Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

66

along the plains of Lombardy. Will the reader “ And are the English women so extremely pardon me if I relate one of my dreams? I have beautiful ?" inquired she. said that I had left at home a host of children, “ You may judge,” said I, “ since they are like among whom was a charming little girl, six you." months old. There is no explaining the mechan- “ I suppose they flatter a great deal in England,” ism of fancy; but, after travelling long and far observed she, with a smile, “and you have probathrough the unreal world, I arrived at length at bly learned the art there.” the garden of Jolimont, where I saw my baby Nay, it is in your country that one learns to smiling in her mother's arms. I stooped forward flatter; if, indeed, it be flattering to speak the to kiss her; she playfully retreated. A second truth.' and a third trial were made. Being seated on the “ This is not my country,” replied she. “I box beside the driver, I nearly, in my dreaming would it were!" eagerness, precipitated myself forward upon the " Then you are a Frenchwoman?” horses, and awoke with an instinctive effort to She shook her head. recover my position. The domes and towers of 66 A Swiss?" Milan just at that moment rose before me, bathed The same dumb sign of negation. My curiosity in the ruddy light of the dawn ; and the rich ver- was now excited. dure of the plains on all sides was glittering with “I trust you will pardon me," said I, “but dew. On the right, far in the distance, were the really I am curious to know what country has had towering Alps, rosy with the sun's first rays, and the happiness to give birth to you.” piercing the blue sky with a thousand luminous “ I am an Austrian,” she replied. pinnacles. Not even Austrian despotism can de- “ Is it possible ?" was my involuntary exclama prive the Lombards of the enjoyment of such mo- tion. ments, though the pleasure must be dashed by the “ If you are surprised at that,” said she, “ you consciousness that, whatever may be their physical will be still more surprised when I add that my enjoyments, they still are slaves.

feelings are all Italian." It forms no part of my design to describe cities, This little dialogue took place in front of a shop, or churches, or palaces, or pictures. The guide- out of which an officer soon came, flourishing a new books do that. I went, of course, to the cathedral, whip, which he had just been purchasing. He and glanced over all its curiosities. But I find looked at me with something like a scowl, and, nothing about them in my memory, and therefore saying a few words to her in German, from the shall say nothing. I remember perfectly well that, tone of which I could not doubt she was his wife, on entering Lombardy, my passport was taken walked off with her, though not before she had from me, and forwarded to Milan, where I was told turned round and bowed to me twice. it would be delivered to me on demand. There is, I had, meanwhile, forgotten the police-office and of course, no living in any Austrian city without a the passport, which now, however, as the temptress passport; so, the very first morning after my arrival, was gone, speedily made their way back into my I had no sooner breakfasted than I sallied forth in memory. When I reached the important premises, search of the police-office, that I might obtain offi- I was informed that, by some extraordinary accicial permission to breathe the emperor's air. There dent, my passport was lost, or else had not been are those among my countrymen who like well duly forwarded. In the mean time, however, 1 enough the present state of things, and fancy that might remain at Milan, for visiting which I, of Italy never was so happy as under the role of the course, had particular motives. I admitted that I Teutonic barbarians. For myself, I sighed for the had motives, and that they were very particular, turbulent republics of the middle ages, and would but declined explaining them till my passport rather have seen a capital in every village, and a should be found. It was quite immaterial. I was frontier in every parish boundary, and men armed living under a paternal government, and would, to the teeth defending them, than have witnessed doubtless, like to converse with one of my countrythe dead calm which, when I passed through it, men, who, as great good luck would have it, was was brooding over Lombardy. It was like the then in the office. Though an Englishman does sleep of death.

not travel to see Englishmen, I had no objection ; As I was proceeding towards the police-office, I and the wily agent of Prince Metternich was forthmet, under the piazza opposite the cathedral, a lady, with brought face to face with me. A man is whose face immediately made me forget my errand. never so bold or so politic as when he has nothShe was so fair and beautiful, I took her to be a ing to fear or conceal; and the pains the worthy daughter of the north, and could not resist the agent took to see further into the milestone than he temptation to speak to her. So, stepping forward, who made it, amused me immensely. He was reand taking off my hat in the politest manner imag- solved to find out all about me, and I was resolved inable, I inquired, in English, the way to the police he should not; and so we went on for an hour, at office.

least, thrusting, and parrying, and beating about “ Non capisco," was her reply.

the bush. Nothing more contemptible can be conI then apologized for addressing her in a foreign ceived than a government which experiences alarm language, but said—“ I have mistaken you for an at the passage of a humble foreigner through its English woman, you are so extremely beautiful.” dominions, who has no political mission, and who,

CHAPTER XII.-CARLOTTA.

however crafty or Jesuitical he might be, could have spent the whole evening in conversing with really, in ninety cases out of a hundred, effect noth- her. Our dialogue, however, was soon intering. However defective our own institutions may rupted by Carlotta's being requested to sing. I be, they really deliver both us and our ministers hate singing in general, especially when a knot from suspicions so humiliating. A man in Great of women commence wailing, like so many lost Britain may come and go, and laugh and talk, and spirits, around a piano-forte ; but when a woman declaim to his heart's content against anything and has a sweet voice, and knows how to use it, I everything, without exciting the slightest alarm. could listen to her forever. The pleasure of Freedom is our safety-valve, and we use it unspar- such moments is like few in this world, and comes ingly; but under Austrian rule, the clucking of a back again and again upon the memory in afterturkeycock would alarm the authorities. Metter- years, renewing the delight of the moment, and nich would have trembled in his palace, and the investing it with all those delicate touches of melemperor would have felt insecure, if I had been ancholy which cling to whatever we have enjoyed. suffered to pass through Lombardy without its hav- Carlotta, as she placed herself at the piano, threw ing been ascertained who I was, how many wives back her massive dark brown ringlets, and raisand children I had left behind me, what was my ing slightly her large eyes, paused for a moment, object in travelling, what means of subsistence 1 as if to collect and summon up her powers. She possessed, and whether or not I meant, on my re- then sang. To describe my sensations while her turn, to parade my formidable beard and mustaches voice was pouring like nectar around me, would through the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom. Ilav- be impossible. The notes seemed to descend like ing cherished, all my life, a contempt for grandees drops of melody into an ocean of sound, which who happen to have nothing but their position to rolled and reverberated with infinite undulations recommend them, I should have felt the greatest over the soul. Had she not been beautiful, and possible pleasure, could I by any means have ac- possessed a seraph's voice, it would have signicomplished it, in making Metternich and his em- fied little, as far as I was concerned. But when peror sleepless for a month. Unluckily, I was too all that is lovely in countenance or expression, unimportant for that, though they had, certainly, and all that is graceful in the female form, are the benefit of my best wishes.

added to a voice of infinite richness, sweetness, and power, it would require a stoicism much more

perfect than mine to remain indifferent. The Through some letters of recommendation I had Austrian lady whom I had met in the morning, brought with me, I was invited to a musical soirée, observing how completely I was absorbed by Carwhere the company was chiefly made up of Ger- lotta's singing, roused me from my reverie by mans and French, with a slight sprinkling of inquiring how long I had been in Italy. English people and Italians. One of the first “ One day," I replied, as soon as I could colpersons I noticed on entering was my female lect my thoughts. friend of the piazza, who introduced to me an “ Before you have been many days,” said she, Italian lady and her daughter, who, she said, you will be lost past recall. The women on were about to set out in a few days, by Veterino, this side of the Alps are sirens." for Genoa. Few faces could exceed in interest And on the other too," I answered. or beauty that of the young Italian lady. Strange “ Well," she inquired, are you not very to say, she was very fair, and possessed a pearly much obliged to me for providing you with comclearness of complexion not always found in fair panions so agreeable as you appear to think Car

Her eyes were of that amethystine blue lotta and her mother?" which is of all colors the most beautiful. They I professed myself to be infinitely indebted to seemed like little fragments of the sky, and had her. We then entered into a long conversation all its infinite depth and serenity. It was impos- on operas, music, the great singers we had both sible to look at them without a certain fluttering heard, and so on. She did not affect enthusiasm, of the heart. I preserved silence a little longer, but felt it, as I could easily perceive by the lanperhaps, than was becoming ; but at length ob-guage she employed. I experienced no enthusiserved that, as they were travelling towards Genoa, asm, and did not affect it; but confessed, rather it would afford me very great pleasure to be per- than boasted, that certain singers and kinds of mitted to accompany them. The mother replied, music had very great charms for me. that nothing would be easier, as they did not in- At the table d'hote of the hotel where I lodged, tend taking all the carriage, but merely places for I met two officers of the Indian army, with whom, themselves. Having learned their address, and for various reasons, I fraternized at once. They that of the owner of the carriage, it was agreed gave me letters of introduction to friends at Genoa that I should call on them, and make my arrange- and Leghorn, and promised, if they ever met me ments, in the morning. I have a very foolish at Alexandria, as they fully expected, to ascend habit of being contented with one person at a the Nile in my company, at least as far as Thebes, time : and, finding Carlotta (the only name by where they would turn off towards the Desert which, in these pages, I wish to designate her) and Cosseir. In company with these gentlemen, extremely agreeable, I forgot altogether the rest I strolled about the city, after having early secured of the company; and, had I been permitted, should my place in the carriage, and saw such curios

66

women.

CHAPTER XIII.-DEPARTURE FROM MILAN.

ities as Milan has to show—at least with one one should never trust to appearances since he exception, “ The Last Supper," by Leonardo da could talk like an angel, and had a mind so stored Vinci. I put off visiting this from hour to hour, with knowledge, and was of a temper so finely and day to day ; why, I know not, since, of all balanced, that, before we had travelled far, I inanimate things, it was what I most wished to could hardly tell whether he or Carlotta was the see in Milan. Perhaps Carlotta's fascinations more fascinating person of the two. had something to do with it

What I had first mistaken for heaviness in his eyes, was an expression of extreme serenity. If

he had ever known the storms of the passions, At length we left Milan, early in the morning, Time, with his vast wings, had now lifted him the rich green plains being lighted up by a golden far above them, and placed him on that intellectautumnal sun. There were six persons in the ual eminence where, as Lucretius expresses it, carriage, an Italian gentleman, with his wife and " a man may look down upon humanity, toiling, daughter, Madame B-, Carlotta, and myself. wandering, and fretting below.” Strange to say, We were accompanied by another carriage, larger he had been in the army, where he had preserved, than our own, filled inside and out with Swiss, unabated, through many a campaign, his faith in who were proceeding to take service in the Nea- Providence, and his love of knowledge. Though politan army. With these riffraffs of the Alps he had married early in life, he had had but one was a Gerinan, who figures in “ Margaret Ravens- child, whom he seemed to regard with extreme croft" under the name of Semler. We afterwards tenderness and affection. His wife was what the saw much of each other, but at starting had no French call une femme nulle ; that is, a woman of further acquaintance than what one picks up at a no character at all. table d'hote, for we had dined together ever since I never could pretend to understand the art of my arrival at Milan.

flirtation, and; on the present occasion, most satMadame B- was a woman of about thirty- isfactorily demonstrated my ignorance. Instead six, handsome, but hard-featured, who, having of taking advantage of my position to ingratiate neglected, apparently, to make the most of her myself with Carlotta, as any man of the world beauty when young, was now determined to make would have done, I entered into a discussion with up for it as fast as possible. She flirted indiffer- Signor Castrucci on the character and writings of ently with everybody ; but got out of temper, and Machiavelli. At first, considering in what counlooked as fierce as a basilisk the moment one try we were travelling, he sedulously avoided polspoke to her daughter, whose person she seemed itics; but, as conversation begot mutual confito look upon as nothing but a cage for her voice. dence, we spoke out boldly on the affairs of Italy, At first she placed herself in the middle, between both past and present. On my referring to Machime and Carlotta, with whom, therefore, I had to avelli, he smiled, and said, “I will tell you an speak, when I spoke to her at all, across her anecdote, from which you may perceive how mamma, which was very awkward. But as the early in life I became attached to that great day grew hotter, Madame B—'s regard for her author. I received my education under the Jesown comfort overcame all other considerations, uits, who, as you know, watch over their pupils and she asked me as a favor to change places with with the utmost strictness, allowing them to read her, as she wished to sit near the window for the no books but such as they themselves put into sake of the air. I would have consented to sit in their hands. I had an uncle in the town, close to an oven, to oblige her; and, indeed, for some which our college was situated ; and I was somehours during the middle of the day, I might as times permitted to visit him. There, one day, well have baked myself with Monsieur Cabot, as on a window-seat, I found a volume of Machiahave sat where I did, scorched internally by the velli's works, in which I immediately became fire of Carlotta's eyes, and externally melted by interested. My uncle gave me the whole set, but

cautioned me against carrying it to the college, The Italian patriarch, who sat opposite, was since he assured me my preceptors would cerfar more comfortable, because he had no flesh to tainly take it away. 'I'll tell you,' said he, lose, being little better than a walking anatomy. what you shall do-you must have it bound like The sun and atmosphere had done their worst the mass-book, and take it with you occasionally

Brown as a mummy, with large, to church. It will then be mistaken for a help heavy, dark eyes, high cheek-bones, and a mouth to devotion ; and while they are engaged in their of enormous capacity, he had very much the air unintelligible rhapsodies, or useless ceremonies, of a scarecrow.

you can improve your mind.' His wife had been handsome in her time ; and Of course, I carefully followed this advice, the daughter was so still, though she had reached, and read the works of the greatest of Italian in single blessedness, the alarming age of two- writers over and over, till I became familiar with and-twenty, after which a woman regards her them all. One day, however, as one of the holy chances of felicity gone in Italy. As papa formed fathers was preaching on the Chinese mission, I my vis-a-vis, I could not, ugly as he was, avoid happened to open my favorite volume at the comentering occasionally into conversation with him. mencement of the marriage of Belfregor, the He illustrated strikingly the common adage, that I caustic wit and dry humor of which pleased me

the sun.

upon him,

so much that I forgot where I was, and smiled great a man's life so little, comparatively, should again and again with delight.

be known." “ An honest Jesuit, who observed my merri- “Signora,” replied Castrucci, “the lives of ment, thought it could hardly be excited by a the greatest men the world has ever produced book of devotion, and, approaching me stealthily, have been obscure, like his. We see the effects like a cat, looked over my shoulder, and discov- their genius produced, but are unable to measure ered the horrid truth. Then, stretching forth the productive force ; just as, in our own country, his long, bony hand, he seized upon the volume, we behold a mountain thrown up into the air by as an eagle pounces upon a hare, and, thrusting volcanic agency, but never perceive the power at it into his bosom, cast on me a menacing look, work.” and returned to his place in the choir. Up to “I have read the history of Florence," obthat moment I had been intended for the ecclesi- served Carlotta, “and what remains of the letters astical profession ; but, while my heart was boil- -but should like to know much more of the man ing with indignation, I made up my mind, and, who wrote them.” walking out of the church, went straight to my We now entered into a literary conversation, uncle's; and never entered the Jesuits' college in which Carlotta's mother, a woman of considagain.

erable knowledge, joined occasionally. To my Love, I acknowledge, had something to do great surprise, I found that the daughter had read with my resolution. My uncle had a very charm- extensively, was acquainted with Dante, Petrarch, ing daughter," said he, smiling, and turning Ariosto, Tasso, and Metastasio—the last more towards his wife, who returned the smile ; " and especially—and could dissertate upon poetry and proposing for her hand, my offer was accepted, music like a professor. With all this, her manthough the marriage was postponed for some ner was the most modest, gentle, and unassuming time. Meanwhile, I entered the army, where I that could be conceived. She had, literally, no have risen to the rank of General. In due time vanity, or concealed it with so exquisite an art I married ; and you perceive," added he, turning that she might as well have been without it. to his wife, and then to his daughter, " the whole

CHAPTER XIV.—THE CHURCH OF CERTOSA. of my family.”

“ You are more obliged to Machiavelli,” I Late in the afternoon we turned off from the observed, “ than most persons. Through his aid high road, to visit the conventual church of Ceryou have escaped celibacy, and risen to honor and tosa, the interior of which we found to be one distinction."

blaze of rich ornaments. Few things in a woman Signor Castrucci bowed.

are so beautiful as the feeling of devotion. CarAnd now," I inquired, looking back from this lotta, I found, was overflowing with it. As we distance of time, do you think that the notions approached the church, through an avenue of you entertained of the Florentine statesman in noble trees, her manner, always modest and subyour youth were correct ?"

dued, became much more strikingly so. Her “ Machiavelli," he replied, “ was essentially voice sank to a lower key; her animal spirits a revolutionary writer ; he despised all the estab- were hushed ; and her large blue eyes appeared lished governments of his time, and labored ear- to grow moist with delight. “ How pleasant it nestly to subvert them by propagating those prin- is,” said she to me, in a low, sweet voice, “to ciples of expediency which render men indifferent enter the house of God! See, from the walls respecting the means they employ to accomplish yonder, how the Holy Virgin smiles upon us ! their ends; he esteemed liberty the greatest good Ah! what rich tints tremble and glitter on the that men can enjoy, and thought them justified in pavement! Must not heaven be something like wading to it through seas of blood. The princes this?" and rulers of his time set no value on human life, And whatever we, here in the North, may say, which they sacrificed in all ways to gratify their there is certainly something in the architecture, most despicable caprices. He therefore coun- ornaments, and brilliant light of southern churches selled the people to follow their example, and that kindles irresistibly the spirit of joy. The labored all his life to undermine the sentiment of gloomy aisles, aspiring arches, fretted roofs, long respect for greatness which is one of the most fatal casements, and profusion of shadow, in a Gothic weaknesses incident to human nature. To dissi- edifice, may produce a more powerful effect on pate this feeling, he dwells on the crimes and fol- our imagination, but it is not enlivening. On the lies of kings and princes, and seeks to overwhelm contrary, it is akin to sorrow; and as our climate them beneath a load of contempt. No man can itself is depressing, we experience, in their fullest rise from the perusal of Machiavelli with the force, all those melancholy influences which tend same sentiment of loyalty with which he com- to impart a sombre aspect to religion. We surmenced it. His attack is conducted in the most round our sacred buildings with groves of yewinsidious manner, for he often praises what he trees, and, in the country, permit gray and yellow wishes you to hate ; but is careful that his praise lichens to spread themselves over the walls— should be calculated to provoke your detesta- green damps and immense patches disfigure the tion."

interior, and irresistibly lead us to associate hu"Strange,” interposed Carlotta, “that of so midity and darkness with everything beyond the

her prayers.

grave. In Italy the reverse is the case. Marble certain ancient Chinese vases, only showed more floors, richly painted windows, magnificent altars, clearly the monsters painted on them as they were pictures, statues, columns, gilding, and whatever the more completely filled with wine. I am, is bright and beautiful—the whole penetrated and upon the whole, extremely tolerant; but the conalmost rendered transparent by light-surround versation of Swiss and Germans after dinner was you on all sides, and produce a peculiar effect on too much for my equanimity. As they drank, your fancy. You do not need to mount in search they became communicative, and were so overof the skies—a little compartment of heaven seems powering in their confidence, that I soon proposed to have descended for your use, and a holy atmos- to the Hanoverian to take a walk with me in the phere murmurs and breathes around you. city. However, we were not destined so to es

Familiarity does not always breed contempt. cape, for our jovial friends no sooner discovered Madame B. put more confidence in me as our ac- four design than they abandoned their cups to acquaintance proceeded, allowed her daughter to take company us. I sent them for the moment to the my arm, while she took the other, and conversed warmest of all latitudes—that is to say, interwith me freely as we walked through the church. nally; common decency compelled me to appear They forgot I was a heretic, and consequently flattered by what they really intended as a comgave full vent to those rapturous feelings which pliment. So forth we went, with abundance of devout Catholics experience from time to time. cursing and swearing, and considerably worse ocReligion, in some persons, is an instinct-finest in casionally, to see the churches of Pavia. In one the finest organizations. The soul, in such cases, of these Semler and I managed to lose ourselves, seems to be an instrument so exquisite, and of so or rather our companions, by slipping softly out vast a compass, that it cannot yield forth all its at a side door, and plunging down the first dusky music when played upon by anything but heaven. lane we could see, which fortunately led us out Carlotta's soul was one of these. Her exquisite upon the banks of the Ticino, near the old-fashsensibility, her fervid imagination, her impassioned ioned, picturesque, covered bridge. It may argue heart, rendered her susceptible to the most delicate little taste in me to admire so strange and groinfluences; so that religion easily became a want tesque a structure, but I plead guilty, nevertheof her nature.

less, and acknowledge that I experienced considShe invited me to kneel with her while she said erable pleasure in walking through that long

At that instant, from a gallery far wooden gallery, strongly roofed over, and affordabove, we heard a burst of music, and numerous ing, through spacious openings on either side, voices of women, chanting the “Agnus Dei.” And magnificent views of the broad waters of the oh, the effect of music at such a moment! An- Ticino, fringed with shrubs and low trees, then gelic voices appeared to be lymning their Creator beginning to be painted with the rich hues of in the courts above. The sounds descended upon autumn. us like showers of delight; and the Lamb of Every person, perhaps, has a favorite season of God, and the Virgin, floated softly through the the year-some preferring the summer, others the incensed atmosphere. Carlotta placed one of her spring, others winter, and others, like myself, the hands on mine; the other was pressed on her bosom. golden autumn. The zest of our pleasures is We did not speak. It was a moment of more than heightened by an infusion of melancholy. Few earthly pleasure; and when the hymn had been things are more melancholy than music-none so chanted we rose from our knees, walked forth from melancholy as love, which is, in fact, nothing but the church, and returned to the carriage in perfect the consciousness of a desire never to be wholly silence. But, through that silence, what celestial gratified here below. Love is the yearning of the melodies appeared to roll! The soul was full of soul after the beautiful, which is but another exmusic, and therefore the ear needed none. Such pression for the infinite. Doubtless the fresh was my brief visit to the church of Certosa. green of spring, when the trees stand in genteel

We now pressed on with unusual speed towards half-dress before the modest sun, is highly refreshPavia, where we arrived in time for a late dinner. ing to the mind as well as to the eye. But autumn Here we lost sight, suddenly, of Signor Castrucci comes to us, decked in a thousand colors, painted, and his family. We took no leave of each other. partly, by the hand of decay. It is beauty on the Ile disappeared in the inn yard, hurried off, per- threshold of the tomb, rendered more beautiful and haps, by some friends, who would not allow him fascinating by the air breathing upon it from betime for the ordinary politenesses of travelling; or yond. We fancy we never discovered all its he may have lived at Pavia, and forgotten us in his loveliness till then. Death itself is marvellously eagerness to visit home. Carlotta and her mother beautiful, in its eternal silence and composure ; it retired to dine in a private room; and I was left hints the mystery it dares not speak; it seems to with a rabble of Swiss, whose company would have have closed its eyes, only that it may indulge in been altogether insufferable but for the presence of delicious dreams forever. All realities seem nothmy friend Semler, whose kindness and generosity ing compared with the ideal creation which throngs of character I have endeavored to do justice 10 upon the soul in death. And autumn is the elsewhere. A good dinner is apt to soften the threshold of death-mature, soft, balmy, like the worst of tempers; it did so in the case of my thoughts of old age, illumined by the light of Swiss companions, whose minds, however, like heaven. For this reason I love the autumn, and

« VorigeDoorgaan »