Scarcely had D'Artagnan cut the rope that attached the boat to the ship, when a shrill whistle was heard proceeding from the latter, which, as it moved on whilst the boat remained stationary, was already beginning to be lost to view in the darkness. At the same moment a lantern was brought upon deck, and lit up the figures of the crew. Suddenly a great outcry was heard; and just then the clouds that covered the heavens split and parted, and the silver light of the moon fell upon the white sails and dark rigging of the vessel. Persons were seen running about the deck in bewilderment and confusion; and Mordaunt himself, carrying a torch in his hand, appeared upon the poop.
At the appointed hour, Groslow had collected his men, and Mordaunt, after listening at the door of the cabin, and concluding from the silence which reigned that his intended victims were buried in sleep, had hurried to the powder barrels and set fire to the train. Whilst he was doing this, Groslow and his sailors were preparing to leave the ship.
"Haul in the rope," said the former, "and bring the boat along-side."
One of the sailors seized the rope and pulled it. It came to him without resistance.
"The cable is cut!" exclaimed the man; "the boat is gone."
"The boat gone!" repeated Groslow; "impossible!"
"It is nevertheless true," returned the sailor. "See here; nothing in our wake, and here is the end of the rope."
It was then that Groslow uttered the cry which the guardsmen heard from their boat.
"What is the matter?" demanded Mordaunt, emerging from the hatchway, his torch in his hand, and rushing towards the stern.
"The matter is, that your enemies have escaped you. They have cut the rope, and saved themselves in the boat."
With a single bound Mordaunt was at the cabin-door, which he burst open with his foot. It was empty.
"We will follow them," said Groslow; "they cannot be far off. We will give them the stem; sail right over them."
"Yes; but the powder—I have fired the train!"
"Damnation!" roared Groslow, rushing to the hatchway. "Perhaps there is still time."
A horrible laugh and a frightful blasphemy were Mordaunt's reply; and then, his features distorted by rage and disappointed hate rather than by fear, he hurled his torch into the sea, and precipitated himself after it. At the same moment, and before Groslow had reached the powder barrels, the ship opened like the crater of a volcano, a gush of fire rose from it with a noise like that of fifty pieces of artillery, and blazing fragments of the doomed vessel were seen careering through the air in every direction. It lasted but an instant; the red glow that had lit up the sea for miles around vanished; the burning fragments fell hissing into the water; and, with the exception of a vibration in the air, all was calm as before. The felucca had disappeared; Groslow and his men were annihilated.
Our four guardsmen had witnessed this terrible spectacle with mute awe and horror, and when it was over, they remained for a moment downcast and silent. Porthos and D'Artagnan, who had each taken an oar, forgot to use them, and sat gazing at their companions, whilst the boat rocked to and fro at the will of the waves.
"Ma foi!" said Aramis, who was the first to break the pause, "this time I think we are fairly rid of him."
"Help, gentlemen, help!" just then cried a voice that came sweeping in piteous accents over the troubled surface of the sea. "Help! for heaven's sake, help!"
The guardsmen looked at each other. Athos shuddered.
"It is his voice!" said he.
All recognised the voice, and strained their eyes in the direction in which the felucca had disappeared. Presently a man was seen swimming vigorously towards them. Athos extended his arm, pointing him out to his companions.
"Yes, yes," said D'Artagnan; "I see him."
"Will nothing kill him?" said Porthos.
Aramis leaned forward and spoke in a whisper to D'Artagnan. Mordaunt advanced a few yards, and raised one hand out of the water in sign of distress.
"Pity! gentlemen," cried he; "pity and mercy! My strength is leaving me, and I am about to sink."
The tone of agony in which these words were spoken awakened a feeling of compassion in the breast of Athos.
"Unhappy man!" he murmured.
"Good!" said D'Artagnan. "I like to see you pity him. On my word, I think he is swimming towards us. Does he suppose we are going to take him in? Row, Porthos, row."
And D'Artagnan plunged his oar into the water. Two or three long strokes placed twenty fathoms between the boat and the drowning man.
"Oh! you will have mercy!" cried Mordaunt. "You will not let me perish!"
"Aha! my fine fellow," said Porthos, "we have you now, I think, without a chance of escape."
"Oh, Porthos!" murmured the Count de la Fere.
"For heaven's sake, Athos," replied Porthos, "cease your eternal generosity, which is ridiculous under such circumstances. For my part I declare to you, that if he comes within my reach, I will split his skull with the oar."
D'Artagnan, who had just finished his colloquy with Aramis, stood up in the boat.
"Sir," said he to the swimmer, "be so good as to betake yourself in some other direction. The vessel which you intended for our coffin is scarcely yet at the bottom of the sea, and your present situation is a bed of roses compared to that in which you intended to put us."
"Gentlemen!" said Mordaunt in despairing accents, "I swear to you that I sincerely repent. I am too young to die. I was led away by a natural resentment; I wished to revenge my mother. You would all have acted as I have done."
"Pshaw!" said D'Artagnan, who saw that Athos was becoming more and more softened by Mordaunt's supplications. The swimmer was again within three or four fathoms of the boat. The approach of death seemed to give him supernatural strength.
"Alas!" said he, "I am going to die, then. And yet I was right to avenge my mother. And besides, if it were a crime, I repent of it, and you ought to pardon me."
A wave that passed over his head, interrupted his entreaties. He again emerged, and made a stroke in the direction of the boat. D'Artagnan took his oar in both hands. The unhappy wretch uttered a groan of despair. Athos could bear it no longer.
"D'Artagnan!" cried he, "my son D'Artagnan, I entreat of you to spare his life. It is so horrible to let a man die when you can save him by stretching out your hand. I cannot witness such a deed; he must be saved."
"Mordieu!" replied D'Artagnan, "why do you not tie our hands and feet, and deliver us up to him at once? The thing would be sooner over. Ha! Count de la Fere, you wish to perish at his hands: well, I, whom you call your son—I will not suffer it."
Aramis quietly drew his sword, which he had carried between his teeth when he swam off from the ship.
"If he lays a hand upon the boat," said he, "I sever it from his body, like that of a regicide, as he is."
"Wait a moment," said Porthos.
"What are you going to do?" said Aramis.
"Jump overboard and strangle him," replied the giant.
"Oh, my friends!" said Athos, in a tone of entreaty that was irresistible; "remember that we are men and Christians! Grant me the life of this unhappy wretch!"
D'Artagnan hung his head: Aramis lowered his sword: Porthos sat down.
"Count de la Fere," exclaimed Mordaunt, now very near the boat, "it is you whom I implore. Have pity upon me, and that quickly, for my strength is exhausted. Count de la Fere, where are you?"
"I am here, sir," replied Athos, with that noble and dignified air that was habitual to him. "Take my hand, and come into our boat."
"I cannot bear to witness it," said D'Artagnan; "such weakness is really pitiable." And he turned towards his two remaining friends, who, on their part, recoiled to the other side of the boat, as if unwilling to touch the man to whom Athos alone did not fear to give his hand. Mordaunt made an effort, raised himself up, and seized the arm extended to him.
"So," said Athos, leaning over the gunwale of the boat—"now place your other hand here;" and he offered him his shoulder as a support, so that his head nearly touched that of Mordaunt; and for a moment the two deadly foes seemed to embrace each other like brothers. Mordaunt grasped the count's collar with his cold and dripping fingers.
"And now, sir, you are saved," said Athos; "compose yourself."
"Ah, my mother!" exclaimed Mordaunt, with the look of a demon, and an accent of hatred impossible to render, "I can offer you but one victim, but it is the one you would yourself have chosen!"
D'Artagnan uttered a cry; Porthos raised his oar; Aramis sprang forward, his naked sword in his hand. But it was too late. By a last effort, and with a yell of triumph, Mordaunt dragged Athos into the water, compressing his throat, and winding his limbs round him like the coils of a serpent. Without uttering a word, or calling for help, Athos strove for a moment to maintain himself on the surface of the water. But his movements were fettered, the weight that clung to him was too great to bear up against, and little by little he sank. Before his friends could get to his assistance, his head was under water, and only his long hair was seen floating; then all disappeared, and a circle of foam, which in its turn was rapidly obliterated, alone marked the spot where the two men had been engulfed. Struck dumb by horror, motionless, and almost suffocated with grief and indignation, the three guardsmen remained, with dilated eyes and extended arms, gazing down upon the dark waves that rolled over the body of their friend, the brave, the chivalrous, the noble-hearted Athos. Porthos was the first to recover his speech.
"Oh, Athos!" said he, tearing his hair, and with an explosion of grief doubly affecting in a man of his gigantic frame and iron mould; "Oh, Athos! are you indeed gone from us?"
At this moment, in the midst of the vast circle which the rays of the moon lit up, the agitation of the water which had accompanied the absorption of the two men, was renewed, and there appeared, first a quantity of fair hair, then a pallid human face, with eyes wide open, but fixed and glazed, then a body, which, after raising its bust out of the water, fell softly backwards, and floated upon the surface of the sea. In the breast of the corpse was buried a dagger, of which the golden hilt sparkled in the moonbeams.
"Mordaunt! Mordaunt!" cried the three friends; "it is Mordaunt! But Athos! where is he?"
Just then the boat gave a lurch, and Grimaud uttered an exclamation of joy. The guardsmen turned, and saw Athos, his face livid with exhaustion, supporting himself with a trembling hand upon the gunwale of the boat. In an instant he was lifted in, and clasped in the arms of his friends.
"You are unhurt?" said D'Artagnan.
"Yes," replied Athos. "And Mordaunt?"
"Oh! thank God, he is dead at last. Look yonder."
And D'Artagnan forced Athos to look in the direction he pointed out, where the body of Mordaunt, tossed upon the wave, seemed to pursue the friends with a look of insult and mortal hate. Athos gazed at it with an expression of mingled pity and melancholy.
"Bravo! Athos," cried Aramis, with a degree of exultation which he rarely showed.
"A good blow," exclaimed Porthos.
"I have a son," said Athos, "and I wished to live. But it was not I who killed him. It was the hand of fate."
Soon after the escape of Monsieur de Beaufort, the Parisians, stirred up by various influential malecontents—one of the chief of whom is the famous Jean de Gondy, Coadjutor of Paris, and afterwards Cardinal de Retz—break out into open insurrection. Mazarine's life is menaced; the queen-mother and the young king are virtually prisoners of the Frondeurs. The Prince of Conde, with the laurels he has gained on the battle-field of Lens yet fresh upon his brow, hurries to Paris to take part against the Fronde; the queen and Mazarine are anxious to escape from the capital in order to carry on the war in the open field instead of in the narrow streets, fighting in which latter, or from behind their barricades, the ill-disciplined troops of the insurgents are nearly as efficient as the most practised veterans. How to manage the escape is the difficulty. The gates of the city are guarded by armed citizens; there appears no possibility of egress. In this dilemma, Anne of Austria bethinks her of the man to whose address and courage she had, twenty years previously, been so deeply indebted; D'Artagnan is called in to her assistance. He succeeds in smuggling the cardinal out of Paris, and then returns to fetch Louis XIV. and the queen-mother.
Instead of re-entering Paris by the gate of St Honore, D'Artagnan, who had time to spare, went round to that of Richelieu. The guard stopped him, and when they saw by his plumed hat and laced cloak that he was an officer of mousquetaires, they insisted upon his crying out, "Down with Mazarine." This he did with so good a grace, and in so sonorous a voice, that the most difficult were fully satisfied. He then walked down the Rue Richelieu, reflecting how he should manage the escape of the queen, for it would be impossible to take her away in one of the royal carriages, with the arms of France painted upon it. On passing before the hotel of Madame de Guemenee, who passed for the mistress of Monsieur de Gondy, he perceived a coach standing at the door. A sudden idea struck him.
"Pardieu!" said he, "it would be an excellent manoeuvre." And, stepping up to the carriage, he examined the arms upon the panels, and the livery of the coachman, who was sleeping on the box.
"It is the Coadjutor's carriage," said D'Artagnan to himself. "Providence is decidedly in our favour."
He opened the door without noise, got into the coach, and pulled the check-string.
"To the Palais Royal," cried he to the coachman.
The man, waking in a fright, made no doubt that the order came from his master, and drove off at full speed to the palace. The gates of the court were just closing as he drove in. On pulling up at the steps, the coachman perceived that the footmen were not behind the carriage, and, supposing that M. de Gondy had sent them somewhere, he got off his box and opened the door. D'Artagnan jumped out, and just as the coachman, alarmed at seeing a stranger instead of his master, made a step backwards, he seized him by the collar with his left hand, and with his right put a pistol to his breast.
"Not a word," said D'Artagnan, "or you are a dead man."
The coachman saw that he had fallen into a snare. He remained silent, with open mouth and staring eyes. Two mousquetaires were walking up and down the court; D'Artagnan called them, handed over the coachman to one of them, with orders to keep him in safe custody, and desired the other to get on the box of the carriage, drive it round to the door of the private staircase leading out of the palace, and there to wait till he came. The coachman's livery coat and hat went with the carriage. These arrangements completed, D'Artagnan entered the palace, and knocked at the door of the queen's apartments. He was instantly admitted; Anne of Austria was waiting for him in her oratory.
"Is every thing prepared?" said she.
"Every thing, madam."
"And the cardinal?"
"He has left Paris without accident, and waits for your majesty at Cours la Reine."
"Come with me to the king."
D'Artagnan bowed and followed the queen. The young king was already dressed, with the exception of his shoes and doublet. He seemed greatly astonished at being thus roused in the middle of the night, and overwhelmed his valet-de-chambre, Laporte, with questions, to all of which the latter replied—"Sire, it is by order of her majesty." The bed-clothes were thrown back, and the sheets were seen worn threadbare and even into holes. This was one of the results of Mazarine's excessive parsimony. The queen entered, and D'Artagnan remained at the door of the apartment. As soon as the child saw his mother, he escaped from Laporte's hand and ran up to her. She signed to D'Artagnan to approach.
"My son," said Anne of Austria, showing him the mousquetaire, who stood with his plumed hat in his hand, calm, grave, and collected, "this is M. D'Artagnan, who is brave as one of those knights of old whose histories you love to hear repeated. Look at him well, and remember his name, for he is about to render us a great service."
Louis XIV. gazed at D'Artagnan with his large proud eyes; then, slowly lifting his little hand, he held it out to the officer, who bent his knee and kissed it.
"Monsieur D'Artagnan," repeated the young king. "It is well, madam; I shall remember it."
At this moment a loud murmuring noise was heard approaching the palace.
"Ha!" said D'Artagnan, straining his ears to distinguish the sound—"The people are rising."
"We must fly instantly," said the queen.
"Madam," said D'Artagran, "you have deigned to give me the direction of this night's proceedings. Let your majesty remain and learn what the people want. I will answer for every thing."
Nothing is more easily communicated than confidence. The queen, herself courageous and energetic, appreciated in the highest degree those two virtues in others.
"Do as you please," said she. "I trust entirely to you."
"Does your majesty authorize me to give orders in your name?"
"I do, sir."
D'Artagnan hurried from the room. The tumult was increasing; the mob seemed to surround the Palais Royal. On all sides were heard seditious cries and clamours. Presently M. de Comminges, who was on guard that night at the Palais Royal, craved admittance to the queen's presence. He had about two hundred men in the court-yard and stables, and he placed them at her majesty's disposal.
"What do the people want?" said Anne of Austria to D'Artagnan, who just then re-appeared.
"A report has been spread, madam, that your majesty has left the Palais Royal, taking the king with you. The mob demand a proof of the contrary, or threaten to demolish the palace."
"Oh! this time it is too bad," said the queen. "I will soon show them that I am not gone."
D'Artagnan saw by the expression of Anne's face, that she was about to give some violent order. He hastened to interfere.
"Madam," said he, in a low voice, "have you still confidence in me?"
"Entire confidence, sir," was the reply.
"Then let your majesty send away M. de Comminges, and order him to shut himself up with his men in the guard-room and stables. The people wish to see the king, and the people must see him."
"See him! But how? On the balcony?"
"No, madam; here, in his bed, sleeping."
The queen reflected a moment, and smiled. There as a degree of duplicity in the course proposed that chimed in with her humour.
"Let it be as you will," said she.
"Monsieur Laporte," said D'Artagnan; "go and announce to the people, that in five minutes they shall see the king in his bed. Say also that his majesty is sleeping, and that the queen requests them to be silent, in order not to awaken him."
"But they cannot all come," said Anne. "A deputation of two or four persons."
"All of them, madam."
"But it will last till to-morrow morning."
"In a quarter of hour it will be over. I know the mob, madam; it is a great baby that only wants flattery and caresses. Before the king, these noisy rioters will be mute and timid as lambs."
"Go, Laporte," said the queen. The young king approached his mother.
"Why do you do what these people ask?" said he.
"It must be so, my son," said Anne of Austria.
"But if they can tell me that it must be so, I am no longer king."
The queen remained silent.
"Sire," said D'Artagnan, "will your majesty permit me to ask you a question?"
"Yes, sir," replied Louis, after a moment's pause, occasioned by surprise at the guardsman's boldness.
"Does our majesty remember, when playing in the park at Fontaine-bleau, or the gardens at Versailles, to have seen the heavens become clouded, and to have heard the thunder roll?"
"Certainly I do," answered Louis.
"Well, the noise of that thunder told your majesty, that, however disposed you might be to play, you must go in-doors."
"Certainly, sir; but I have been told that the voice of the thunder is the voice of God."
"Well, sire, let your majesty listen to the voice of the people, and you will perceive that it greatly resembles that of the thunder."
As he spoke, a low deep roar, proceeding from the multitude without, was borne upon the night breeze to the windows of the apartment. The next instant all was still and hushed.
"Hark, sire," said D'Artagnan, "they have just told the people that you are sleeping. You see that you are still king."
The queen looked with astonishment at the singular man, whose brilliant courage made him the equal of the bravest; whose keen and ready wit rendered him the equal of all. Laporte entered the room, and announced that the message he had taken to the people had acted like oil upon the waves, and that they were waiting in respectful silence, till the five minutes, at the expiration of which they were to see the king, should have elapsed. By the queen's order, Louis was put into bed, dressed as he was, and covered up to the throat with the sheets. His mother stooped over him, and kissed his forehead.
"Pretend to sleep, Louis," said she.
"Yes," said the king, "but not one of those men must touch me."
"Sire," said D'Artagnan, "I am here; and if one of them had that audacity, he should pay for it with his life."
The five minutes were over. Laporte went out to usher in the mob; the queen remained standing near the door; D'Artagnan concealed himself behind the curtains of the bed. Then was heard the march of a great multitude of men, striving to step lightly and noiselessly. The queen raised with her own hand the tapestry that covered the doorway, and placed her finger on her lips. On beholding her, the crowd paused, struck with respect.
"Come in, gentlemen—come in," said the queen.
There was apparent in the mob a degree of hesitation which resembled shame; they had expected resistance, had anticipated a contest with the guards, bloodshed and violence; instead of that, the gates had been peaceably opened, and the king, ostensibly at least, was unguarded save by his mother. The men in front of the throng stammered out an excuse, and attempted to retire.
"Come in, gentlemen," said Laporte, "since the queen desires it."
Upon this invitation, a man, bolder than the rest, entered the room, and advanced on tiptoe towards the bed. He was followed by others, and the chamber was rapidly filled, as silently as if the new-comers had been the most humble and obsequious courtiers. D'Artagnan saw every thing through a hole he had made in the curtain. In the man who had first entered, he recognised his former servant Planchet, who, since he had left his service, had been a sergeant in the regiment of Piedmont, and who was now a confectioner in the Rue des Lombards, and an active partisan of the Fronde.
"Sir," said the queen, who saw that Planchet was a leader of the mob, "you wished to see the king, and the king is here. Approach, and look at him, and say if we resemble persons who are going to escape."
"Certainly not, your majesty," said Planchet, a little astonished at the honour done to him.
"You will tell my good and loyal Parisians," continued Anne of Austria, with a smile of which D'Artagnan well understood the meaning, "that you have seen the king in bed, and sleeping, and the queen about to go to bed also."
"I will tell them so, madam, and those who accompany me will also bear witness to it, but"——
"But what?" said the queen.
"I beseech your majesty to pardon me," said Planchet "but is this really the king?"
The queen trembled with suppressed anger.
"Is there one amongst you who knows the king?" said she. "If so, let him approach, and say if this be his majesty or not."
A man, muffled in a cloak, which he wore in such a manner as to conceal his face, drew near, and stooping over the bed, gazed at the features of Louis. For a moment D'Artagnan thought that this person had some evil design, and he placed his hand upon his sword; but as he did so, the cloak slipped partially from before the man's face, and the guardsman recognised the Coadjutor, De Gondy.
"It is the king himself," said the man. "God bless his majesty!"
"God bless his majesty!" murmured the crowd.
"And now, my friends," said Planchet; "let us thank her majesty, and retire."
The insurgents bowed their thanks, and left the room with the same caution and silence with which they had entered it. When the last had disappeared, followed by Laporte, the remaining actors in this strange scene remained for a moment looking at each other without uttering a word: the queen standing near the door; D'Artagnan half out of his hiding-place; the king leaning on his elbow, but ready to fall back upon his pillow at the least noise that should indicate the return of the mob. The noise of footsteps, however, grew rapidly more remote, and at last entirely ceased. The queen drew a deep breath of relief; D'Artagnan wiped the perspiration of anxiety from his brow; the king slid out of his bed.
"Let us go," said Louis.
Just then Laporte returned.
"I have followed them to the gates, madam," said the valet-de-chambre; "they informed their companions that they had seen the king and spoken to the queen, and the mob has dispersed, perfectly satisfied."
"The wretches!" murmured Anne of Austria; "they shall pay dearly for their insolence." Then, turning to D'Artagnan, "Sir," said she, "you have this night given me the best advice I ever received in my life. What is next to be done?"
"We can set out when your majesty pleases. I shall be waiting at the foot of the private staircase."
"Go, sir," said the queen. "We will follow you."
D'Artagnan descended the stairs, and found the carriage at the appointed place, with the guardsman sitting on the box. He took the hat and coat of M. de Gondy's coachman, put them on himself, and took the guardsman's place. He had a brace of pistols in his belt, a musquetoon under his feet, his naked sword behind him. The queen appeared, accompanied by the king, and by his brother, the Duke of Anjou.
"The Coadjutor's carriage!" exclaimed she, starting back in astonishment.
"Yes, madam," said D'Artagnan "but be not alarmed. I shall drive you."
The queen uttered a cry of surprise, and stepped into the coach. The king and his brother followed, and sat down beside her. By her command, Laporte also entered the vehicle. The mantelets of the windows were closed, and the horses set off at a gallop along the Rue Richelieu. On reaching the gate at the extremity of the street, the chief of the guard advanced at the head of a dozen men, and carrying a lantern in his hand. D'Artagnan made him a sign.
"Do you recognise the carriage?" said he to the sergeant.
"No," was the reply.
"Look at the arms."
The sergeant put his lantern close to the pannel.
"They are those of M. le Coadjuteur," said he.
"Hush!" said d'Artagnan. "Madam de Guemenee is with him."
The sergeant laughed. "Open the gate," said he; "I know who it is." Then, approaching the mantelet—"Much pleasure, Monseigneur," said he.
"Hold your tongue!" cried D'Artagnan, "or you will lose me my place."
The gate creaked upon its hinges; D'Artagnan, seeing the gate open, flogged his horses, and set off at a rapid trot. In five minutes he had rejoined the cardinal's coach.
"Mousqueton," cried D'Artagnan to M. du Vallon's servant, "open the door of his majesty's carriage."
"It is he!" exclaimed Porthos, who was waiting for his friend.
"In a coachman's livery!" cried Mazarine.
"And with the Coadjutor's carriage," said the queen.
"Corpo di Dio, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" said the cardinal, "you are worth your weight in gold!"
We cannot attempt to give more than these slight glimpses of the eight volumes now lying before us, in which the extravagance and exaggeration of many of the incidents are only redeemed by the brilliant diction and animated narrative of their clever but unscrupulous author. It would be too lengthy to give even a sketch of the chain of incidents that succeeds those above detailed, or to show how, according to M. Dumas, D'Artagnan and his friends became instrumental to the conclusion of the treaty by which the hostilities between Frondeurs and Mazarinists are for the time brought to a close. The first act of the war of the Fronde is over; Louis XIV., now within a year of his majority, re-enters the capital with Anne of Austria and Mazarine, D'Artagnan, now captain of mousquetaires, riding on one side of his carriage, and Porthos, now Baron du Vallon, on the other. Baron Porthos goes back to his estates, happy and glorious; Aramis and Athos return to the seclusion whence the stirring times had called them forth, the latter leaving his son in charge of D'Artagnan, who is to take the young man with him to the Flemish wars. The restless spirit of the Gascon abhors the idea of repose.
"Come, D'Artagnan," said Porthos, as he got upon his horse to depart, "take my advice; throw up your commission, hang up your sword, and accompany me to Du Vallon. We will grow old together, whilst talking of our past adventures."
"Not so," replied D'Artagnan. "Peste! the campaign is just opening, and I mean to make it. I hope to gain something by it."
"And what do you hope to become?"
"Pardieu! who can tell? Marshal of France, perhaps."
"Ah, ah!" said Porthos, looking at D'Artagnan, to whose gasconading he had never been able quite to accustom himself. And the two friends parted.
"You will prepare your best apartment for me, Madeleine," said D'Artagnan to his handsome hostess, as he re-entered his hotel. "I must keep up appearances, now that I am Captain of Mousquetaires."
THE GRAND GENERAL JUNCTION AND INDEFINITE EXTENSION RAILWAY RHAPSODY.
BY A PROVISIONAL COMMITTEE OF CONTRIBUTORS.
Though the farmer's hope may perish, While in floods the harvest lies, Speculation let us cherish, Let the Railway market rise!
Honest trader, whosoever, Sick with losses, sad with cares, Quit your burden now or never, Cut the shop and deal in shares.
Spendthrift—short of drink and dinners, Half-pay captain, younger son, Boldly throw while all are winners, Laugh henceforth at debt and dun.
Come, ye saints, whose skill in cavilling, Shock'd at skittles, cards, or dice, Thinks, except for Sunday travelling, Railway gaming is no vice.
Hither haste, each black-leg fellow, Quit the turf or loaded bone; Like your brother-black Othello, Own your occupation's gone.
Tribes that live by depredation— "Bulls" and "Bears," and birds of prey, See the coming spoliation, Scent the premiums far away.
"Stags!" your rapid forms revealing, Show awhile your front so bright, Then from your pursuers stealing, Vanish sudden out of sight.
Leave all meaner things, my St John, For the locomotive race; Post your tin upon the engine, Go ahead, and keep the pace.
At a Railway Monarch's splendour Envious squires and nobles stare; Even the Hebrew gewgaw vender Turns sharebroker in despair.
Now no more the Ragfair dealer Hints with horrid breath, "Old Clo';" Putting forth another feeler, "Any shares?" he whispers low.
Every paper's a prospectus, Nostrums, news, are at an end; "Easy shaving" don't affect us, Silent even "The Silent Friend."
Morison resigns his bubbling, Lazenby has lost his zest; Widow Welch has ceased from troubling, Weary Moses is at rest.
Every station, age, and gender, Deep within the torrent dip; Even our children, young and tender, Play at games of nursery scrip.
Over meadows, moors, and mosses, Quagmires black, and mountains grey, Careless where or how it crosses, Speculation finds the way.
Every valley is exalted, Every mountain is made low; Where we once were roughly jolted, Light and lively now we go.
Speed along with fire and fury! Hark! the whistle shrilly shrieks! Speed—but mark! we don't insure ye 'Gainst the boiler's frolic freaks.
But before a trip is ventured, This precaution prudence begs: When you've seen your luggage enter'd, Also book your arms and legs.
Ask not if yon luckless stoker, Blown into the air, survive— These are trifles, while the broker Quotes our shares at Ninety-five.
Vainly points some bleeding spectre To his mangled remnants;—still Calmly answers each Director, "Charge the damage to the bill."
All the perils which environ (As the poet now would sing) Him who meddles with hot iron, Seem to us a pleasant thing.
Countless lines, from Lewes to Lerwick, Cross like nets the country soon; Soon a railway (Atmospheric,) Speeds our progress to the moon.
Traversing yon space between us, Soon the rapid trains will bring Ores from Mars and fires from Venus, Lots of lead from Saturn's Ring;
Belts from Jupiter's own factory, Mercury from Maia's Son; And when summers look refractory, Bottled sunbeams from the sun.
If too soaring, too seraphic, Seems to some that heavenward track, T'other way there's much more traffic, Though not many travel back.
What a gradient through Avernus! What a curve will Hades take! When with joy the Shades discern us, How Hell's terminus will shake!
How the Pandemonium Junction, With the Central will combine, Rattling both without compunction Down the Tartarus incline!
Phlegethon no more need fright us, For we've bridged its fiery way; And the steamer on Cocytus Long ago has ceased to pay.
Charon—under sequestration— Does the Stygian bark resign, Glad to find a situation As policeman to the line.
Thoughts of penance need not haunt us; Who remains our sins to snub? Pluto, Minos, Rhadamanthus, All have joined the "Railway Club."
Fortune's gifts, then, catch and cherish; Follow where her currents flow; Sure to prosper—or to perish, Follow, though to Styx we go!
SKETCHES OF ITALY—LUCCA.
The records of travellers in the Livre des Etrangers at Modena, had prepared us to expect nothing tolerable at the night halts in our journey through the Apennines to our projected place of sejour during the great heats of summer, the Bagni di Lucca. At the mountain locandas, we were always prepared, not to say resigned, to encounter those various distresses which seem light evils at a distance—knowing that we could not starve as long as eggs and maccaroni were to be found, and even as to lodging we were too old travellers to flinch at trifles. The rural inn at Piave, which looked more inviting than the great one of the small place, was delighted to receive us, and gave us good trout, tolerable bread, and excellent honey: we were in the midst of a lovely country, we heard a limpid stream running within a few yards of our window; and what had we to fear? But night came, and with it more annoyances than one bargains for even in Italy. A floor of thin planks which had never fitted, and of which the joinings, which had never been of the kind called callidae, were now widened by time, was all that parted our small bedroom from that of the horses. Through these, and also through large rat-holes, there came up copious ammoniacal smells, which our mucous membrane resented from the first; and well it had fared with us had this been all. We had never been so near horses at night, and had no idea they made such an incessant noise. One horse stabled and littered for the night were bad enough, but we had a whole stableful; and just as we were forgetting the fleas, and forgiving the mosquitos, and sleep led on by indigestion was heavy on our eyelids, a snort, loud as a lion's roar, made us start. Then there came a long succession of chump, chump, from the molar teeth, and a snort, snort, from the wakeful nostril of our mute companions, (equo ne credite, Teucri!)—one stinted quadruped was ransacking the manger for hay, another was cracking his beans to make him frisky to-morrow, and more than one seemed actually rubbing his moist nose just under our bed! This was not all; not a whisk of their tails escaped us, and when they coughed, which was often, the hoarse roncione shook the very tressels of our bed; in short, we never suffered such real nightmare before. We dreamt stethoscopes and racks. But morning came, and, with it, morning freshness and morning sound. The wood-pigeons are cooing, the green hills just opposite seem to have come closer up to our window to wish us good-day; so we throw open our little casement, to let out the gaseous compounds from bed and stable. How elegantly do the dew-bedded vines take hold of the poplars and elms, and hang their festoons of ripening fruit from branch to branch! But the sun begins to break a brilliant pencil of rays over the hill-top, nor will he take long to leave the screen and uncover himself; indeed, in less than a quarter of an hour, he will have stared us quite out of countenance, and, long before the hour of his advent shall have been completed, the birds, which till now have been all activity, will become torpid, the pigeons will have given over their cooing, and the sparrow his chirp; so the fish that has not yet breakfasted had better make haste, for his are chariot-wheels which have been looked after overnight, and linchpins that never come out; nor has he had one break-down or overturn since he first set off on his Macadamized way. In haste to escape from the heat of the plains of Tuscany, we were not sorry when we saw the douaniers of Pistoia, the last of its cities. This town is dulness, not epitomized, but extended over a considerable space; its streets are many, long, and, what is not usual in Italy, wide. There is no population stirring; the very piazza is without activity; and, if you leave it, you may walk a mile between very large houses, churches, convents, and palaces, without meeting any one. Pistoia, in short, is an improvement on Oxford in the long vacation—the place, however, has its ancient fame, has given birth to two or three distinguished literati, and figured in the civil wars. The fifteenth century records among others the name of Cini, whose epitaph we saw in the cathedral; and the author of the Riciardetto was, we believe, also one of its citizens. In its immediate vicinity fell Catiline. They say the Italian language is spoken here with great purity of accent, which is remarkable, as it is only twenty miles from the guttural and inharmonious speech of Florence. It was not our purpose to explore its decayed manufactures, if such there still exist at all, of fire-arms and organs; indeed, we know not if pistols and organ-pipes have any thing particular to do with it; so, after refreshment of the cattle, we passed on through a beautiful country at its most beautiful season, and thought we had seldom seen any thing more striking than the views from Serravalle, or those about Pescia and Monte Catino. The high, almost the highest Apennines were right a-head; and could we have taken the wings of the bird, or of the morning, and lighted on any of those peaks at no great distance, we should have looked directly down on to the Mediterranean, and almost into the gulf of La Spezzia; we should have seen the long Ligurian promontory in the distant horizon to the right, and have embraced Leghorn, Elba, Gorgona, and the coast as far as Piombino, in the opposite direction. An imperceptible ascent conducts from the town of Lucca towards its baths; and you may expect, in about three hours, to have accomplished its sixteen miles. The road follows the long windings and beautiful valleys of the Serchio, of which, harmless as it looks, we read on all the bridges records of its occasional violence, and of their repeated destruction. After a morning's ride, to which there are few equals even in Italy or Switzerland, we begin to get our books, and paper, and light luggage, out of the nets and pockets of the carriage—for there are the Bagni Caldi, about a mile before us. It is not our purpose to describe the humours of an Italian watering-place; but let it not be supposed that this retreat is the happy thought of our own restless population. The English have had nothing to do with bringing the baths of Lucca into notice or fashion, although they are at present among its principal inhabitants from June to September. Hither flock in summer the families who have established themselves in winter-quarters at Florence or Pisa; and here they soon get possession of all the cracked pianos, and strolling music-masters who come on speculation, and forthwith begin a series of screaming lessons, called singing, executed by English young women, studious of cheap accomplishments, to the infinite distress of all who pass by their open windows, at whatever hour! As the baths are frequented by the little court of Lucca, there is a residenza, a casino, and tables for play. There are two or three good hotels or tables-d'hotes, and there is a shabby little coffee-house, and a handful of Balzacs and Paul de Kocks at one circulating library. There is one butcher and one baker at each of the villages, privileged dispensers of their respective commodities. There is a scarcity of poultry, of fresh butter, and vegetables; but there is abundance of maccaroni. There are two grocers, who both supply amateurs with English pickles, Harvey's sauce, Warren's blacking, Henry's magnesia, James's powder, and the other necessaries of life. The houses are generally let for the season, and the rent of the best is as high as L4 a-week. The furniture is old and bad, but tolerably clean. Ascend any of the hills, and you look down on roofs that have scarcely any chimneys. Whenever you ride or walk, you have a hill on the right and left of you, and a river making its way against the opposition of huge masses of stone, and angular impediments from the turns of the valley itself. On these hills, you have uniformly vines below; and when you get above the vines, you walk entirely among the chestnut-trees which constitute the real riches of the country. The best office, however, of the hills, is not the production of fruit-trees, but the screen they afford against the Italian sun. The early sunset here is worth all the wine of the territory, which is scarce and very bad. In the evenings of July and August, there is a turn-out of equipages that have figured on the Boulevards and in Hyde Park, which commonly make a halt opposite the little shabby coffee-house, to eat bad ices, and do the agreeable to each other—the rush-bottomed chairs at the door being occupied the while by a set of intelligent young men, with mustache, who smoke bad cigars, and cultivate as elsewhere the charm of each others' classical conversation. Montaigne was here in the 15th century, and Fallopius, he of the trumpets, came here to be cured of deafness—which is one of the infirmities which the Latin inscription declares to have yielded to the use of the waters. Lorenzo di Medici came to talk platonism and the fine arts at a place which will never know either any more; and, from a Latin letter extant, was summoned from the Bagni to the death-bed of his wife. Ladies have often been recommended to the baths to be cured of sterility; and, from what we have seen, we think there are far more unpromising places. Doctors, whose names only are known, but who were probably men of learning, have written on these salutary springs, and modern flippancy has at present forborne them. We have no Quack to patronize them; the "numen aquae" is not violated in print at least by jobbing apothecaries; but there is Gentile di Foligno, and Ugolino di Monte Catino, and Savonarola, and Bandinelli (1483,) and Fallopio (1569,) and Ducini (1711,) who have written books, of which the object, as they are in Latin, is not assuredly what there is too much reason to believe it is, when such books are now presented to the world. Of the waters, (which, like those of Bath, contain minute portions of silex and oxide of iron,) the temperature differs at the different establishments—and there are three; 43 deg. Reaumur is assigned as the highest, and 35 deg. 24' to two others.
We were stranded at this pleasant place of endurable ennui for three long months, during which there was no going out from nine to five P.M. Our society afforded little resource, our reading less. When the weather permitted—that is, in the delicious, incomparable month of October—we made little excursions to Barga, Ponte Nero, &c. &c., and always returned delighted; nor were our walks of shorter distance unproductive of interest. The Lucchese are the most industrious people in the world, and their agriculture made us, pro tempore, amateurs of rural economy. We will not bore the reader with Georgics such as ours; but if he will accept, in place of picture galleries and churches, the "quid faciat laetas segetes" of this far from miserable population, we will cheerfully take him with us in our walks.
AGRICULTURE ROUND LUCCA.
The bearded wheat, or triticum, not the siligo, or common wheat of our English culture, was the plant which, whenever the attributes of Ceres were to be represented on ancient coins, was selected for that purpose; but the Lucchese territory, where the Cerealia in general abound, offers few specimens of either kind. These productions seem afraid of their ears in the neighbourhood of the Great Turk, who is the great tyrant here, and, together with the rice, monopolizes three-fourths of all the land devoted to the culture of grain; the millet (miglio,) the panixa (panico,) Indian wheat (sagena,) together with the lupins, and a variety of peas, beans, and lentiles, occupy the remainder. "The Great Turk is a great eater, is he not?" "Yes," replied the peasant who cultivated him, "mangia come Cristiano,"—he eats like a Christian all he can get out of the ground; only, the more he gets the better he looks for it—which is not always the case with Christians. There are two kinds of Gran Turco, or maize; that sown in May is of rather better quality than the other, and produces on an average 10 lbs. more per sack in weight than that which is sown afterwards in June. In order to secure a good crop, it is necessary that the ground should be well manured with lupins, which are either grown for this single purpose the year before, and left to rot, or boiled to prevent their germination, and then scattered over the field. The Grand Turk commonly carries but one head on his shoulders, but occasionally we have remarked two or more on the same stem. In the year 1817, the sack (160 lbs.) fetched fifty-eight pauls; while wheat was seventy-eight, and even the chestnut flour sold at fifty; so that, even in the Lucchese territory, they have their approach to famine in bad years.
Pliny mentions the Sagena, under the name of Saracenic millet, as a thing which came from India, and was first brought into Italy in his own time. Herodotus speaks of its cultivation by the Babylonians. The Saracens used it in the fourteenth century for making bread, as do the Lucchese to this day; it is, however, lightly esteemed, and not used at all when other corn abounds, but thrown into the hencoop to fatten poultry. It is a beautiful thing to see the high jungle of this most elastic plant bending to the breeze, and displaying, as it moves, its beaded top, looking at a distance like so many flowers; but, when seen nearer, exhibiting racemes (on highly polished stems) of small pedunculated berries, in mitre-looking capsules. When the seed has been shaken from the plant, the tops are brought together, and form those excellent besoms which, throughout southern Europe, supply the place of birch-broom, than which they are more elastic, not so brittle, and much cleaner. The ultimate fibrils of this plant are sometimes sold in little bundles for the purpose of being slit, and receiving the small Neapolitan firework called gera foletti, which scintillates like a fire-fly. Other kinds of millet and pannick are also grown here; care being taken to plant them far from the vine and mulberry, as they make considerable demands on the soil. Rice is said to have constituted the sole aliment of the republicans of early Rome, and it is still largely cultivated in many parts of Italy. In the low-land about Viareggio, it monopolizes the ground almost as much as the Grand Turk in the more interior parts of the country.
Lupins are largely cultivated, both for their own intrinsic value, and to induce the growth of other plants. "We are bitter," say the Lupins in an Italian work on agriculture; "but we enrich the earth which lacks other manure, and by our bitterness kill those insects which, if not destroyed, would destroy our successors in the soil. You owe much, O husbandmen! to us Lupins."
Invaluable plant—pride of intelligent agriculture—that tendest thine own fibre—and strength to him that rightly cultivates thee—and constitutest the greatest element of mechanical power! What does not England—the world itself—owe to that growth which we now contemplate! Armies are encamped within thy walls—thou towest forth the ship of discovery on her venturous way, and carriest man and his merchandise to the Equator and to the Pole! Vain were the auspicious breeze unless it blew upon thy opening sails; and what were the sheet-anchor, but for that cable of thine which connects it with the ship. Vegetable iron! incomparable hemp! Extemporaneous memory can scarcely follow thy services. Talk of the battering-ram—but what propelled it forward? The shot, whizzing in the teeth of adverse winds, carries thy coil to snatch the sailor from the rock where he stands helpless and beyond aid from all the powers or productions of man and nature but thine! Thy ladder, and thine alone, can rescue from the house on fire! Look at the fisheries all over the world—the herrings of Scotland and the cod of the Baltic might defy us but for thee. What were wells and windlasses without thee? useless as corkscrews to empty bottles. Thou art the strong arm of the pulley and the crane. Gravitation itself, that universal tyrant, had bound all things to the earth but for thy opposition. The scaffolds were thine from which grew the Colosseum, and the Pyramids have arisen in thine arms. The kite of science, which went cruising among thunder-clouds to bring down to a modern Prometheus the spark which ignites the storm, was held by fibres of thine. The diver and the miner cling to thee for safety, and they that hunt the wild-bird's egg on the sea-shaken cliff, as they swing over the frightful abyss. With the lasso the bold Matador, like the Retiarius of the ancient arena, makes the cast that is for life. Then the fine arts!—Carrara sends her block for the Laocoon by aid of thine; and what were all the galleries in Europe but a collection of gilt frames, but for thy backing and support. By thy subserviency alone (for what were panel or laminated copper for such gigantic works?) did Raffaelle bequeath so many legacies of his immortal genius. It is the strength of thy fibres that is the strength of the loaded supper-tables of Paul Veronese; and the velvets, the furs, the satins of Titian and Vandyke, are quilted upon thee. Nor disdainest thou to render to man, who bruises thee to try thy virtue, a thousand humbler services. Thou preservest our horses from flies, our fruit from birds; and who has not felt how thou cheerest the weary length of continental travelling, by the crack of thy whipcord at the approach of a new relay?
Here our friend Anamnesis seemed fatigued, as if he thought he had spun a sufficiently long yarn on the subject; so we prevailed on him to prosecute the walk, as evening was beginning to close in—not, indeed, without apprehension that he would make a stand at several other interesting plants on which it might suit him to prelect!
Hemp, when cut, is left to dry for a week; it is then immersed for an other week in water; after which it is flayed of its skin—a process which is conducted either by the hand, leaving the stem in this case entire; or by subjecting the whole plant to a bruising process, conducted by a machine.
Besides the above-mentioned grain, the ground produces plenty of vegetables, but of an inferior quality, as are all Italian fruits, and most of the leguminous productions also, from want of care. Even as to flowers, you would find it difficult to make up a bouquet, unless of ferns, which here abound. The only cultivated flower, except a few dahlias and sunflowers, are the yellow petals of the lucchini, a kind of vegetable marrow, which creeps and creeps till its twisted tendrils and broad leaves occupy, by continual encroachment, the whole field where they germinate. Besides the fruit of this plant, which we begin to be supplied with about August, its young leaf and stalk are boiled like kail for common greens; and its yellow flower, a little later, makes a frittura, which is in request. Fruits are plentiful, and some of them good; but, for the greater part, of a very inferior quality. Strawberries, and particularly raspberries, (lamponi,) are found throughout the season; which, commencing with these, and a scanty supply of currants and gooseberries, (the latter very poor indeed, and the first quite inferior to our own,) brings us fine figs of many species and in vast quantities. Apples and pears have their kinds, and many distinctive names, but are without flavour. The great supply of the raspberry and small Alpine strawberry is about midsummer The next-door-hood of all the Scotch families is now fragrant, "on all lawful days," with the odour of boiling down fruit for jams and marmalades for winter consumption. As autumn comes on, heaps of watermelons, piled like cannon-balls under the chestnut-trees, display their promising purple flesh, and look cooling and desirable, but are not to be attempted twice under penalty of gastric inconvenience. Plums and nuts abound, and are followed by a second course of hard, unripe, and tasteless nectarines and peaches. The season is closing fast, for the prickly pods of the ripening chestnut now begin to gape, and the indifferent grapes of the district attain their imperfect maturity, and are gathered for the wine-press. September is in its last week, and in less than another month we must all migrate somewhere for the winter. The baths, on the 15th of October, are quite empty.
A good walnut-tree is as good to a poor man as a milk-cow. "I would not sell either of those walnut-trees in my garden for thirty scudi a-piece," said a peasant to us; and, observing that we looked as if we would not like to tempt him, asked us if we had seen the large walnut-tree of Teraglia, (we had, and had pic-nicked very nearly under it,) "because," added he, "the proprietor of that tree refused sixty scudi for it last week, e ha ragione, for it is a nonpareil. A good tree like those in my garden yields me eight sacks of shelled fruit on an average every year; and a sack of walnuts fetches from a scudo to ten pauls (four shillings and sixpence) in the market. So that my trees, between them, bring me in one hundred and sixty pauls (i.e. L4 English) every year." Indeed! and the chestnut-trees opposite? Oh! in this land of chestnut-trees we don't pay prezzi d'affezione for them—a good tree standing in the plain may cost about eight or ten scudi, and may yield about four sacks of shelled fruit in a good year; but it is a capricious tree even in the plain; while those on the mountain, the roots of which derive a precarious subsistence from the uncertain soil, are liable to be blown down, and are made pollards of at an early age to prevent this mishap; also, they are frequently burned down by bonfires kindled under them to destroy the furze. The chestnut shoot is only four years old before it begins to bear. Three pounds of fresh chestnuts fetch about one penny—dried, or in flour, about double that price. The peasants bake a little cake of the chestnut flour called "netche," about the thickness of a crimpet, and having much the flavour and appearance of potato scones. This paste they bake between two hot stones, with a couple of the leaves of the chestnut (dried for the purpose by the peasants) interposed. The baking takes scarcely a minute, and the cakes are then piled and packed, and sent far and wide. The arms and the tops of the chestnuts are made into charcoal, so that no part of this important tree is lost. We are here in the very midst of forests of chestnut only—far as the eye can reach in every direction, and as far as vegetation will go up every mountain side, its grateful green forms a pleasing contrast to those gloomy frequenters and favourites of the mountain, the sombre pine and dusky olive.
Several fine-sized olive-trees were shown to us for sale, and said to be good fruit-bearers, (no olive bears fruit under ten years,) for twenty-five scudi per tree. These trees were computed to yield about two and a quarter to three sacks of berries; whereof every sack yielded a profit of three scudi for one hundred to one hundred and ten pounds of oil, which represents about the quantity generally expressed. In retail, Lucca oil, at the present moment, is about one paul, and olives about three farthings per pound.
We observe three kinds of oaks which here both flourish and abound. The Farnia, the Querci, and the Leccio—the last evidently a corruption of Ilex. The first kind grows with amazing rapidity; in twenty years it is a head and shoulders above all the other trees which began life with it. It has very long acorns, which are less astringent than those of either of the other trees, and very much preferred by pigs. A common oak felled for ship timber costs, where it stands, from ten to fourteen scudi, and they are in great request for the Leghorn market.
Insects do not greatly abound in the neighbourhood about Lucca. Even the mosquito winds his horn less frequently in our valley, than his universality elsewhere would lead you to expect. Our beds are free from bugs, and fleas are not very troublesome. Of the out-of-doors insects, those which live upon the vegetable kingdom are not very numerous, nor of much variety. The Cassida, who rejoices in lettuce, brings up his family in other districts where the lettuce abounds. Wanting the tamarisk, we miss our little Curculio, who thrives upon its leaves; and the Bruchus pisi, for want of peas, is frequently caught in the bean-tops. But the republican armies of ants are immense, and the realm of bees is uncircumscribed; as no birds of prey, neither the audacious robin, nor the woodpecker, tapping away on the hollow beech-tree, diminish their hordes. But if the fowls of the air be few, the nets of entomologists abound. Slaters of an immense kind, and spotted, and small mahogany-coloured Blattidae, are found under stones, which also conceal hordes of predatory beetles and scorpions, which bristle up at you as you expose them; and nests of tiny snakes, that coil and cuddle together, from the size of crowquills to the thickness of the little finger. During June and July, the monotonous Cicadae spring their rattles in the trees around, and one comes at last even to like their note, in spite of its sameness. A little later, flies and wasps send their buzzing progeny into our dining-rooms, to tease us over our dessert, like troublesome children: at the same period, some of the larger families of Longicorns abound, and one of them, Hamaticherus moschatus, musks your finger if you lay hold of him. In the July and August evenings, fire-flies scintillate on a thousand points around you, and swarm along the hedges, lighting each other to bed, till about midnight, which is their curfew; for you seldom meet one of these lantern-bearers later, though you may still, in returning from a late party, be stopped with momentary admiration at beholding a magnificent glow-worm burning her tail away at a great rate, and lighting up some dark recess unvisited by star or moon, herself a star, and giving sufficient light to enable you to read the small print of a newspaper a foot off! But who shall attempt to describe his first acquaintance with the fire-fly! We have seen birthday illuminations in London and in Paris; we have seen the cupola of St Peter's start into pale yellow light, as the deepening shadows of night shrouded all things around; we have seen the Corso, on Moccoletti night, a long fluctuating line of ever renewed light, from the street to the fourth story—an illumination sui generis, and "beautiful exceedingly;" but noise and confusion are around all these as you approach them. But, oh! to plunge suddenly into an atmosphere filled with Lucciole in the quiet gloaming of an Italian sky, amidst the olive groves and plantations of Indian corn, with no noise but the drowsy hum of the huge stag beetle, (the only patrole of the district,) or the yet fainter sounds of frogs complaining to each other of the sultriness of the night, or the monotonous hymn, at the peasant's door, addressed to the Virgin! Your first impression is unmixed delight—your next, a wish probably that you could introduce the fire-fly into England. Could one empty a few hatfuls along Pall-Mall or Bond Street, on opera nights, what an amazement would seize the people! We swept them up into the crown of our hat, and could not get enough of them; then we set them flying about our room, putting out the lights and shutting the shutters; and then we caught them, and began to look more closely at the sources of our delight, and to examine the acts and deeds of these wonderful little creatures. As to the light itself, we soon perceived that, in reality, the fire-fly emitted it from two sources; for, besides his steady light, which never varied, there came, we saw, at intervals, flicks or sparks of far greater brilliancy, like the revolving light of the beacon on the sea-shore, only that the light here was never wholly eclipsed, but merely much abated. We soon perceived, too, that those sudden jets of light came and went at vastly IRREGULAR intervals; sometimes in very quick succession, sometimes less frequently—from which observation, we concluded that this dispensation of his rich endowment did not proceed from any motion of the fluids in the animal economy, analogous to our own circulation—it being far too irregular and inconstant to depend on any such regulated movement. On removing the head of a Lucciola, this intermitting light immediately ceased; but the other—the permanent, steady, and equable light—remained unchanged, and was not extinguished for from sixty to seventy hours after the death of the insect, unless the body was immersed in oil or alcohol, which extinguished it presently. We found, that though oil and alcohol quickly extinguished the light, it became suddenly much brighter when fading, by plunging the insect into hot water; but we did not find that it could be restored when it had once entirely ceased, by this or any other means, as some French naturalists have affirmed; and as to its exploding a jar of hydrogen, as others have written, we disbelieve it, because the temperature of the insect is far too low. We think, then, for the present, that there are two distinct repositories, or two different sources, of light in the fire-fly; and that while one depends on the head, and is a strictly vital phenomenon, the other is altogether independent of any physiological law of the nervous or circulating system.
* * * * *
We have a great respect for ants; but we do not go the length of some of their historians, or believe them to be, any more than ourselves, infallible. We have seen a laborious ant (magni Formica laboris) tugging a snail-shell (for some reason only known to himself) up a hill, stopping to take breath, and going cheerily to work again till he had nearly accomplished his ascent, and found himself on the very edge of its summit. Here he has been surrounded by friends, officious busy-bodies, who, intending no doubt to help him, have got into the shell, in place of lending him a hand, till their added load was too much, and the unfortunate ant has been obliged to loose its hold and let them go, shell and all! Then off they would send, very much frightened no doubt at the overturn; while he, having remained stationary a moment as if to watch its results, takes his resolution, and proceeds on his journey without his load. In brushing the grass for insects, we have constantly found that the ants, with their mouths full, fight with each other, or with their brother captives, and are quite unaware of their bondage. For while most other insects, on opening the net, are glad to escape by flying or leaping, these will remain as if to secure their booty, and turn even misfortunes to account. Often have we watched their battles, which are battles indeed!—battles, in which every man of them seems to think the day depends on his own courage and activity. We have never been able to make out which were the best battalions of these variously coloured troops; for all of them fight to the death, and show no quarter. We have seen on some large tree the ants running up and down, and picking off individual enemies from a horde of smaller kind and reddish colour below. We have occasionally knocked off one or two of the giants, who, falling alive into the midst of their enemies, were surrounded, spread-eagled, trampled upon, and either lacerated to death, or killed by their own formic acid, in a very short space of time indeed. We have seen all this and marvelled; but we were never sufficiently in the confidence of either the invaders or the invaded to know their motives for fighting. It could not be for territory, for they had all the world before them; it could not be for food, for they were full.
We never could make out why flies seem fond of walking over dead spiders; for we will not impute to them our unworthy feelings of enduring hatred and hostility. That insects had no brains in their heads to direct and guide their progressive movements, or form focuses for their passions, had long ago to us been plain. Besides all that we once committed ourselves by writing on the subject, we have done many other cruel things; such as dividing insects, (whether at the union of the head with corselet, or of the corselet with the abdomen,) and we have found that the segments to which the members were articulated carried on their functions without the head. The Elytra would open the wings, and the legs would move, as by association they had moved in the perfect insect. The guidance of the head was destroyed, yet the legs pushed the abdomen and corselet on; so that a disapproving friend had to divide his sympathy, and to feel for each of the pieces. And what appeared to us worthy of remark was, that whereas, when a snake was decollated, it was only the tail that continued to wriggle—when a worm was divided, all the segments writhed in the same way, and manifested an equal irritability; showing the difference between creatures of annulated structure, according as they have or have not a brain. A new argument against the brain as the organ of sensation, was afforded to us by the conduct of many insects of voracious propensities. We took locusts and grilli; we held them by their wings, and we presented them with their own legs for dinner; and on our veracity we can affirm, that on no single occasion did the animal fail to seize his foot; and having demolished the toes and the tibia, with all the meat upon it, proceed to demolish up to the very end of the trochanter! Nor were they more tender of their own antennae, of which, when we had duly convinced a sceptical friend, he exclaimed—It seems impossible; but there is no doubting the fact!
Insects (who would have thought it?) lose a great deal by insensible transpiration; from one-tenth to one-quarter of their whole weight, as we have abundantly ascertained by series of experiments, for which we have the tables to show. A very interesting fact respecting the difference of irritability of insects from that of the higher animals, is this: the temperature of man and the mammalia is in health always the same, and varies very inconsiderably in disease. External heat and external cold do not produce a blood, in man, warmer at the equator than at the pole. This is not the case with insects, whose mean temperature may be about 80 deg.; but the thermometer inserted into their bodies may be made to rise or fall by bringing any cold or warm body in contact with their external surface. You may thus sink the temperature of an insect to 50 deg. or raise it to 100 deg., and the insect continue alive. This is a very curious fact, and shows the inaccuracy of Hunter's description or definition of life—"That it was that which resisted the physical agency of cold and heat." Insectorum duorum (e genere Cantharidum) in coitu deprehensorum, extincto a nobis uno, alterum per dies plures, nullo alio quam organorum sexus vinculo sibi adstrictum, amicae suae corpus sursum et deorsum trahentem, mirantes vidimus!—Spanish flies, you exclaim!—as if he had not taken a dose of his own powder; but after the joke is over, we think this is another poser for the advocates of insect intelligence. We found that if either of two insects was destroyed in coition, that state was not interrupted for two or three days. The insects on which are observed this remarkable circumstance, were the Cantharis oclemero, and some others. Spanish flies, you will say? That accounts for it; but at present we are not mystifying our indulgent readers.
Long before the middle of September we are frequently startled, before we have proceeded a hundred yards, by the popping of guns amongst the vineyards and chestnut woods, but more frequently in the direction of the stream that winds along our valley—and the sight of one or two of the chasseurs on the road may well surprise any not accustomed to the sports of the Lucchese.—Here are two of them, each with a gun on his shoulder, coming up the stream. One has shot three four-ounce dace, which dangle by his side; the other has a bag full of small fry, shot as they frisked about in shoals near the water's edge! an ounce of sand exploded to receive about the same amount of fish! The man who has shot the dace is proud of his exploit, and keeps turning them round and round to gauge their dimensions, as if they were partridges! Don't think, however, they have killed off all the fish of the stream. Besides that string of four-ounce dace, we have every now and then a sample of barbel and trout. One man has purchased the monopoly of the fishery within two miles, and for which he pays twelve crowns by the year. He sells his trout at two, and two and a half, pauls per pound, and we should have thought that he made a good thing of it; but they lose their fish: the torrents come and empty the holes, and they have nothing for it but to stock them again—an event which, he assured me, frequently took place. Besides, fly-rods and flies have been introduced by an English shopkeeper, and there is no legal provision against them.
There comes a man with an owl in a basket and another tied by the leg on a pole covered with red cloth; another accompanies him with a bundle of reeds, through which a rod runs, smeared all the way down with birdlime. This apparatus he disposes on a hedge or cover of any kind—the little owl (Civetta) sits opposite on his pole—the birds come to tease him, and fly on the birdlime twig, when, if it be a sparrow, he is effectually detained by the viscus only—if a blackbird, pop at him goes an old rusty gun. "We sometimes catch twenty tomtits before breakfast," said a modest-looking sportsman, modestly, but not shamefacedly, showing us one thrush and one linnet.
An image-man told me to-day, that after the trade for classical models—Apollos and Venuses—had gone out, and nobody would buy, Tam o' Shanter and Souter Johnny operated a good revival of the fine arts for several months. How much, then, the models from the antique, do towards improving our taste! and how absurd to set up institutions with the expectation of making the populace other than the gross, unideal, matter-of-fact thing it is, and always was, no doubt, even in Athens itself!
We heard one of these monsters last night. The arena for his exhibition might, but for the known liberality of society, be thought objectionable—being none other than the English place of worship. But tout est sain aux sains—or aux saints, if you please. Charity covereth many sins; and if there be a place upon earth where charity reigns, it is at what you call watering-places. Pindar was right, [Greek: ariston men hudoz]. If we were enquired of, and propitiated by a fee, as to the effects of the waters here, we should give it as our opinion that they act directly on the picrochole, or bitter principle of bile, and carry it, soft as milk, through the duodenal passages. Our Improvisatore has, we understand, been six times painted, (we know not what saloons are so fortunate as to possess his portrait,) but we believe he has not been described. When we saw him, his hair danced wildly over his shoulders, as if electrified: he had a quick eye, and wore enviably well-fitting ducks: his neck, besides supporting his head and all its contents, supported an inextricable labyrinth of gold chains; from every buttonhole of his waistcoat the chains they came in, and the chains they came out, like the peripatetic man on the Boulevards who sells them: his gloves, well-fitting, and buttoning at the wrist, were of the whitest kid, and grasped a yet whiter and highly-scented cambric: his boots shone bright with varnish, and his face with self-complacency. As the room filled, he went round, giving the girls permission to write subjects on bits of waste (wasted!) paper, which set them thinking at a great rate. Presently, a second circuit round the room, to collect the orders payable at sight—a title such as the Lucciola, Italia, The Exile, Woman's Love, Man's Ingratitude; after which he proceeds to fold up and puts them into a large glass vessel. Presently a small hand, properly incited, dives down for a second into the interior of the vase, and brings up, between two of its fair, round, turquoise-encircled fingers, the scrap of paper. Its pretty owner blushes, and timidly announces, "Bellini's Tomb;" Bellini's Tomb is buzzed about the room. At this juncture the Duke, who has been expected, sends a messenger to announce that we are not to wait for him—a sly fellow the Duke! The bard now concentrates himself for inspiration, but begs us to talk on, and not mind him. While he waits for the afflatus divinus, and consults the muses—and in fact his eyes soon begin to betray possession—he passes his hand over his parturient forehead, while the os magno sonaturum is getting ready; the labour-pains are evidently on him; he hurls back his hair, and fixes his eyes upon the moon, (who has been looking at him for several minutes through the window opposite.) Full of her influence, and not knowing there is such a place as Bedlam in the world, he starts upon his legs, makes two or three rapid strides up and down the room, like a lion taking exercise, or a lord of council and session in Scotland preparing to pronounce sentence, and means to be delivered (mercy on us!) exactly opposite our chair! All are attentive to the godlike man; you might hear a pin drop: the subject is announced once and again in a very audible voice; the touch-paper is ignited, the magazine will blow up presently! Incontinently we are rapt off to Pere la Chaise, where the great composer lies buried, and a form of communication is made to us on this suitable spot, that Bellini is dead; then comes, in episode, a catalogue of all the operas he ever wrote, with allusions to each, and not a little vapouring and pathos, while a host of heroes and heroines we never before heard of, is let loose upon us; presently, a marked pause, and some by-play, makes it evident that he sees something, and cannot see what the thing is; he shortly, however, imparts to us in confidence, though in a very low tone, for fear of disturbing it—he sees, he assures us, a female form stealing to the young man's tomb—the form of a widowed lady—who is she? e la sua madre! This was startling, no doubt; though we, or many of us, were like the cat in Florian, to whom the monkey was showing a magic lantern without a light, and describing what she ought to have seen. Believing her, however, to be there on such good authority, we were getting very sorry for Bellini's mother, when we were unexpectedly relieved, by finding it was only a bit of make-believe; for it was now divulged, che questa madre che piangea il suo figlio, was not in fact his personal mother, but "Italy" dressed up like his mother, and gone to Paris on purpose to weep and put garlands on the composer's tomb, amaranth and crocus, and whatever else was in season. Thunders of applause—we hope the new chapel is insured!-for the assiduo ruptae lectore columnae is as old as earthquake in Italy. He now mopped his forehead, and prepared for a new effort. The English girls are already in raptures, and their Italian masters, sitting by, "ride on the whirlwind and direct the storm." The next subject which destiny assigned to him, and inflicted on us, was The Exile. A nicely manured field or common place to sow and reap on—and what a harvest it yielded accordingly!—the dear friends! the dear native hill! the honour of suffering for the truth! (political martyrdom!) the mother that bore him—(and a good deal besides)—his helpless children! (a proper number for the occasion,)—all these fascinating themes were dwelt on, one by one, till, moved apparently at our emotion, he dropt his menacing attitude, and, mitigating his voice, assumed a resigned demeanour, of which many of his audience had long since set him the example. He began to look down mournfully, whereas he had a minute ago looked up fiercely—a smile, to the relief of the young ladies, stole over his countenance, and having thrice shaken his head to dispel whatever gloomy thoughts might still be lingering there, he carried us to the Exile's return, which brought of course the natal soil and a second service of the mother, sire, and son, with the addition of a dog, a clump of trees, a church, and a steeple. He compresses between his hands the yielding cambric into a very small space, his body is fixed, his legs are slightly apart, his head wags, like a wooden mandarin's, with thoughts too big for utterance, till the moment arrives for the critical start, then, "Duplices tendens ad sidera palmas," he becomes quite Virgilian. The unfurled cambric flutters to the breeze of his own creation, and coruscations of white kid and other white materials pass and repass before our eyes. He gives vent to his emotions in tears, after a reasonable indulgence in which, as he cannot (as Tilburina's confidante very properly observes) stay crying there all night, he gradually comes right again. Besides all which, it is eight o'clock, and he has still to do, and we to suffer, Napoleon—whose ashes were just then being carried to Paris, as we had read in all the papers of last week. Glad were we when they reached the Octroi, and when the indulgent Barriere passed them with all the honours of the Douane. An old lady has twice yawned, and many would follow her example, but that the performer fascinates his audience by staring at them—like the boa at the poor bird in the wood—and frightens them to their seats for a few minutes longer. At length one resolute chair moves; two others are out of the ranks; new centres of movement are establishing; several shawls are seen advancing to the door. The rout is complete, there will be no rally, and the efforts of the artist have been crowned (one hundred and fifty scudi) with success. We meet him every where. He honours our table-d'hote daily, where he stays an hour and a half to bait—after which we see him lounging in the carriage of some fair compatriote with herself and daughters. If we are paying a morning visit, in he comes, "glissarding it" into the drawing-room, and bowing like a dancing-master; nor does he disdain to produce a small book of testimonials, in which the subscribers have agreed to give him a poetic character, and compare him to a torrent, to a nightingale, to an eagle, to an avalanche. They who love flattery as a bee loves honey, are all captivated, and almost make love to him. Their albums are rich in the spoils of his poetry, and she is happy who, by her blandishment, can detain him in conversation for five minutes. Yet they own they understand less than half of what he says. Vexed with one to whom we were talking, we thought rationally, for permitting herself to be "so pestered by a popinjay,"—"He is so clever," was the reply; "such an odd creature, too. I wish you knew him. He is in such a strange humour to-night. Do you know he tells me he wishes to marry an English girl? See! he is gone into the balcony yonder to look at the moon." To be sure he was. He came back looking somewhat wild, and, walking in like a modern Prometheus, down he sits, and the new inspiration is presently bespoken for the fly page of virgin scrap-book. Smoothly flows the immortal verse, without care, correction, or halt, for the lines are the result of power that works unerringly, (Pope blotted most disgracefully,) and goes right ahead. The precious morceau is concluded, and the improvisatore's name appears in a constellation of zig-zags.
TABLES D'HOTES—MR SNAPLEY.
Did you never meet Mr Snapley?—Mr Snapley was the greatest of bores—he bored holes in your self-complacency, and riddled your patience through and through; to put up with him was hard, to put him down was impossible, (your long tolerated nuisance of fifty is always incorrigible.) His bore was surprising considering the smallness of his calibre; like a meagre gimlet, he would drill a small hole in some unimportant statement, and then gather up his opima spolia, and march off to the sound of his own trumpet. For instance, on convicting you of assigning a fine picture to a wrong church or gallery, he denied all your pretensions to judge of the picture itself. He had a reindeer's length of tongue, (how often did we wish it salted and dried!) and the splutter of words it sent forth, took off, as often happens, sufficient observation of the miserably small stock of ideas that he had to work upon. He enjoyed, as we all do, the blameless pleasure of dining out as often as he could; when, though he did not consume all the provisions, he would willingly have taken possession of the whole of the talk, (that being his notion of a conversation.) When one had to dine at the same table with him, one contrived to take up a position as remote as possible from the interruption of his thin, wiry, ill-modulated voice—the false suavity of which in saying impertinent things was really so disagreeable, that one would have renounced the society of wit or beauty on the right hand, rather than have been flanked by Mr Snapley on the left, and thankfully have accepted the companionship, pro hac vice, of the plainest woman or the dullest man of the party, to be only completely out of his reach. Your soup you might take in peace, for he was at this time studying the composition of the party, and the chances of endurance or resistance inscribed on the countenance of the guests; but the moment an opportunity occurred of correcting or cavilling with any of those unprecise and generally unchallenged observations, the interruption of which is at the cost of the quietness of the repast, Mr Snapley's voice was heard! You were too glad, of course, to give up the trifling point out of which he had raised a discussion; but the earliest concession never saved you, nor did you ever afterwards escape the consciousness that he was still hovering like a harpy over the tablecloth, and ready to fall foul of you again. Let the subject be what it might, you had only to make a remark in his presence, and without his permission, to insure its contradiction. "What a needless annoyance in travelling it is for a family to be stopped by douaniers, only to extort money for not doing a duty which would be absurd if done!" "Why, really I don't see that," &c. &c. "What a plague it is to send your servant (a whole morning's work) from one subaltern with a queer name, to another, for a lady's ticket to witness any of the functions at the Sistine!" Well, it did appear to him the simplest thing in the world; it was ten times more troublesome to see any thing in London! "What a nuisance it is on quitting an Italian city, to find the passport which has already given you so much trouble only available for three days, leaving you liable to be stopped at the gate, if sickness or accident have made you transgress even by an hour!" "Why, it is your own fault, it is so easy to get it vised again overnight." All these impertinencies were only [Greek: pidakos ex hieres olige libas]. Besides all this, Mr Snapley was a miserable monopolizer of pompously advanced nothings. He would not willingly suffer any other man's goose to feed upon the common—he cared for nobody but himself, and every thing that was or he esteemed to be his—his very joints were worked unlike those of another man—he must have had a set of adductors and abductors, of flexors and extensors, on purpose. He was stiff, priggish, precise, when he addressed any gentleman with light hair and an English complexion; but let him approach any foreign buttonhole with a bit of riband in it, then worked he the muscles of his face into most grotesque expression of interest or pleasure—(Tunc immensa cavi spirant mendacia folles!)—and you had a famous display of grimace and deferential civility, in bad French or worse Italian. We have seen him sneering and leering as he made his way round a drawing-room at an evening party, and bowing like a French perruquier to some absurd fool of a foreigner; and we have seen him, a minute after, holding up his head and cocking his chin in defiance, if an English voice approached. When any of us ventured to criticise any thing foreign, he was up in arms, and cock-a-hoop for the climate, the customs, the constitution! He sneered awfully at a simple gaucherie, but, to make amends, had ever an approving wink for the meanest irreverence; any intellect, however feeble, being secure of his praise if it only tried to thwart the end for which it was given. When not talking about himself, which was seldom, he was evidently occupied about his personel, with which he was obviously satisfied. If you talked of books, he settled for you, in laconic sentences, works of acknowledged merit—put down men of uncontested superiority—but women of title and tainted reputation, if they would but ask him to their parties, became at once his favourites and his oracles. He cunningly contrives to get a good artist's opinion on works of art, and debits it as his own—a proceeding which makes Mr Snapley sometimes formidable in sculpture and in painting. As to other topics, on which educated men and accomplished women converse, he would fain be as profound as Locke with the one, and as gallant as Fontenelle with the other. For ourselves, who meet him but too often, we would as soon approach without necessity a huxter's mongrel growling under his master's cart, as venture near enough to examine all the small-wares of one who "hates coxcombs," and is the very prince of fops; laughs at pedants, and only wants a little more learning to attempt the character; with whom no repetition of familiar acts can reconcile you, and to whom no number of dinners can conquer your repugnance.——Did you ever meet Mr Snapley? We are sure you must—the Snapleys are a very old family—you may generally know them by the nez retrousse, (which our acquaintance, however, had not.) We never knew but one good-natured man with a nez retrousse, and he was, if ever man was—a philanthropist. Generally, however, beware of the nez retrousse except in women—you know its interpretation chez elles;—and if you do, (on second thoughts,) still beware.
HINTS FOR DOCTORS.
Esquilias, dictumque petunt a Vimine collem—JUV.
* * * "I observed a gentleman in black," said our informant, "who seemed to fix me across the table-d'hote, at dinner, in a way which soon showed me I was an object of interest to him. It was very odd! We were not in Austria! I could not have offended the police—nor in Spain, the Inquisition. If I took of a particular dish, his eye was on me again. They did use to poison people in Italy, but it was in the fifteenth century, and all the Borgias were gone! What could it mean? The very waiters seemed to watch the man in black, and signals of intelligence seemed to pass between them as they went their rounds with the dishes. After thus meeting the eye of the unknown at intervals for more than an hour, when the table was beginning to clear, I rose, and limped out of the room as well as my complaints would let me, and was sauntering a few steps from the door, when judge of my terror on turning round, to find him of the black coat at my elbow! "In pain, sir, I see." All my alarm ceased in a moment. It was pure philanthropy which had made me an object of so much interest. "Yes, sir, in great pain." "You should take care of yourself, sir. Rheumatic, are you not?" "Very rheumatic." "Well, sir, you have come to the best place in the world for rheumatism. The air, the water, and proper treatment, will soon set you up." "Your report is encouraging; but I have suffered too long to hope much." "Well, at any rate, sir, let us not talk over your interesting case in this heat. Come and put your feet up on a chair in my rooms, and we will drink a glass of soda-water to your better health." What a kind-hearted man I had met with, and how kind Providence is to us! I now ventured to ask him his name. "My name is Dr ——; and now, my dear friend, just tell me your whole case from the very beginning down to now, for I am really interested in you." I told my case. "Put out your tongue." "Brown," we thought we heard him say. "Wrist—pulse not amiss—but you require care, sir! you require care! Clear case for the medicine I gave so successfully last week." Finding myself thus fallen into professional hands without intending it, I said something introductory to the mention of a fee. "True, I was forgetting that; when one takes a proper interest in one's case, and hopes to do good, fees are the last thing one thinks of—two scudi if you please." So I found myself immediately booked in a small memorandum-book, and constituted his patient. Now came civil promises to introduce me, &c. &c. &c., and I took my leave delighted. It is almost needless to say, that in a very short time I found that my acquaintance had, like so many more, commenced physician on the soil of Italy. What will become of London if all her apothecaries desert her at this rate? For ourselves, reflecting on the accomplishments of many of these patriotic men, their learning, their modesty, their disinterestedness, we have often had a twinge of the philanthropic extorted by the loss inflicted on our native city—she may come to want a doze of julap, and have nobody to mix it!—and have said to ourselves, as we have looked more than one of these worthies in the face, [Greek: O alein Athenai, Pallados th'orismata, Oion steresesth andros]!
One day after dinner a little bit of gold rolled over the table to the doctor, from a bluff-looking gentleman opposite—it was well aimed—"There, doctor! there's your fee; but don't you begin again prating a parcel of stuff to my wife about her complaints—she is quite well—and if you frighten her into illness, take notice, you will get a different sort of fee next time!" All this, half joke, half earnestly, must have been very agreeable to the guests."
PRIVATE MUSIC PARTY.
Let us try to describe the last musical party at which we assisted. A scramble amid piles of unbound music; the right cahier found, snatched up, and opened at the well-thumbed solo with which she has already contended for many a long hour, and now hopes to execute for our applause. Alas! the piano sounds as if it had the pip; the paralytic keys halt, and stammer, and tremble, or else run into each other like ink upon blotting paper, and the pedals are the only part of the instrument which do the work for which they were intended. We should be sorry that our favourite dog had his paw between them and the lady's slipper. The dust which succeeds the concerto proves satisfactorily that it is possible to be frisky without being lively; its vulgarity is so pronounced that it offends you like low conversation. Another concerto follows—ten folio pages! whew!!——Oh, ye ebony and ivory devils! oh, for an exorcist to put you to flight! Cramped fingers are crossing each other at a great rate; we really tremble for the glue, and the pegs, and the wires, and the whole economy of the instrument, at that critical juncture when the performers arrive at a piece of mysterious notation, where a great many tadpole-looking figures are huddled together under a black rainbow. At such a "passage" as this, it seems one would think the house were on fire, and no time to be lost; the black mittens and the white now Rob-Royishly invade each other's territory; each snatches up something and carries it off, like the old marauders of the Border country; and reprisals are made, and lines of discord and dissonance are establishing, which require the police, the magistrate, and the riot act. Bravo! bravo! bravo! and the battle ceases, and the babble commences. Place for the foreign train, the performers par metier! Full of confidence are they; amidst all their smiles and obsequiousness, there is a business air about the thing. As soon as the pianist has asked the piano how it finds itself, and the piano has intimated that it is pretty well, but somewhat out of tune, a collateral fiddler and a violoncello brace up their respective nerves, compare notes, and when their drawlings and crookings are in unison, a third piece of music of indefinite duration, and as it seems to us all about nothing, begins. Our violinist is evidently not long come out, and has little to recommend him—he employs but a second-rate tailor, wears no collar, dirty mustaches, and a tight coat; he is ill at ease, poor man, wincing, pulling down his coat-sleeves, or pulling up his braces over their respective shoulders. His strings soon become moist with the finger dew of exertion and trepidation; his bow draws out nothing but groans or squeals; and so, in order to correct these visceral complaints, a piece of rosin is awkwardly produced from his trousers' pocket, and applied to the rheumatic member, with some half-dozen brisk rubs in a parenthesis of music. The effect is painfully ludicrous!——