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Late as the hour was, the train was packed and every seat was filled, so we used our suitcases for seats. Arriving in Venice, we had a great time to find a porter to take our luggage to a gondola, but at last secured one, who seated us and put our luggage on board. Then we commenced to glide along the dark and ill-smelling canal. It was quite weird at that late hour.
When we reached the grand canal, the scene changed, as here were occasional lights. We glided along to the steps of Hotel Britannia (Palazzo Tiepolo). A beautiful suite of rooms had been reserved for us here, overlooking the Grand Canal. It was after midnight when we dined, but we felt the need of the meal, and it was after I A. M. before we were finally retired for the night.
Monday, September 12. We started sightseeing, but not very early, going to St. Mark's Cathedral first. This very magnificent old cathedral is built in the Byzantine style of architecture. The roof consists of a series of domes, and the interior is faced with mosaics and beautiful marbles. The name of Byzantium was changed to Constantinople when Constantine the Great made it the capital of the eastern Roman Empire. Mosaics are used for exterior decoration also. There are two altars in St. Mark's. The first is of gold, finely enameled and studded with gems. The work in gold represents scenes from the Bible. Directly back of this high altar is a second. This has four columns. Two are of alabaster.
You can spend days in this grand old place and always find something new and beautiful. It is lovely at dusk, when the dying day brings you into close communion with yourself and you offer up penitential prayers which bring a peace and calm that is everhelpful.
From here we went to see the pigeons that live in great numbers about St. Mark's and are very tame, flying near and alighting on you when you feed them. They are great pets, and are fed constantly by visitors. They took grain from my fingers, and I saw them circle and alight on the shoulders of several people.
The government used to care for and feed them, the firing of the noon gun being their signal for feeding time. This has not been done for several years, as they are so well and constantly fed by the visiting people, yet they have not forgotten, for when the gun is fired at noon they still fock and fly to the plaza from all directions.
We saw the lower part of the Campanile which is being rebuilt to replace the old one that had fallen.
We returned to our hotel for luncheon and spent the early afternoon in shopping and looking at the beautiful things. At 4 o'clock we went to the Cafe Florian on the plazza and had tea and ice. The Venice of to-day is vastly different from that of days gone by.
The Grand Canal is truly grand at all times, and at night it is fairyland, with its wealth of twinkling lights on every side. It is dotted with numbers of colored lights on the gondolas, while charming Venetian music floats on the air and draws you to join the army of gondolas that crowd closely together around the gaily decorated music barges filled with pretty, sweet-voiced Venetian girls, who sing the alluring and fascinating music of the country as no others can. It is so full of poetry and passion. Other gondolas, filled with Venetians and visitors like myself and friend, pressed close together up to the music barges. There are hundreds of them. After singing and playing one or two pieces, a young man steps from the music barge and then from one to another of the barges, collecting money. The music is then resumed. This is kept up far into the night, and is a nightly occurrence. I felt a little timid about trusting myself on the canal again at night, but once started and in position, I could hardly be persuaded to leave, I was so entranced. Gaston had come over that evening to settle up the expense account, this being partly ours after leaving France, and Gusty attended to it every two or three evenings. I told her to tell Gaston after the business had been transacted, I would take him with us so he could enjoy the music. He is very fond of the beautiful and very appreciative of kindness shown him, and could hardly thank me enough for allowing him to go. I was finally persuaded to return to the hotel, as Gusty said it was nearly midnight. After landing the gondolier took Gaston to his train.
Venice is the happy home of the ambitious mosquito, but it evidently is as unwelcome there as in our own homes. The beds are entirely covered with fine bars of lace net, which you are careful to tuck very closely in around the mattress. After arranging yourself comfortably for the night you fall asleep to the chorus of other tones than the sweet ones which still linger in your ears. You can understand the words of this chorus more plainly than those in the barges, for the refrain always runs, “I can't get in, I can't get in. O! let me in, O! let me in.”
We went to the Accademia (picture gallery). We saw Bellini's beautiful Madonnas and the “Presentation in the Temple" by Carpaccio; also scenes from the legend of St. Ursula, by the same artist, and the "Assumption of the Virgin" by Titian.
These are among the loveliest in the Accademia.
From here we went to the boat landing to take the steamer for the Doges Palace. While waiting a funny little, short fat woman came in. She was wonderfully gotten up. She wore a plaid calico gown, ruffled on the bottom and quite short. The skirt was cut to form a pointed girdle at the waist line in front and was plain across the back. Her hair was jet black, though she was not a young woman. She wore it plastered tight to the sides of her head and drawn up in a tight knot high at the back. A black velvet ribbon was drawn around the knot very tightly and into that and the knotted hair were thickly stuck white-headed pins of almost the largest size. The effect was like a pincushion. She seemed to have a black waist under the outside one. Her sleeves were ruffled at the wrist and had ruffled caps at the shoulders. A huge coarse lace collar, sailor shape, completed the dress. She wore white cotton, open-work stockings, tan slippers with immense white bows, which finished this wonderful costume. She was evidently of the peasant class from some of the numerous islands near here. She was very jealous about her island being better than Venice. She talked to every man who would talk with her about it. They, of course, saying all that was possible to excite her. She was a character. When the steamer came, she got in with others and continued her discourse on board. She had every one laughing at her. We left her on board when we landed at the Piazza.
The palace is a work of art in its carvings and beautiful paintings. The pictures of one room are all done by Paola Veronese. In the room where the Council of Ten sat is a locked closet, quite small. On the outside used to be a marble lion's head with open mouth. Persons wishing to enter complaint against whoever offended them could drop a note in the open mouth. At the sitting of the council the closet was opened, the note read, discussed, and the fate of the person decided. Some were imprisoned, while others were put out of the way, as the council designated. Every one's life was in danger in those days. No one was safe.
We saw the great council chamber with its large painting on the wall, “Paradise,” by Tintoretto, back of