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CHAPTER II.

MEHADIA.

ON board the steamer was a young officer going to Mehadia-or Hercules' Bath, as the place is called,-so we drove thither together.

The road at first runs through a broad wooded valley, but afterwards, as it turns off to the right, grows narrower, and there are occasionally walls of rock with an increased profusion of wood on both sides of the way. We pass the remains of a Roman aqueduct, and crossing the stream beside which we had all the time been driving, keep along the other shore. The hills come closer together, there is a rich mass of foliage in front like a thick screen, when presently a sudden turn shows us a handsome building with a fine faade and a raised terrace, and all gives sign of order, neatness, and cultivation. This is the new hotel, as convenient and well-arranged inside as it is good-looking from without. The cost of the whole with furniture, which was sent from Vienna, amounted to 214,000 florins. I went through every part of it, and the excellence of all I saw took me by surprise. The house had been built by the committee of management, the members of which- this place belonging to the frontier- are all military officers. The season being over it was now shut up, as well as the other large Curhaus ; but on applying to the clerk I got a very good room in the latter establishment. The whole place consists only of the baths and the houses of the directors and visitors. It lies in a wild and picturesque gorge, and when full of the fashion of Moldavia, Wallachia, with visitors from Hungary and the Banat, the scene is gay and amusing. The rich boyards are there with their wives, and Oriental beauty as well as Eastern luxury meet you at every step. The dress of the native women, too, is bright with colour. The "obrescha," a broad girdle with red fringe hanging to the instep, and worn over the white shift, gives them occasionally, as they walk along the road with the long red dishevelled web flaunting in the wind, a wild witch-like air.1 Some had a shawl wound round their heads, most of them to row of coloured beads across their forehead; and here and there was one with a head-gear, which from its shape and colour and arrangement reminded you at once of the Neapolitans. It was of white linen, three-cornered, and bordered with red, and was pinned over the front of the head, with bright medals hanging on either side, while the point hung down behind. In their whole appearance was something which spoke of the South. One beautiful young girl, whom I met coming up the steps from her bath, was sticking flowers in her hair as she ascended. She was dark as night, but lithe and lovely as a houri. At first I was much struck by the abundance of hair that here seemed to be a gift of nature to every woman, and which in massive braids was twined round her head. On nearer examination, however, I found that the ornament was false; the thick plaits were made of tow, skillfully prepared, and were often of lighter colour than the hair itself. There was, I think, not a single woman, no matter how poor or old, without this artificial addition. A great number of women, even of the lowest grade, wear rouge. Later, in Transylvania, I found this custom to prevail among the Wallack peasantry. Close by is a Rumain (Wallack) village, called Pecsenjeska, the women of which are famed for their beauty. In the season they come daily to Mehadia with fruit, flowers, milk and honey for the visitors, and if report speaks truth the younger generation of that village is a mixed race, with elements as mingled and manifold as the various nationalties that yearly visit Mehadia.

Beside the original building a new bath has been erected, with modern appliances and modern elegance. The waters here are of two sorts-those impregnated with sulphur and those with common salt. The former are similar to the springs at Aix-la-Chapelle, but contain far more sulphuretted hydrogen gas. Few baths are so strong in sulphur as those of Mehadia. Some springs come out of the earth with a temperature of 43-44 R., and must consequently be allowed to cool before being used. The Hercules Bad (salt) is analogous to that of Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden. In the driest weather it yields 5045 cubic feet of water in an hour. Its height above the level of the sea is 195 feet. There is a fixed tariff for the baths, which is very moderate, varying from ten kreutzers for a footbath to fifty kreutzers, or one shilling, which is the highest. There is one house allotted to the reception (gratis) of invalid officers and soldiers for whom these baths have been prescribed.

The rocks above the spot whence the Hercules spring rushes forth are full of fissures. Here, by putting your ear to the stone, a seething and rumbling noise may be heard below. It is so hot in the opening that the hand cannot be held in it long.

The price of rooms in the new hotel, neat and pretty as they are, is very reasonable. Great improvement have been made in the last few years, and it is surprising to me that instead of going year after year to Baden, Homburg, or to Ems, where the same scenes and the people are sear over and over again, English pleasure-seekers do not take a present another phase, where they would see picturesque costumes, beautiful scenery and new modes of life, without having to rough it or to give up those conveniences in absence of which such a journey would hardly be pleasurable. Temesvar may be reached all the way from London by rail ; from here to Basiasch is also a railroad, and steamers daily pass this place for Orsova, which is gained in a few hours, the part of the Danube passed over in this way being the most picturesque of the whole river. Carriages are always to be had It Orsova, which is gained in a few hours,-the part of the Danube passed over in this way being the most picturesque of the whole river. Carriages are always to be had at Orsova, and for three or four florins one may be hired to Mehadia. During the season it is, I am told, a very gay and pleasant sojourn.

As there was to be a bear-hunt at the market-town Mehadia, about an hour's drive distant, I went there in order to be on the spot. On the way, my companion pointed to a slope where the year before he had seen in the afternoon three wolves stealing upon a couple of oxen grazing there; while he looked, both rushed affrighted into the wood, and the wolves after them. There were bears in the neighbourhood; for during my stay in the place one had been in the plum-orchard of a peasant at whose cottage I stopped, and a herdsman had seen a bear with two cube close by the night before.

(From my Journal.) Monday, October 5th.-The captain had already made arrangements, and was kind enough to invite me to be of the party. We started at half-past five, and drove to a Wallack village lying at some distance from the road. It was long and straggling, as most of these are; the cottages of the humblest description, each having, as usual, a large space like a pound enclosed with hurdles. Here were horses awaiting us,-the small, thin, bony animals of the country, good for little seemingly, yet, when put to the test, as we afterwards found, doing their work bravely. Mounted on a high Turkish-looking wooden saddle covered with a carpet and a sheepskin, with ropes for stirrup-leathers, I sat as comfortably as possible.

We passed up a vale with bare lime rocks turn and weather-beaten on one side, and young mood on the other. Further on in the fields were pens or folds, well roofed over with interlaced branches and a high fence round them, as a retreat for the cattle at night, to be safe against the wolves; for here are abundance of these animals. The night before, one of the men who was with us had been out on the watch, and heard-for it was too dark to see, the moon not having yet risen--sixteen or seventeen of them. Every here and there might be seen in the forked branches of a willow a large haycock. The fodder was put here out of reach of the cattle, to save the trouble of enclosing it if placed on the field where it had been mown.

Occasionally over the bed of the mountain-stream stood a square wattled shed. At each corner three or four large stones, simply laid loosely on each ether, supported the beams on which the whole was built. Within was a horizontal wheel that the water turned, and here the maize was ground which the villagers consumed. Nothing could be more primitive.2

As we rode on, the scenery became grander. In front rose a mountain of considerable height, and a large vale spread before us. The whole reminded me of the Bavarian highlands and of Tyrol. Presently we reached troop of Wallacks seated on the grass, awaiting our arrival. They had guns of all sorts and sizes, and of immense length, like those of the Arnauts and Bulgarians. They were evidently of Turkish make, and the booty, doubtless, of other days, when the Infidel had his foot in the land. Some were held together by wire; there was hardly one which was not in a most dilapidated condition.

The important act of loading now took place. Each one came to beg for a charge or two of powder, and the horn measure held out to be filled was four or five times as large as any ordinary gun, could have borne without bursting. The extra powder was carefully knotted up in the corner of a kerchief or bit of linen. Some had enormous bullets dealt out to them; to others a handful of coarse shot was given ; and when the imperfection of the arrangements was considered, it seemed a wonder that these men should slay either bear or wolf. Yet one of them had shot fifteen bears ; once he killed three in a morning. He tracked a bear to a cave in newly-fallen snow while out watching the cattle with his wife. Having excited one of the bears with a pole till he got up and came out of his retreat, he fired and killed him. Giving his wife a hatchet, he told her to stand at the opening till he had reloaded ; and then in the same way he shot the second and third.

The delight which these people have in the possession of fire-arms resembles that of a boy with a pony he can call his own. They are like children. They look at each other's gun, show the charge they are about to ram down, while all look on and watch the process with intense interest. Then the percussion caps I gave were handed round and examined. Later opinion was taken as to the efficiency of the coarse shot or hacked bullets ; and more than once the charge was drawn, examined to see if it were in order, talked about, and again returned to the barrel. We soon came to steep places, up which I should no more have thought of riding than of the horse being carried up there by me. Yet on my proposing to dismount I was told by no means to do so. And in truth, up places where I was forced to hold on by the mane to avoid sliding off backwards, my little horse carried me without any apparent difficulty. My companion even, who weighed eighteen stone two pounds, was thus borne over the same places I passed, stopping only occasionally to let the animal take breath. These ponies are as sure-footed as mules. I let mine go as he liked, and he picked out his path as cleverly us possible.

Three times we beat a large part of the forest, surrounding it with our men, but neither bear nor wolf was to be seen. And yet, some time back, in this very woods, five bears had been killed in one drive.

On my way to the forest I spoke to the captain about the habits of the bear, etc., and of our chance to-day of meeting any. His servant, so he told me, had once seen three coming towards him when out shooting with his master, and ran away. "But I was very young then," said the man, who was with us, "I was but a boy ," "That's true," said the captain turning to me ; "he was only fourteen. I took him out with me, and, as chance would have it, the bears came to him." Later, in the last drive, this young man said to me as I took my appointed place behind a tree, "Der Br, wann er kommt, ist schrecklich!" (It is terrible when the bear comes towards you.) "But the grand thing is to be quite quiet." He did not seem even yet to have forgotten his fright when a boy.

We unpacked our provisions, and large slices of meat being spitted on a stick nicely peeled for the purpose, they were roasted for dinner. We cut it from the stick as it was wanted, and found it juicy and savoury. The horses stood under the trees ; the Wallacks lay around with high pointed Tartar-like sheepskin caps, their long guns resting against the trees; here and there was a large wooden gourd-like flask, painted in gay colours, filled with wine or Sligowitz, and the bright sun shone through the bench-wood on other wild groups and made the whole look cheerful. All the men who had no fire-arms carried an axe on their shoulders.

The bear on hearing the noise of the beaters is soon on the move. Unless the wind blow from you to him he goes forward at once: hence, supposing the wind to be quite favourable, if within a quarter of an hour after the drive has begun no bear makes his appearance, it may be looked on as a sign that none is there. The wolf, on the contrary, advances slowly and sneakingly. He will not go further onward than he is obliged, and very often is only seen when the beaters are at the end of the drive. In open day he will attack sheep and cattle, if an opportunity for doing so offers. This year the maize crop having been scanty, the bears have kept on the Wallachian side of the border, where they find more food. To-morrow we shall try our luck among the rocks above the Hercules Bad, and as great numbers of wild apple-trees are near, it is confidently expected we shall find a bear or two. The year before last, a couple were shot there in one drive.

On returning to the place where we had left our carriage, I saw a very pretty young girl sitting before a cottage. "Is that your sister ?" I asked of a young man who sat beside her. "That is my wife," he answered, rising as he spoke. "She is very young," he continued, "she is only just fifteen." As I looked at her the word "fromossa"3 involuntarily passed my lips. "Will you not enter my dwelling," he continued, "and take a glass of wine ?" Accepting his invitation, I went into the cottage. It was of the very humblest. Within the house- door was a small space-it could not be called room-used as a kitchen, with an earthen floor on which the fire was made. From here through a low narrow opening I passed into a room, -the only one in the house,-about ten feet long and six fret broad. On one side was a shelf, and here was the bed. A table stood against the wall before the little window, and the bench ran along beside the bed. It was a miserable place, yet my host seemed proud of it, and highly pleased to be able to show it me. He brought a large jug of new wine and a glass which he re-filled after every sip I took of it. It was turbid, but sweet and pleasant enough to drink. I handed the wine to the pretty young creature, the mistress of the dwelling, that she might also drink of it. She bashfully accepted it, and put it to her lips; then returning the glass, took my hand, kissed it, and raised if to her forehead with the utmost deference. Brunette as she was, the rising colour of her check showed as clearly as in those of the fairest English girl. On her hand she wore the three-cornered piece of white embroidered linen, which by contrast showed how dark was her thick black hair. Large white flowers too were twined among it at the sides. Her husband-he was twenty-one-was the village schoolmaster ; his salary, fifty florins (5) a year, besides ten measures of maize which he receives from the community. He had three cows and several pigs in the "corral" behind his house, and some gipsies were at work there in his service, as he told me. One gipsy child of about eleven was winding off flaxen yarn,-a most picturesque mass of rags. Her shift hung down in a thousand shreds; and she might in reality as well have had on no garment, for the poor service it did in sheltering her nakedness. Round her waist she wore the customary obrescha, torn and tattered like the rest, sad its red fringe hanging about her brown limbs. With large dark eyes she gazed at me as we spoke about her, and is her countenance was that peculiarly earnest look of sadness which distinguishes so many of the gipsies. Some of the girls' eyes have an expression so burning that it might consume you; but that of the greater number is of a sad yearning that seems befitting in a despised, discarded, and neglected race.

5th.- Went this afternoon with one of the officers to the gipsy settlement, a few hundred yards from the village. It consisted of earth huts about seven feet high. You might as well have been in New Zealand or among the aborigines of Australia, for any signs of culture to be found here. The habitations seen by Livingstone in the interior of Africa showed far more neatness and skill in their construction. Children were running about quite naked, and as dark as Nubians. Nothing can exceed the misery of these huts as human dwellings. Within on the earth, for cooking purposes or for warmth they make a small fire ; as there is no chimney, the whole interior is filled with smoke. On one side is a board with a miserable blanket or some rags, and this is the bed of the family. The sides of the hut are made of mud, well mixed till it assumes a consistency, and within this place, like a large bee-hive, squatted on the ground were women and children, occupied with their household work, listless, or at play. Asleep on the bare earth was a naked child,-a state more befitting a wild animal, the whelp of a beast of the forest, than a human being. But its face was pretty, and it lay with that exquisite grace which is inherent in infancy. Some of the huts had a division, and the inner part served as a store-room for corn, an old barrel, or as a lair for some of the family. In one hut a mother was on her knees, bathing her babe of a year old in a sort of large wooden tray, and with her hands splashing the warm water over the brown young animal. She was herself very young, and it was a pretty sight to see her delight as the little creature chuckled and enjoyed the rough bath.

In each such settlement one man is named the overseer of the colony, and has to keep order and prevent quarrels. In the one where I was to-day it so happened that the son of the overseer had beaten his father, and separating himself from him had gone to live apart in a hut close by. On our approach both parties came to complain of their wrongs, and the mother of the worthless son immediately took part against her husband. The young wife of the delinquent was standing outside her hut, and seemed rather embarrassed at hearing her husband's behaviour so publicly canvassed. I went into every cabin, and accompanied as I was by an officer, they thought I came for some purpose, to inquire about their conduct or relieve their wants. The whole colony was in a state of excitement. Each dwelling was emptied of its inhabitants, who stood outside, looking on in wondering expectation. Old and young, with the whole litter of children, came forth. In one there was really a most beautiful child with exquisite expression. To some of the "little wee things" I gave kreutzers, and even the babies in arms seized on them with avidity, and held them fast with the same instinct as a wild animal seizes on its prey. At the sight of silver coin the native eagerness awoke, and the tiny hands were outstretched in supplication. I played with the children, patted their pretty cheeks or bare backs, and it was felt, I suppose, that I took an interest in them. For one not of their own pariah race to do this-one too so high in station as they, in their ignorance, supposed me to be- was to them inexplicable ; but it touched their hearts. Their head man, if I remember rightly, spoke German; the rest, their own gipsy tongue and Wallachian. On the countenances of some-of most indeed-was at first an uneasy look, as I walked into their dwellings and stared about. But it soon charged into one of wonderment, such as may be that of the Africans when they see a white man coming among them.

One little girl and I were soon good friends. She amused me highly by her archness and the pleasure she evidently felt at the mirth her appearance caused me. She was about six years old, and her whole costume consisted of a short blue silk spencer, cut sloping la postillon as it is called, in front, and reaching behind to the small of the back. Where the bit of finery came from, who shall say? but she was evidently proud of it and was anxious it should be seen. I laughed heartily on seeing her, and she laughed too; and afterwards wherever I went she was suddenly at my side, looking up with intense delight at the surprise she was every moment causing me. And then she would proudly march on, as proudly as if she had been at the Queen's drawing-room, and had behind her a splendid train instead of nothing at all.

While gazing on the child with the beautiful expression above alluded to, I said to my companion, "It would be really worth while to rescue that little one and bring it up properly. I wonder if the parents would part with it ?" "Oh, you can have it for a trifle," was the answer. "That I'll answer for. Shall I ask them?" But I would not let him tempt them, or risk hearing that they would have sold their child.

In the evening the gipsy musicians brought me a serenade. They came to the inn and played for an hour or two, and admirable was the music. They played with a fire and expression and feeling such as I have seldom heard, and the airs too were peculiar and national,-some wild and discordant, and others which went to the heart like the sad glances from the eyes of their own dark girls.

There is all along this frontier a good trade carried on in smuggled salt. This is natural. Salt here costs eight florins fifty kreutzers per cwt., while owing to a treaty made with Servia, the Austrian government furnishes that country with the same article for two-and-a-half florins per cwt.4 It is owing to the excessive price that the contraband trade thrives so well. Though the punishment is severe, it has little influence in preventing smuggling. Salt is always to be bought in Mehadia for the price paid is Servia. On the mountain ridges in this neighbourhood a single step leads into the border territory, and as the Wallachians have salt depts at very inconsiderable distances from the frontier, it is easy for the herdsmen and others to bring the precious necessary across the separating line. If the traffic is to be put a stop to entirely, there must be an unbroken chain of men, so as net to leave a furlong of ground unwatched.

Every monopoly is bad, but a government monopoly is worst, because most unfitting of all. There are two in Austria, that of tobacco and salt. The latter article, unlike the former, which after all was originally a luxury, is an absolute necessity of life, and is mixed up with the household economy of every individual. A heavy tax on salt is on a par with our own old tax on light. To put an impost on the light of day-the common necessity as well as the common right of every living thing-is one of those acts of government which coming generations will be wholly unable to believe or comprehend.

One of the privileges of the people here is that every "Grenzer" is allowed twelve pounds of salt annually, at the reduced price of four florins per cwt.5

There is, I think, no act of government which world be hailed with such joy and accepted with so much gratitude as the removal of this heavy tax. It would be an act intelligible to all,-an act, the bearing and importance of which every one would be able to understand and fully appreciate. For it affects all alike; and the most illiterate, as he salted his porridge, would comprehend that his Government had removed from him a burden and had given him cause to rely on its wisdom and also to be thankful. Government measures which touch a man's daily necessities always cause bitterness and discontent. If they affected him indirectly, it would not so much matter. The monopoly brings in, it is true, a revenue of 4,147,000 florins a year (this was the sum iv 1856); but this might be supplied from other sources. The restrictions which it imposes are felt doubly in such a case as, for example, the use of a salt spring in a village ; then the very water flowing out of the earth is not allowed to be fetched, except on certain days and at certain hours, lest the sale of salt should be lessened and the monopolists suffer.

This is not the moment for Austria to decide on any measure which should diminish her income; but when her finances are brought into better order, the government may take the system of monopoly into consideration ; and with developed resources it will be easy to raise revenue that shall cover the deficit arising from the rep,,] of the ;.,v that shall cover the deficit arising from the repeal of the tax.

The priest here, belonging to the Greek Church, has between fifty and seventy florins a year. There are some even who have only thirty. An arch-priest gets one hundred florins. They all of course have land to cultivate, or it would be impossible for them to live. Their fees bring them in a trifle. For a wedding the tax is only seven kreutzers, but more is usually given. However there are other means of improving the small income. When a pair comes to announce an intention of marrying, the pope says the parties are not sufficiently prepared, and a florin or two is thus pressed from the couple to induce him to forego his opposition. Here, as everywhere, the priest has a disproportionate influence over the female part of his parishioners. The popes are almost always very good-looking men; and it frequently occurs that complaints are brought against them for incontinence. However, a bribe to the bishop ensures the escape of the offender with a gentle reprimand. Later I saw more of these men, and with slight variations they were all much on a par. "Sie taugen nichts" (they are good for nothing) is what was always said of them, and " They ought to have twenty-five"6 was an opinion not unfrequently expressed. If their clergy were better, the Wallack population would also be more humanized.

There are fine beech woods in the neighbourhood of Mehadia, but there is no sale for their produce. The price of oak, as it stands in the forest, is twelve kreutzers, or threepence, per cubic foot. Close by are considerable strata of coal. Their possessor sells the mineral at thirty kreutzers per cwt.; it costs him ten kreutzers. The greater part he sends to Wallachia. This coal makes good coke, which is here used in the lime-kilns; it sells for seventy kreutzers per cwt. There is also iron ore here in great quantity, containing eighty per cent. of the metal. Ten kreutzers are paid for it per Metzen, which is some pounds more than a hundredweight. Wages, fifty kreutzers a day. There is water enough to drive any works: the ore too is close to the road, and that road leads to the Danube. In presence of these facts, it is incredible that nothing is done to turn the different products to account. My room at the inn was good; the cookery, detestable. But I could not expect much. I saw here one night, having to rise to drive away a squalling cat, what was to me a novelty. On opening the kitchen door, every part, floor, walls, ceiling, was literally one dense mass of living cockroaches: I quickly retreated. In the daytime not one was to be seen, nor in my bedroom, happily, which was adjoining, had any made their appearance.

When about to leave, my landlady charged me exorbitantly for my room. On remonstrating, she explained her mode of calculation. The room cost so much; and then I must remember that as it was occupied by me, she could not let it to some one else, for which she also charged. This mode of reckoning was to me as novel as the sight of the myriad cockroaches. I asked her why she charged so little for my breakfast, as, to be consistent, she ought to have made me pay the price of it, and then an addition sum, because, it having been eaten by me, she could not give it to another customer. With the coffee she thought this would not be a justifiable proceeding ; but with the chamber it was quite right and lawful.



NOTE.

The following is an Analysis of the different Springs at Mehadia.
Hercules BathLudwig's BathKaiser BathFerdinand's BathFranzensbad





Sulphate of Lime... 0.6450.782 0.3340.4800.745
Carbonate of Lime.. 0.3640.104 0.56205.440.246
Silica............. 0.1420.112 0.1650.2040.198
Chloride of Potassium 7.8005.213 16.13416.05419.281
Chloride of Sodium. 10.7799.916 31.11125.34840.084






Carbonic Acid Gas.. 0.560.60 0.620.720.62
Nitrogen Gas....... 0.500.59 0.580.400.48
Sulphuretted Hydrogen -0.48 0.880.950.90
Carburetted Hydrogen -0.41 0.490.520.56





1.062.08 2.572.592.56


1 Such an obrescha, I was told, cost from forty to fifty florins Schein, or from sixteen to twenty silver florins-thirty-two or forty shillings. 2 Hugh Miller, in 'My Schools and Schoolmasters,' speaks small Mills with horizontal water-wheels, of that rude antique type which first supplanted the still more ancient handmill." He saw them at Gairloch. "I am old enough," he says, "to have seen the handmill at work in the north part of Sutherland might have witnessed the horizontal mill in action only two years ago. But to the remains of either, if dug out of the mosses sand-hills of the southern counties, we would assign an antiquity of centuries." Strange that in a part of highly-civilized Britain there should still be the very same rude appliances daily made use of as are employed by the inhabitants of these remote regions ! 3 Beautiful ! 4 The rivers Maros, Theiss, Danube, and Save are made means of communication for the transport of the article. 5 They also have wood and pasturage free. 6 "Fnf und zwanzig"- the number of blows with a cane usually accorded as a punishment.

Chapters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38




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