Our guide, whom we had really bought the whole use of at the gate, thriftily took on another party, with our leave, and it was pleasant to find that the American type from Utah was the same as from Ohio or Massachusetts; with all our differences we are the most homogeneous people under the sun, and likest a large family. We all frankly got tired at about the same time at the same place, and agreed that we had, without the amphitheatre, had enough when we ended at the Street of Tombs, where the tombs are in so much better repair than the houses. For myself, I remembered the amphitheatre so perfectly from 1864 that I did not see how I could add a single emotion there in 1908 to those I had already turned into literature; and though Pompeii is but small, the amphitheatre is practically as far from the Street of Tombs, after you have walked about the place for two hours, as the Battery is from High Bridge. There is no Elevated or Subway at Pompeii, and even the lines of public chariots, if such they were, which left those ruts in the lava pavements seem to have been permanently suspended after the final destruction in the year 79.
We were not only very tired, but very hungry, and we asked our guide to take us back the shortest way. I suggested a cross-cut at one point, and he caught at the word eagerly, and wrote it in his note-book for future use. He also acted upon it instantly, and we cut across the back yards and over the kitchen areas of several absent citizens on our way back. Our guide was as good and true as it is in the nature of guides to be, but absolute goodness and truth are rather the attributes of American travellers; and you will not escape the small graft which the guides are so rigorously forbidden to practise. Pompeii is no longer in the keeping of the Italian army; with the Italian instinct of decentralization the place has claimed the right of self-government, and now the guides are civilians, and not soldiers, as they were in my far day. They do not accept fees, but still they take them; and our guide said that he had a brother-in-law who had the best restaurant outside the gate, where we could get luncheon for two francs. As soon as we were in the hands of the runner for that restaurant the price augmented itself to two francs and a half; when we mounted to the threshold, lured on by the fascinating mystery of this increase, it became three francs, without wine. But as the waiter justly noted, in hovering about us with the cutlery and napery while he laid the table, a two-fifty luncheon was unworthy such lords as we. When he began to bring on the delicious omelette, the admirable fish, the excellent cutlets, he made us observe that if we paid three francs we ought to eat a great deal; and there seemed reason in this; at any rate, we did so. The truth is, that luncheon was worth the money, and more; as for the Vesuvian wine, it had the rich red blood of the volcano in it, and it could not be bought in New York for half a franc the bottle, if at all; at thrice that sum in Naples it was not a third as good.
If there had been anything to do after lunch except go to the train, we could not have done it, we were so spent with our two hours' walk through Pompeii, though the gray day had been rather invigorating. Certainly it was not so exhausting as that white-hot day forty-three years before when I had broiled over the same ground under the blazing sun of a Pompeian November. Yet the difference in the muscles and emotions of twenty-seven as against those of seventy told in favor of the white-hot day; and, besides that, in the time that had elapsed a much greater burden of antiquity had been added to the city than had accumulated in its history between the year 79 and the year 1864. During most of those centuries Pompeii had been dreamlessly sleeping under its ashes, but in the ensuing less than half a century it had wakefully, however unwillingly, witnessed such events as the failure of secession and the abolition of slavery, the unification of Italy and Germany, the fall of the Second Empire, the liberation of Cuba, and the acquisition of the Philippines, the exile of Richard Croker, the destruction of the Boer Republic, the rise and spread of the trusts, the purification of municipal politics, the invention of wireless telegraphy, and the general adoption of automobiling. These things, and others like them, had perhaps not aged Pompeii so much as they had aged me, but their subjective effect was the same, and upon the whole I was not altogether sorry to have added scarcely a new impression of the place to those I had been carrying for more than a generation. Quantitatively there were plenty of new impressions to be had; impressions of more roofs, gardens, columns, houses, temples, walls, frescos; but qualitatively the Greater Pompeii was now not different from the lesser which I remembered so well.