to have kept their footing along the perilous way, encumbered as it was with fallen masses of rock.

Like chamois, however, they scrambled up the steep mountain side, and safely carried their riders round frightful promontories and past dangerous and dizzy precipices. So wildly romantic was the scene, with its shifting lights and shadows, its sudden bursts of silvery radiance where the valley lay open to the moon, and its depths of darkness in many a sinuous recess, that even Madame Pfeiffer's rude companions felt the influence of its strange beauty; and, as they rode along, not a sound was heard but the clatter of the horses' hoofs, and the fall of rolling stones into the chasm below. But all at once thick clouds veiled the moon, and so intense a darkness prevailed that the travellers could scarcely discern each one his fellow. The leader continually struck fire with a flint that the sparks might give his companions some indication of the course. This, however, proved insufficient guidance; and at last, as the horses began to miss their footing, their sole chance of safety consisted in standing still. At daybreak, however, a grey light spread over the scene, and the travellers found themselves surrounded by a ring of lofty mountains, rising one above the other in grand gradation, and superbly dominated by one mighty, snow-crowned, massive summit.

The journey was resumed. Soon the travellers became aware of the fact that the path was sprinkled with spots of blood. At last they came to a place where crimsoned a complete pool; and looking down into the ravine, they could see two human bodies, one about a hundred feet below them, the other, which had rolled farther, half hidden by a projecting crag. They were glad to leave behind them this wild Aceldama.


At a town called Ravandus, Madame Pfeiffer had numerous opportunities of observing the manners and customs of the Kurds. What she saw by no means prepossessed her in their favour; the women were idle, ignorant, and squalid; the men worked as little and robbed as much as they could. The Kurds practise polygamy; their religion is simply the practice of a few formalities which repetition renders meaningless. The costume of the wealthier is absolutely Oriental, but that of the common people differs in some particulars. The men wear wide linen trousers, and over them a shirt confined round the waist by a girdle, with a sleeveless woollen jacket made of stuff of only a hand's-breadth, sewed together. Instead of white trousers some affect brown, but these are by no means picturesque; they look like sacks with two holes for the insertion of the feet—the said feet being encased in red or yellow leather boots, with huge iron heels; or in shoes of coarse white wool, adorned with three tassels. The turban is the universal head-covering.

The women don loose trousers, and red or yellow iron-heeled boots, like those of the men; but over all they throw a long blue garment, which, if not tucked up under the girdle, would depend some inches below the ankles. A large blue shawl descends below the knee. Round their heads they twist black shawls, turban-wise, or theywear the red fez, with a small silk handkerchief wound about it; and on the top of this, a kind of wreath made of short black fringe, worn like a diadem, but leaving the forehead free. The hair falls in narrow braids over the shoulders, and from the turban droops a heavy silver chain. As a head-dress it is remarkably effective; and it is only just to say that it frequently sets off really handsome faces, with fine features and glowing eyes.

In the course of her wanderings through the wild highlands of Persia, Madame Pfeiffer came to Urumiyéh, on the borders of the salt lake of that name, which, in some of its physical features, closely resembles the Dead Sea. Urumiyéh is a place of some celebrity, for it gave birth to Zaravusthra (or Zoroaster), the preacher of a creed of considerable moral purity, which still claims a large number of adherents in Asia. Entering a more fertile country, she reached Tabrîz in safety, and rejoiced to find herself again within the influence of law and order. Tabrîz, the residence of a viceroy, is a handsomely built town, with numerous silk and leather manufactories; it is reputed to be one of the chief seats of Asiatic commerce. Its streets are clean and tolerably broad; in each a little rivulet is carried underground, with openings at regular intervals giving access to the water. Of the houses the passer-by sees no more than is seen in any other Oriental town: lofty windowless walls, with low entrances to the street, while the inner front looks upon open courtyards, which bloom with trees and flowers, and usually adjoin a pleasant garden.

On the 16th of August, Madame Pfeiffer quitted Tabrîz, and in a vehicle drawn by post-horses she set out, with one attendant, for Natchivan. At Arax she crossed the Russian frontier. Reaching Natchivan after an uneventful journey, she joined a caravan bound for Tiflis, the drivers of which were Tartars. Of the latter she remarks that they do not live so frugally as the Arabs. Every evening a savoury pilau was made for their enjoyment, frequently with dried grapes or plums.

The caravan route lay through the large fertile valleys which lie at the base of Ararat. Of that famous and majestic mountain, which lifts its wan and aged brow some 16,000 feet above the sea-level, our traveller obtained a noble view. Its summit is cloven into two peaks; and in the hollow between, an ancient tradition affirms that Noah's ark rested on the subsidence of the Great Flood.

In the neighbourhood of a town called Sidin, Madame Pfeiffer met with a curious adventure. She was returning from a short walk, when catching the sound of approaching post-horses, she paused for a moment to see the travellers, who consisted of a Russian seated in an open car, with a Cossack carrying a musket by his side. As soon as the vehicle had passed she resumed her walk; when, to her astonishment, it stopped suddenly, and almost at the same moment she felt a strong grasp on her arms. It was the Cossack, who endeavoured to drag her to the car. She struggled with him, and pointing to the caravan, said she belonged to it; but the fellow put his hand on her mouth, and flung her into the car, where she was firmly seized by the Russian. Then the Cossack sprang in, and away they went at a smart gallop. The whole affair was the work of a few seconds; so that Madame Pfeiffer could scarcely tell what had happened; and as the man still held her tightly, and kept her mouth covered up, she was unable to give an alarm. The brave woman, however, preserved her composure, and speedily arrived at the conclusion that her gallant captors had mistaken her for some dangerous spy. Uncovering her mouth, they began to question her closely; and Madame Pfeiffer understood Russian sufficiently to be able, in reply, to tell them her name, native country, and her object in travelling. This, however, did not satisfy them, and they asked for her passport, which she could not show them, as it was in her portmanteau.

At length they reached the post-house. Madame Pfeiffer was shown into a room, at the door of which the Cossack stationed himself with his musket. She was detained all night; but the next morning, having fetched her portmanteau, they examined her passport, and were then good enough to dismiss her, without offering any apology, however, for their shameful treatment of her. To such discourtesies travellers in Russian territories are too often exposed. It is surprising that a powerful government should stoop to so much craven fear and petty suspicion.

From Tiflis our traveller proceeded across Georgia to Redutkalé, whence she made her way to Kertch, on theshore of the Sea of Azov; and thence to Sevastopol, destined a few years later to become the scene of a great historic struggle. She afterwards reached Odessa, one of the great European granaries, situated at the mouth of the Dniester on the Euxine. From Odessa to Constantinople the sea-distance is four hundred and twenty miles. She made but a brief sojourn in the Turkish capital. Taking the steamer to Smyrna, she passed through the star-like clusters of the isles of Greece—those isles "where burning Sappho loved and sung;" and from Smyrna she hastened to Athens. There she trod, indeed, upon "hallowed ground." Every shattered temple, every ruined monument, every fragment of arch or column, recalled to her some brave deed of old; or some illustrious name of philosopher, statesman, poet, patriot, enshrined for ever in the world's fond remembrance. Madame Pfeiffer was not a scholar, but she had read enough to feel her sympathies awakened as she gazed from the lofty summit of the Acropolis on the plains of Attica and the waters of the Ægean, on Salamis and Marathon. She was not an artist, but she had a feeling for the beautiful; and she examined with intense delight the Parthenon, the Temple of Theseus, the Olympian, the Tower of the Winds, and the graceful choragic monument of Lysicrates. These, however, have been more fitly described by writers capable of doing them justice, and Madame Pfeiffer's brief and commonplace allusions may well be overlooked.

From Athens to Corinth, and from Corinth to Corfu, and thence to Trieste. Our traveller's bold enterprise was completed on the 30th of October, and she could honourably boast of having been the first woman to accomplish the circuit of the globe. She had been absent from Vienna just two years and six months, and had travelled 2,800 miles by land, and 35,000 miles by sea. Such an achievement necessarily crowned her with glory; and when she published her plain and unaffected narrative of "A Woman's Journey Round the World," it met at once with a most favourable reception.

At first, on her return home, she spoke of her travelling days as over, and represented herself, at the age of fifty-one, as desirous only of peace and repose. But her love of action, her craving after new scenes, her thirst for knowledge could not long be repressed; and as she felt herself still strong and healthy, with energies as potent as ever, she resolved on a second circuit of the globe. Her funds having been augmented by a grant of 1,500 florins from the Austrian Government, she quitted Vienna on the 18th of March, 1851, proceeded to London, and thence to Cape Town, where she arrived on the 11th of August. Her original intention was to penetrate the African interior as far as Lake Ngami; but eventually she resolved on exploring the Eastern Archipelago. At Sarâwak, the British settlement in Borneo, she received a warm welcome from Rajah Sir James Brooke, a man of heroic temper and unusual capacities for command and organization. As soon as she could complete the necessary preparations, she boldly plunged into the very heart of the island—a region almost unknown to Europeans. This was the most daring enterprise of her life, and of itself stamps her as no ordinary woman—as, in truth, a woman of scarcely less heroic temper than the boldest adventurers of the other sex. To endure the pains and perils of such a journey she must have had, not only a remarkable physical energy, but a scarcely less remarkable energy of mind. Night after night she passed in the depths of the vast Bornean forest, a little rice her only food—journeying all day through thickets, which lacerated her feet; swimming brooks and rivers too deep to be forded; recoiling before no form of danger, however unexpected; and astonishing the very savages by her daring and endurance. She equipped herself in a costume of her own devising, well adapted for the work she had to do; and protected her head with a large banana leaf from the burning rays of a tropical sun. No conjuncture, however critical, found her without resources; and we hesitate not to say that in the whole history of discovery and geographical enterprise there is no more wonderful or exciting chapter than that which records Madame Ida Pfeiffer's travels in the interior of Borneo.

We owe to her enterprise an interesting account of the character and usages of the Dyaks. Their ferocity of disposition is proverbial in the East. It is said that when a Dyak has promised a head—a human head—to the woman he loves, he will obtain it at any cost. Whether he strikes down friend or foe he cares not, so long as he secures the ghastly gift; and his eye being as sure as that of the tiger, his arrow never misses its aim. When we remember that these savages are cannibals, that they had never before seen among them an European woman, and that Ida Pfeiffer went without guard or guide, we begin to realize the full extent of her daring. But boldness is always the best policy: this plain-featured, middle-aged woman commanded the respect and admiration of her hosts, and went from encampment to encampment in entire security.

After visiting the island of Celebes she repaired to Sumatra, which is inhabited by a race of men even more sanguinary than the Dyaks, namely, the Battahs, who slake their thirst in human blood, and make of anthropophagism a "fine art!" It is said that some of the tribes purchase slaves on purpose to devour them, while, as a matter of course, prisoners taken in battle and shipwrecked seamen fall victims to their cannibal appetites. Many voyagers agree in asserting that they also deal in the same hideous fashion with their old men, who, when they cease to be of any service to the tribe, are deemed unworthy of longer life; the sons themselves become the executioners of their fathers, coolly fastening them to a tree and hacking them to pieces, without showing the slightest emotion at the spectacle of their agony.

In the course of her explorations in Sumatra, she found herself, on one occasion, surrounded by a tribe of savages, who would undoubtedly have treated her as an enemy, if she had not behaved with remarkable presenceof mind. The natives who accompanied her took to flight, and left her to face the danger alone. "These savages," she says, "were six feet in stature, and the natural ugliness of their features was increased by the rage that contorted them. Their large mouths, with projecting teeth, resembled the jaw of a wild beast. They deafened me with their yells.... I did not lose my head, but pretending to feel perfectly assured, I seated myself on a stone close at hand.... The gestures of the savages left no doubt of their intentions; with their knives they simulated the action of cutting my throat, with their teeth they seemed to rend my arms, and they moved up and down their jawbones as if my flesh were already in their mouths.... Rising, I went straight to the nearest man, and striking him familiarly on the shoulder, I said, with a smile, half in Malay and half in Battah, 'Come, come, you will never have the heart to kill and eat a woman, and an old woman like me, whose skin is harder than leather!'" A roar of laughter greeted this courageous speech, and the speaker was immediately received into the friendship of her savage auditors, who overwhelmed her with marks of goodwill and admiration.

Having "looked in" at Banda and Amboyna, Madame Pfeiffer quitted the Moluccas, and having obtained a gratuitous passage across the Pacific, sailed for California. On the 29th of September, 1853, she arrived at San Francisco. At the end of the year she sailed for Callao, the port of Lima, with the design of crossing the Andes, and pushing eastward, through the interior of South America, to the Brazilian coast. A revolution in Peru compelled her, however, to change her course, and she made her way to Ecuador, which served as a starting-point for her ascent of the Cordilleras. After witnessing an eruption of the volcano of Cotopaxi, she retraced her steps to the West. In the neighbourhood of Guayaquil she had two very narrow escapes—one by a fall from her mule, and another by accidentally falling into the river Guaya, which swarms with alligators. In no part of the world did she meet with so little sympathy or so much discourtesy as in Spanish America, and she was heartily glad to set sail for Panama.

Crossing the Isthmus towards the close of May, 1854, she sailed for New Orleans. Thence she ascended the majestic but muddy Mississippi to Napoleon, and the Arkansas to Fort Smith. A severe attack of fever detained her for several days. On recovering her strength she travelled to St. Louis, the Falls of St. Anthony, Chicago—which was then beginning to justify its claim to the title of "Queen of the West"—and the vast inland seas of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. After a rapid visit to Canada, she recrossed the frontier of the United States; and from Boston proceeded to New York and other great cities, and then undertook the voyage to England, where she arrived on the 21st of November, 1854. The narrative of her adventures was published in 1856, under the title of "My Second Journey Round the World."

CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.

It might have been supposed that, at the age of fifty-nine, this female Odysseus would have rested content with her world-wanderings, and spent the few remaining years of life in peace; but her restless spirit could not endure inaction. There is something in the nature of travel to stimulate rather than satisfy the appetite, and it does not seem that any who have once entered on the vocation are able or willing to withdraw themselves from it. The charm of perpetual motion is upon them, as upon that unfortunate Jew, who, bending beneath the weight of eighteen hundred years, is still supposed to be roaming over the face of the earth.

On the 21st of May, 1856, she once more took up her pilgrim's staff. Her first visits were made to the great cities of Western Europe—Berlin, Amsterdam, Leyden, Rotterdam, Paris, and London. In each the scientific world received her with open arms. At Paris she was specially honoured by the Société de Géographie. At a public reception she was addressed by the president, de Jomard, who, after briefly enumerating her titles to distinction, said:—"Madame, in your favour we design to commit an irregularity of which our Society is proud: we name you an honorary member by the side of your country-men, Humboldt and Karl Ritter;" and recalling a famous saying, he added, "Nothing is wanting to your glory, madame, but you are wanting to ours."

She now undertook—what to her was merely a brief holiday-trip—the voyage to the Cape of Good Hope. There she hesitated for a while in what direction she should turn her adventurous steps before she pushed forward to the goal on which she had fixed her aims—Madagascar. At length she decided on a visit to the Mauritius.

In the scenery of this rich and beautiful island she saw much to admire. Its volcanic mountains are characterized by the boldest and most picturesque outlines. Its vegetation witnesses everywhere to Nature's lavish use of her materials. Each deep gorge or mountain-valley blooms with foliage; the slopes are hung with stately trees, graceful shrubs, and masses of creeping and climbing plants; from crag to crag falls the silver of miniature cascades. Madame Pfeiffer did not fail to visit the sugar-cane plantations, which cover the broad and fertile plains of Pamplimousse. She learned that the sugar-cane is not raised from seed, but that pieces of cane are planted. The first cane requires eighteen months to ripen; but as, meanwhile, the chief stem throws out shoots, each of the succeeding harvests can be gathered in at intervals of twelve months: hence four crops can be obtained in four years and a half. After the fourth harvest, the field must be cleared completely of the cane. If the land be virgin soil, on which no former crop has been raised, fresh slips of cane may be planted immediately, and thus eight crops secured in nine years. But if such be not the case, "umbregades" must be planted; that is, a leafy plant, growing to the height of eight or nine feet, the leaves of which continually falling, decay, and fertilize the soil. After two years the plants are rooted out, and the ground is once more occupied by a sugar plantation.

When the canes are ripe, and the harvest begins, as many canes are cut down every day as can be pressed and boiled at once. The cane is introduced between two rollers, set in motion by steam power, and pressed until it is quite flat and dry; in this state it is used for fuel. The juice is strained successively into six pans, of which the first is exposed to the greatest heat, the force of the fire being diminished gradually under each of the others. In the last pan the sugar is found half crystallized. It is then deposited on great wooden tables to cool, and granulate into complete crystals of about the size of a pin's head. Lastly it is poured into wooden colanders, to filter it thoroughly from the molasses still remaining. The whole process occupies eight or ten days. Such, in brief, is Madame Pfeiffer's explanation.

Our adventurous lady—now in her sixtieth year—made an excursion, of course, to Mont Orgueil, which commands a very fine view of the island scenery. On one side the high ridge of the Mont Brabant, which is linked to the mainland only by a narrow neck of earth, stretches far out into the shining sea; near at hand rises the Pitou de la Rivière Noire, the loftiest summit in the island—2,564 feet. In another direction are visible the green heights of the Tamarin and the Rempart; in a fourth may be seen the three-headed mountain called the Trois Mammelles. Contiguous to these opens a deep caldron, two of the sides of which have broken down in ruin, while the others remain erect and precipitous. Besides these, the view includes the Caps de Garde du Port Louis de Mocca, Le Pouce, with its narrow peak projecting over the plateau like a thumb, and the precipitous Peter Botte.

Madame Pfeiffer also paid a visit to the Trou de Cerf, or "Stag's Hole," a crater of perfectly regular formation, brimful of bloom and foliage. As its locality is indicated by no sign or landmark, the traveller is seized with astonishment on suddenly finding it lying open beneath his feet. The prospect from this point embraces three-fourths of the island; majestic mountains clothed in virgin forests almost to their very crests; wide-spreading plains, green with the sugar-cane plantations; rich verdure-clad valleys where the shadows drowsily linger; and beyond, and all around, the dark blue shining sea with a fringe of pearly foam indicating the broken outline of the coast.


It was on the 25th of April, 1857, that Madame Pfeiffer sailed for Madagascar, and on the last day of the month she reached the port of Tamatavé. Of late years Tamatavé has grown into a place of much commercial importance, but in Madame Pfeiffer's time it was but a poor, though a very large village, with between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants. Obtaining permission to pass into the interior of the island, she penetrated as far as Antananarivo, or "City of a Thousand Towers," the capital. As she approached it, she could see it picturesquely planted on a high hill that rose almost suddenly out of the broad and fertile inland plain; and after a pleasant journey through rich and beautiful scenery, she came upon the suburbs, which enclose it on all sides.

At first the suburbs were simply villages; but they have gradually expanded until they have touched one another, and formed a united aggregate. Most of the houses are built of earth or clay; but those belonging to the city itself must, by royal decree, be constructed of planks, or at least of bamboo. They are all of a larger size than the dwellings of the villagers; are much cleaner, and kept in better condition. The roofs are very high and steep, with long poles reared at each end by way of ornament. Many of the houses, and sometimes groups of three or four houses, are encircled by low ramparts of earth, which, apparently, serve no other purpose than to separate the courtyards from the neighbouring tenements. The streets and squares are all very irregularly built; the houses are not placed in rows, but in clusters—some at the foot of the hill, others on its slopes. The summit is occupied by the royal palace.

When Madame Pfeiffer visited Madagascar, its sovereign was Queen Ranavala, a woman notorious for her blood-thirstiness, her antipathy to Europeans, and her persecution of the Christian converts. That from this feminine tyrant she obtained so many concessions—such as permission to travel about the island, and even admission to the royal presence, would seem to argue the possession of some faculty of fascination. Her reception by the Queen was not without interest.

Towards four o'clock in the afternoon Madame Pfeiffer was conveyed to the palace, over the door of which a great gilded eagle expands its wings. According to rule, in stepping across the threshold the visitor put her right foot foremost; and this formula she also observed on entering, through a second gateway, the spacious courtyard in front of the palace. Here the Queen was visible, having her seat in a balcony on the first story, and Madame Pfeiffer and her attendants stood in a row in the courtyard opposite to her. Under the balcony some soldiers were going through various evolutions, which terminated, comically enough, in a sudden lifting up of the right foot as if it had been stung by a wasp.

The Queen was attired in a wide silk simboo, and wore on her head a large golden crown. She sat in the shade, but, nevertheless, an ample umbrella of crimson silk—throughout the East a sign of royal dignity—was held over her head. She was of rather dark complexion, strongly and even sturdily built, and, though seventy-five years of age, remarkably hale and active. On her right stood her son, Prince Rakoto; on her left, her adopted son, Prince Ramboasalama. Behind her were gathered nephews, nieces, and other relatives, and the dignitaries and grandees of the kingdom.

The minister who introduced Madame Pfeiffer and her companion—M. Lambret, a French adventurer, who at one time played a prominent part in the affairs of Madagascar—addressed a short speech to the Queen; after which the visitors had to bow thrice, and to repeat the words "Esaratsara tombokoe" (We salute you cordially), the Queen replying, "Esaratsara" (We salute you). They then turned to the left to salute King Radama's tomb, which was close at hand, with three similar bows, afterwards taking up their former position in front of the balcony, and making three additional obeisances. M. Lambret next held up a gold piece of eighty francs value, and placed it in the hands of the minister who had introduced them. This gift, which is presented by every stranger, is called "Monosina." The Queen then asked M. Lambret if he wished to put any question to her, or if he needed anything, and also addressed a few words to Madame Pfeiffer. The obeisances and greetings were then resumed, due reverence was paid to King Radama's monument, and the visitors, as they retired, were again cautioned not to put the left foot first over the threshold.

Soon afterwards, Queen Ranavala gave a banquet in honour of her visitor, and invited—or, perhaps, we should say commanded—her to give a musical performance before all her court.

"To-day," she writes in her journal, "I have had the great honour to show my talent, or rather my ignorance, on the piano before the Queen. In my youth I had been a tolerable musician, but, alas, that was long ago. For thirty years I had forgotten the instrument. Who would ever have thought that I should one day be summoned to perform before a queen and her court, and at the age of sixty, when I fumbled more atrociously than do children who have had a few months' lessons?... With great difficulty I forced my old stiff fingers to run through some scales and exercises. I learned a few waltzes, and some other dance airs, and thus prepared, ventured to challenge the judgment of the severe Aristarchuses of Madagascar.

"I sat down at the piano, and began to play; but what were my feelings at finding it so out of order that not one note was in tune, and that several of the keys responded to the strongest pressure with an obstinate silence? And it was upon such an instrument I was to perform! But the true artist-genius rises above all such difficulties, and electrified by the thought of displaying my talent before a public of such enlightened amateurs, I set to work to accomplish the most unpolished roulades imaginable, to stamp my best on the rebellious keys, and to play sans suite et sans raison.... As a reward, I had the satisfaction of perceiving that my talent was generally appreciated, and of obtaining her Majesty's thanks. The same day, as a signal mark of her gracious favour, I received a number of fowls and a large basketful of eggs."


Unfortunately, during Madame Pfeiffer's sojourn at Antananarivo, a conspiracy was formed for the purpose of dethroning the tyrant queen Ranavala in favour of the next heir, Radama. It failed, however, and those concerned in it were ruthlessly punished. The Christians, who were supposed to have encouraged and abetted it, were now exposed to Queen Ranavala's tempestuous wrath, and Madame Pfeiffer and her companions found themselves in a position of exceeding peril. She was thrown into prison, and it seemed impossible that she should escape with her life. She writes:—"To-day was held in the Queen's palace a great kabar, which lasted six hours and was very stormy. The kabar concerned us Europeans, and met to decide our fate. According to the ordinary way of the world, nearly all our friends, from the moment that they saw our cause lost, abandoned us, and the majority, to avoid all suspicion of having had a share in the conspiracy, insisted on our condemnation with even more bitterness than our enemies themselves. That we deserved the penalty of death was a point on which the agreement was soon very general; only the mode in which we were to be dispatched furnished the matter for prolonged discussion. Some voted for our public execution in the market-place; others for an attack by night on our house; others, again, that we should be invited to a banquet, at which we might either be poisoned, or, on a given signal, massacred.

"The Queen hesitated between these different proposals; but she would certainly have adopted and carried out one of them, if the Prince Rakoto had not come forward as our tutelary genius. He protested strongly against a sentence of death. He implored the Queen not to yield to her impulse of anger, and laid special stress on the fact that the European Powers would assuredly not allow the murder of persons so considerable as we were to pass unpunished. Never, I am told, has the Prince expressed his opinion before the Queen in so lively and firm a manner. The news reached us through a few rare friends, who, contrary to our expectation, had remained faithful to us.

"Our captivity had lasted nearly a fortnight: we had passed thirteen long days in the most painful uncertainty as to our fate, expecting every moment a fatal decision, and trembling day and night at the slightest sound. It was a frightful, a terrible time.

"This morning I was seated at my desk. I had just laid aside my pen, and was meditating whether, after the last kabar, the Queen would not have come to a decision. All at once I heard an extraordinary noise in the court. I was about to leave my room, the windows of which looked in an opposite direction, to see what was the matter, when Mons. Laborde, one of the conspirators, came to inform me that another great kabar was to be held in the court, and that we were summoned to be present.

"We went, and found upwards of a hundred persons, judges and nobles and officers, seated in a large semi-circle upon chairs and benches, and some upon the ground. Behind them was drawn up a detachment of soldiers. One of the officers received us, and assigned us places in front of the judges. The latter were attired in long white simboos ; their eyes were fixed upon us with a sombre and ferocious glare, and for awhile the silence of death prevailed. I confess that at first I felt somewhat afraid, and I whispered to M. Laborde, 'I think our last hour has arrived.' He replied, 'I am prepared for everything.'"

Happily, the balance went down in favour of mercy. Madame Pfeiffer, and the other six Europeans then in Antananarivo, were ordered to quit the capital immediately. They were only too thankful to obey the order, and within an hour were on their way to Tamatavé, escorted by seventy Malagasy soldiers. They had good reason to congratulate themselves on their escape, for on the very morning of their departure, two Christians had been put to death with the most horrible tortures.

The journey to Tamatavé was not unattended by dangers and difficulties; and Madame Pfeiffer, who had been attacked with fever, underwent much suffering. No doubt the recent mental strain had enfeebled her nervous system, and rendered her more liable to disease. The escort purposely delayed them on their journey; so that, instead of reaching the coast, as they should have done, in eight days, the time actually occupied was three-and-fifty. As the road traversed a low-lying and malarious country, the consequences of such a delay were as serious as they were probably meant to be. In the unhealthiest spots, moreover, the travellers were forced to linger for aweek or even a fortnight; and frequently when Madame Pfeiffer was in agony from a violent access of fever, the brutal soldiers would drag her from her wretched couch, and compel her to continue the journey.


At length, on the 12th of September, she arrived at Tamatavé; broken down, and unutterably weary and worn, but still alive. Ill as she was, she hastened to embark on board a ship that was on the point of sailing for the Mauritius; and reaching that pleasant island on the 22nd, met with a warm welcome from her friends—to whom, indeed, she was as one who had been dead and was alive again.

The suspense, the long journey, the combined mental and physical sufferings which she had undergone, and the ravages of fever, reduced her to a condition of such weakness that, at one time, her recovery seemed impossible. But careful watching and nursing warded off the enemy; and on her sixtieth birthday, October 14th, the doctors pronounced her out of danger. But a fatal blow had been given to her constitution; the fever became less frequent and less violent in its attacks, but never wholly left her. Her mind, however, recovered its elasticity, and with its elasticity, its old restlessness; and she once more began to project fresh schemes of travel. All her preparations were complete for a voyage to Australia, when a return of her disease, in February, 1858, compelled her to give up the idea and to direct her steps homeward.

In the month of June she reached London. After a few weeks' stay she proceeded to Berlin.

Her strength, formerly exceptional, was now rapidly declining; though at first she seemed unconscious of the change, or regarded it as only temporary, and displayed her characteristic impatience of repose. But about September she evinced a keen anxiety to return home; and her friends perceived that the conviction of approaching death was at the bottom of this anxiety. Growing rapidly feeble, she was conveyed to Vienna, to the house of her brother, Charles Reyer; and, for a few days, it seemed as if the influence of her native air would act as a restorative. The improvement, however, did not last, and her malady (cancer of the liver) returned with increased violence. During the last days of her life, opiates were administered to relieve her physical pain; and in the night between the 27th and the 28th of October, she passed away peacefully, almost as one who sleeps.