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discomfited performers, holding up a brimming goblet to their lips, which, filled as it was with seven thieves vinegar, had no sooner touched their parched lips than it sent them coughing and sneezing, stamping and roaring, to their seats.
Long before the pranks and gambols of mischievous mirth had reached this stage of licentiousness, the soberest part of the company had singly disappeared. The Consigliere's wife, always attended by the same companion, was among the first to make her exit. She led the way behind the ruins of the cloisters, and, climbing a little hillock behind the ice-house, seated herself on a stone bench, near a marble table, delightfully screened by the waving branches of the oak trees above. The strains of joyous music still reached their ears, wafted by the evening breeze, and mellowed by the intervening distance. The orb of the moon was right over their head, and its glare fell directly on the smooth brow of the pale lady. She was dressed in white, and her cape fell negligently from her shoulders, as she leant back on her seat, her bosom still heaving with the slight exertion of the ascent. The rich brown of her hair and eyes deepened in the soft hues of eve, and her habitual paleness received from the rays of that kindred light a dazzling lustre which might rival the chaste polish of the costliest marbles.
Presently, one after another, her choice friends, as if by previous agreement, joined her in that cool, mystic retreat. Presently the stewardess, Caterina, laid before them a large waiter with coffee; and with it the tide of genial conversation once more began to flow.
“There is the giantess again!” said the mar se, with one glance at the retreating domestic. “ Her phantom will haunt me like a nightmare in my sleep.”
" Treat her then, even as a ghost should be dealt with, my friend, ” quoth the lady, “speak to her ; you will find enough in her manners to wear off the impression of her forbidding appearance."
"I shall not until I know more about her. Remember, dear lady, your story is not yet brought to a close ;-though it is not difficult, perhaps, to anticipate the final catastrophe.”
Perhaps !' I should like of all things to hear your conjectures on the subject.”
Why, I suppose the—how do you call him ?-the soldier or forester, Giannetto, ventured on the abduction of the tall maiden, and got shot by her father in the attempt.”
“Or, more probably,” suggested another, “ the two rivals fell out at some country fair on the village green, and gored each other in the very eyes of the fair object of contention.”
"Perhaps," again said the lady, “that is the issue to which each of you would bring it, were you to write a romance on the subject. I congratulate you on your inventiveness and discrimination. Now hear me, and judge which of the two is nearer the mark.”
With this the gentle hostess slightly leaned her elbow on the marble table, and resting her cheek on her hand, she thus continued
THE STEWARDESS'S STORY. " It was a dismal night, as I was telling you, and yet all St. Leonard's tenants were from home. It was Twelfth-night, or, as it is called in this part of the country, Fire-dog's night,' (la notte dell 'alare)
from an ancient custom, dating perhaps from the time of heathenism, of laying on the table a dog or andiron (the household god) as a sign that joy is to run riot, and feast and laughter to be the order of the night.
“Well, our peasantry of the abbey, in return for a similar entertainment they had given on Christmas Eve, had been invited to a grand supper and casting the slipper in the large barn at Ramoscello, three miles off. Women and children had patriarchally been carried to the spot in one large caravan. One living soul alone had been left behind, and that was Caterina.
“ She had shown in the course of the evening more stubbornness and moroseness than her old father could well put up with, and, having peremptorily refused to attend the festive ceremony, she had, as usual, been locked and bolted in at home.
"Towards midnight, she had at last frowned, and suiked, and sobbed herself to sleep, when she was suddenly roused by the sound of stealthy footsteps and whispered voices outside.
“She was a girl of firm nerves and high spirit, and the legends of ghosts and spectres, so rife in this as in all monastic neighbourhoods, had no power with her. Lately, however, and exactly at the epoch of the peace of 1814, the breaking up of so many armies had filled the country with vagrants of the worst description, and the current tales of highway robbery and housebreaking were sufficient to occasion serious alarms even to one who might otherwise have set pandemonium itself at defiance.
“ It happened, moreover, and none could be more aware of it than Caterina, that farmer Domenico had for the last fortnight been collecting his yearly rents and selling fat cattle, so that a larger sum than usual was at that moment hoarded up in the old man's sleeping-room. Caterina knew this, and, only alive at that moment to her father's interests, she bethought herself of the most effectual means of resisting aggression.
“ The modern villa and premises were not yet built at that time, and the steward and his daughter had taken up their temporary residence in yon left wing of the cloisters, a part of which was yet habitable. Two of the cells on the first floor constituted their sleeping apartments; on the ground floor below were the parlour and kitchen, as well as the wine and wood cellar, crowded with implements of husbandry.
“ The windows on the ground floor were protected by thick but mouldering iron gratings, and by shutters in a still worse condition. In a few seconds, Caterina could hear these latter cracking and bursting under the efforts of the house-breakers' crow-bar.
“In proportion as these sounds satisfied her as to the intention of her nocturnal visiters, and of the inefficiency of the means of resistance that her dismantled dwelling could afford, the brave girl felt the energies of her soul roused within her.
“ One instant's reflection was sufficient to induce her to discard as impracticable the idea which had first presented itself to her mind, of
* Casting the slipper in Italy is something very different from hunting the slipper in England. The game consists of a wager between the country-girls, as to which of them can, lying on her back on the floor, cast her slipper from her right foot farthest above her head. It is surprising to see what a knack those contadine acquire of kicking up their chaussure, without exposing their ankles to the eager eyes of the beholders.
rushing from the house and reaching the abbey steeple, to rouse the country by tolling the alarm bell. Such a step could only have led her into the hands of her enemies before she had even time to reach the bell-rope.
“She rose from bed wide awake, collected and mute. She snatched a little brass crucifix from the wall and muttered a short prayer, then slipped on a loose gown, and hastened to the threatened tenement below.
“The night was pitch-dark, and, although the shattered shutter no longer obstructed the outside view, her eye in vain attempted to pierce the density of the wintry gloom. Her ear, however, availed her better. She could hear ihe murmur of divers voices, and the brushing and scuffling of many busy feet.
“ The window, against which the robbers' efforts were directed, belonged to a part of the cellar which served likewise as a butchery. In a corner, two steps from the window, lay a large block and an enormous cleaver.
“Caterina lifted up a thankful glance towards heaven. She snatched up the ponderous instrument, with eyes beaming with faith and courage. Judith's countenance was never lighted up with a more calm and confident enthusiasm. Thus armed, she stole up to the window and posted herself on one side close to the wall. She curbed the quaking of her limbs, smothered the fluttering of her heart.
“There was a hasty consultation among the malefactors outside. Then a large wooden bar was introduced between the rusty iron grating. Then a more hasty stamping of feet, a hard, elaborate breathing, and several of the middle bars, bent and bruised, were forced from their sockets.
“The passage being now effected, the housebreakers once more fell back to their anxious deliberations. It was only for one moment, however, and presently something round and dark peeped in through the gap left by the demolished bars. Caterina raised a mental ejaculation io God; she raised her murderous weapon, and dropped it on that dim undistinguishable object.
" There was a short stified sob; something heavy fell helplessly outside : hasty footsteps were heard gliding away rapidly and stealthily through the cloisters; then all again was silence and gloom.
“ Caterina remained motionless ; a shiver of horror ran through all her veins; a reaction of dismay, now that all danger had vanished, wrought on her reawakened feminine sensibilities. She did not faint or falter, for a vague sense of duty seemed to bid her heart to hold on and die at her post. She stood breathless, as if spell-bound, gazing at the shattered casement, for Heaven knows how long; she hardly knew, she dreaded to inquire, by what deed she had so heroically defended it.
“ She was roused from her terrific trance by a sensation as if of warm moisture on her bare foot; mechanically she stooped and groped with her hands on the ground; she uttered a faint shriek as her hand came in contact with the matted hair of a human head. Hastily, instinctively, she raised that severed skull from the ground and laid it on the window-sill—the gory trophy of her murderous victory.
“Early in the morning, the revellers from Ramoscello returned home with song and frolic; a few of the old fathers of the village attended the old steward to his dwelling. The first objects that struck them
were the smashed window and a lifeless body underneath.
On a nearer approach, they descried the hideous spoil on the window-ledge, and behind it the conquering Amazon still brandishing her blood-stained weapon.
“During many mortal hours the distracted girl had stood at her post, rather with the helplessness of despair than with the true firmness of valour. Amazement and consternation rooted her to the spot, and fastened her eye on one hideous object--for a long time an undistinguishable object.
“The first pale dawn of morning at last began to give that object colour and shape. It assumed outlines and form ; it breathed, as it were; it lived beneath her startled gaze. It was the black bushy hair, the harsh but fine features of_Giannetto.
“Whether that worthless man had joined a band of his former associates with the purpose of plunder, or, whether, perhaps, he only asked their co-operation for the abduction of his betrothed, remains to this day a subject of vague conjecture. His accomplices were never heard of, and he carried his secret to his grave.
“ Meanwhile, the desolate murderess seemed hardly to have come to a full consciousness of the enormity of her deed; they removed her from that chamber of death still plunged in speechless stupor. Once in her bed, she was assailed by burning fevers from which she only recovered after the lapse of forty days. Reason and memory seemed hopelessly to have forsaken her; and that same ghost-like rigidness of features, that vitreous diinness of the eye, and that paralytic trembling of the head which has struck you so painfully, had already and for ever become characteristic of that youthful countenance.
“ In the third year after that tragic catastrophe, farmer Domenico was brought to his death-bed. He called to him his miserable wreck of a daughter, and with dying words besought her to accept of a protector and partner for life in the person of the long-disregarded but ever faithful Bertoldo. Soon after the old man's decease, Caterina consented to be led to the altar, and the Consigliere bestowed upon the bridegroom the place of steward, left vacant by his father-in-law.
Time, and the unshaken devotion of her husband, finally recalled Caterina to the duties and almost to the enjoyment of existence."
As the Consigliere's wife was thus drawing her tale to a close, the uproar of the merrimaking on the threshing-floor became so loud and unruly, that the lady felt it incumbent on her to soothe and allay it by her presence.
On arriving at the scene of mirth, she found the ball-room converted into a battle-field. The lawless youth of both sexes had drawn themselves up in hostile array, and were now hotly pelting each other with the light missiles which the arena too plentifully afforded. Corncobs and husks flew into the air with such a fury as not only completely to cover the combatants from view, but even almost to darken the moon in the firmament.
Costanza and her friends were too wary to venture into the midst of that hot mêlée; they deemed it prudent to leave the belligerent parties to settle their disputes, and these latter continued to enjoy the fine fun of their skirmish till the morning blush broke upon them, and sent them pale and jaded to their resting-places.
THE PLEASURES OF GRUMBLING.
BY ANGUS B. REACH,
LORD North once excused the imposition of an additional duty upon some article of general consumption, because, as he said, nobody would begrudge the payment of an additional halfpenny in the pound for the pleasure of abusing the minister. And the plea showed a thorough knowledge of nature—at least of English human nature. We are, without dispute, a grumbling people. We are as foud of a grumble as of roast beef. Both are indigenous products of the soil—both grand characteristics of the people. Not that we are discontented-nothing of the sort. Not that our grumbling is ill-conditioned—it is the nature of the animal. It is one of our prime wants—not to say chief luxuries. We could not be perfectly satisfied with any state that afforded us no opportunity for indulging our favourite propensity. Every evil has a bright side—and the bright side of half our evils is the opportunity they afford to the grumbler.
It will be observed, that it is generally the mere petites misères of humanity which we grumble at. There is no grumbling at a great misfortune.' We grumble the more, the more comfortable we are-just because the intensity of the pleasure we enjoy excites a yearning for something more exquisite still. Refinement makes us sensitive. We should be much more likely to grumble for claret-were we put upon a regimen in which port formed the most delicate beverage allowed—than were we absolutely to be confined to Barclay and Perkins.
Again-a man will grumble excessively should his boots be sent home a misfit, who would be a perfect model of resignation were his leg to be cut off. He will grumble more earnestly at the discomfort of his toes--than at their loss altogether. A gentleman tumbles into the river– he is fished out nine parts dead_and—if the light the Royal Humane Society is at such trouble in spreading upon the subject be not clear in the pericraniums of his savers,—he is hung up by the heels, as an antidote to the effects of his ducking. Suppose him to recover this course of treatment, he is as meek and thankful as a man can be. How he will grumble and sulk if he is caught in a shower of rain, and his new beaver damped.
It is your well-fed, comfortable fellow who grumbles most. After Paddy has floored his friends from love at Donnybrook, he is as happy as a grig upon potatoes and salt—or the still greater because more imaginative delicacy of potatoes and point. He grumbles neither over the one or the other. The canny Scot changes his oatmeal for something better as soon as he can, but even after the step is effected—when rolls take the place of bannocks, and anchovy toast of porridge-he grumbleth not, nor turneth up his nose at the remembrance of his former fare. On the contrary, he lauds it-he proves it to be the very
best sort of food a man can have set before him-he expatiates on its excellence-is eloquent on its thousand good qualities-in short, he does every thing he can to establish its virtues—but eat it !
Your true Englishman is a very different sort of animal. Were he May.-VOL. Lxxiy. No. ccxcui.