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Summer Isles Of Eden
by [?]

It may be all an illusion of the map, where the Summer Islands glimmer a small and solitary little group of dots and wrinkles, remote from continental shores, with a straight line descending southeastwardly upon them, to show how sharp and swift the ship’s course is, but they seem so far and alien from my wonted place that it is as if I had slid down a steepy slant from the home-planet to a group of asteroids nebulous somewhere in middle space, and were resting there, still vibrant from the rush of the meteoric fall. There were, of course, facts and incidents contrary to such a theory: a steamer starting from New York in the raw March morning, and lurching and twisting through two days of diagonal seas, with people aboard dining and undining, and talking and smoking and cocktailing and hot-scotching and beef-teaing; but when the ship came in sight of the islands, and they began to lift their cedared slopes from the turquoise waters, and to explain their drifted snows as the white walls and white roofs of houses, then the waking sense became the dreaming sense, and the sweet impossibility of that drop through air became the sole reality.

I.

Everything here, indeed, is so strange that you placidly accept whatever offers itself as the simplest and naturalest fact. Those low hills, that climb, with their tough, dark cedars, from the summer sea to the summer sky, might have drifted down across the Gulf Stream from the coast of Maine; but when, upon closer inspection, you find them skirted with palms and bananas, and hedged with oleanders, you merely wonder that you had never noticed these growths in Maine before, where you were so familiar with the cedars. The hotel itself, which has brought the Green Mountains with it, in every detail, from the dormer-windowed mansard-roof, and the white-painted, green-shuttered walls, to the neat, school-mistressly waitresses in the dining-room, has a clump of palmettos beside it, swaying and sighing in the tropic breeze, and you know that when it migrates back to the New England hill-country, at the end of the season, you shall find it with the palmettos still before its veranda, and equally at home, somewhere in the Vermont or New Hampshire July. There will be the same American groups looking out over them, and rocking and smoking, though, alas! not so many smoking as rocking.

But where, in that translation, would be the gold braided red or blue jackets of the British army and navy which lend their lustre and color here to the veranda groups? Where should one get the house walls of whitewashed stone and the garden walls which everywhere glow in the sun, and belt in little spaces full of roses and lilies? These things must come from some other association, and in the case of him who here confesses, the lustrous uniforms and the glowing walls rise from waters as far away in time as in space, and a long-ago apparition of Venetian Junes haunts the coral shore. (They are beginning to say the shore is not coral; but no matter.) To be sure, the white roofs are not accounted for in this visionary presence; and if one may not relate them to the snowfalls of home winters, then one must frankly own them absolutely tropical, together with the green-pillared and green-latticed galleries. They at least suggest the tropical scenery of Prue and I as one remembers seeing it through Titbottom’s spectacles; and yet, if one supplies roofs of brown-red tiles, it is all Venetian enough, with the lagoon-like expanses that lend themselves to the fond effect. It is so Venetian, indeed, that it wants but a few silent gondolas and noisy gondoliers, in place of the dark, taciturn oarsmen of the clumsy native boats, to complete the coming and going illusion; and there is no good reason why the rough little isles that fill the bay should not call themselves respectively San Giorgio and San Clemente, and Sant’ Elena and San Lazzaro: they probably have no other names!