Note: The Table of Contents and the list of illustrations were added by the transcriber.
LIPPINCOTT'S MAGAZINE OF POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE
Vol. XV, No. 86
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
FOLLOWING THE TIBER. CONCLUDING PAPER.
SIX MONTHS AMONG CANNIBALS.
AN AMERICAN GIRL AND HER LOVERS. by Mary E. Blair.
A JAPANESE MARRIAGE IN HIGH LIFE. by W.E. Griffis.
THE LOST BABY. by Clara G. Dolliver.
THREE FEATHERS. by William Black. CHAPTER XXIII. SOME OLD SONGS. CHAPTER XXIV. THE CUT DIRECT. CHAPTER XXV. NOT THE LAST WORD.
FEVER. by H.C. Wood, Jr., M.D.
SONNET. by Charlotte F. Bates.
SOME RECOLLECTIONS OF HIRAM POWERS. by T. Adolphus Trollope.
CORN. by Sidney Lanier.
GENTLEMAN DICK. by W. Mackay Laffan.
A SINGULAR FAMILY. by Clelia Lega Weeks.
THE MATCHLESS ONE: A TALE OF AMERICAN SOCIETY, IN FOUR CHAPTERS. by Ita Aniol Prokop. PROLOGUE. CHAPTER I. CHAPTER II.
THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES OF PARIS. by Lucy H. Hooper.
OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP. GYPSY MUSIC IN HUNGARY. by E.C.R. THE "GIORNO DEI MORTI." by T.A.T. MR. MILL'S MOTHER.
LITERATURE OF THE DAY.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
TEMPLE OF THE CLITUMNUS. THE FALLS OF TERNI. ORVIETO. CIVITA BAGNOREA. THE TIBER, FROM ORTE. BORGHETTO. ST. PETER'S AND THE VATICAN, FROM THE FALLS OF THE TIBER. THE CASTLE OF ST. ANGELO. ISLAND OF THE TIBER. CUPOLA OF ST. PETER'S. THE PINCIO, FROM THE VILLA BORGHESE. SORACTE. VEII, FROM THE CAMPAGNA. TIVOLI. CASTLE AT OSTIA. HEAD OF THE TRAJAN CANAL, NEAR OSTIA.
FOLLOWING THE TIBER.
One branch of the little river which encompasses Assisi is the Clitumnus, the delight of philosophers and poets in the Augustan age. Near its source stands a beautiful little temple to the divinity of the stream. Although the ancients resorted hither for the loveliness of the spot, they did not bathe in the springs, a gentle superstition holding it sacrilege for the human body to lave itself in a stream near its source.
They came by the Via Flaminia, the old high-road from Rome to Florence, which crosses the modern railroad hard by. Following its course, which takes a more direct line than the devious Tiber, past Spoleto on its woody castellated height, the traveler reaches Terni on the tumultuous Nar, the wildest and most rebellious of all the tributaries. It was to save the surrounding country from its outbreaks that the channel was made by the Romans B.C. 271, the first of several experiments which resulted in these cascades, which have been more sung and oftener painted than any other in the world. The beauty of Terni is so hackneyed that enthusiasm over it becomes cockney, yet the beauty of hackneyed things is as eternal as the verity of truisms, and no more loses its charm than the other its point. But one must not talk about it. The foaming torrent rages along between its rocky walls until spanned by the bridge of Augustus at Narni, a magnificent viaduct sixty feet high, thrown from ridge to ridge across the ravine for the passage of the Flaminian Way—a wreck now, for two of the arches have fallen, but through the last there is a glimpse of the rugged hillsides with their thick forests and the turbulent waters rushing through the chasm. Higher still is Narni, looking over her embattled walls. It is one of the most striking positions on the way from Florence to Rome, and the next half hour, through savage gorges and black tunnels, ever beside the tormented waters of the Nar until they meet the Tiber, swollen by the tributes of the Paglia and Chiana, is singularly fine.
Where the Paglia and Chiana flow together, at the issue of the charming Val di Chiana, stands Orvieto on its steep and sudden rock, crowned with one of the triumphs of Italian Gothic, the glorious cathedral. After toiling up the ladder-like paths which lead from the plain to the summit of the bluff, and passing through the grand mediaeval gateway along the slanting streets, where even the peasants dismount and walk beside their donkeys, seeing nothing within the whole small compass of the walls save what speaks of the narrowest and humblest life in the most remote of hill-fastnesses, a few deserted and dilapidated palaces alone telling of a period of importance long past, nothing can describe the effect of coming out of this indigence and insignificance upon the silent, solitary piazza where the incomparable cathedral rears its front, covered from base to pinnacle with the richest sculpture and most brilliant mosaic. The volcanic mass on which the town is built is over seven hundred feet high, and nearly half as much in circumference: it would be a fitting pedestal for this gorgeous duomo if it stood there alone. But it is almost wedged in among the crooked streets, a few paces of grass-grown stones allowing less than space enough to embrace the whole result of proportion and color: one cannot go far enough off to escape details. An account of those details would require a volume, and one has already been written which leaves no more to be said; yet fain would we take the reader with us into that noble nave, where the "glorious company of the apostles" stands colossal in marble beside the pillars whose sculptured capitals are like leafy branches blown by the wind; where the light comes rich and mellow through stained glass and semilucent alabaster, like Indian-summer sunshine in autumn woods; where Fra Angelico's and Benozzo Gozzoli's angelic host smile upon us with ineffable mildness from above the struggle and strife of Luca Signorelli's "Last Judgment," the great forerunner of Michael Angelo's. It added greatly to the impressiveness that there was never a single human being in the cathedral: except one afternoon at vespers we had it all to ourselves. There is little else to see in the place, although it is highly picturesque and the inhabitants wear a more complete costume than any other I saw in Italy—the women, bright bodices, striped skirts and red stockings; the men, jaunty jackets and breeches, peaked hats and splendid sashes.
The discomfort of Perugia was luxury to what we found at Orvieto, and it was no longer May but December, when it is nearly as cold north of Rome as with us; and Rome was drawing us with her mighty magnet. So, one wintry morning, soon after daybreak, we set out in a close carriage with four horses, wrapped as if we were going in a sleigh, with a scaldino (or little brazier) under our feet, for the nearest railway station on our route, a nine hours' drive. Our way lay through the snow-covered hills and their leafless forest, and long after we had left Orvieto behind again and again a rise in the road would bring it full in sight on its base of tufa, girt by its walls, the Gothic lines of the cathedral sharp against the clear, brightening sky. At our last look the sun was not up, but broad shafts of light, such as painters throw before the chariot of Phoebus, refracted against the pure aether, spread like a halo round the threefold pinnacles: a moment more and Orvieto was hidden behind a higher hill, not to be seen again. All day we drove among the snow-bound hills and woods, past the Lake of Bolsena in its forbidding beauty; past small valleys full of naked fruit trees and shivering olives, which must be nooks of loveliness in spring; past defiant little towns aloft on their islands of tufa, like Bagnorea with its single slender bell-tower; past Montefiascone with its good old story about Cardinal Fugger and the native wine.
We stopped to lunch at Viterbo, a town more closely connected with the history of the Papacy than any except Rome itself, and full of legends and romantic associations: it is dirty and dilapidated, and has great need of all its memories. Being but eight miles from Montefiascone, we called for a bottle of the fatal Est, which we had tasted once at Augsburg, where the host of the Three Moors has it in his cellar, in honor perhaps of the departed Fugger family, whose palace has become his hotel: there we had found it delicious—a wine as sweet as cordial, with a soul of fire and a penetrating but delicate flavor of its own—how different from the thin, sour stuff they brought us in the long-necked, straw-covered flask, nothing to attest its relationship to the generous juice at the Three Moors except the singular, unique flavor! After this little disappointment we left Viterbo, and drove on through the same sort of scenery, which seemed to grow more and more beautiful in the rosy light of the sinking sun. But it is hard to tell, for nothing makes a journey so beautiful as to know that Rome is the goal. As the last rays were flushing the hill-tops we came in sight of Orte, with its irregular lines of building clinging to the sides of its precipitous cliff in such eyrie-wise that it is difficult to say what is house and what is rock, and whether the arched passages with which it is pierced are masonry or natural grottoes; and there was the Tiber—already the yellow Tiber—winding through the valley as far as eye could follow. Here we waited for the train, which was ten minutes late, and tried to make up for lost time by leaving our luggage, all duly marked and ready, standing on the track. We soon began to greet familiar sites as we flitted by: the last we made out plainly was Borghetto, a handful of houses, with a ruined castle keeping watch on a hill hard by: then twilight gathered, and we strained our eyes in vain for the earliest glimpse of Mount Soracte, and night came down before we could descry the first landmarks of the Agro Romano, the outposts of our excursions, the farm-towers we knew by name, the farthest fragments of the aqueducts. But it was not so obscure that we could not discern the Tiber between his low banks showing us the way, the lights quivering in the Anio as the train rushed over the bridge; and when at length we saw against the clear night-sky a great dark barrier stretching right and left, we knew that the walls of Rome were once more before us: in a moment we had glided through with slackening speed, and her embrace enfolded us again.
The Tiber, winding as it does like a great artery through the heart of Rome, is seldom long either out of sight or mind. One constantly comes upon it in the most unexpected manner, for there is no river front to the city. There is a wide open space on the Ripetta—a street which runs from the Piazza del Popolo, at the head of the foreign quarter, to remoter parts—where a broad flight of marble steps descends to the level of the flood, and a ferry crosses to the opposite bank: looking over at the trees and fields, it is like the open country, yet beyond are St. Peter's and the Vatican, and the whole of what is known as the Leonine City. But one cannot follow the Tiber through the streets of Rome as one may the Seine in Paris: in the thickly-built quarters the houses back upon the stream and its yellow waves wash their foundations, working wrath and woe from time to time, as those who were there in the winter of 1870 will recollect. Sometimes it is lost to sight for half a mile together, unless one catches a glimpse of it through the carriage-way of a palace. From the wharf of the Ripetta it disappears until you come upon it again at the bridge of St. Angelo, the AElian bridge of ancient Rome, which is the most direct passage from the fashionable and foreign quarter to the Trastevere. It must be confessed that the idle sense of mere pleasure generally supersedes recollection and association after one's first astonishment to find one's self among the historic places subsides; yet how often, as our horses' hoofs rang on the slippery stones, my thoughts went suddenly back to the scene when Saint Gregory passed over, chanting litanies, at the head of the whole populace, who formed one vast penitential procession, and saw the avenging angel alight on the mausoleum of Adrian and sheath his sword in sign that the plague was stayed; or to that terrible day when the ferocious mercenaries of the Constable de Bourbon and the wretched inhabitants given over to sack and slaughter swarmed across together, butchering and butchered, while the troops in the castle hurled down what was left of its classic statues upon the heads of friend and foe, and the Tiber was turned to blood!
From the bridge of St. Angelo the river is lost again for a long distance, although one can make one's way to it at various points—where at low water the submerged piers of the Pons Triumphalis are to be seen, where the Ponte Sisto leads to the foot of the Janiculum Hill, and on the opposite bank the orange-groves of the Farnesina palace hang their golden fruit and dusky foliage over the long garden-wall upon the river—until we come to the Ponte Quatro Capi (Bridge of the Four Heads) and the island of the Tiber. This is said to have been formed in the kingly period by the accumulation of a harvest cast into the stream a little way above, which the current could not sweep away: it made a nucleus for alluvial deposit, and the island gradually arose. Several hundred years afterward it was built into the form of a ship, as bridges and wharves are built, with a temple in the midst, and a tall obelisk set up in guise of its mast. In mediaeval days a church replaced the heathen fane, and now it stands between its two bridges, a huddle of houses, terraces and gardens, whence one looks down on the fine mass of the Ponte Rotto (Broken Bridge), whose shattered arches pause in mid-stream, and across to the low arch of the Cloaca Maxima and the exquisite little circular temple of Vesta. From here down, the river is in full view from either side until it passes beyond the walls near the Monte Testaccio—on one side the Ripa Grande (Great Bank or Wharf), a long series of quays, on the other the Marmorata or marble landing, where the ships from the quarries unload. Here, on each side, all sorts of small craft lie moored, not betokening a very extensive commerce from their size and shape, but quaint and oddly rigged, making a very good fore-or back-ground, according as one looks at the picture. The Marmorata is at the foot of the Aventine, the most lonely and unvisited of the Seven Hills. From among the vegetable-gardens and cypress-groves which clothe its long flank rise large, formless piles, whose foundations are as old as the Eternal City, and whose superstructures are the wreck of temples of the kingly and republican periods, and palaces and villas of imperial times, and haughty feudal abodes, only to be distinguished from one another by the antiquary amid their indiscriminate ruin and the tangle of wild-briers and fern, ivy and trailers with which they are overgrown. On the summit no trace of ancient Rome is to be seen. There are no dwellings of men on this deserted ground: a few small and very early Christian churches have replaced the temples which once stood here, to be in their turn neglected and forsaken: they stand forlornly apart, separated by vineyards and high blank walls. On the brow of the hill is the esplanade of a modern fort, and within its quiet precincts are the church and priory of the Knights of Malta—nothing but a chapel and small villa as abandoned as the rest. After toiling up a steep and narrow lane between two walls, our carriage stopped at a solid wooden gateway, and the coachman told us to get out and look through the keyhole. We were aghast, but he insisted, laughing and nodding; so we pocketed our pride and peeped. Through an overarching vista of dark foliage was seen, white and golden in a blaze of sunshine, the cupola of St. Peter's, which is at the farthest end of the city, two miles at the least as the crow flies. When the gate was opened we entered a sweet little garden full of violets, traversed by an alley of old ilex trees, through which appeared the noble dome, and which led from the gate to a terrace overhanging the Tiber—I will not venture to guess how far below—more like two than one hundred feet; perhaps still farther. On the edge of the terrace was an arbor, and here we sank down enchanted, to drink in the view of the city, which spread out under our eyes as we had never seen it from any other point. But the custodino's wife urged us to come into the Priorato and see the view from the upper story. We followed her, reluctant to leave the sunshine and soft air, up a stiff winding staircase, through large, dark, chilly, long-closed apartments, until we reached the top, where there was a great square room occupying the whole floor. She flung open the windows, and never did such a panorama meet my eyes. There were windows on every side: to the north, one looked across the city to St. Peter's, the Vatican, the Castle of St. Angelo, the Tiber with its great bends and many bridges, and to lonely, far-away Soracte; westward, on the other side of the river, rose the Janiculum with its close-wedged houses, grade on grade, and on its summit the church of San Pietro in Montorio and the flashing cataract of the Acqua Paola fountain, the stone-pines of the Villa Dolia cresting the ridge above; eastward, the Palatine, a world of ruins in a world of gardens, lay between us and the Coliseum, and over them and the wall, the aqueducts, the plain, the eye ranged to the snow-capped Sabine Hills, on whose many-colored declivities tiny white towns were dotted like browsing sheep; southward, we gazed down upon the Pyramid of Cestius, upon the beautiful Protestant cemetery with its white monuments and dark cypresses where lie Shelley and Keats, upon the stately Porta San Paolo, a great mediaeval gateway flanked with towers, and beyond, the Campagna, purple, violet, ultramarine, oceanic, rolling out toward the Alban Hills, which glittered with snow, rising sharply like island-peaks and sloping down like promontories into the plain; and over all the sun and sky and shadows of Italy.
The prospect from the Priorato surpasses anything in Rome—even the wonderful view from the Janiculum, even the enchanting outlook from the Pincian Hill. But the last was at our very doors: we could go thither in the morning to watch the white mist curl up from the valleys and hang about the mountain-brows, and at noon, when even in January the cool avenues and splashing fountains were grateful, and at sunset, when the city lay before us steeped in splendor. That was the view of our daily walks—the beloved view of which one thinks most often and fondly in remembering Rome.
But it is in riding that one grows to feel most familiar with the Tiber and all his Roman children, whether it be strolling somewhat sulkily in a line with his banks by the Via Flaminia or the Via Cassia, impatient to get away from their stones and dust to the soft, springing turf; or hailing him from afar as a guide after losing one's self in the endless undulations of the open country; or cantering over daffodil-sheeted meadows beside the Anio at the foot of the grassy heights on which Antemnae stood; or threading one's way doubtfully among the ravines which intersect the course of the little Cremera as one goes to Veii. The last is a most beautiful and interesting expedition, for, what with the distance—more than twelve miles—and the difficulty of finding the way, it is quite an enterprise. As one turns his horse's head away from the river, off the high-road, to the high grassy flats, the whole Campagna seems to lie before one like a vast table-land, with nothing between one's self and Soracte as he lifts his heavy shoulder from the plain—not half hidden by intervening mountains, as from some points of view, but majestic and isolated, thirty miles away to the north. But here, as in every other part of the Campagna, one cannot go far without finding hillocks and hollows, long steep slopes and sudden little dells, and, stranger still, unsuspected tracts of woodland, for the general effect of the Roman landscape is quite treeless. So there is a few miles' gallop across the trackless turf, sometimes asking the way of a solitary shepherd, who looms up against the sky like a tower, sometimes following it by faint landmarks, few and far between, of which we have been told, and hard to find in that waste, until we pass a curious little patriarchal abode shaped like a wigwam, where, in the midst of these wide pastures dwells a herdsman surrounded by his family, his cattle, his dogs, his goats and his fowls—the beautiful animals of the Campagna, long-haired, soft-eyed, rich-colored, like the human children of the soil. Then we strike the Cremera, and exploring begins among its rocky gullies, up and down which the spirited, sure-footed horses scramble like chamois. Thick woods of cork-oak clothe their sides, and copses of a deciduous tree which I never saw in its summer dress of green, but which keeps its dead leaves all through the winter, a full suit of soft, pale brown contrasting with the dark evergreens. Among these woods grow all the wild-flowers of the long Roman spring from January to May—flowers that I never saw in bloom at the same time anywhere else. On banks overcanopied by faded boughs nodded myriads of snowdrops; farther on we held our horses' heads well up as they slipped, almost sitting, down the damp rocky clefts of a gorge whose sides were purple with violets, mingling their delicious odor, the sweetest and most sentimental of perfumes, with the fresh, geranium-like scent of the cyclamen, which here and there flung back its delicate pinkish petals like one amazed: then came acres of anemones—not our pale wind-shaken flower, but brave asters of half a dozen superb kinds. Up and down these passes we forced our way through interlacing branches, which drooped too low, until we had crossed the ridges on either side the Cremera, and gained the valley at the head of which is Isola Farnese, the rock-fortress supposed to occupy the site of the citadel of Etruscan Veii. It is not really an island, in spite of its name; only a bold peninsula, round whose base two rivulets flow and nearly meet. It is called a village, and so it is, with quite a population, but the great courtyard of the fifteenth-century castle contains them all, and the huts, pig-pens, kennels and coops which they seem to inhabit indiscriminately. Except where the bluff overlooks the valley, everything is closed and shut in by rocks and gorges, through one of which a lovely waterfall drips from a covert of boughs and shrubbery and wreathing ferns and creepers into a little stream, which with musical clamor rushes at a picturesque old mill: through another the road from the castle passes through a narrow issue to the outer world. And this stranded and shipwrecked fortress in the midst of so wild a scene is all that exists to mark where Veii stood, the powerful city which kept Rome at bay for ten years, and fell at length by stratagem! Its site was forgotten for nearly two thousand years, but in this century the discovery of some tombs revealed the secret.
The scenery differs entirely on different sides of Rome. Here there is not a ruin, not a vestige, except a few low heaps of stone-or brickwork hidden by weeds: on the other, toward Tivoli, much of the beauty is due to the work of man—the stately remnants of ancient aqueduct, temple and tomb; the tall square towers of feudal barons, round which cluster low farm-buildings scarcely less old and solid; the vast, gloomy grottoes of Cerbara, which look like the underground palace of a bygone race, but which are the tufa-quarries of classic times; the ruined baths of Zenobia, where the rushing milky waters of the Aquae Albulae fill the air with sulphurous fumes; and, as a climax, the Villa of Hadrian, less a country-place than a whole region, a town-in-country, with palace, temples, circus, theatres, baths amidst a tract of garden and pleasure-ground ten miles in circumference. Even when one is familiar with the enormous height and bulk of the Coliseum or the Baths of Caracalla, the extent of the ruins of Hadrian's Villa is overwhelming. Numerous fragments are still standing, graceful and elegant, but a vast many more are buried deep under turf and violets and fern: large cypresses and ilexes have struck root among their stones, and they form artificial hills and vales and great wide plateaus covered with herbage and shrubbery, hardly to be distinguished from the natural accidents of the land. The solitude is as immense as the space. After leaving our carriage we wandered about for hours, sometimes lying in the sunshine at the edge of a great grassy terrace which commands the Campagna and the Agro Romano—beyond whose limits we had come—to where, like a little bell, St. Peter's dome hung faint and blue upon the horizon; sometimes exploring the innumerable porticoes and galleries, and replacing in fancy the Venus de Medici, the Dancing Faun, and all the other shapes of beauty which once occupied these ravished pedestals and niches; sometimes rambling about the flowery fields, and up and down among the hillocks and dells, meeting no one, until at length, when completely bewildered and lost, we fell in with a rustic belonging to the estate, who guided us back. We left the place with the sense of having been in a separate realm, another country, belonging to another age. The whole of that visit to Tivoli was like a dream. The sun was sinking when we left the precincts of the villa, and twilight stole upon us, wrapping all the landscape on which we looked back in softer folds of shade, and resolving its features into large, calm masses, as the horses labored up the narrow, stony road into a mysterious wood of gigantic olives, gnarled, twisted and rent as no other tree could be and live. The scene was wild and weird in the dying light, and it grew almost savage as we wound upward among the robber-haunted hills. Night had fallen before we reached the mountain-town. Our coachman dashed through the dark slits of streets, where it seemed as if our wheels must strike the houses on each side, cracking his whip and jingling the bells of the harness. Under black archways sat groups of peasants, their swart visages lit up from below by the glow of a brazier, while a flaring torch stuck through a ring overhead threw fierce lights and shadows across the scene. Sharp cries and shouts like maledictions rose as we passed, and as we turned into the little square on which the inn stands we wondered in what sort of den we should have to lodge. We followed our host of the little Albergo della Regnia up the steep stone staircase with many misgivings: he flung open a door, and we beheld a carpeted room, all furnished and hung with pink chintz covered with cupids and garlands. There were sofas, low arm-chairs, a writing-table with appurtenances, a tea-table with snowy linen and a hissing brass tea-kettle. Opening from this were two little white nests of bed-rooms, with tin bath-tubs and an abundance of towels. We could not believe our eyes: here were English comfort and French taste. Were we in May Fair or the Rue de Rivoli? Or was it a fairy-tale?
The fairy-tale went on next day, when, after wending our way through the dirty, crooked little streets, we crossed a courtyard and descended a long subterranean stairway to emerge on a magnificent terrace with a heavy marble balustrade, whence flights of steps led down to lower grades, amid statues, urns, vases, fountains, reservoirs, camellias in bloom mingled with laurel and myrtle and laurustinums covered with creamy flowers, cypresses tall as cathedral spires, ilex avenues, and broad straight walks between huge walls of box: the whole space was filled with the song of nightingales, the tinkle of falling water, with whiffs of aromatic shrubs and the breath of hidden roses and violets;—a princely garden, a royal pleasaunce, but in exquisite disorder and neglect; the shrubbery too thick and straggling, the flowers straying beyond their rightful boundaries, the statues stained and moss-grown, the balusters entangled in clinging luxuriance, the fountains dripping through fern and maiden-hair—Nature supreme, as one always sees her in this land of Art. It was the Villa d'Este, famous these three hundred years for its fountains and cypresses. Nor did the wonder cease when we forsook this enchanting spot for the mountain-road which overhangs the great ravine. Opposite, backed by mountains, rose the crags topped by the clustering town and all its towers, arches, niches, battlements, bridges, long lines of classic ruins, and on the edge of the abyss the perfect little temple of the Sibyl; rushing down from everywhere the waterfalls, one great column plunging at the head of the gorge, and countless frolic streams, the cascatelle, leaping and dancing from rock to rock through mist and rainbow and extravagance of emerald moss and herbage, down among sea-green, silvery olives, finally sliding away, between softer foliage and verdure, through the valley into the plain—the immense azure plain, with its grand symphonic harmonies of form and color. O land of dreams fulfilled, of satisfied longing! when across these thousands of miles I recall your entrancing charm, your unimaginable beauty, I sometimes wonder if you were not a dream, if you have any place in this real existence, this lower earth: are you still delighting other eyes with the rapture of your loveliness, or were you only an illusion, a vision, which vanishes like the glow of sunset or "golden exhalations of the dawn "?
The Campagna has one more aspect, different from all the rest, where the Tiber, weary with his long wanderings, rolls lazily to the sea. It is a dreary waste of swamp and sandhill and scrub growth, but with a forlorn beauty of its own, and the beauty of color, never absent in Italy. The tall, coarse grass and reeds pass through a series of vivid tones, culminating in tawny gold and deep orange, against which the silver-fretted violet blue-green of the Mediterranean assumes a magical splendor. Small, shaggy buffaloes with ferocious eyes, and sometimes a peasant as wild-looking as they, are the only inhabitants of this wilderness. The machicolated towers of Castel Fusano among its grand stone-pines stand up from the marshes, and farther seaward another castle with a single pine; but they only enhance the surrounding loneliness. Ostia, the ancient port, which sea and river have both deserted, is now a city of the dead, a Pompeii above ground, whose avenues of tombs lead to streets of human dwellings more desolate still. It is no longer by Ostia, nor even by the Tiber, that one can reach the sea: the way was choked by sand and silt seventeen centuries ago, and Trajan caused the canal to be made which bears his name; and this is still the outlet from Rome to the Mediterranean, while the river expires among the pestilential marshes.
SIX MONTHS AMONG CANNIBALS.
Perhaps as good an illustration of the purely absurd (according to civilized notions) as can be imagined is a congregation of cannibals in a missionary church weeping bitterly over the story of Calvary. Fresh from their revolting feasts upon the flesh of their conquered enemies, these gentle savages weep over the sufferings of One separated from them by race, by distance, by almost every conceivable lack of the conditions for natural sympathy, and by over eighteen hundred years of time! Surely there must be hope for people who manifest such sensibility, and we may fairly question whether cannibalism be necessarily the sign of the lowest human degradation. A good deal of light is thrown upon the subject by the writings of the young engineer, Jules Garnier, who was lately charged by the French minister of the interior with a mission of exploration in New Caledonia, the Pacific island discovered by Captain Cook just one hundred years ago, and ceded to the French in 1853.
It is about three hundred and sixty miles from Sydney to New Caledonia, a long, narrow island lying just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and completely surrounded by belts of coral reef crenellated here and there, and forming channels or passes where ships may enter. Navigation through these channels is, however, exceedingly hazardous in any but calm weather; and it was formerly thought that the island was on this account practically valueless for colonization. Once inside them, however, vessels may anchor safely anywhere, for there is in effect a continuous roadstead all around the island. The passage through the narrow pass of Dumbea, just outside of Noumea, affords a striking spectacle. On each side of the ship is a wall of foam, and the reverberating thunder of the waves dashing and breaking upon the jagged reefs keeps the mind in breathless suspense.
The site of Noumea seems to be the most unfortunate that could be chosen. It is a barren, rocky spot, divested of all luxuriance of vegetation, and the nearest water, a brook called Pont des Francais, is ten miles away. The appearance of the town, which fronts the harbor in the form of an amphitheatre, the houses and gardens rising higher and higher as they recede from the sea, tended somewhat to reassure the explorer, who had been wondering that human stupidity should have been equal to selecting in a tropical country, and in one of the best-watered islands of the world, such a situation for its capital. Wells are of little account, for the water thus obtained is at the level of the sea, and always salt. The population has to depend upon the rain that falls on roofs, and as the cleanliness of these is of prime importance, domesticating pigeons is strictly forbidden. This might not be much of a deprivation in most places, but in New Caledonia, of all the world, there is a kind of giant pigeon as large as a common hen! This is the noton, (sic) the Carpophage Goliath of the naturalist.
The hotel at Noumea was a kind of barracks, with partitions so slight that every guest was forced to hear every sound in his neighbors' rooms. M. Garnier, to escape this inconvenience, purchased a garden-plot, had a cottage built in a few days, and so became a proprietor in Oceanica. Before setting out on his exploring expedition into the interior he tried to interest the government in a plan for cisterns to supply the city with water—a project easy of execution from the natural conformation of the locality. But his scheme received no encouragement from the old-fogyish authorities. They were at that moment entertaining one which for simplicity reminded Garnier of the egg problem of Columbus. This was to distill the sea-water. He made a calculation of the cost of thus supplying each of the sixteen hundred inhabitants with five quarts of water a day, which showed that the proposition was impracticable under the circumstances.
From the showing of official accounts, this French colony of New Caledonia must be one of the most absurd that exists. The military and naval force far exceeds in number the whole civil population; and this, too, when the natives are quiet and submissive, few in number, and fast dying out through the inordinate use of the worst kind of tobacco, pulmonary consumption and other concomitants of civilization not necessary to enumerate. Contrast this with the rich and populous province of Victoria, which has only three hundred and fifty soldiers; with Brisbane, which has only sixteen to a population of one hundred thousand; and finally Tasmania, which has only seven soldiers for two hundred thousand colonists!
It was believed formerly that New Caledonia was rich in gold-mines, and the principal object of the expedition of M. Garnier was to discover these. After one or two short excursions in the neighborhood of Noumea he set out on an eight months' journey through the entire eastern portion of the island. The plan which he adopted was to double the southern extremity of the island, sail up the eastern coast between the reefs and the mainland, as is the custom, stopping at the principal stations and making long excursions into the interior, accompanied by a guard of seven men. This plan he carried out, though some parts of the country to be explored were inhabited by tribes that had seldom or never seen a European. His testimony as to the almost unexceptionable kindness of the natives, cannibals though they are, must be gratifying to those who accept the doctrine of the brotherhood of man. Of the natives near Balarde he says: "The moment you land all offer to guide your steps, and in every way they can to satisfy your needs. Do you wish to hunt? A native is ever ready to show you the marsh where ducks most abound. Are you hungry or thirsty? They fly to the cocoanut plantation with the agility of monkeys. If a swamp or a brook stops your course, the shoulders of the first comer are ever ready to carry you across. If it rains, they run to bring banana-leaves or make you a shelter of bark. When night comes they light your way with resinous torches, and finally, when you leave them, you read in their faces signs of sincere regret."
Captain Cook, in his eulogies of these gentle savages, probably never dreamed that they were anthropophagi, and if he had known the fact, his kindly nature would have found some extenuation for them. Cannibals, as a rule—certainly those of New Caledonia—do not eat each other indiscriminately. For example, they dispose of their dead with tender care, though they despatch with their clubs even their best friends when dying; but this is with them a religious duty. They only eat their enemies when they have killed them in battle. This also, in their code of morals, appears to be a duty. Toussenel, in his Zooelogie Passionelle, has a kind word even for these savages: "Let us pity the cannibal, and not blame him too severely. We who boast of our refined Christian civilization murder men by tens of thousands from motives less excusable than hunger. The crime lies not in roasting our dead enemy, but in killing him when he wishes to live."
During M. Garnier's expedition he met the chief Onime, once the head of a powerful tribe, now old and dispossessed of his power through the revolt of his tribe some years previous. At that time a price had been put upon his head, and he took refuge in the mountains. There was no sign of discouragement or cruelty in his manners, but his face expressed a bitter and profound sorrow. There was not a pig or a chicken on his place—for he would have nothing imported by the papales, or Europeans—but he gave his guests a large quantity of yams, for which he would accept no return except a little tobacco. When, however, Garnier tied a pretty crimson handkerchief about the head of Onime's child, who danced for joy at the possession of such a treasure, the old chief was visibly moved, and gave his hand to the stranger. Two years later this old man, being suspected of complicity in the assassination of a colonist, was arrested, bound in chains and thrown into a dungeon. Three times he broke his chains and escaped, and each time was recaptured. He was then transported to Noumea. M. Garnier happened to be on the same ship. The condition of the old man was pitiful. Deep wounds, exposing the bones, were worn into his wrists and ankles in his attempts to free himself from his chains. Three days later he died, and on a subsequent examination of facts M. Garnier became convinced that Onime was innocent of the crime charged against him. On the ship he recognized Garnier, and accepted from him a little tobacco. Tobacco is more coveted by these people than anything else in the world, and the stronger it is the better. The child almost as soon as he can walk will smoke in an old pipe the poisonous tobacco furnished specially for the natives, which is so strong that it makes the most inveterate European smoker ill. "Gin and brandy have been introduced successfully," but the natives as a rule make horrible grimaces in drinking them, and invariably drink two or three cups of water immediately to put out the fire, as they say.
These natives speak a kind of "pigeon English." It would be pigeon French, doubtless, had their first relations been with the French instead of the English. The government has now stopped the sale of spirituous liquors to the natives, and recommended the chiefs to forbid their subjects smoking until a certain age, but no precautions yet taken have had much influence upon their physical condition. They are rapidly dying out. The most prevalent disease is pulmonary consumption, which they declare has been given them by the Europeans. Fewer and fewer children are born every year, and in the tribes about Pooebo and some others these are almost all males. Here is a curious fact for scientists. Is not the cause to be found in the deteriorated physical condition of the women? Mary Trist, in her careful and extensive experimentation with butterfly grubs, has shown that by generous feeding these all develop into females, while by starving males only appear.
M. Garnier believes that the principal cause of the deterioration and decay of the natives in New Caledonia is the terrible tobacco that is furnished to them. "Everybody pays for any service from the natives in this poison." A missionary once asked a native convert why he had not attended mass. "Because you don't give me any tobacco," replied this hopeful Christian. To him, as to many others, says M. Garnier, going to church means working for the missionary, just as much as digging in his garden, and he therefore expects remuneration. The young girls in regions where there are missions established all wear chaplets, for they are good Catholics after a fashion, and generally refuse to marry pagans. This operates to bring the young men under the religious yoke. Self-interest is their strong motive generally. The missionary makes them understand the value of his counsel in their tribes. It means their raising cocoanuts for their oil, flocks of chickens and droves of hogs, for all of which they can obtain pipes, quantities of tobacco, a gun, and gaudy-colored cottons. When the chiefs find that their power is gradually passing from them into the hands of the missionaries, they only smoke more poisonous tobacco, expose themselves all the more to the weather through the cheap fragmentary dress they have adopted, and so the ravages of consumption are accelerated. Pious Christian women, who have always given freely of their store to missionary causes, begin to see that the results are not commensurate with their sacrifices—that their charity, even their personal work among heathens, teaching them to read and write and study the catechism, to cover their bodies with dress and to love the arts of civilization, can avail little against the rum, tobacco and nameless maladies legally or illegally introduced with Christianity.
During one of M. Garnier's excursions into the interior he came across one of the sacred groves where the natives bury their dead, if hanging them up in trees can be so designated. His guides all refused to accompany him, fearing to excite the anger of the manes of their ancestors. He therefore entered the high grove alone. Numerous corpses, enveloped in carefully-woven mats and then bound in a kind of basket, were suspended from the branches of the trees. Some of these were falling in pieces, and the ground was strewn with whitened bones. It seems strange that this form of burial should be chosen in a country where at least once a year there occurs a terrible cyclone that destroys crops, unroofs houses, uproots trees, and often sends these basket-caskets flying with the cocoanuts through the air.
In New Caledonia there are no ferocious beasts, and the largest animal is a very rare bird which the natives call the kagon. When, therefore, they saw the English eating the meat from beef bones they inferred that these were the bones of giants, and naively inquired how they were captured and what weapons of war they used. The confidence and admiration of these children of Nature are easily gained, and under such circumstances they talk freely and delight in imparting all the information they possess. Among one of the tribes near Balarde, M. Garnier noticed a young woman of superior beauty, and made inquiries about her. This was Iarat, daughter of the chief Oundo. The hornlike protuberances on her head were two "scarlet flowers, which were very becoming in her dark hair."
This poor little woman had a history. It is told in a few words: her father sold her to the captain of a trading-vessel for a cask of brandy. The "extenuating circumstances" in this case are that Oundo had been invited on board the captain's ship, plied with brandy, and when nearly drunk assented to the shameless bargain. When Oundo became sober he repented of his act, and the more bitterly because the young girl was betrothed to the young chief of a neighboring tribe. But he had given his word, and was as great a moral coward as many of his betters are, who think that honor may be preserved by dishonor. Nearly every coaster has a native woman on board—some poor girl of low extraction, or some orphan left to the mercy of her chief and sold for a hatchet or a few yards of tawdry calico; but the daughters of chiefs are not thus delivered over to the lusts of Europeans. The case of Iarat was an exception. These coasters' wives, if such they may be called, are said to be very devoted mothers and faithful servants. All day long they may be seen managing the rudder or cooking in the narrow kitchen on deck.
The vessel in the service of M. Garnier left him at Balarde, near the north-eastern extremity of the island, but, having determined to explore farther north, he applied to Oundo, who furnished him with a native boat or canoe and two men for the expedition. In this boat were stowed the camping and exploring apparatus and cooking utensils, and three of his men, who were too fatigued by late excursions to follow Garnier on foot. The canoe was not very large, and this freight sunk it very low in the water; yet as the sea was perfectly calm, no danger was apprehended until, a slight breeze springing up, a sail was hoisted. The shore-party continued their course, exploring, digging, breaking minerals, etc., generally in sight of the canoe, which M. Garnier watched with some anxiety. Suddenly, Poulone, his faithful native guide, exclaimed, "Captain, the pirogue sinks!" There was no time to be lost, for one of the men could not swim at all, and the other two but indifferently. Fortunately, the trunk of a tree was found near the water, some paddles were improvised, and this primitive kind of boat was quickly afloat, with the captain and Poulone on board. The canoe was some rods from the shore, but the three men were picked up, having been supported meanwhile by their dark companions. The latter did not swim ashore, but the moment they were relieved from their charges, and without a word, set about getting the canoe afloat. As to the cargo, it was all in plain sight, but more than twenty feet under the limpid water. This was a great misfortune. Some of the instruments were valuable, and could not be replaced. If not recovered, the expedition to the north of the island must be abandoned. In this strait Garnier despatched a messenger back to Oundo, asking the old chief to come to the rescue with all his tribe. "I did not count in vain," says he, "upon the generosity of this man, for very soon I saw him approach, followed by the young people of his tribe." He listened to the recital of the misfortune with every sign of sympathy.
"Oundo," said M. Garnier, "I expect that you will once more show your well-tried friendship for the French people by rendering me a great service. Do you think you can recover these things for me?"
"Oundo will try," replied the chief simply. He then addressed his people and gave his commands. In a moment, and with a loud cry of approbation and good-will, they dashed into the water and swam out to the scene of disaster.
It is a fine sight to see these natives of Oceanica, the best swimmers in the world, darting under the water like bronze tritons. They generally swim beneath the surface, coming up from time to time to breathe, and shaking the water from their thick curly hair. M. Garnier followed the natives on the log that had served as a lifeboat, and to encourage them by example undressed and threw himself into the water. The work commenced. Twenty or thirty feet is not much of a dive for a South Sea Islander. Every minute the divers brought up some object with a shout of triumph. They were in their element, and so spiritedly did they undertake the task that women, and even the children, dived to the bottom and constantly brought up some small object. The three guns of the men, their trappings, the heavy box of zoological specimens, all the instruments, were brought up in succession. Even the sole cooking-pot of the expedition and the tin plates were recovered. The work occupied some six hours. M. Garnier thanked the chief and his brave people, who when the work was finished returned to their huts as quietly as they came. And this chief was the man who had sold his daughter for a keg of brandy!
Another chief, named Bourarte, the head of a great tribe near Hienguene, deserves a few words. He was a chief of very superior experience and intelligence. He had studied civilization diligently, enjoyed the society of Europeans and knew that his people were barbarians. His story is a most touching one. He said: "I always loved the English. They treated me as a chief, and paid me honestly for all they received. One day I consented to go with them to their great city of Sydney. It was there that I learned the weakness of my people. I was well received everywhere, but I longed to return. It was with pleasure that I saw again our mountains and heard the joyful cries of welcome from my tribe. About that time your people came. I paid little attention to them at first, but because one of my men killed a Kanacka who was a protege of the missionaries there came a great ship (the Styx) into my port. The captain sent for me. I went on board without fear, but my confidence was betrayed. I was made a prisoner and transported to Tahiti. It was six years before I saw my tribe again: they had already mourned me as dead. I will tell you what happened in my absence. My people prepared for vengeance: the French were apprised of the fact. They came again. And as my people, filled with curiosity, flocked to the shore, the French fired their cannon into the crowd. My people were frightened and fled into the woods. Your soldiers landed, and for three days they burned our huts, destroyed our plantations and cut down our cocoa trees. And all this time," added the old chief with a heavy sigh, "I was a prisoner at Tahiti, braiding baskets to gain a little food, and the grief that I suffered whitened my head before the time."
After a long pause, during which the old Bourarte seemed lost in thought, he said, "It is true that my people revenged themselves. They killed a good many, and among them one of your chiefs. What is most strange about this war is, that three English colonists, who lived peacefully among us by their commerce and fishing, were taken by the French and shot. Another Englishman, Captain Paddon, to whom I had sold many a cargo of sandal-wood, on learning the fate of his compatriots, fled on board a little boat with one Kanacka and a few provisions, got out to sea, and, as I have been told, actually gained the port of Sydney." This, it seems, is a historical fact. It was a boat without a deck, and the distance is three hundred and sixty marine miles!
The result of the exploring mission of M. Garnier was not a discovery of gold-mines, as so many had hoped. He is of the opinion that gold deposits are scarce in the island. His report of the natives is on the whole favorable, and confirms the testimony of missionaries and others, that they are superior savages, easily civilized and Christianized, but from some cause or combination of causes fast dying out before the advance of civilization. In some respects they are less rude than other South Sea Islanders, but they treat their women in much the same way. M. Garnier gives us a photograph of a New Caledonia family on the road, the head of the family, a big, stolid brute apparently, burdened only with his club, while his wife staggers along under the combined load of sugar-canes, yams, dried fishes and other provisions.
A more revolting, but also, happily, a far rarer sight, was that of a cannibal banquet, of which M. Garnier was a concealed witness. The scene was a thicket in the wildest portion of the country, and only the chiefs of the tribe, which had just gained a victory over its enemies, took part in the feast. A blazing fire threw its bright glare on a dozen figures seated around huge banana-leaves, on which were spread the smoking viands of the diabolical repast. A disgusting odor was wafted toward the spot where our Frenchman and his companions lay perdu, enchained by a horrible fascination which produced the sensation of nightmare. Directly in front of them was an old chief with long white beard and wrinkled skin, who gnawed a head still covered with the singed hair. Thrusting a pointed stick into the eye-sockets, he contrived to extract a portion of the brain, afterward placing the skull in the hottest part of the fire, and thus separating the bones to obtain a wider aperture. The click of a trigger close to his ear recalled M. Garnier to his senses, and arresting the arm of his sergeant, who, excited to indignation, had brought his musket to his shoulder, he hurried from a scene calculated, beyond all others, to thrill the nerves and curdle the blood of a civilized spectator.
AN AMERICAN GIRL AND HER LOVERS.
In the spring of 1869 I was induced, for the sake of rest and recreation, to take charge of a young American girl during a tour in Europe. This young girl was Miss Helen St. Clair of Detroit, Michigan. We two were by no means strangers. She had been my pupil since the time when she was the prettiest little creature that ever wore a scarlet hood. I have a little picture, scarlet hood and all, that I would not exchange for the most beautiful one that Greuze ever painted. Not that her face bore any resemblance to the pictures of Greuze. It had neither the sweet simplicity of the girl in "The Broken Pitcher," nor the sentimental graces which he bestows on his court beauties. It was an exceedingly piquant, animated face, never at rest, always kindling, flashing, gleaming, whether with sunlight or lightning. Her movements were quick and darting, like those of a humming-bird. Her enunciation, though perfectly distinct, was marvelously rapid. The same quickness characterized her mental operations. Her conclusions, right or wrong, were always instantaneous. Her prompt decisiveness, her talent for mimicry and her witchery of grace and beauty won her a devoted following of school-girls, to whom her tastes and opinions were as authoritative as ever were those of Eugenie to the ladies of her court. School-girls, like college-boys, are very apt in nicknames, and Helen's was the "Little Princess," which her pretty, imperious ways made peculiarly appropriate.
I do not know how her parents dared trust her to me for a year beyond the sea, but they did. We set off in high enthusiasm, and Helen was full of mirth and laughter till we were fairly on board the steamer in New York harbor, when she threw herself on her father's breast with a gesture of utter abandonment that would have made the fortune of a debutante on any stage in the world. It was so unlooked-for that we all broke down, and Mr. St. Clair was strongly inclined to take her home with him. But so sudden was she in all her moods that his foot had scarcely touched the shore before she was again radiant with anticipation.
I will not linger on the pleasant summer travel, the Rhine majesty, the Alpine glory. September saw us established in the city of cities—Paris. Everywhere we had met throngs of Americans. Neighbors from over the way in our own city greeted us warmly in most unexpected places. But we had not crossed the ocean merely to see our own countrymen. In Paris we were determined to eschew hotels and pensions and to become the inmates of a French home. Everybody told us this would be impossible, but I find nothing so stimulating as the assertion that a thing can't be done. Two weeks of eager inquiry, and we were received into a family which could not have been more to our wish if it had been created expressly for us. It was that of Monsieur Le Fort, a professor in the Medical College, a handsome elderly man with the bit of red ribbon coveted by Frenchmen in his buttonhole. Madame Le Fort, a charming, graceful woman midway between thirty and forty, and a pretty daughter of seventeen, completed the family. With great satisfaction we took possession of the pretty rooms, all white and gold, that overlooked the Rond Point des Champs Elysees.
My little princess had found a prince in her own country, and, considering the laws of attraction, his sudden appearance in Paris ought not to have been a surprise to her. But, to his discomfiture, and even anger, Helen refused to see him. She had bidden him good-bye at home, she said; they would not be married for three years, if they ever were: she was going to devote herself to her music; and she did not wish to see him here. When he had completed his studies and their engagement was announced (it was only a mutual understanding now) there would be time enough to see each other at home. Excellent reasoning! but a fortnight later a tiny hand slipped between my eyes and the Figaro a little note on which I read:
"DEAR FRED: I think I should like to say good-bye again.
The dark eyes looked half shyly, half coaxingly into mine.
"Well," said I, "Katrine will mail it for you."
The next day I saw for the first time Mr. Frederic Denham. He was tall and slender; with a sallow complexion, rather dull gray eyes and black hair, by no means handsome, but sufficiently well-looking to please a friendly eye. In his manners there was a coldness and reserve which passed for haughtiness. He was said to possess great talents and ambition, and Helen had the fullest belief in his genius and success. Not Goethe himself was a greater man in her eyes.
I had frequent opportunities of seeing them together, for, according to French ideas, nothing is more improper than to leave a young man and woman a moment by themselves. Was it my fancy that he seemed too much absorbed in himself, too little sensible of the rare good-fortune which made him the favored lover of the beautiful Miss St. Clair? It might be so, but others shared it.
"What ails the American?" asked Madame Le Fort. "Is it possible that he is not in love with that fascinating young creature? Or are all your countrymen so cold and inanimate? Elle est ravissante, adorable! I cannot comprehend it."
"Probably," I replied, "he has too much reserve and delicacy to make a display of his feelings in the presence strangers."
But I was not satisfied. The more I watched them, the more I perceived a lack of deference to her opinions and respect for her judgment—an irritating assumption of superior wisdom, as if he had worn the visible inscription, "I will accept homage, but not suggestions. Offer incense and be content." Would the little princess be content? I saw symptoms of rebellion.
"Do you think I am a little fool, Madame Fleming?" she asked with heightened color and impetuous tone, turning suddenly to me while they were conversing apart one evening.
November came, and we were launched on the full tide of Parisian society. Mr. Denham had gone to Germany to complete certain scientific studies, and he left his fair betrothed with a parting injunction not to dance with any foreigner. As well shut her up in a cell! Nowhere is there such a furore for dancing as in Paris. Every family has its weekly reception, and every card of invitation bears in the corner, "On dansera." These receptions are the freest and gayest imaginable. Any person who has the entree of the house comes when he feels inclined. Introductions are not indispensable as with us: any gentleman may ask a lady to dance with him, whether he has been formally presented or not, and it would be an affront to decline except for a previous engagement. The company assemble about ten, and often dance till three or four in the morning. In any one house we see nearly the same people once a week for the whole winter, and such frequent companionship gives a feeling of intimacy. It is surprising how many French men and French women have some special artistic talent, dramatic or musical, and with what ready good-humor each contributes to the entertainment of the rest. In every assembly, with all its sparkle of youth and gayety, there is a background of mature age; but though a card-room is generally open, it never seems to draw many from the salons de danse.
In these salons the little princess entered, at once upon her royalty. Her dancing was the poetry of motion. She sang, and the most brilliant men hung over her enraptured. "She was like Adelina Patti," they said, "but of a more perfect and delicate type of beauty. What wonderful eyes, with the long thick lashes veiling Oriental depths of liquid light! How the music trickled from her fingers, and poured from her small throat like the delicious warble of a nightingale! What a loss to art that her position precluded her from singing in the opera! Not Malibran or Grisi ever had triumphs that would equal hers." Eminent painters wished to make a study of her face. Authors who had received the prizes of the Academy for grave historical works sent her adulatory verses. "May I—flirtation—wid you—loavely meess?" asked one of "the immortal forty," displaying his English.
It grew rather annoying. I was importuned with questions, such as "Will you receive proposals of marriage for Miss St. Clair?" "What is her dowry?" "Are you entrusted to find a husband for her abroad?" I was tired of answering, "Miss St. Clair will probably marry in her own country." "Her parents would be very reluctant to consent to any foreign marriage." "I cannot tell what Mr. St. Clair will give his daughter. It is not the custom to give dowries with us, as with you."
One evening we saw at Madame Le Fort's reception a young man so distinguished in appearance that he was known as "le beau Vergniaud." He was six feet in height and well made, with abundant chestnut hair, dark hazel eyes, clearly-cut, regular features, and a complexion needlessly fine for a man. From that time he was invariably present, not only at Madame Le Fort's, but wherever we went.
One day Helen said to me, "I made a silly speech last evening. I was dancing with M. Vergniaud, and we were talking of that charming Madame de Launay. I said, 'I should think she might be happy, having an elegant house in Paris, a chateau in the country, and such a handsome husband so devoted to her.' And he rejoined instantly, very low, 'My dear Miss St. Clair, can I not give you all this?' It was not fair to take advantage of me in that way."
"What did you say?"
"Oh, I laughed it off. I did not think he was in earnest, but he spoke to me again before he went away."
That afternoon Madame Le Fort came into my room with the look of one who has something important to communicate. "I have been wishing to see you," she said. "M. Vergniaud has taken me into his confidence. He has formed a serious attachment to Miss St. Clair, and wishes to make her his wife. It is a splendid alliance," she continued, warming with her theme: "if he had asked for my daughter I would give her to him blindfold. He belongs to one of our old families. You should see his house on the Avenue de Montaigne. Have you never seen him driving with his superb horses in the Bois de Boulogne? He has an estate with a fine old chateau in Touraine, a family inheritance. His character and habits are unexceptionable too," she added by way of parenthesis. "It is not often that you find all that in a man of twenty-six. So handsome besides!"
"True," said I, "but you forget Mr. Denham."
"On the contrary, I remember him too well to conceive the possibility of his being a rival to Rene Vergniaud."
"But did you mention him to M. Vergniaud?"
"Yes, and he was greatly disturbed at first, but when I told him that he had no expectation of marrying for two or three years to come, he laughed and said it was of no importance. M. Vergniaud would like to be married in a few weeks, as is the custom with us, but I suppose it will take longer to adjust the preliminaries on account of her parents being across the Atlantic. What dowry has my little jewel?" (The inevitable question, always put with as much simplicity and directness as if one were asking the time of day.)
"I do not know," I replied. "It is so contrary to all our notions. I do not think there is a man in America who in asking a father for the hand of his daughter would inquire how much money he was to have with her. It would be considered an insult."
"Perhaps Mr. St. Clair would prefer to settle an annuity on his daughter. Is that the way the thing is managed in your country?"
"It is not managed at all. A man gives his daughter what he likes, or he gives her nothing but her bridal outfit. It is never a condition of the marriage."
"How strange all that is! One can hardly believe it in France. We set by a sum of money for Clarice's dowry almost as soon as she was born, and it would be a hard necessity that could compel us to diminish it by a single sou. If you would like it, in a couple of days I can give you an exact inventory of all M. Vergniaud's property and possessions. I could guarantee that it will not vary twenty napoleons from the fact. We do everything so systematically here."
"Thanks! I think it will hardly be necessary. I do not know that Helen likes him particularly."
"Nobody admires that little paragon more than I—I should be frantically in love with her if I were a man—but she had better think twice before rejecting such a parti as Rene Vergniaud, especially if she has no dowry. You will surely not permit her to do so without communicating with her father? He will understand her interests better."
"In this case I shall let her do just as she pleases, as her father would if he were here."
Madame Le Fort's look of amazed incredulity was truly comical. What ought I to do? I queried. On the whole, I decided to do the easiest thing—wait.
The next day I was honored with a call from M. Vergniaud. He believed that Madame Le Fort had spoken to me of his profound attachment to the lovely Miss St. Clair—the most passionate, the most devoted. Might he hope for my influence with her father and mother? The matter of dowry was indifferent to him: his income was sufficiently large, and, alas! he had no parents to consult. Would I favor him with Mr. St. Clair's address and a few words of introduction to him? He should be under everlasting obligations to me, and if there was anything he could do to show his gratitude, his appreciation—
I interrupted these protestations: "I doubt if Mr. St. Clair would consent to any marriage which would separate him from his daughter, however advantageous it might be in other respects."
"My dear madame, who asks it? I have no business or profession: we could easily spend a part of every year in America if it were desirable."
"That would certainly make it easier, but it will be better to defer writing till we have some intimation of Miss St. Clair's sentiments. Her father will be guided chiefly by her inclination."
"It is a nice country for young girls, America," said he with a smile. "I shall do all that is possible to win Miss St. Clair's favor, for life would be worthless without her." And he bowed himself gracefully out.
Is it possible that Helen will be indifferent to this young Antinous? thought I. Poor Mr. Denham would have small chance with me if I were in her place.
An hour later the concierge sent up to me an exquisite bouquet of violets and white camellias, with the card of Rene Vergniaud and a folded note: "If Madame Fleming does not think it improper, will she be so kind as to give these flowers to my beautiful queen?"
M. Vergniaud had asked Madame Le Fort's permission to call on Miss St. Clair. "Certainly not," she replied. "I am astounded at such presumption! But you may call to see me. To-morrow evening we go to the opera, and Wednesday to Madame Perier's, and Thursday is my reception, and Friday we have tickets to Phedre at the Francais. Saturday, then: it is the first evening we have free."
We were all assembled in the salon as usual after dinner when M. Vergniaud was announced. The little princess was radiant. She had never been merrier in a school-girl frolic or more ready with gibe and jest and laughter. She sang her best songs, putting her whole soul into them—"Si tu savais comme je l'aime." Rene Vergniaud was so dazed that he came near bidding farewell to his senses for ever. He evidently thought that all this brilliancy was for him, and was in such a rapture of delight that he never noticed Madame Le Fort's repeated glances at the clock, and was only roused by the polite invitation to come again. He was not too disconcerted to make a charming apology, like a true Parisian, and tore himself away.
Late as it was, as soon as we were in our own little parlor I could not forbear saying, "I was surprised at you to-night, Helen. How could you run on so? Madame Le Turc there, too! and you know the young French girls never open their lips to say more than 'Oui, monsieur'—'Non, monsieur,' to a gentleman. What will M. Vergniaud think?"
"I don't care what he thinks," flinging herself down on an ottoman with her head in my lap; "but I do care what you think, Madame Fleming. Did I behave so very badly? I didn't mean to, but I was resolved he should not get a chance to talk any nonsense to-night; and he did, after all. I hate being made love to before a whole room full. I had to laugh or else cry." And the little fairy dissolved in a shower of tears, like another Undine.
Another week went by. On Saturday afternoon Helen asked, "Will you be so kind as to take me to the little Protestant church beyond the Arc d'Etoile this evening, Madame Fleming? I should like so much to hear that good M. Bercier."
"So should I. But you have not forgotten that M. Vergniaud will be here."
"I am under no obligation to entertain Madame Le Fort's callers."
"But you know, Helen, that he comes for your sake. It is well for you to consider that the future Madame Vergniaud will have in some respects a more brilliant position than perhaps any man in our country could offer you."
"I know all that, and I don't pretend to say that I should not like it. I am ashamed of being so worldly, but to have a superb establishment and all this charming Parisian society, and give a grand ball whenever I liked, would be just paradise. And to have it all in my grasp, and not be able to take it, is too aggravating. It is so vexatious that the right man never has the right things."
We went to church. M. Vergniaud called, but recollected an engagement which took him away early. Monday evening he dropped in again just after dinner: "Do not let me derange you in the least, je vous en prie, madame. I come early because I am engaged to three balls to-night."
Miss St. Clair could hardly have been more mute and statue-like if she had been born and bred in France, where in the presence of gentlemen young girls silently adhere to their brilliant mothers, whose wit and grace and social tact make the charm of the Parisian salons. Apparently, the French consider that the combined attractions of youthful faces and sprightly conversation would be too much for any man, and mercifully divide the two. And this leaves them helpless before a little American girl, laughing, talking, jesting, teasing, till, bewildered by such a phenomenon, they are swept down so easily that one is reminded of Attila's taunt to the Romans, "The thicker the grass, the quicker it is mowed."
This social etiquette was very irksome to my little firefly, who seemed always opening and shutting her wings. In the course of the evening M. Vergniaud slipped into her hand, unperceived by any of us, a closed envelope with the whisper, "Put it in your pocket. Do not let any one see you."
She opened it deliberately: "M. Vergniaud is so kind as to give me his photograph, Madame Fleming. Do you think it a good likeness?"
The mystery which French people are fond of attaching to harmless trifles is inconceivable. One evening, in the earlier part of our stay in Paris, a cousin of Miss St. Clair's, who was in the same hotel with Mr. Denham, called on us, and when he was taking leave she held out an unsealed note: "Will you give this to Fred? Don't forget it."
Madame Le Fort was thunderstruck: "Is it possible? Send a note to a young gentleman right before Madame Fleming and all of us!"
"Why," said I, "do young people never write notes to each other in France?" "Not openly like that—little three-cornered notes to slip into the hand while dancing."
"This is the way to fold them," said Clarice, taking up a small sheet of paper. "You see that will just fit into the hollow of the hand, and nobody could ever see it."
"I like our way much better. What is done openly is not half so mischievous."
"Nor half so interesting," rejoined Clarice.
The nimble hours danced on, as they had a trick of doing in Madame Le Fort's salon. "I am afraid you forget the three balls, M. Vergniaud."
"How can you be so cruel, mademoiselle? I shall only make my compliments to the hostess and dance one set at each. I never do more except when I come here."
A few days later I asked Helen, "Have you made up your mind what answer to give M. Vergniaud? He intends to write to your father. He was speaking to me about it again to-day."
"I won't have him writing to my father," she replied with her wonted impetuosity. "I will not have my father worried about nothing. It would be a month before I could set it right."
"He seems to be very much in love with you. He says he shall be in despair, wretched for ever, if you reject him."
"So they all say. I don't believe a word of it, and I can't help it if they are. I can't marry more than one of them, and I don't believe I shall ever marry anybody. I won't be persecuted to death."
The little princess was irritated. Something had evidently gone wrong. It soon came out: "I had a letter from Fred this morning—a very disagreeable letter."
"Indeed! You have not yet answered it, I suppose."
"No: he will have to write differently from that before he gets any answer from me. I am not going to be lessoned and scolded as if I were a little girl. Father never does it, and I will not submit to it from him" After a pause: "He is not so much to blame. It is that odious Mr. Wilkins, who keeps writing to him how much attention I receive, and all that. As if I could help it! Poor old Fred! We have known each other ever since we were children."
That explains it, I thought. "Helen, if you have decided to say no to M. Vergniaud, the sooner you say it the better."
"I have said it, and he doesn't mind it in the least. I wish you would tell him: you always speak so that people know you are in earnest and can't help believing you."
"Very well, Helen. I will ask Madame Le Fort to tell him that his suit is hopeless, and that he must not annoy you by persisting in it."
Early in February the Belgian ambassador, M. le comte de Beyens, and Madame la comtesse, kindly took charge of Miss St. Clair to the imperial ball at the Tuileries. She had never looked more charming than in the exquisite costume of pale rose-colored faille, with a floating mist of white tulle, caught here and there by rosebuds that might have grown in Chrimhild's garden. The airy figure, so graceful in every motion, the well-poised head with its flutter of shining curls, the wonderful dark eyes, the perfect eyebrows, the delicious little mouth where love seemed to nestle—when she had vanished "it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music." Madame la comtesse congratulated me on her appearance, and afterward on her success. The emperor had distinguished her in a very flattering manner, and Eugenie, looking earnestly at her, said to the comtesse, "Nothing is so beautiful as youth," perhaps beginning to regret her own. No one had made so decided a sensation.
At Madame Le Fort's next reception there was a sudden influx of new guests—a young Belgian baron of old historic name, slim and stiff as a poker; a brisk French viscount, who told me that he had been connected with the embassy at Washington, and had quite fallen in love with our institutions; an Italian chevalier, a Russian prince.
Ugliness has its compensations, thought I. Nobody makes such a fuss over a pretty girl at home (they are not so uncommon), and I will never bring one to Paris again. Thank Heaven! we are going to Italy soon.
* * * * *
The piercing Tramontane came down upon us in the Bay of Naples with so fierce a blast that we doubted if we were not in Iceland, and were glad to make our escape to Rome, where we found an asylum in the Hotel de Minerve, not far from the Pantheon. Many of the old palaces and convents of Italy have been transformed into hotels. This was the ancient palace of the princes of Conti. I was so captivated by the superb dining-room that the quality of the dinners made but a faint impression. What! eat in the presence of all those marble goddesses, looking down upon us, serene and cold, as if from their thrones on the starry Olympus! Or if I turned my eyes resolutely away from Juno, Ceres and Minerva, they were sure to be snared by the dancing-girls of Pompeii stepping out from the frescoed walls, or inextricably entangled in the lovely garlands of fruit and flowers that wound their mazy way along the borders.
One evening, while we were waiting for one of the endless courses of a table-d'hote dinner, my wandering eyes were caught by the most perfect human head I had ever seen. It seemed that of the youthful Lord Byron, so well known in busts and engravings—the same small head with high forehead and clustering dark-brown curls, the perfectly-moulded chin, the full, ripe beauty of the lips. The eyes were a deep blue, but I thought them black at first, they were so darkly shaded by the thick black lashes. I am convinced that Byron must have had just such eyes, for some of his biographers describe them as black and others as blue. When he rose from the table I saw a slight, well-knit figure of exquisite proportions, like the Greek god of love. (Not Cupid with his vulgar arrows, but the true heavenly Eros. I saw him once in the Museum at Naples, and again in the Vatican. Is it Love, or Death, or Immortality? I queried, and then I knew it was the three in one.) I soon learned that the youth whose ideal beauty had impressed me so strongly was the Count Francisco de Alvala of Toledo in Spain. I fancy that his eyes were as easily attracted to beauty as mine, for the next day he was my vis-a-vis at table; not for the sake of looking at me, I was well aware, but on account of my beautiful neighbor. However, he sought my acquaintance with the grave courtesy becoming a grandee of Spain, and naturally gained that of Miss St. Clair also.
It is the most natural thing in the world to make acquaintances in Rome. People talk together of the things they have seen or wish to see: they go to the same places by day, and in the evening they meet in the ladies' parlor to compare their impressions. The young count never failed to join us in the evening. He had always something to show us—prints of his home in Spain, articles of virtu that he had bought, sketches that he had made, for he was a good amateur artist.
A group of young people of different nations generally collected on these occasions, and the conversation often turned on the usages peculiar to their respective countries.
"In Spain I could not greet a lady with a simple good-evening," said the count. "I should say, 'Permit the humblest of your servants to lay himself at your feet,' or something like that."
"Why do you not say it to us?" asked a bright-eyed Canadian girl.
"Well, it might be a little awkward if you should happen to take it literally. In Spain it is the merest commonplace."
"If such exaggerated phrases are frittered into commonplaces, and the most impassioned words grow meaningless, what can a Spanish gentleman find to say when his heart is really touched?" I inquired.
"I fancy we should find some very simple words to say it in," said the boy, flushing like a girl. "But I do not know—I have never learned."
"Talk some more," commanded the little princess.
"If a pretty young lady is walking in our streets a mantle is often flung suddenly in her way, and proud and happy is its owner if she deigns to set her dainty foot upon it."
"What do they do that for? Because the streets are so muddy?" inquired an obtuse young woman. But nobody volunteered to enlighten her.
"Cannot we go to Spain?" asked Miss St. Clair. "I should like to see a modern Sir Walter Raleigh."
"If the senorita should appear in our streets they would be strewn with mantles," said the young count gallantly.
"Would you throw down yours for me to step upon?"
"I'll come, then. It must be of velvet, mind."
"Yes, studded with jewels."
I loved the beautiful youth. His presence was like a poem in my life, and if it ever occurred to me that the familiar intercourse of the young people might not be altogether prudent, I dismissed it with the thought, He is only a boy.
There was to be an illumination of the Coliseum. We were going of course, and Count Alvala begged that I would honor him by making use of his carriage on this occasion. "Thank you, but I have already spoken to Piero to come for us."
"Oh, but we can send him away. You will find my carriage more comfortable, and it will be in every way pleasanter," he urged beseechingly; but my negative was peremptory.
Eight o'clock came. Miss St. Clair and I descended to the court of the hotel, but where was Piero? "It is singular. He was never late before, but I am confident that he will be here presently. We have only to wait a little."
The minutes went by, and they were long minutes. It was awkward waiting in so public a place. The count had joined us with his friend, an Italian marquis some thirty years of age, with whom we had a slight acquaintance. The count's handsome equipage was drawn up near us. There was no Piero.
"I really think you had better accept my young friend's carriage. It would be a pity to miss so grand a spectacle," said the marquis.
We entered the carriage. The count wrapped us in a magnificent feather robe, such as the Montezumas wore, for the April nights in Rome are chill, however hot the sunshine. It was strange to see the Forum, ordinarily solitary and desolate, now thronged with an eager multitude on foot and with numerous open carriages, in which were seated ladies in full dress as at the opera with us. Arriving at the Coliseum, we left the carriage and passed through the huge portal. The gloomy arches were obscurely seen in the dusky Roman twilight, when suddenly, as if by magic, every arch and crevice of the gigantic ruin glowed, incarnadined, as if dyed with the blood of the martyrs that had drenched its soil. There were salvos of artillery, bursts of military music and a few vivas from the multitude. A brilliant spectacle, but the tender beauty of moonlight harmonizes better with the solemnity of ruins.
Rapt in the memories that the scene awakened, I paid little attention to the monologue of my Italian friend, when I was suddenly roused by the question, "Did you ever see a prettier couple?"
"Who?" I asked absently.
"There," he rejoined, pointing to the count and Miss St. Clair, who preceded us.
"He is too young," I replied, but the question was asked so significantly that it disturbed me a little, and I resolved to be more cautious than heretofore.
The next morning Piero appeared with his carriage to take us to the Baths of Caracalla. He hoped madame did not lose the illumination. He was wretched to disappoint madame: he begged a thousand pardons. His little boy was taken violently ill: he was forced to go for the doctor; madame was so good.
The truth flashed upon me: "Piero, how much did the count give you to stay away last night?"
A gleam of humor twinkled in his black eyes, but it was speedily quenched: "I do not understand what madame wishes to say."
It happened that a friend and country-woman at our hotel was taken ill with typhoid fever, and amid the anxieties of her sick room the incipient love-affair was almost forgotten. I no longer spent the evenings in the parlor. One day Miss St. Clair showed me a tiny satin bag beautifully embroidered, with a soft silken chain to pass around the neck. "What can it be for?" she asked.
"Why, Helen, it is an amulet. Where did you get it?"
"The count gave it to me. He had the loveliest set of Byzantine mosaics and pearls which he wished to give me; and when I would not accept them he seemed so hurt that I did not like to refuse this trifle. What do you suppose is in it."
"A relic of some saint, without doubt. He thinks it will protect you from fever perhaps."
Like most Americans, we were desirous of seeing the pope, and Count Alvala obtained for us the necessary permission. We were to be received on a Saturday at eleven. We went in the prescribed costume, black silk, with the picturesque Roman veil thrown over the head. From the foot of the Scala Regia, (Royal Staircase) one of the papal guard, in a motley suit which seemed one glare of black and yellow, escorted us to the door of a long corridor, known as the Loggia of Raphael, where we were received by a higher official in rich array of crimson velvet. About seventy persons were seated in rows, facing each other, along this gallery, nearly all laden with rosaries to be blessed by the Holy Father. We waited till my neck ached with looking up at the exquisite frescoes, fresh and tender in coloring as if new from the hand of the master, when the pope appeared, attended by a cardinal on each hand. We fell on our knees instantly, but not till I had seen an old man's face so sweet and venerable as to make this act of etiquette a spontaneous homage. He passed slowly down the line, saying a word or two to each, and extending his hand, white and soft like a woman's, to be kissed.
Pausing by the young count, who was kneeling beside me, he said impressively, "Courage and faith have always been attributes of the house of Alvala. Your fathers were good children of the Church, and you, my son, will not be wanting in any of the qualities of your race."
When he had passed us we rose from our knees, and I could observe him more closely. He wore a close-fitting white cap on his finely-shaped head; a long robe of white woolen cloth buttoned up in front, with a small cape of the same material; a white sash, gold-embroidered at the end; a long gold chain around his neck, to which was attached a large golden cross; a seal ring on the third finger of his right hand; and red slippers. Soft snowy locks fell from under the white skull-cap over a noble forehead, which years and trials had left unwrinkled. Black eyebrows and the soft dark eyes made a pleasant contrast to the whiteness of hair and brow, and his smile was so sweet and winning that I scarcely wondered to see two Catholic ladies prostrate themselves and kiss his feet and the hem of his white garment with a rapture of devotion from which his attendants with difficulty rescued him. He lingered longest by a pretty boy four or five years old, and there was a pathos in the caressing, clinging touch of his hand as it rested on the child's head that called to mind an old love-story of the handsome Count Mastai Ferretti when he wore the uniform of an officer of the guards, and had not yet thought of priestly robe or papal crown. I wonder if he remembers the fair English girl now?
Having completed the round, he made a brief address, the purport of which was that he was about to give us his blessing, and he wished that it might be diffused to all our families and friends, and be not for the present moment only, but extend through our whole lives and abide with us in the hour of death; "But remember," said he with a kind of paternal benignity, "that the gates of paradise open rarely to any who are without the communion of the Holy Catholic Church. Sometimes perhaps—sometimes—but with great difficulty." He extended his hands. We dropped on our knees and received the blessing of this benign old man, whom the larger part of Christendom revere as the earthly head of the Church. As we were making our way through the stately columns of the colonnade which forms the approach to the Vatican I saw the count glance at the amulet which Helen wore. "What is in it?" I asked.
"A relic of the blessed Saint Francis, my patron," he replied.
"It will lose its efficacy on the neck of a little heretic like Miss St. Clair," said I with a purpose.
"It will do her no harm," said he coldly.
Monday I was at the table d'hote the first time for a week. I found the count seated next to Miss St. Clair. It was very simple, she explained to me afterward. A lady occupied his seat one day, and he came round to the only vacant one, which happened to be next hers. I am a very guileless person, but I think Vincenzo had an excellent reason for letting it happen. Helen was on my left hand as usual, and the Italian marquis on my right.
"I am sorry for that boy," said he to me: "he is very unhappy."
"The young count? What is the matter?"
"Don't you see? He is madly in love with your bewitching little American. It is his first impression, and he takes it hard. Well, he will have to learn like the rest of us."
"I hope you are mistaken;" and I glanced uneasily at my young neighbors, who were too much absorbed in their own conversation to heed that between the marquis and myself.
"That is impossible. He raves to me about her. It is very pretty too—a perfect idyl, all poetry and romance—eternal, unchangeable, and all that boyish nonsense. We older men know better. But monsignore will be here soon, and he will look after him."
"Who is monsignore?"
"The archbishop of Toledo, his guardian. He has been here, but some diocesan matter called him home. He will be back anon, and then the count will dine at home. As to that, he does now, and delicious dinners they are, too. He only makes a pretence of eating here, just to have a chance to see his little divinity."
"He was here when we came."
"True, but only for a day or two while his house was put in order. The house is well worth seeing—one of the finest on the Corso. It is not open to strangers, but if you would like to see it—"
"Certainly not," I interrupted, a little irritably, the more so from the consciousness of having been a somewhat careless chaperone. I was coming sharply up to the line of duty now, at all events.
"Helen," said I when we rose from the dinner-table, "do not go into the parlor now. Come into my room a little while, please.—Well, Helen," I resumed when we were seated by the pleasant window, "I have seen so little of you for a week past that you must have a great deal to tell me."
"I do not know," she replied. "I have been out every day with the Glenns, just as you arranged for me, and I have been in the parlor in the evenings, and sometimes I sang, and one night there was a French gentleman—"
"How about the young count? The Italian says he is very much in love with you. Do you know it?"
"He has told me so often enough, if that is knowing it," with a quick, impatient toss of the small, graceful head.
"Oh, Helen!" I cried in real distress, "and what did you say to him?"
"Why, what could I say in that great parlor, with everybody looking on? I just hushed him up as well as I could. There is the tall English girl and that sharp-eyed Miss Donaldson, who are watching us the whole time. It is real mean in them," excitedly. "And the count doesn't mind letting everybody know how much he admires me. In fact, he is proud of it, like one of the old knights, who used to wear their ladies' favors as openly and proudly as they bore their knightly banners."
"This will never do, Helen. Don't you see that this boy is not like the gay Frenchman that you danced with last winter? Rene Vergniaud was a man of the world: he could take care of himself. But this beautiful boy, with his intensity of feeling, his ideal passionate love—You must not play with him," I exclaimed vehemently.
"I am not playing with him: I never do anything to make him like me. He comes and talks to me, and I just make myself as agreeable to him as I can, that is all."
That is all, is it, you little mischief? thought I. As if that were not the very refinement of coquetry! But I prudently refrained from saying it, for a tempest of hot tears began to fall, and she sobbed, "Oh, Madame Fleming, I did not think I was going to forfeit your good opinion. What can I do? I can't help his liking me. I like him too, and that makes me feel so badly."
"Do you like him better than Mr. Denham?"
"Better than Fred?" in a tone of surprise. "Why no, of course not: I have known Fred always."
"The best thing will be to tell him of Mr. Denham."
"Oh no, I never can."
"I will, then."
"Don't, I beseech you. We shall go away soon, and that will be the end of it. Promise me you will not. I would rather tell him myself if I ever have a chance."
I looked in to see my invalid friend, and then descended to the parlor, where I found the young count almost alone. He looked up eagerly as I entered: "I thought Miss St. Clair was with you. I have been waiting for her all the evening."
"I told her at table that I wished to see her particularly this evening."
"Perhaps she did not understand you."
"Oh yes, she did. You would not let her come?" with a sudden lighting up of the expressive face.
"I did not forbid her coming: I did not know that you were waiting for her."
Then with sudden boyish candor and a happy smile on his animated countenance "I thought you might have observed that I come here so often because I like to talk with Miss St. Clair. But you never can know how dearly I love her."
"I am sorry."
"Why?" with a naive surprise.
"She is older than you."
"How old is she?"
"She will be twenty in May."
"And I am nineteen this very week. What is one poor little year?—not a year," gleefully.
"But the difference in religion?"
"An obstacle, I grant, but not an insuperable one. My uncle married an English lady, a Protestant, and they have been very happy together."