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for we thought Venice could only be approached by water. But father was quite right; we did go in the omnibus, only the omnibus was a boat, and a very funny boat too! A long flat-bottomed one, with a kind of high black box, lined with cushions and turned upside down in the middle of it, and into this we crept, thinking we were going to be quite in the dark—but there was the little door we got in by, and a window at each side, so that we could see a little, lighted as we were, by a bright full moon. They piled our boxes outside, and then we set off, urged forward by two men, one before us, and one behind. .
We went down the principal street in Venice--called the grand canal—the most beautiful street in all the world. Each house by the side was a palace built of coloured marble, and carved and ornamented with a taste and skill which one never sees now. The front doors all opened on this street of water, and close to each of these doors some gaily striped posts rose from the water, and to these the carriages of the noblemen who lived in these houses were fastened, whilst waiting for their owners, only their carriages were boats too, just as urs were. They call them gondolas, and line them with velvet or cloth, just as we line real carriages here, and put carpets in them, and then, even if they only want to make a visit next door, they must get into their gondolas and go by water to do 80, unless they choose to go and see their friends by the back door. That they can do sometimes, for though you cannot go anywhere in a carriage or on horseback in Venice, you can get about to many places pretty well on foot, if you do not mind taking back ways.
The reason you can have no horses is, that Venice is built on seventy-two tiny islands in the sea, and these are all separated from each other by canals, some wide, some narrow, but dividing the town in every possible direction. They have built a great number of bridges over these, more than three hundred, but they have built them very steep, with nine or ten steps up one side, and nine or ten down on the other, so that you see it would be quite impossible to go anywhere on horseback, or in a carriage; for, except in the Square of Saint Mark, you can hardly walk a hundred yards without coming to one of these bridges. If you were to take a horse to Venice, the children there would be quite as much surprised to see it, as they are here to see an elephant.
cath-e-dral pro-ce-sion buildrings
The Venetians in old times were great seamen, and sailed all over the world. They first brought to Europe
all the spices and silks and cloth of gold and embroideries, and many things besides which are to be had in the East. They were very proud of their beautiful town, and whenever they saw any very fine marble pillars, or statues, or jewels, or anything else they fancied, in Greece, or Turkey, or wherever they happened to go, they always carried them off home with them, if they thought they would help to make their own town look better. This went so far, that when they were building their magnificent cathedral, they were so anxious to get things to adorn it, that they made a law that no ship should go out of their harbour, except on the condition that it should bring back columns, or splendid blocks of marble for it, or anything else which would look well; so that if all the things which they stole were given back, a great deal of the beauty of Venice
Outside the cathedral there is a very fine square, and in this, at two o'clock every day, they feed the pigeons which live about the cathedral. A lady who died a very long time ago, left a sum of money by will to buy corn enough to give them a good dinner every day, and if you go into the square about two, you will see flocks of them flying in the greatest haste from all parts of the town to be ready; for they all know the time. They come in hundreds together, and are so tame you may touch them without making them fly away; for they are not the least afraid of any one hurting them. The Venetians are very fond of them, and would punish any one who harmed them; and as the birds fear no ill, they are gentle and friendly. At night they sleep on the cathedral and buildings around.
Every arch is covered with them, and wherever a tired, sleepy little pigeon can find a little corner to sit and rest amongst the stone-work, there you are quite sure to see one; so that at night there seems to be more carving about the cathedral than ever; for when the birds are all quietly asleep, they look as if they were all cut in stone, and never move unless something to disturb them, and then one puts out a curious little head, to see what can be the matter, and when he sees it is only you, he pops it under his wing again, and tells the others not to concern themselves.
There is a wonderful old clock, too, in the square, all shining with blue and gold. Two men made of bronze stand outside this clock, and each of them has a hammer in his hand, and when it is time for the hour to sound, one slowly raises his hammer and strikes very heavy blows with it on a large bell which hangs between them; and then, when he has done, the other begins and does exactly the same, so that the hour always strikes twice, Once one of these bronze men committed a murder, for a poor workman was busy at work near him, and quite forgot what would happen when the hour struck, and the little bronze man was forced to do his work, and his heavy hammer pushed the poor workman off the parapet, down into the square below, and he was killed by the fall.
, There is a little gilded gallery at the bottom of the clock, and round this gallery at a certain time of the year, three figures march in procession. They are called the three kings, after the three kings who came from the East to see and worship the Holy Child born
at Bethlehem. They go slowly round the gallery and then back again, just as if they wanted to be sure that the men who strike the hours have got into no bad ways of doing their work since they last came out to look after them.
In the opposite corner of the square is the Bell Tower of St Mark, begun nearly a thousand years ago. It is 323 feet high, with a belfry at the top, where a man is stationed to strike the great bell. Above this is a very lofty pyramid with an angel at the summit. This angel is really 30 feet high, though seen from below it looks so very small. But the finest building in Venice is the Doge's palace. It is very large and beautiful in colour; the finest part of it is the colonnade at the bottom, where the senators and great men who governed and fought for Venice, used to walk up and down and take counsel together how to maintain their town in all its glory and splendour.
When my mother died I was very young,