Memory! memory! who that hath a soul, cannot conjure up one such gentle being,—while the blood for one moment responds to thy call, and rolls through the veins with the tide of earlier and of happier days?
At the extremity of the horizon, was a more extensive lake, than any near them. Over this, the sun was setting; tinting its waters with a clear rich amber, save in its centre, where, the lake serving as a halo to its glory, a blood-red sun was vividly reflected.
As the sun descended, one slender ray of light, came quivering and trembling through the leaves of the arbour.
This little incident gave rise to a thousand fanciful illustrations on the part of Acme. Her spirits were as buoyant as a child's; and her playful mood soon communicated itself to her travelling companions.
They compared the solitary ray to virtue in loneliness—to the flickering of a lamp in a tomb—to a star reflected on quicksilver—to the flash of a sword cutting through a host of foes—and to the light of genius illuming scenes of poverty and distress.
Thompson made his appearance, and announced the supper as being ready.
"This," said George, good-naturedly, "is an odd place, is it not, Thompson? Is it anything like the Lincolnshire Fens?"
"Not exactly, your honour!" replied the domestic, with perfect gravity, "but there ought to be capital snipe shooting here."
"Ah! che vero Inglese!" said the laughing Acme.
They retraced their steps to the inn, and were ushered into the supper room, which was neither more nor less than the kitchen, although formerly, perhaps, the show room of the mansion. Around the deep-set fireplace, watching the simmering of the cauldron, were grouped some peasants.
The supper table was laid in one corner of the room; and although neither the accommodation nor the viands were very tempting, there was such a disposition to be happy, that the meal was as much enjoyed as if served up in a palace.
The repast concluded, Acme rose; and observing a countryman with his arm bound up, enquired if he had met with an accident; and patiently listened to the prosy narrative of age.
An old bronzed husbandman, too, was smoking his short earthen pipe, near the window sill.
"What a study for Lanfranc!" said the happy wife, as she took up a burnt stick, and sketched his dried visage to the life.
The old man regarded his portrait on the wall, with intense satisfaction; and commenced dilating on what he had been in youth.
How different, thought Sir Henry, is all this from the conduct of a well bred English girl! yet how natural and amiable does it appear in Acme! With what an endearing manner—with what sweet frankness—does this young foreigner wile away—what would otherwise have been—a tedious evening in an uncomfortable inn!
As the night advanced, George brought out the guitar; and Acme warbled to its accompaniment like a fairy bird.
It was a late hour, before Delme ventured to remind the songstress, that they must prosecute their journey early on the following morning.
"I will take your hint," said Acme, as she shook his hand, and tripped out of the room; "buona sera! miei Signori."
"She is a dear creature!" said Delme,
"She is indeed!" replied his brother, "and I am a fortunate man. Henry! I think I shall be jealous of you, one of these days. I do believe she loves you as well as she does me!"
The brothers retired.
Sir Henry's repose was unbroken, until morning dawned; when George entered his room in the greatest agitation, and with a face as pale as death, told him Acme was ill.
Delme arose immediately; and at George's earnest solicitation, entered the room.
Her left cheek, suffused with hectic, rested on one small hand. The other arm was thrown over the bed-clothes. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds. Her lips murmured indistinctly—the mind was evidently wandering.
A man and horse were sent express to Naples. The whole of that weary day, George Delme was by Acme's side, preparing cooling drinks, and vainly endeavouring to be calm.
As the delirium continued, she seemed to be transported to the scenes of her early youth,
As night wore on, the fever, if it were such, gradually increased.
George's state of mind bordered on distraction. Sir Henry became exceedingly alarmed, and anxious for the presence of the medical attendant.
At about four o'clock the following morning, Doctor Pormont was announced,
Cold and forbidding as was his aspect, George hailed him as his tutelary angel, and burst into tears, as he implored him to exert his skill to the uttermost.
The physician approached the invalid, and in a moment saw that the case was a critical one.
His patient was bled twice during the day, and strong opiates administered.
Towards evening, she slept; and awoke with restored consciousness, but with feelings keenly alive to her own danger.
The following night and day she lingered on, speaking but little.
During the whole of that time, even, when she slept, George's hand remained locked in hers. On this, her tears would sometimes fall, but these she strove to restrain.
To the others around her, she spoke gratefully, and with feminine softness; but her whole heart seemed to be with George.
Doctor Pormont, to do him justice, was unremitting in his exertions, and hardly took rest.
All his professional skill was called to her aid; but from the second day, he saw it was in vain.
The strength of the invalid failed her more and more.
Doctor Pormont at length called Sir Henry on one side, and informed him that he entertained no doubt of a fatal result; and recommended his at once procuring such religious consolation as might be in his power.
No Protestant clergyman was near at hand, even had Delme thought it adviseable to procure one.
But he was well aware, that however Acme might have sympathised with George, her earlier religious impressions would now in all probability be revived.
A Catholic priest was sent for, and arrived quickly. He was habited in the brown garb of his order, his waist girt with a knotted cord. He bore in his hand the sainted pyx, and commenced to shrive the dying girl.
It was the soft hour of sunset, and the prospect in rear of the mansion, presented a wide sea of rich coloured splendour.
Over the window, had been placed a sheet, in order to exclude the light from the invalid's chamber. The priest knelt by her bedside; and folding his hands together, began to pray.
The rays of the setting sun, fitfully flickered on the sheet, over whose surface, light shadows swiftly played, ever and anon glancing on the shorn head of the kneeling friar.
His intelligent face was expressive of firm belief.
His eye turned reverentially to heaven, as in deep and sonorous accents, he implored forgiveness for the sufferer, for the sins committed during her mortal coil.
Acme sat up in her bed. On her countenance, calm devotion seemed to usurp the place of earthly affections, and earthly passions.
The soul was preparing for its upward flight. Delme led away the sorrowing husband, and the minister of Christ was left alone, to hear the contrite outpourings of a weak departing sinner.
The priest left the chamber, but spoke not, either to the physician, or the expecting brothers. His impassioned glance belonged to another and a higher world.
He made one low obeisance—his robes swept the passage quickly—and the Franciscan friar sought his lonely cell to reflect on death.
The brothers re-entered. They found Acme in the attitude in which they had left her—her features wearing an expression at once radiant and resigned.
But—as her eye met George's—as she saw the havoc grief had already made—the feelings of the woman resumed the mastery.
She extended her arms—she brought his lip to hers—as if she would have made that its resting place for ever.
Alas! an inward pang told her to be brief. She drew away her face, crimsoned with her passion's flush—tremblingly grasped his hand—-and, with voice choked by emotion, gave her last farewell.
"Giorgio, my dearest! my own! I shall soon join my parents. I feel this—and my mother's words, as she met me by the olive tree, ring in my ear.
"She told me I should die thus; but she told me, too, that I should kill the one dearest to me on earth. Thank God! this cannot be—for I know my life to be ebbing fast.
"Dearest I do not mourn for me too much. You may find another Acme—as true. But, oh! sometimes—yes! even when your hearts cling fondly together, as ours were wont to do—think of your own Acme—who loved you first—and only—and does it now! oh! how well! Giorgio! dear! dearest! adieu! My feet are so, so cold—and ice seems"—
A change shadowed the face, as from some corporeal pang.
She tried to raise an ebony cross hung round her neck.
In the effort, her features became convulsed—and George heard a low gurgling in the throat, as from suffocation.
Ah! that awful precursor of "the first dark hour of nothingness."
George Delme sprang to his feet, and was supporting her head, when the physician grasped his arm.
"Stop! stop! you are preventing"——
The lower lip quivered—and drooped—slightly! very slightly!
The head fell back.
One long deep drawn sigh shook the exhausted frame.
The face seemed to become fixed.
Doctor Pormont extended his hand, and silently closed those dark fringed lids.
The cold finger, with its harsh touch, once more brought consciousness.
Once more the lid trembled! there was an upward glance that looked reproachful!
Another short sigh! Another!
Lustreless and glaring was that once bright eye!
Again the physician extended his hand.
"Assuredly, gentlemen! vitality hath departed!"
A deep—solemn—awful silence—which not a breath disturbed—came over that chamber of death.
It seemed as if the insects had ceased their hum—that twilight had suddenly turned to night—that an odour, as of clay, was floating around them, and impregnating the very atmosphere.
George took the guitar, whose chords were never more to be woke to harmony by that loved hand, and dashed it to the ground.
Ere Delme could clasp him, he had staggered to the bedside—and fallen over Acme's still form.
And did her frame thrill with rapture? did she bound to his caress? did her lip falter from her grateful emotion?—did she bury his cheek in her raven tresses?
No, no! still—still—still were all these! still as death!
"Woe unto us, not her; for she sleeps well."
* * * * *
"The Niobe of nations! there she stands, Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe; An empty urn within her wither'd hands, Whose holy dust was scatter'd long ago. The Scipios' tomb contains no ashes now; The very sepulchres lie tenantless Of their heroic dwellers; dost thou flow, Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness? Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress."
Undertakers! not one word shall henceforth pass our lips in your dispraise!
An useful and meritorious tribe are you!
What! though sleek and rosy cheeked, you seem to have little in common with the wreck of our hopes?
What! if our ears be shocked by profane jests on the weight of your burden, as you bear away from the accustomed mansion, what was its light and its load star—but what is—pent up in your dark, narrow tenement, but—
"A heap, To make men tremble, that never weep."
What! if our swimming eye—as we follow those dear—dear remains to their last lone resting place—glance on the heartless myrmidons, who salute the passer by with nods of recognition, and smiles of indifference?
What! if, returning homewards—choked with bitter recollections, which rise fantastic, quick, and ill-defined—the very ghosts of departed scenes and years—what if we start as we then perceive you—lightsome of heart, and glib of speech—clustered and smirking, on that roof of nodding plumes—neath which, one short hour since—lay what was dearest to us on earth?
Let us not heed these things! for—light as is the task to traders in death's dark trappings; painful and soul-subduing are those withering details to the grieving and heart-struck mourner!
We left George lying half insensible by the side of his dead wife.
Sir Henry and Thompson carried him to the apartment of the former, and while Thompson hung over his master, attempting to restore consciousness—Delme had a short conference with Doctor Pormont as to their ulterior proceedings.
Doctor Pormont—as might be expected—enjoined the greatest promptitude, and recommended that poor Acme's remains, should be consigned to the burial place of the hamlet.
George's objections to this, however, as soon as he was well enough to comprehend what was going forward, seemed quite insurmountable; and after Sir Henry had sought the place by moonlight, and found it wild and open, with goats browsing on the unpicturesque graves, and with nothing to mark the sanctity of the spot, save a glaring painted picture of the Virgin, his own prejudices became enlisted, and he consented to proceed to Rome.
After this decision was made, he found it utterly impossible, to procure a separate conveyance for the corpse; and was equally unsuccessful in his attempt to procure that—which from being a common want, he had been disposed to consider of every day attainment—a coffin.
While his brother made what arrangements he best might, poor George returned to the chamber of death, and gazed long and fixedly—with the despair of the widower—on those hushed familiar features.
Her hair was now turned back, and was bound with white ribbon, and festooned with some of the very water lilies that Acme had admired. A snow-white wreath bound her brow. It was formed of the white convolvulus. We have said the features were familiar; but oh! how different! The yellow waxen hue—the heavy stiffened lid—how they affected George Delme, who had never looked on death before!
First he would gaze with stupid awe—then turn to the window, and attempt to repress his sobs—return again—and refuse to credit his bereavement. Surely the hand moved? No! of its free will shall it never move more! The eye! was there not a slight convulsion in that long dark lash?
No! over it may crawl the busy fly, and creep the destructive worm, without let, and without hindrance!
No finger shall be raised in its behalf—that lid shall remain closed and passive!
The insect and the reptile shall extend their wanderings over the smooth cheek, and revel on the lips, whose red once rivalled that of the Indian shell.
Moveless! moveless shall all be!
The long—long night wore on.
An Italian sunrise was gilding the heavens.
Acme was never to see a sunrise more; and even this reflection—trite as it may seem, occurring to one, who had watched through the night, by the side of the dead—even this reflection, convulsed again the haggard features of the mourner.
Delme had made the requisite arrangements during the night, for their early departure.
Just previous to the carriage being announced, he led George out of the room; whilst the physician, aided by the women, took such precautions as the heat of the climate rendered necessary.
Linen cloths, steeped in a solution of chlorate of lime, were closely wound round the body—a rude couch was placed in the inside of the carriage, which was supported by the two seats—and the carriage itself was darkened.
These preparations concluded—and having parted with Doctor Pormont—-whose attentions, in spite of his freezing manner, had been very great—the brothers commenced their painful task.
George knelt at the head of the corpse—ejaculated one short fervent prayer—and then, assisted by his brother, bore it in his arms to the vehicle.
The Italian peasants, with rare delicacy, witnessed the scene from the windows of the inn, but did not intrude their presence.
The body was placed crosswise in the carriage. George sat next the corpse. Delme sat opposite, regarding his brother with anxious eye.
Most distressing was that silent journey! It made an impression on Sir Henry's mind, that no after events could ever efface; and yet it had already been his lot, to witness many scenes of horror, and ride over fields of blood.
We have said it was a silent journey. George's despair was too deep for words.
The first motion of the carriage affected the position of the corpse. George put one arm round it, and kept it immoveable. Sometimes, his scalding tears would fall on that cold face, whose outline yet preserved its beautiful roundness.
It appeared to Sir Henry, that he had never seen life and death, so closely and painfully contrasted. There sat his brother, in the full energies of manhood and despair; his features convulsed—his frame quivering—his sobs frequent—his pulse quick and disturbed.
There lay extended his mistress—cold—colourless—silent—unimpassioned. There was life in the breeze that played on her raven tresses—grim death was enthroned on the face those tresses swept.
Not that decay's finger had yet really assailed it; but one of the peculiar properties of the preservative used by Doctor Pormont, is its pervading sepulchral odour.
They reached Rome; and the consummation of their task drew nigh.
Pass we over the husband's last earthly farewell. Pass we over that subduing scene, in which Henry assisted George to sever long ringlets, and rob the cold finger, of affection's dearest pledge.
Alas! these might be retained as the legacy of love.
They were useless as love's memento. Memory, the faithful mirror, forbade the relic gatherer ever to forget!
Would you know where Acme reposes?
A beautiful burial ground looks towards Rome. It is on a gentle declivity leaning to the south-east, and situated between Mount Aventine and the Monte Testaccio.
Its avenue is lined with high bushes of marsh roses; and the cemetery itself, is divided into three rude and impressive terraces.
There sleeps—in a modest nook, surmounted by the wall-flower, and by creeping ivy, and by many-coloured shrubs, and by one simple yellow flower, of very peculiar and rare fragrance; a type, as the author of these pages deemed, of the wonderful etherialised genius of the man—there sleeps, as posterity will judge him, the first of the poets of the age we live in—Percy Bysshe Shelley! There too, moulders that wonderful boy author—John Keats.
Who can pass his grave, and read that bitter inscription, dictated on his deathbed, by the heart-broken enthusiast, without the liveliest emotion?
"Here lies one, whose name was writ in water. February 4th, 1821."
The ancient wall of Rome, crowns the ridge of the slope we have described. Above it, stands the pyramid of Caius Caestius, constructed some twenty centuries since.
Immediately beneath it, in a line with a round tower buried with ivy, and near the vault of our beautiful countrywoman, Miss Bathurst, who was thrown from her horse and drowned in the Tiber, may be seen a sarcophagus of rough granite, surmounted by a black marble slab.
Luxuriant with wild flowers, and studded even in the winter season, with daisies and violets, the sides of the tomb are now almost concealed. Over the slab, one rose tree gracefully droops.
When seen in the dew of the morning, when the cups of the roses are full, and crystal drops, distilling from leaves and flowers, are slowly trickling on the dark stone, you might think that inanimate nature was weeping for the doom of beauty.
Only one word is engraved on that slab. Should you visit Rome, and read it, recollect this story.
That word is—"Acme!"
* * * * *
Sir Henry and his brother remained at Rome nearly a month.
The former, with hopes that the exertion might be useful, in distracting George from the constant contemplation of his loss, plunged at once into the sight-seeing of "the eternal city."
Their days were busily passed—in visiting the classic sites of Rome and its neighbourhood—in wandering through the churches and convents—and loitering through the long galleries of the Vatican.
Delme, fearfully looking back on the scenes that had occurred in Malta, was apprehensive, that George's despair might lead to some violent outbreak of feeling; and that mind and body might sink simultaneously.
It was not so.
That heavy infliction appeared to bear with it a torpedo-like power. The first blow, abrupt and stunning, had paralysed. Afterwards, it seemed to carry with it a benumbing faculty, which repressed external display. We say seemed; for there were not wanting indications, even to Sir Henry's partial eye, that the wound had sunk very deep,
The mourner might sink, although he did not writhe.
In the mornings, George, followed by Thompson, would find his way to the Protestant burial ground; and weep over the spot where his wife lay interred.
During the day, he was Sir Henry's constant and gentle companion; giving vent to no passionate display, and uttering few unavailing complaints. Yet it was now, that a symptom of disease first showed itself, which Delme could not account for.
George would suddenly lean back, and complain of a spasm on the left side of the chest. This would occasionally, but rarely, affect the circulation. George's sleep too, was disturbed, and he frequently had to rise from his bed, and pace the apartment; but this last circumstance, perhaps, was the mere result of anxiety of mind.
Sir Henry, without informing George, consulted a medical gentleman, who was well known to him, and who happened to be at Rome at the time, regarding these novel symptoms.
He was reassured by being informed, that these pains were probably of a neuralgic character, and not at all likely to proceed from any organic affection.
George Delme's mind was perfectly clear and collected; with the exception, that he would occasionally allude to his loss, in connection with some scene or subject of interest before them; and in a tone, and with language, that, appeared to his brother eccentric, but inexpressibly touching.
For instance, they were at Tivoli, and in the Syren's grotto, looking up to the foaming fall, which dashes down a rude cleft, formed of fantastically shaped rocks.
Immediately below this, the waters make a semicircular bend.
On their surface, a mimic rainbow was depicted in vivid colours.
"Not for me!" burst forth the mourner, "not for me! does the arc of promise wear those radiant hues. Prismatic rays once gilded my existence. With Acme they are for ever fled. But look! how the stream dashes on! Thus have the waters of bitterness passed over my soul!"
In the gallery of the Vatican, too, the very statues seemed to speak to him of his loss.
"I like not," would he exclaim, "that disdainful Apollo. Thus cold, callous, and triumphing in the work of destruction, must be the angel of death, who winged the shaft at my bright Acme.
"May the launching of his arrow, have been but the signal, for her translation to a sphere, more pure than this.
"Let us believe her the habitant of some bright planet, such as she pointed out to us in the Bay of Naples—a seraph with a golden lyre—and shrouded in a white cymar! No, no!" would he continue, turning his footsteps towards the adjacent room, where the suffering pangs of Apollo's high priest are painfully told in marble, "let let me rather contemplate the Laocoon! His agony seems to sympathise with mine—but was his fate as hard? He saw his sons dying before him; could a son, or sons, be as the wife of one's bosom? The serpent twines around him, too, awaking exquisite corporeal pangs, but would it not have been luxury to have died with my Acme?
"Can the body suffer as the mind?"
At night, reposing from the fatigues of the day, might the brothers frequently be seen at the fountain of Trevi; George listlessly swinging on the chains near it, and steadfastly watching the water, as it gurgled over the fantastic devices beneath—while his mind wandered back to Malta, and to Acme.
Sir Henry's conduct during this trying period was most exemplary. Like the mother, who lavishes her tenderest endearments on her sickliest child, did he now endeavour to support his brother in his afflictions.
As the bleak night wind came on, he would arouse George from his reverie—would make him lean his tall form on his—would wrap closely the folds of his cloak around him—would speak so softly—and soothe so tenderly.
And gratefully did George's heart respond to his kindness. He knew that the sorrow which bowed him to the earth, was also blanching the cheek of his brother, and he loved him doubly for his solicitude.
Ah! few brothers have thus made sweet the fraternal tie!
The East Indian.
"Would I not stem A tide of suffering, rather than forego Such feelings for the hard and worldly phlegm Of those whose thoughts are only turn'd below, Gazing upon the ground, with thoughts that dare not glow?"
From Rome and our care-worn travellers, let us turn to Mrs. Vernon's drawing-room at Leamington.
An unforeseen event suddenly made a considerable change in the hopes and prospects of our fair friend Julia.
One warm summer's morning—it was on the very day, that the brothers, with Acme, were sailing close to the Calabrian mountains, and the latter was telling her ghost story, within view of the sweet village of Capo del Marte—one balmy summer's morning, the Miss Vernons were seated in a room, furnished like most English drawing-rooms; that is to say, it had tables for trinkets—a superb mirror—a Broadwood piano—an Erard harp—a reclining sofa—and a woolly rug, on which slept, dreamt, and snored, a small Blenheim spaniel.
Julia had a mahogany frame before her, and was thoughtfully working a beaded purse.
The hue of health had left her cheek. Its complexion was akin to that of translucent alabaster. The features wore a more fixed and regular aspect, and their play was less buoyant and quick changing than heretofore.
Deep thought! thus has been thy warfare for ever. First, thou stealest from the rotund face its joyous dimples; then, dost thou gradually imprint remorseless furrows on the anxious brow.
A servant entered the room, and bore on a salver a letter addressed to Miss Vernon.
Its deep black binding—its large coat of arms—bespoke it death's official messenger.
Julia's cheek blanched as she glanced over its first page.
Her sisters laid down their work, and looked towards her with some curiosity.
Julia burst into tears.
"Poor uncle Vernon!"
Her sisters seemed surprised at the announcement, but not to participate in Julia's feelings on the occasion.
One of them took up the letter, which had fallen to the ground, and the two read its contents.
"How very odd!" said they together, "uncle has left you Hornby, and Catesfield, and almost all the property!"
"Has he?" replied Julia, "I could not read it all, for however he may have behaved to mamma, I ever found him good and kind; and had always hoped, that we might have yet seen him with us once more. Poor old man! and the letter says a lingering illness—how sad to think that we were not with him to soothe his pillow, and cheer his death bed!"
"Well!" said one of the sisters reddening, "I must say it was his own fault. He would not live with his nearest relations, who loved him, and tried to make his a happy home—but showed his caprice then, as he has now. But I will go up stairs, and break it to mamma, and will tell her you are an heiress."
"An heiress!" replied Julia, with heart-broken tone! "an heiress!" The tear quivered in her eye; but before the moisture had formed its liquid bead, to course down her pallid cheek; a thought flashed across her, which had almost the power to recal it to its cell.
That thought comprised the fervency and timidity—the hopes and fears of woman's first love. She thought of her last meeting with Sir Henry Delme: of the objections which might now be removed.
A new vista of happiness seemed to open before her.
It was but for a moment.
The blush which that thought called up, faded away—the tear trickled on—her features recovered their serenity—and she turned with a sweet smile to her sisters.
"My dear—dear sisters! it is long since we have seen my poor uncle.
"Affection's ties may have been somewhat loosened. They cannot—I am sure—have been dissolved.
"Do not think me selfish enough to retain this generous bequest.
"It may yet be in my power, and it no doubt is, to amend its too partial provisions.
"Let us be sisters still—sisters in equality—sisters in love and affection."
Julia Vernon was a very noble girl. She lived to become of age, and she acted up to this her resolve.
And, now, a few words as to the individual, by whose death the Miss Vernons acquired such an accession of property.
The Miss Vernons' father had an only and a younger brother, who at an early age had embarked for the East, in the civil service. He had acquired great wealth, and, after a residence of twenty-five years in the Bengal Presidency, had returned to England a confirmed bachelor, and a wealthy nabob. His brother died, while Mr. Benjamin Vernon was on his passage home. He arrived in England, and found himself a stranger in his native land.
He shouldered his cane through Regent Street, and wandered in the Quadrant's shade;—and in spite of the novelties that every where met him—in spite of cabs and plated glass—felt perfectly isolated and miserable.
It is true, his Indian friends found him out at the Burlington, and their cards adorned his mantelpiece—for Mr. Benjamin Vernon was said to be worth a plum, and to be on the look out for a vacancy in the Directory.
But although these were indisputably his Indian friends, it appeared to Mr. Vernon, that they were no longer his friends of India. They seemed to him to live in a constant state of unnatural excitement.
Some prided themselves on being stars in fashion's gayest circle—others, whom he had hardly known, were fathers—for their families were educating in England—-he now found surrounded by children, on whose provision they were wholly intent.
These were off at a tangent, "to see Peter Auber, at the India House," or, "could not wait an instant; they were to meet Josh: Alexander precisely at two."
And then their flippant sons! taking wine with him, forsooth—adjusting their neckcloths—and asking "whether he had met their father at Madras or Calcutta?"
This to a true Bengalee!
Nor was this all!
The young renegades ate their curry with a knife!
Others, from whom he had parted years before, shook hands with him at the Oriental, as if his presence there was a matter of course; and then asked him "what he thought of Stanley's speech?"
Now, there are few men breathing, who have their sympathies so keenly alive—who show and who look for, such warmth of heart—-who are so chilled and hurt by indifference—as your bachelor East Indian.
The married one may solace himself for coldness abroad, by sunny smiles at home;—but the friendless bachelor is sick at heart, unless he encounter a hearty pressure of the hand—an eye that sparkles, as it catches his—an interested listener to his thousand and one tales of Oriental scenes, and of Oriental good fellowship.
Mr. Benjamin Vernon soon found this London solitude—it was worse than solitude—quite insupportable.
He determined to visit his brother's widow, and left town for Leamington. The brother-in-law felt more than gratified at the cordial welcome that there met him.
His heart responded to their tones of kindness, and the old Indian, in the warmth of his gratitude, thought he had at length discovered a congenial home. He plunged into the extreme of dangerous intimacy; and was soon domiciled in Mrs. Vernon's small mansion.
It is absurd what trifles can extinguish friendships, and estrange affection. Mr. Vernon had always had the controul of his hours—loved his hookah, and his after-dinner dose.
His brother's widow was an amiable person, but a great deal too independent, to humour any person's foibles.
She liked activity, and disliked smoking; and was too matter-of-fact in her ideas, to conceive that these indulgences, merely from force of habit, might have now become absolute necessities.
Mrs. Vernon first used arguments; which were listened to very patiently, and as systematically disregarded.
As she thought she knew her ground better, she would occasionally secrete the hookah, and indulge in eloquent discourse, on the injurious effects, and waste of time, that the said hookah entailed.
Nor could the old man enjoy in peace, his evening slumber.
One of his nieces was always ready to shake him by the elbow, and address him with an expostulatory "Oh! dear uncle!" which, though delivered with silvery voice, seemed to him deuced provoking.
For some time, the old Indian good-naturedly acquiesced in these arrangements; and was far too polite at any time to scold, or hazard a scene.
Mrs. Vernon was all complacency, and imagined her triumph assured.
Suddenly the tempest gathered to a head. Bachelor habits regained their ascendancy; and Mrs. Vernon was thunderstruck, when it was one morning duly announced to her, that her brother-in-law had purchased a large estate in Monmouthshire, and that he intended permanently to reside there.
Mrs. Vernon was deeply chagrined.
She thought him ungrateful, and told him so.
At the outset, our East Indian was anxious that his niece Julia, who had been by far the most tolerant of his bachelor vices, should preside over his new establishment; but the feelings of the mother and daughter were alike opposed to this arrangement.
This was the last rock on which he and his brother's widow split; and it was decisive.
From that hour, all correspondence between them ceased.
Arrived in Wales, our nabob endeavoured to attach himself to country pursuits—purchased adjoining estates—employed many labourers—and greatly improved his property. But his rural occupations were quite at variance with his acquired habits.
He pined away—became hypochondriacal—and died, just three years after leaving Mrs. Vernon, for want of an Eastern sun, and something to love.
"The seal is set."
On the day fixed for the departure of Sir Henry Delme and his brother, they together visited once more the sumptuous pile of St. Peter's, and heard the voices of the practised choristers swell through the mighty dome, as the impressive service of the Catholic Church was performed by the Pope and his conclave.
The morning dawn had seen George, as was his daily custom in Rome, kneeling beside the grave of Acme, and breathing a prayer for their blissful reunion in heaven.
As the widower staggered from that spot, the thought crossed him, and bitterly poignant was that thought, that now might he bid a second earthly farewell, to what had been his pride, and household solace.
Now, indeed, "was the last link broken." Each hour—each traversed league—was to bear him away from even the remains of his heart's treasure.
Their bones must moulder in a different soil.
It was Sir Henry's choice that they should on that day visit Saint Peter's; and well might the travellers leave Rome with so unequalled an object fresh in the mind's eye.
Whether we gaze on its exterior of faultless proportions—or on the internal arrangement, where perfect symmetry reigns;—whether we consider the glowing canvas—or the inspired marble,—or the rich mosaics;—whether with the enthusiasm of the devotee, we bend before those gorgeous shrines; or with the comparative apathy of a cosmopolite, reflect on the historical recollections with which that edifice—the focus of the rays of Catholicism—teems and must teem forever;—we must in truth acknowledge, that there alone is the one matchless temple, in strict and perfect harmony with Imperial Rome.
Gazing there—or recalling in after years its unclouded majesty—the delighted pilgrim knows neither shade of disappointment—nor doth he harbour one thought of decay.
Where is the other building in the "eternal city," of which we can say thus much?
Sir Henry Delme had engaged a vettura, which was to convey them with the same horses as far as Florence.
This arrangement made them masters of their own time, and was perhaps in their case, the best that could be adopted; for slowness of progress, which is its greatest objection, was rather desirable in George's then state of health.
As is customary, Delme made an advance to the vetturino, who usually binds himself to defray all the expenses at the inns on the road.
The travellers dined early—left Rome in the afternoon—and proposed pushing on to Neppi during the night.
When about four miles on their journey, Delme observed a mausoleum on the side of the road, which appeared of ancient date, and rather curious construction.
On consulting his guide-book, he found it designated as the tomb of Nero.
On examining its inscription, he saw that it was erected to the memory of a Prefect of Sardinia; and he inwardly determined to distrust his guide-book on all future occasions.
The moon was up as they reached the post-house of Storta.
The inn, or rather tavern, was a small wretched looking building, with a large courtyard attached, but the stables appeared nearly—if not quite—untenanted.
Sir Henry's surprise and anger were great, when the driver, coolly stopping his horses, commenced taking off their harness;—and informed the travellers, that there must they remain, until he had received some instructions from his owner, which he expected by a vettura leaving Rome at a later hour.
It was in vain that the brothers expostulated, and reminded him of his agreement to stop when they pleased, expressing their determination to proceed.
The driver was dogged and unmoved; and the travellers had neglected to draw up a written bargain, which is a precaution absolutely necessary in Italy.
They soon found they had no alternative but to submit. It was with a very bad grace they did so, for Englishmen have a due abhorrence of imposition.
They at length stepped from the vehicle—indulged in some vehement remonstrances—smiled at Thompson's voluble execrations, which they found were equally unavailing—and were finally obliged to give up the point.
They were shown into a small room. The chief inmates were some Papal soldiers of ruffianly air, engaged in the clamorous game of moro. Unlike the close shorn Englishmen, their beards and mustachios, were allowed to grow to such length, as to hide the greater part of the face.
Their animated gestures and savage countenances, would have accorded well with a bandit group by Salvator.
The landlord, an obsequious little man, with face pregnant with mischievous cunning, was watching with interest, the turns of the game; and assisting his guests, to quaff his vino ordinario, which Sir Henry afterwards found was ordinary enough.
Delme's equanimity of temper was already considerably disturbed.
The scanty accommodation afforded them, by no means diminished his choler; which he began to expend on the obstinate driver, who had followed them into the room, and was busily placing chairs round one of the tables.
"See what you can get for supper, you rascal!"
"Signore! there are some excellent fowls, and the very best wine of Velletri."
The wine was produced and proved vinegar.
The host bustled away loud in its praise, and a few seconds afterwards, the dying shriek of a veteran tenant of the poultry yard, warned them that supper was preparing.
"Thompson!" said George, rather languidly, "do, like a good fellow, see that they put no garlic with the fowl!"
"I will, Sir," replied the domestic; "and the wine, Mr. George, seems none of the best. I have a flask of brandy in the rumble."
"Just the thing!" said Sir Henry.
To their surprise, the landlord proffered sugar and lemons.
Sir Henry's countenance somewhat brightened, and he declared he would make punch.
Punch! thou just type of matrimony! thy ingredients of sweets and bitters so artfully blended, that we know not which predominate,—so deceptive, too, that we imbibe long and potent draughts, nor awake to a consciousness of thy power, till awoke by headache.
Hail to thee! all hail!
Thy very name, eked out by thine appropriate receptacle, recals raptures past—bids us appreciate joys present—and enjoins us duly to reverence thee, if we hope for joys in futurity.
A bowl of punch! each merry bacchanal rises at the call!
Moderate bacchanals all! for where is the abandoned sot, who would not rather dole out his filthy lucre, on an increase of the mere alchohol—than expend it on those grateful adjuncts, which, throwing a graceful veil over that spirit's grossness, impart to it its chief and its best attraction.
Up rises then each hearty bacchanal! thrice waving the clear tinkling crystal, ere he emits that joyful burst, fresh from the heart, which from his uncontrolled emotion, meets the ear husky and indistinct.
Delme squeezed the lemons into not a bad substitute for a bowl, viz. a red earthen vase of rough workmanship, but elegant shape, somewhat resembling a modern wine cooler.
George stood at the inn door, wistfully looking upward; when he remarked an intelligent boy of fourteen, with dark piercing eyes, observing him somewhat earnestly.
On finding he was noticed, he approached with an air of ingenuous embarrassment—pulled off his cap—and said in a tone of enquiry,
"Un Signore Inglese?"
"Yes! my fine fellow! Do you know anything of me or the English?"
"Oh yes!" replied the boy with vivacity, replacing his cap, "I have travelled in England, and like London very much."
George conversed with him for some time; and found him to be one of that class, whose numbers make us unmindful of their wants or their loneliness; who eke out a miserable pittance, by carrying busts of plaster-of-Paris—grinding on an organ—or displaying through Europe, the tricks of some poodle dog, or the eccentricities of a monkey disguised in scarlet.
It is rare that these come from a part of Italy so far south; but it appeared in this instance, that Giuseppe's father being a carrier, had taken him with him to Milan—had there met a friend, rich in an organ and porcupine—and had entrusted the boy to his care, in order that he might see the world, and make his fortune.
Giuseppe gave a narrative of some little events, that had occurred to him during his wanderings, which greatly interested George; and he finally concluded, by saying that his father had now retired to his native place at Barberini, where many strangers came to see the "antichita." George, on referring to the guide book, found that this was indeed the case; and that Isola Barberini is marked as the site of ancient Veii, the rival of young Rome.
"And when do you go there, youngster, and how far is it from this?"
"I am going now, Signore, to be in time for supper. It is only a 'piccolo giro' across the fields; and looks as well by moonlight as at any other time."
"Ah!" replied George, "I would be glad to accompany you. Henry," said he, as he entered the room of the inn, "I am away on a classic excursion to Veii. The night is lovely—I have an excellent guide—and shall be back before you have finished your punch making.
"Do let me go!" and he lowered his voice, and the tears swam in his eyes, "I cannot endure these rude sounds of merriment, and a moonlight walk will at least afford nothing that can thus pain me."
Sir Henry looked out. The night was perfectly fine. The young peasant, all willingness, had already shouldered his bundle, and was preparing to move forward.
"You must not be late, George," said his brother, assenting to his proposal. "Do not stay too long about the ruins. Remember that you are still delicate, and that I shall wait supper for you."
As the boy led on, George followed him in a foot path, which led through fields of meadow land, corn, and rye.
The fire-flies—mimic meteors—were giddily winging their way from bush to bush,—illuming the atmosphere, and imparting to the scene a glittering beauty, which a summer night in a northern clime cannot boast.
As they approached somewhat nearer to the hamlet, their course was over ground more rugged; and the disjointed fragments of rocks strewed, and at intervals obstructed, the path.
The cottages were soon reached.
The villagers were all in front of their dwellings, taking their last meal for the day, in the open air.
The young guide stopped in front of a cottage, a little apart from the rest. The family party were seated round a rude table, on which were plates and napkins.
Before the master of the house—a wrinkled old man, with long grey hair—was a smoking tureen of bread soup, over which he was in the act of sprinkling some grated Parmesan cheese.
A plate of green figs, and a large water melon—the cocomero—made up the repast.
"Giuseppe! you are late for supper," said the old patriarch, as the boy approached to whisper his introduction of the stranger.
The old man waved his hand courteously—made a short apology for the humble viands—and pointed to a vacant seat.
"Many thanks," said George, "but my supper already awaits me. I will not, however, interfere with my young guide. Show me the ruins, Giuseppe, and I will trouble you no further."
The boy moved on towards what were indeed ruins, or rather the vestige of such.
Here a misshapen stone—there a shattered column—decaying walls, overgrown with nettles—arches and caves, choked up with rank vegetation—bespoke remains unheeded, and but rarely visited.
George threw the boy a piece of silver—heard his repeated cautions as to his way to Storta—and wished him good night, as he hurried back to the cottage.
George Delme sat on the shaft of a broken pillar, his face almost buried in his hands, as he looked around him on a scene once so famous.
But with him classic feelings were not upper-most. The widowed heart mourned its loneliness; and in that calm hour found the full relief of tears.
The mourner rose, and turned his face homeward, slowly—sadly—but resignedly.
The heavens had become more overcast—and clouds occasionally were hiding the moon.
It was with some difficulty that George avoided the pieces of rock which obstructed the path.
The road seemed longer, and wilder, than he had previously thought it.
Suddenly the loud bay of dogs was borne to his ear; and almost, before he had time to turn from the path, two large hounds brushed past him, followed by a rider—his gun slung before his saddle—and his horse fearlessly clattering over the loose stones.
The horseman seemed a young Roman farmer. He did not salute, and probably did not observe our traveller. As the sound from the horse receded, and the clamour of the dogs died away, a feeling almost akin to alarm crossed George's mind.
George was one, however, who rarely gave way to vague fears.
It so happened that he was armed.
Delancey had made him a present of a brace of pocket pistols, during the days of their friendship; and, very much to Sir Henry's annoyance, George had been in the habit, since leaving Malta, of constantly carrying these about him.
He strode on without adventure, until entering the field of rye.
The pathway became very narrow—so that on either side him, he grazed against the bearded ears.
Suddenly he heard a rustling sound. The moon at the moment broke from a dark cloud, and he fancied he discerned a figure near him half hid by the rye.
Again the moon was shrouded.
A rustling again ensued.
George felt a ponderous blow, which, aimed at the left shoulder, struck his left arm.
The collar of his coat was instantaneously grasped.
For a moment, George Delme felt irresolute—then drew a pistol from his pocket and fired.
The hold was loosened—a man fell at his feet.
The pistol's flash revealed another figure, which diving into the corn—fled precipitately.
Let us turn to Sir Henry Delme and to Thompson.
For some time after George's departure, they were busily engaged in preparing supper.
While they were thus occupied, they noticed that the Papal soldiers whispered much together—but this gave rise to no suspicion on their part.
One by one the soldiers strolled out, and the landlord betook himself to the kitchen.
The punch was duly made, and Sir Henry, leaving the room, paced thoughtfully in front of the inn.
At length it struck him, that it was almost time for his brother to return.
He was entering the inn, for the purpose of making some enquiries; when he saw one of the soldiers cross the road hurriedly, and go into the courtyard, where he was immediately joined by the vetturino.
Delme turned in to the house, and called for the landlord.
Before the latter could appear, George rushed into the room.
His hat was off—his eyes glared wildly—his long hair streamed back, wet with the dews of night. He dragged with him the body of one of the soldiers; and threw it with supernatural strength into the very centre of the room.
"Supper!" said he, "ha, ha, ha! I have brought you supper!"
The man was quite dead.
The bullet had pierced his neck and throat. The blood was yet flowing, and had dabbled the white vest. His beard and hair were clotted with gore.
Shocked as Sir Henry was, the truth flashed on him. He lost not a moment in beckoning to Thompson, and rushing towards the stable. The driver was still there, conversing with the soldier.
As Sir Henry approached, they evinced involuntary confusion; and the vetturino—-at once unmanned—fell on his knees, and commenced a confession.
They were dragged into the inn, and the officers of justice were sent for.
Sir Henry Delme's anxious regards were now directed to his brother.
George had taken a seat near the corpse; and was sternly regarding it with fixed, steady, and unflinching gaze.
It is certainly very fearful to mark the dead—with pallid complexion—glazed eye—limbs fast stiffening—and gouts of blood—standing from out the face, like crimson excrescences on a diseased leaf.
But it is far more fearful than even this, to look on one, who is bound to us by the nearest and most cherished ties—with cheek yet glowing—expression's flush mantling still—and yet to doubt whether the intellect, which adorned that frame—the jewel in the casket—hath not for ever left its earthly tenement.
"Far other scene is Thrasymene now."
* * * * *
"Fair Florence! at thy day's decline When came the shade from Appennine, And suddenly on blade and bower The fire-flies shed the sparkling shower, As if all heaven to earth had sent Each star that gems the firmament; 'Twas sweet at that enchanting hour, To bathe in fragrance of the Italian clime, By Arno's stream."
The brothers were detained a few days at Storta; while the Roman police, who, to do them justice, were active on the occasion, and showed every anxiety to give the travellers as little trouble as possible—were investigating the occurrences we have described. It appeared that some suspicion had previously attached itself to Vittore Santado, and that the eyes of the police had been on him for some time.
It now became evident, both from his own confession, and subsequent discoveries, that this man had for years trafficked in the lives and property of others;—and that the charge connected with George, was one of the least grave, that would be brought against him.
It was shown that he was an active agent, in aiding the infamous designs of that inn, on the Italian frontier, whose enormities have given rise to more than one thrilling tale of fiction, far out-done by the reality—that inn—where the traveller retired to rest—but rose not refreshed to prosecute his journey:—where—if he slumbered but once, that sleep was his last.
Until now, his career had been more than usually successful.
The crafty vetturino had had the art to glean a fair reputation even from his crimes.
More than once, had he induced a solitary traveller to leave the high road and his carriage, for the purpose of visiting some ruin, or viewing some famous prospect.
On such occasions, Vittore's accomplices were in waiting; and the unsuspecting stranger—pillaged and alarmed, would return to the vettura penniless.
Vittore would be foremost in his commiseration; and with an air of blunt sincerity, would proffer the use of his purse; such conduct ensuring the gratitude, and the after recommendations of his dupe.
It is supposed that the vetturino had contemplated rifling the carriage in the inn yard; but some suspicion as to the servant's not leaving the luggage, and the sort of dog fidelity displayed by Thompson towards the brothers; had induced him rather to sanction an attempt on George during his imprudent excursion to Barberini.
Vittore Santado was executed near the Piazza del Popolo, and to this day, over the chimney-piece of many a Roman peasant, may be seen the tale of his crimes—his confessions—and his death; which perused by casual neighbour guests—calls up many a sign of the cross—and devout look of rustic terror.
After the incident we have related in the last chapter, George Delme, contrary to Sir Henry's previous misgivings, enjoyed a good night's rest, and arose tolerably calm and refreshed.
The following night he was attacked with palpitation of the heart.
His brother and Thompson felt greatly alarmed; but after an hour's severe suffering, the paroxysm left him.
Nothing further occurred at Storta, to induce them to attach very great importance to the shock George's nerves had experienced; but in after life, Sir Henry always thought, he could date many fatal symptoms from that hour of intense excitement.
Delme was in Rome two days; during which period, his depositions, as connected with Santado, were taken down; and he was informed that his presence during the trial would not be insisted on.
Delme took that opportunity again to consult his medical friend; who accompanied him to Storta, to visit George; and prescribed a regimen calculated to invigorate the general system.
He directed Delme not to be alarmed, should the paroxysm return; and recommended, that during the attack, George should lie down quietly—and take twenty drops of Battley's solution of opium in a wine glass of water.
As his friend did not appear alarmed, Delme's mind was once more assured; and he prepared to continue their journey to Florence, by the way of Perugia.
Punctual to his time, the new vetturino—as to whose selection Sir Henry had been very particular—arrived at Storta; and the whole party, with great willingness left the wretched inn, and its suspicious inmates.
There certainly could not be a greater contrast, than between the two Vetturini.
Vittore Santado was a Roman; young—inclined to corpulency—-oily faced—plausible—and a most consummate rascal.
Pietro Molini was a Milanese;—elderly—with hardly an ounce of flesh on his body—with face scored and furrowed like the surface of the hedge pippin—rough in his manners—and the most honest of his tribe.
Poor Pietro Molini! never did driver give more cheering halloo to four-footed beast! or with spirit more elate, deliver in the drawling patois of his native paesi, some ditty commemorative of Northern liberty! Honest Pietro! thy wishes were contained within a small compass! thy little brown cur, snarling and bandy-legged—thy raw-boned steeds—these were thy first care;—the safety of thy conveyance, and its various inmates, the second.
To thee—the most delightful melody in this wide world, was the jingling of thy horses' bells, as all cautiously and slowly they jogged on their way:—the most discordant sound in nature, the short husky cough, emitted from the carcase of one of these, as disease and continued fatigue made their sure inroads.
Poor simple Pietro! his only pride was encased in his breeches pocket, and it lay in a few scraps of paper—remembrances of his passengers.
One and all lavished praise on Pietro!
Yes! we have him again before us as we write—his ill-looking, but easy carriage—his three steeds—the rude harness, eked out with clustering knots of rope—and the happy driver, seated on a narrow bench, jutting over the backs of his wheelers, as he contentedly whiffs from his small red clay pipe—at intervals dropping off in a dose, with his cur on his lap. At such a time, with what perfect nonchalance would he open his large grey eyes, when recalled to the sense of his duties, by the volubly breathed execration of some rival whip—and with what a silent look of ineffable contempt, would he direct his horses to the side of the road, and again steep his senses in quiescent repose.
At night, Pietro's importance would sensibly increase, as after rubbing down the hides of his favourites, and dropping into the capacious manger the variegated oats; he would wait on his passengers to arrange the hour of departure—would accept the proffered glass of wine, and give utterance to his ready joke.
A King might have envied Pietro Molini, as—-the straw rustling beneath him—he laid down in his hairy capote, almost between the legs of his favourite horse.
To do so will be to anticipate some years!
Yet we would fain relate the end of the Vetturino.
Crossing from Basle to Strasbourg, in the depth of winter, and descending an undulated valley, Pietro slept as usual.
Implicitly relying on the sure footedness of his horses, a fond dream of German beer, German tobacco, and German sauerkraut, soothed his slumbers.
A fragment of rock had been loosened from its ancient bed, and lay across the road.
Against this the leader tripped and fell.
The shock threw Pietro and his dog from their exalted station.
The pipe, which—whether he were sleeping or waking—had long decked the cheek of the honest driver, now fell from it, and was dashed into a thousand pieces.
It was an evil omen.
When the carriage was stopped, Pietro Molini was found quite lifeless. He had received a kick from the ungrateful heel of his friend Bruno, and the wheel of the carriage, it had been his delight to clean, had passed over the body of the hapless vetturino.
Ah! as that news spread! many an ostler of many a nation, shook his head mournfully, and with saddened voice, wondered that the same thing had not occurred years before.
At the time, however, to which we allude—viz., the commencement of the acquaintance between our English travellers, and Pietro; the latter thought of anything rather than of leaving a world for which he had an uncommon affection.
He and Thompson soon became staunch allies; and the want of a common language seemed only to cement their union.
Not Noblet, in her inimitable performance of the Muette, threw more expression into her sweet face—than did Pietro, into the furrowed lines of his bronzed visage, as he endeavoured to explain to his friend some Italian custom, or the reason why he had selected another dish, or other wine; rather than that, to which they had done such justice the previous day.
Thompson's gestures and countenance in reply, partook of a more stoical character; but he was never found wanting, when a companion was needed for a bottle or a pipe.
Their friendship was not an uninstructive one.
It would have edified him, who prides himself on his deep knowledge of human nature, or who seizes with avidity on the minuter traits of a nation, to note with what attention the English valet, would listen to a Milanese arietta; whose love notes, delivered by the unmusical Pietro, were about as effectively pathetic as the croak of the bull frog in a marsh, or screech of owl sentimentalising in ivied ruin; and to mark with what gravity, the Italian driver would beat his hand against the table; in tune to "Ben Baxter," or "The British Grenadiers," roared out more Anglico.
There are two grand routes from Home to Florence:—the one is by Perugia, the other passes through Sienna. The former, which is the one Sir Henry selected, is the most attractive to the ordinary traveller; who is enabled to visit the fall of Terni, Thrasymene, and the temple of Clitumnuss The first, despite its being artificial, is equal in our opinion, to the vaunted Schaffhausen;—the second is hallowed in story;—and the third has been illustrated by Byron.
"Pass not unblest the genius of the place! If through the air a zephyr more serene Win to the brow, 'tis his; and if ye trace Along the margin a more eloquent green, If on the heart, the freshness of the scene Sprinkle its coolness, and from the dry dust Of weary life a moment lave it clean With nature's baptism,—'tis to him ye must Pay orisons for this suspension of disgust."
Poor George Delme showed little interest in anything connected with this journey. Sir Henry embarked on the lake above, in order to see the cascade of Terni in every point of view; and afterwards took his station with George, on various ledges of rock below the fall—whence the eye looks upward, on that mystic scene of havoc, turbulence, and mighty rush of water.
But the cataract fell in snowy sheet—the waves hissed round the sable rocks—and the rainbow played on the torrent's foam;—but these possessed not a charm, to rouse to a sense of their beauty, the sad heart of the invalid.
Near the lake of Thrasymene, they passed some hours; allowing Pietro to put up his horses at Casa di Piano. Sir Henry, with a Livy in his hand, first proceeded to the small eminence, looking down on the round tower of Borghetto; and on that insidious pass, which his fancy peopled once more, with the advancing troops of the Consul.
The soldier felt much interested, and attempted to impart that interest to George; but the widowed husband shook his head mournfully; and it was evident, that his thoughts were not with Flaminius and his entrapped soldiers, but with the gentle Acme, mouldering in her lonely grave.
From Borghetto, they proceeded to the village of Torre, where Delme was glad to accept the hospitable offer of its Priest, and procure seats for himself and George, in the balcony of his little cottage. From this point, they looked down on the arena of war.
There it lay, serene and basking in the rays of the meridian sun.
On either side, were the purple summits of the Gualandra hills.
Beneath flowed the little rivulet, once choked by the bodies of the combatants; but which now sparkled gaily through the valley, although at intervals, almost dried up by the fierce heat of summer.
The lake was tranquil and unruffled—all on its margin, hushed and moveless. What a contrast to that exciting hour, which Sir Henry was conjuring up again; when the clang of arms, and crash of squadrons, commingled with the exulting shout, that bespoke the confident hope of the wily Carthaginian; and with that sterner response, which hurled back the indomitable spirit of the unyielding, but despairing Roman!
Our travellers quitted the Papal territories; and entering Tuscany, passed through Arezzo, the birth-place of Petrarch; arriving at Florence just previous to sunset.
As they reached the Lung' Arno, Pietro put his horses to a fast trot, and rattling over the flagged road, drew up in front of Schneidorff's with an air of greater importance, than his sorry vehicle seemed to warrant.
The following morning, George Delme was taken by his brother, to visit the English physician resident at Florence; and again was Delme informed, that change of scene, quiet, and peace of mind, were what his brother most required.
George was thinner perhaps, than when at Rome, and his lip had lost its lustrous red; but he concealed his physical sufferings, and always met Henry with the same soft undeviating smile.
On their first visit to the Tribune, George was struck with the Samian Sibyl of Guercino.
In the glowing lip—the silken cheek—the ivory temple—the eye of inspiration—the bereaved mourner thought he could trace, some faint resemblance to the lost Acme. Henceforward, it was his greatest pleasure, to remain with eyes fixed on that masterpiece of art.
Sir Henry Delme, accompanied by the custode, would make himself acquainted with the wonders of the Florentine gallery; and every now and then, return to whisper some sentence, in the soothing tones of brotherly kindness. At night, their usual haunt was the public square—where the loggio of Andrea Orcagna presents so much, that may claim attention.
There stands the David! in the freshness of his youth! proudly regarding his adversary—ere he overthrow, with the weapon of the herdsman, the haughty giant.
The inimitable Perseus, too! the idol of that versatile genius, Benvenuto Cellini:—an author! a goldsmith! a cunning artificer in jewels! a founder in bronze! a sculptor in marble! the prince of good fellows! the favored of princes! the warm friend and daring lover! as we gaze on his glorious performance, and see beside it the Hercules, and Cacus of his rival Baccio Bandanelli,—we seem to live again in those days, with which Cellini has made us so familiar:—and almost naturally regard the back of the bending figure, to note if its muscles warrant the stinging sarcasm of Cellini, which we are told at once dispelled the pride of the aspiring artist—"that they resembled cucumbers!"
The rape of the Sabines, too! the white marble glistening in the obscurity, until the rounded shape of the maiden seems to elude the strong grasp of the Roman!
Will she ever fly from him thus? will the home of her childhood be ever as dear? No! the husband's love shall replace the father's blessing; and the affections of the daughter, shall yield to the tender yearnings of the mother's bosom.
We marvel not that George's footsteps lingered there!
How often have we—martyrs to a hopeless nympholepsy—strayed through that piazza, at the self same hour—there deemed that the heart would break—but never thought that it might slowly wither.
How often have we gleaned from those beauteous objects around, but aliment to our morbid griefs;—and turning towards the gurgling fountain of Ammonati, and gazing on its trickling waters, have vainly tried to arrest our trickling tears!
"There is a tomb in Arqua: rear'd in air, Pillar'd in their sarcophagus, repose The bones of Laura's lover."
* * * * *
"I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs."
How glorious is the thrill, which shoots through our frame, as we first wake to the consciousness of our intellectual power; as we feel the spirit—the undying spirit—ready to burst the gross bonds of flesh, and soar triumphant, over the sneers of others, and our own mistrust.
How does each thought seem to swell in our bosom, as if impatient of the confined tenement—how do the floating ideas congregate—how does each impassioned feeling subdue us in turn, and long for a worthy utterance!
This is a very bright moment in the history of our lives. It is one in which we feel—indubitably feel—that we are of the fashioning of God;—that the light which intellect darts around us, is not the result of education—of maxims inculcated—or of principles instilled;—but that it is a ray caught from the brightness of eternity—that when our wavering pulse has ceased to beat, and the etherialised elements have left the baser and the useless dust—that ray shall not be quenched; but shall again be absorbed in the full effulgence from which it emanated.
Surely then, if such a glorious moment as this, be accorded to even the inferior votaries of knowledge—to the meaner pilgrims, struggling on towards the resplendent shrines of science:—how must he—the divine Petrarch, who could so exquisitely delineate love's hopes and story, as to clothe an earthly passion, with half the attributes of an immortal affection:—how must he have revelled in the proud sensations called forth at such a moment!
It is the curse of the poet, that he must perforce leave the golden atmosphere of loftiest aspirations—step from the magic circle, where all is pure and etherial—and find himself the impotent denizen, of a sombre and an earthly world,
It was in the early part of September, that the brothers turned their backs on the Etrurian Athens. Their destination was Venice, and their route lay through Bologna and Arqua.
They had been so satisfied, under the guidance of their old vetturino, that Sir Henry made an arrangement, which induced him to be at Florence, at the time of their departure;—and Pietro and Thompson were once more seated beside each other.
Before commencing the ascent of the Appennines, our travellers visited the country seat of the Archduke; saw the gigantic statue executed by John of Bologna, which frowns over the lake; and at Fonte-buona, cast a farewell glance on Florence, and the ancient Fiesole.
As they advanced towards Caravigliojo, the mountains began to be more formidable, and the scenery to lose its smiling character.
Each step seemed to add to the barrenness of the landscape.
The wind came howling down from the black volcanic looking ridges—then swept tempestuously through some deep ravine.
On either side the road, tall red poles presented themselves, a guide to the traveller during winter's snows; while, in one exposed gully, were built large stone embankments for his protection—as a Latin inscription intimated—from the violence of the gales.
Few signs of life appeared.
Here and there, her white kerchief shading a sun-burnt face, a young Bolognese shepherd girl might be seen on some grassy ledge, waving her hand coquettishly; while her neglected flock, with tinkling bell, browsed on the edge of the precipice. As they neared Bologna, however, the scenery changed.
Festoons of grapes, trained to leafy elms, began to appear—white villas chequered the suburbs—and it was with a pleasurable feeling, that they neared the peculiar looking city, with its leaning towers, and old facades. It is the only one, where the Englishman recals Mrs, Ratcliffe's harrowing tales; and half expects to see a Schedoni, advancing from some covered portico.
The next day found them in the Bolognese gallery, which is the first which duly impresses the traveller, coming from the north, with the full powers of the art.
The soul of music seems to dwell in the face of the St. Cecilia; and the cup of maternal anguish to be filled to the brim, as in Guide's Murder of the Innocents, the mother clasps to her arms the terrified babe, and strives to flee from the ruthless destroyer.
It was on the fourth morning from their arrival in Bologna, that they approached the poet's "mansion and his sepulchre."
As they threaded the green windings of vine covered hills, these gradually assumed a bolder outline, and, rising in separate cones, formed a sylvan amphitheatre round the lovely village of Arqua.
The road made an abrupt ascent to the Fontana Petrarca. A large ruined arch spanned a fine spring, that rushes down the green slope.
In the church-yard, on the right, is the tomb of Petrarch.
Its peculiarly bold elevation—the numberless thrilling associations connected with the poet—gave a tone and character to the whole scene. The chiaro-scuro of the landscape, was from the light of his genius—the shade of his tomb.
The day was lovely—warm, but not oppressive. The soft green of the hills and foliage, checked the glare of the flaunting sunbeams.
The brothers left the carriage to gaze on the sarcophagus of red marble, raised on pilasters; and could not help deeming even the indifferent bronze bust of Petrarch, which surmounts this, to be a superfluous ornament in such a scene.
The surrounding landscape—the dwelling place of the poet—his tomb facing the heavens, and disdaining even the shadow of trees—the half-effaced inscription of that hallowed shrine—all these seemed appropriate, and melted the gazer's heart.
How useless! how intrusive! are the superfluous decorations of art, amid the simpler scenes of nature.
Ornament is here misplaced. The feeling heart regrets its presence at the time, and attempts, albeit in vain, to banish it from after recollections.
George could not restrain his tears, for he thought of the dead; and they silently followed their guide to Petrarch's house, now partly used as a granary. Passing through two or three unfinished rooms, whose walls were adorned with rude frescoes of the lover and his mistress, they were shown into Petrarch's chamber, damp and untenanted.
In the closet adjoining, were the chair and table consecrated by the poet.
There did he sit—and write—and muse—and die!
George turned to a tall narrow window, and looked out on a scene, fair and luxuriant as the garden of Eden.
The rich fig trees, with their peculiar small, high scented fruit, mixed with the vines that clustered round the lattice.
The round heads of the full bearing peach trees, dipped down in a leafy slope beneath a grassy walk;—and this thicket of fruit was charmingly enlivened, by bunches of the scarlet pomegranate, now in the pride of their blossom.
The poet's garden alone was neglected—rank herbage choking up its uncultivated flowers.
A thousand thoughts filled the mind of George Delme.
He thought of Laura! of his own Acme!
With swimming glance, he looked round the chamber.
It was almost without furniture, and without ornament. In a niche, and within a glass case, was placed the skeleton of a dumb favourite of Petrarch's.
Suddenly George Delme felt a faintness stealing over him:—and he turned to bare his forehead, to catch the slight breeze from below redolent of sweets.
This did not relieve him.
A sharp pain across the chest, and a fluttering at the heart, as of a bird struggling to be free, succeeded this faintness.
Another rush of blood to the head:—and a snap, as of some tendon, was distinctly felt by the sufferer.
His mouth filled with blood.
A small blood-vessel had burst, and temporary insensibility ensued.
Sir Henry was wholly unprepared for this scene.
Assisted by Thompson, he bore him to the carriage—sprinkled his face with water—and administered cordials.
George's recovery was speedy; and it almost seemed, as if the rupture of the vessel had been caused by the irregular circulation, for no further bad effects were felt at the time.
The loss of blood, however, evidently weakened him; and his spasms henceforward were more frequent.
He became less able to undergo fatigue; and his mind, probably in connection with the nervous system, became more than ordinarily excited.
There was no longer wildness in his actions; but in his thoughts and language, was developed a poetical eccentricity—a morbid sympathy with surrounding scenes and impressions, which kept Sir Henry Delme in a constant state of alarm,—and which was very remarkable.
* * * * *
"What! at Mestre already, Pietro?" said Sir Henry.
"Even so, Signore! and here is the gondola to take you on to Venice."
"Well, Pietro! you must not fail to come and see us at the inn."
The vetturino touched his hat, with the air of a man who would be very sorry not to see them.
It was not long ere the glittering prow of the gondola pointed to Venice.
Before the travellers, rose ocean's Cybele; springing from the waters, like some fairy city, described to youthful ear by aged lip.
The fantastic dome of St. Mark—the Palladian churches—the columned palaces—the sable gondolas shooting through the canals—made its aspect, as is its reality, unique in the world.
"Beautiful, beautiful city!" said George, his eye lighting up as he spoke, "thou dost indeed look a city of the heart—a resting place for a wearied spirit. And our gondola, Henry, should be of burnished silver; and those afar—so noiselessly cutting their way through the glassy surface—those should be angels with golden wings; and, instead of an oar flashing freely, a snowy wand of mercy should beat back the kissing billows.
"And Acme, with her George, should sit on the crystal cushion of glory—and we would wait expectant for you a long long time—and then you should join us, Henry, with dear Emily.
"And Thompson should be with us, too, and recline on the steps of our bark as he does now.
"And together we would sail loving and happy through an amethystine sea."
During their stay in Venice, George, in spite of his increasing languor, continued to accompany his brother, in his visits to the various objects of interest which the city can boast.
The motion of the gondola appeared to have a soothing influence on the mind of the invalid.
He would recline on the cushions, and the fast flowing tears would course down his wan cheeks.
These, however, were far from being a proof of suffering;—they were evidently a relief to the surcharged spirit.
One evening, a little before sunset, they found themselves in the crowded piazza of Saint Mark. The cafes were thronged with noble Venetians, come to witness the evening parade of an Austrian regiment. The sounds of martial music, swelled above the hum of the multitude; and few could listen to those strains, without participating in some degree, in the military enthusiasm of the hour.
But the brothers turned from the pageantry of war, as their eyes fell on the emblems of Venice free—the minarets of St. Mark, with the horses of Lysippus, a spoil from Byzantium—the flagless poles that once bore the banners of three tributary states—the highly adorned azure clock—the palaces of the proud Doges—where Faliero reigned—where Faliero suffered:—these were before them.
Their steps mechanically turned to the beautiful Campanile.
George, leaning heavily on Sir Henry's arm, succeeded in gaining the summit: and they looked down from thence, on that wonderful city.
They saw the parade dismissed—they heard the bugle's fitful blast proclaim the hour of sunset. The richest hues of crimson and of gold, tinted the opposite heavens; while on those waters, over which the gondolas were swiftly gliding, quivered another city, the magic reflection of the one beneath them.
They gazed on the scene in silence, till the grey twilight came on.
"Now, George! it is getting late," said Sir Henry. "I wonder whether we could find some old mariner, who could give us a chaunt from Tasso?"
Descending from the Campanile, Sir Henry made enquiries on the quay, and with some difficulty found gondoliers, who could still recite from their favourite bard.
Engaging a couple of boats, and placing a singer in each, the brothers were rowed down the Canale Giudecca—skirted many of the small islands, studding the lagoons; and proceeded towards the Adriatic.
Gradually the boats parted company, and just as Sir Henry was about to speak, thinking there might be a mistake as to the directions; the gondolier in the other boat commenced his song,—its deep bass mellowed by distance, and the intervening waves. The sound was electric.
It was so exquisitely appropriate to the scene, and harmonised so admirably, with the associations which Venice is apt to awaken, that one longed to be able to embody that fleeting sound—to renew its magic influence in after years. The pen may depict man's stormy feelings: the sensitive caprice of woman:—the most vivid tints may be imitated on the glowing canvas:—the inspired marble may realise our every idea of the beauty of form:—a scroll may give us at will, the divine inspiration, of Handel:—but there are sounds, as there are subtle thoughts, which, away from the scenes, where they have charmed us, can never delight us more.
It was not until the second boatman answered the song, that the brothers felt how little the charm lay, in the voice of the gondolier, and that, heard nearer, the sounds were harsh and inharmonious.
They recited the death of Clorinda; the one renewing the stanza, whenever there was a momentary forgetfulness on the part of the other.
The clock of St. Mark had struck twelve, before the travellers had reached the hotel. George had not complained of fatigue, during a day which even Sir Henry thought a trying one; and the latter was willing to hope that his strength was now increasing.
Their first design had been to proceed though Switzerland, resting for some time at Geneva. Their plans were now changed, and Sir Henry Belme determined, that their homeward route should be through the Tyrol and Bavaria, and eventually down the Rhine.
He considered that the water carriage, and the very scenes themselves, might prove beneficial to the invalid.
Thompson was sent over to Mestre, to inform Pietro; and they prepared to take their departure.
"You have been better in Venice," said Sir Henry, as they entered the gondola, that was to bear them from the city. "God grant that you may long remain so!"
George shook his head doubtingly.
"My illness, Henry, is not of the frame alone, although that is fragile and shattered.
"The body lingers on without suffering; but the mind—a very bright sword in a worthless sheath—is forcing its way through. Some feelings must remain to the last—gratitude to you—love to dear Emily! Acme, wife of my bosom! when may I join you?"
"Oh there is sweetness in the mountain air, And life, that bloated ease can never hope to share."
Inspruck! a thousand recollections flash across us, as we pronounce the word!
We were there at a memorable period; when the body of the hero of the Tyrol—the brave, the simple-minded Anderl Hofer—was removed from Mantua, where he so nobly met a patriot's death, to the capital of the country, which he had so gallantly defended.
The event was one, that could not fail to be impressive; and to us it was doubly so, for that very period formed an epoch in our lives.
We had lost! we had suffered! we had mourned! Our mind's strength was shook. Ordinary remedies were worse than futile.
We threw ourselves into the heart of the Tyrol, and became resigned if not happy.
Romantic country! did not duty whisper otherwise, how would we fly to thy rugged mountains, and find in the kindly virtues of thine inhabitants, wherewithal to banish misanthropy, and it may be purchase oblivion.
Noble land! where the chief in his hall—the peasant in his hut—alike open their arms with sheltering hospitality, to welcome the stranger—where kindness springs from the heart, and dreams not of sordid gain—where courtesy attends superior rank, without question, but without debasement—where the men are valiant, the women virtuous—where it needed but a few home-spun heroes—an innkeeper and a friar—to rouse up to arms an entire population, and in a brief space to drive back the Gallic foeman! Oh! how do we revert with choking sense of gratitude, to the years we have spent in thy bosom!
Oh! would that we were again treading the mountain's summit—the rifle our comrade—and a rude countryman, our guide and our companion.
In vain! in vain! the net of circumstance is over us!
We may struggle! but cannot escape from its close meshes.
We have said that we were at Inspruck at this period.
It was our purpose, on the following morning, to take our departure.
With renewed health, and nerves rebraced, we hoped to combat successfully, a world that had already stung us.
There was a group near the golden-roofed palace, that attracted our attention. It consisted of a father and his five sons.
They were dressed in the costume of the country; wearing a tapering hat, with black ribbons and feather—a short green jerkin—a red vest surmounted by broad green braces—and short boots tightly laced to the ancle.
They formed a picture of free mountaineers.
We left our lodging, and passed them irresolutely twice or thrice.
The old man took off his hat to the stranger.
"Sir! I am of Sand, in Passeyer.
"Anderl Hofer was my schoolfellow; and these are my boys, whom I have brought to see all that remains of him. Oh! Sir! they did not conquer him, although the murderers shot him on the bastion; but, as he wrote to Pulher—his friend and mine—it was indeed 'in the name, and by the help of the Lord, that he undertook the voyage,'"
We paced through the city sorrowfully. It was night, as we passed by the church of the Holy Cross.
Solemn music there arrested our footsteps; and we remembered, that high mass would that night be performed, for the soul of the deceased patriot.
We entered, and drew near the mausoleum of Maximilian the First:—leaning against a colossal statue in bronze, and fixing our eyes on a bas relief on the tomb: one of twenty-four tablets, wrought from Carrara's whitest marble, by the unrivalled hand of Colin of Malines!
One blaze of glory enveloped the grand altar:—vapours of incense floated above:—and the music! oh it went to the soul!
Down! down knelt the assembled throng!
Our mind had been previously attuned to melancholy; it now reeled under its oppression.
We looked around with tearful eye. Old Theodoric of the Goths seemed to frown from his pedestal.
We turned to the statue against which we had leant.
It was that of a youthful and sinewy warrior.
We read its inscription.
Artur, Konig Von England
"Ah! hast thou too thy representative, my country?"
We looked around once more.
The congregation were prostrate before the mysterious Host; and we alone stood up, gazing with profound awe and reverence on the mystic rite.
The rough caps of the women almost hid their fair brows. In the upturned features of the men, what a manly, yet what a devout expression reigned!
Melodiously did the strains proceed from the brazen-balustraded orchestra; while sweet young girls smiled in the chapel of silver, as they turned to Heaven their deeply-fringed eyes, and invoked pardon for their sins.
Alas! alas! that such as these should err, even in thought! that our feelings should so often mislead us,—that our very refinement, should bring temptation in its train,—and our fervent enthusiasm, but too frequently terminate in vice and crime!
Our whole soul was unmanned! and well do we remember the morbid prayer, that we that night offered to the throne of mercy.
"Pity us! pity us! Creator of all!
"With thousands around, who love—who reverence—whose hearts, in unison with ours, tremble at death, yet sigh for eternity;—who gaze with eye aspiring, although dazzled—as, the curtain of futurity uplifted, fancy revels in the glorious visions of beatitude:—even here, oh God! hear our prayer and pity us!
"We are moulded, though faintly, in an angel's form. Endow us with an angel's principles. For ever hush the impure swellings of passion! lull the stormy tide of contending emotions! let not circumstances overwhelm!
"Receive our past griefs: the griefs of manhood, engrafted on youth; accept these tears, falling fast and bitterly! take them as past atonement,—as mute witnesses that we feel:—that reason slumbers not, although passion may mislead:—that gilded temptation may overcome, and gorgeous pleasure intoxicate:—but that sincere repentance, and bitter remorse, are visitants too.
"Oh guide and pity us!"
A cheerless dawn was breaking, and a thick damp mist was lazily hanging on the water's surface, as our travellers waved the hand to Venice.
"Fare thee well!" said George, as he rose in the gondola to catch a last glimpse of the Piazzetta, "sea girt city! decayed memorial of patrician splendour, and plebeian debasement! of national glory, blended with individual degradation!—fallen art thou, but fair! It was not with freshness of heart, I reached thee:—I dwelt not in thee, with that jocund spirit, whose every working or gives the lip a smile, or moistens the eye of feeling with a tear.
"Sad were my emotions! but sadder still, as I recede from thy shores, bound on a distant pilgrimage. Acme! dear Acme! would I were with thee!"
Passing through Treviso, they stopped at Castel Franco, which presents one of the best specimens of an Italian town, and Italian peasantry, that a stranger can meet with.
At Bassano, they failed not to visit the Municipal Hall, where are the principal pictures of Giacomo da Ponte, called after his native town.
His style is peculiar.
His pictures are dark to an excess, with here and there a vivid light, introduced with wonderful effect.
From this town, the ascent of the mountains towards Ospedale is commenced; and the route is one full of interest.
On the right, lay a low range of country, adorned with vineyards; beyond which, the mountains rose in a precipitous ridge, and closed the scene magnificently.
The Brenta was then reached, and continued to flow parallel with the road, as far as eye could extend.
Farther advanced, the mountains presented a landscape more varied:—here chequered with hamlets, whose church hells re-echoed in mellow harmony: there—the only break to their majesty, being the rush of the river, as it formed rolling cascades in its rapid route; or beat in sparkling foam, against the large jagged rocks, which opposed its progress.
At one while, came shooting down the stream, some large raft of timber, manned by adventurous navigators, who, with graceful dexterity, guided their rough bark, clear of the steep banks, and frequent fragments of rock;—at another—as if to mark a road little frequented, a sharp turn would bring them on some sandalled damsel, sitting by the road side, adjusting her ringlets. Detected in her toilet, there was a mixture of frankness and modesty, in the way in which she would turn away a blushing face, yet neglect not, with native courtesy, to incline the head, and wave the sun-burnt hand.
From Ospedale, nearing the bold castle of Pergini, which effectually commands the pass; the travellers descended through regions of beauty, to the ancient Tridentum of Council celebrity.
The metal roof of its Duomo was glittering in the sunshine; and the Adige was swiftly sweeping by its fortified walls.