Waxing lyrical

A philanthropist from the US takes time from her wartime work to paint a picture of Mallorca with her words

Women Travellers in Catalan Lands

The beaches of Mallorca are as different as human moods and needs. Each has its form of expression and speaks its special language to those who will give attentive ears. Some possess dignity, grandeur, and austerity. There are beaches formed for solitude, others for intimacy and gaiety. Some exhale a dark and sinister prophecy of dangerous and mysterious things, for the shadows of their cliffs fall darkly, and strange echoes beat about them as though from winged things of evil. Elsewhere there is sunny coquetry, laughter of waves, songs of birds. The sea dances landward, tiptoe with fun, teasing the pebbles with their game of hide-and-seek; creeping here, pouncing there, and then running away with a backward toss of curling crest which throws a golden mist skyward.

Then there are those beaches which give rest to the weary. These lie hidden in still nooks, without ripple or murmur, just mirrors for the beauty which encircles them. Peace broods on them with folded wings. Still reflections of those ramparts of the sky lie deep within them. The gold and rose of that pageantry of sky is theirs also. No tint is lost; no slow grace of drifting cloud is obscured. One can easily imagine Adam leading Eve to these strands only yesterday and showing her these fresh beauties which know neither disturbance nor fear. Gulls rest motionless on this duplicate of sky and, with heads tucked beneath their wings, sleep. The pale tinted sands seem never to have been utilized for that book of mankind's history which always left the page marred. [...]

There is such a jolly little beach at Deyá. To reach it, go to Sóller by train (three quarters of an hour) or by motor. The railroad ends at Sóller. Then drive to Deyá on a road, worthy of Hyde Park, which skirts the coast. Far beneath spreads the Mediterranean, its surface pierced by sword-like promontories. From the shore mountains rise, curve on curve against the sky, summit above summit, suavely infolding within their embrace deep ravines and tranquil valleys, umbrageous with a thousand gradations of green. […]

Deyá is a tiny hamlet perched on the apex of hill overlooking a garden valley. On the crest is a chapel surrounded by a shabby and delightful little garden in which sleep the dead, among flowers, within sound of the sea, visible through a gap in the mountainous shore. All about the valley other mountains tower, their crests salmon-pink at sunset, solidified flame.

At the wee inn on the hill, one finds a man and wife of stern exteriors but well intentioned. The cell-like rooms are as neat as pins, and the little cemented terrace, inset with flower-beds, overhangs the valley and tiled roofs below. Eagles swing above, and wild canaries dart and trill below. The white road winds along the side of the mountain on the opposite side of the valley like a ribbon, curving in and out among the trees. Foliage is everywhere, reaching to the rose and white summits, and down to the hidden river. Through the soft air yellow butterflies float, mingled with drifting almond-petals. [... ]

To reach the beach take plenty of time and rubber-soled shoes. Also perhaps lunch, for your host at the inn charges but nine pesetas a day (including a delicious wine), which amounts altogether to about a dollar and a half! Descend the steep bit of road from the inn. And on reaching the main route, leave it and dip abruptly on the left into a lane among olive and orange trees. Follow the track, no matter how eccentric its course, until you reach the stream at the bottom of the valley, which sings as it runs beside you, showing you the way. Turn often and look back. Trees of every clime shelter you, and above tower the mountains, their sides terraced two thousand feet for olives.

In an hour you will reach the most adorable of beaches, naïve, ingenuous. No sand here. It is too sturdy for such prettiness. Yet it is very small, not more than two hundred yards of curve, which ends on either side at perpendicular cliffs, which curve toward one another at their extremities until the wee harbour is almost landlocked. To the right a path is faintly discernible climbing the precipitous cliff to where a stone tower stands. By all means, after luncheon, follow the path along the coast. You will want to buy the tower, complete it, and live there for the rest of your life, but, alas, nothing can persuade the owner to part with it.


Nina Larrey Smith Duryea (1869-1951), daughter of the Boston merchant and abolitionist Franklin Waldo Smith and his wife Laura Bevan, was born in Cohasset, Massachusetts, and was educated in New England and Europe, where the niece of the Duke of Norfolk introduced her to London society. A keen socialite, in 1898 she got married in New York to Chester Burrell Duryea, the son of General Hiram Duryea, a Civil War veteran turned millionaire thanks to the starch business, but her marriage proved unhappy as her husband frequently abused her. She left him in September 1901 and only after a disputed separation suit did she manage to obtain the divorce in 1904. She settled in Paris and began a writing career which produced titles like Among the Palms (1903), The House of the Seven Gabblers (1911) and The Voice Unheard (1913). In late July 1914, hundreds of Belgium refugees fleeing from the German attacks compelled her to create the Duryea War Relief Fund. Thanks to successful fundraising campaigns in the United States, Duryea and her team fed starving refugees, assisted labouring mothers, clothed lost children and tended thousands of wounded soldiers behind the front line. At the end of World War I, she continued her relief work, insisting on the need to help Europe get back on its feet. The French government entrusted to her group the work of reconstruction in the city of Lille, and awarded her with the Legion of Honour.

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