Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

mountains covered with vines and olives was extremely agreeable ; and the odour of the myrtle and other aromatic shrubs and flowers that grew all round me was very refreshing. As I walked along, I often saw Corsican peasants come suddenly out from the covert. They were all armed ; even the man who carried my baggage was armed, and had I been timorous might have alarmed me. But he and I were very good company to each other. As it grew dusky, I repeated to myself these lines from a fine passage in Ariosto :

“E pur per selve oscure e calli obliqui

Insieme van, senza sospetto aversi."
“ Together through dark woods and winding ways

They walk, nor on their hearts suspicion preys." Signor Antonetti received me with unaffected cordiality, making an apology for my frugal entertainment, but assuring me of a hearty welcome. His true kindly hospitality was also shown in taking care of my servant, an honest Swiss, who loved to eat and drink well. I had formed a strange notion that I should see every thing in Corsica totally different from what I had seen in any other country. I was therefore much surprised to find Signor Antonetti's house quite an Italian one, with very good furniture, prints, and copies of some of the famous pictures. In particular, I was struck to find here a small copy from Raphael, of St. Michael and the Dragon. There was no necessity for its being well done. To see the thing at all was what surprised me.

A Corsican Sermon. The next day, being Sunday, I accompanied Signor Antonetti and his family to hear mass in the parish church, a very pretty little building, about half a quarter of a mile off

. The priest was to preach to us, at which I was much pleased, being very curious to hear a Corsican sermon. He did very well.

well. His text was in the Psalms : « Descendunt ad infernum viventes, — They go down alive into the pit.” After endeavouring to move our passions with a description of the horrors of hell, he told us, “Saint

[ocr errors]

Catharine of Siena wished to be laid on the mouth of this dreadful pit, that she might stop it up, so as no more unhappy souls should fall into it. I confess, my brethren, I have not the zeal of holy Saint Catharine. But I do what I can ; I warn you how to avoid it.” He then

He then gave us some good practical advices and concluded.

A Slight Mistake. At Pino I was cordially entertained at Signor Tomasi’s. Throughout all Corsica, except in garrison towns, there is hardly an inn. Before I was accustomed to the Corsican hospitality, I sometimes forgot myself, and imagining I was in a public house, called for what I wanted, with the tone which one uses in calling to the waiters at a tavern. I did so at Pino, asking for a variety of things at once ; when Signora Tomasi perceiving my mistake, looked in my face and smiled, saying with much calmness and goodnature, “ Una cosa dopo un' altra, Signore,—One thing after another, Sir.”

Reflections in a Convent. For some time I had very curious travelling, mostly on foot, and attended by a couple of stout women, who carried my baggage upon their heads. Every time that I prepared to set out from a village, I could not help laughing, to see the good people eager to have my equipage in order, and roaring out, “ Le donne, le donne ! The women, the women!” I had full leisure and the best opportunities to observe every thing. I was lodged sometimes in private houses, sometimes in convents, being always well recommended from place to place. The first convent in which I lay was at Canari

. It appeared a little odd at first. But I soon learned to repair to my dormitory as naturally as if I had been a friar for seven years. These convents were small decent buildings, suited to the sober ideas of their pious inhabitants. The religious, who devoutly endeavour to “ walk with God,” are often treated with raillery by those whom pleasure or business prevents from thinking of future and more exalted objects. A little experience of the serenity and peace of mind to be found

in convents would be of use to temper the fire of men of the world.

Monastic Inscription. At Corte I was very politely received, and was conducted to the Franciscan convent, where I got the apartment of Paoli, who was then some days' journey beyond the mountains, holding a court of syndicato at a village called Sollacaro. These fathers have no library worth mentioning ; but their convent is large and well built. I looked about with great attention, to see if I could find any inscriptions : but the only one I found was upon a certain useful edifice,

“ Sine necessitate huc non intrate,

Quia necessaria sumus." A studied, rhyming, Latin conceit, marked upon such a place, was truly ludicrous.

Corsican Criminals. I went up to the castle of Corte. The commandant very civilly showed me every part of it.

As I wished to see all things in Corsica, I desired to see even the unhappy criminals. There were then three in the castle,-a man for the murder of his wife; a married lady who had hired one of her servants to strangle a woman of whom she was jealous ; and the servant who had actually perpetrated this barbarous action. They were brought out from their cells, that I might talk with them. The murderer of his wife had a stupid, hardened appearance, and told me he did it at the instigation of the devil. The servant was a poor despicable wretch. He had at first accused his mistress, but was afterwards prevailed with to deny his accusation, upon which he was put to the torture, by having lighted matches held between his fingers. This made him return to what he had formerly said, so as to be a strong evidence against his mistress. His hands were so miserably scorched, that he was a piteous object. I asked him why he had committed such a crime; he said, “ Perche era senza spirito. Because I was without understanding."

The lady seemed of a bold and resolute spirit. She spoke to me with great firmness, and denied her guilt, saying with a contemptuous smile, as she pointed to her servant, They can force that creature to say what they please.

Hangman of Corsica. The hangman of Corsica was a great curiosity. Being held in the utmost detestation, he durst not live like another inhabitant of the island. He was obliged to take refuge in the castle ; and there he was kept in a little corner turret, where he had just room for a miserable bed, and a little bit of fire to dress such victuals for himself as were sufficient to keep him alive, for nobody would have any intercourse with him, but all turned their backs upon him. I went up and looked at him; and a more dirty rueful spectacle I never beheld. He seemed sensible of his situation, and held down his head like an abhorred outcast. It was a long time before they could get a hangman in Corsica, so that the punishment of the gallows was hardly known, all their criminals being shot. At last this creature whom I saw, who is a Sicilian, came with a message to Paoli. The General, who has a wonderful talent for physiognomy, on seeing the man, said immediately to some of the people about him, “Ecco il boia,- Behold our hangman.' He gave orders to ask the man if he would accept of the office ; and his answer was, My grandfather was a hangman; my father was a hangman ; I have been a hangman myself, and am willing to continue so." He was therefore immediately put into office, and the ignominious death dispensed by his hands bath had more effect than twenty executions by fire-arms.

Great Seal of Corsica. When I had seen every thing about Corte, I prepared for my journey over the mountains, that I might be with Paoli. The night before I set out, I recollected that I had forgotten to get a passport. After supper therefore the Prior walked with me to the house of the Great Chancellor, who ordered the passport to be made out immediately; and while his secretary was writing it, enter

tained me by reading to me some of the minutes of the

general consulta. When the passport was finished, and ready to have the seal put to it, I was much pleased with a beautiful simple incident. The Chancellor desired a little boy who was playing in the room by us to run to his mother, and bring the great seal of the kingdom. I thought myself sitting in the house of a Cincinnatus.

Next morning I set out in very good order, having excellent mules, and active clever Corsican guides. The worthy fathers of the convent, who treated me in the kindest manner while I was their guest, would also give me some provisions for my journey; so they put up a gourd of their best wine, and some delicious pomegranates. . My Corsican guides appeared so hearty, that I often got down and walked along with them, doing just what I saw them do. When we grew hungry, we threw stones among the thick branches of the chestnut trees which overshaded us, and in that manner we brought down a shower of chestnuts, with which we filled our pockets, and went on eating them with great relish; and when this made us thirsty, we lay down by the side of the first brook, put our mouths to the stream, and drank sufficiently. It was just being for a little while one of the “prisca gens mortalium, the primitive race of men,” who ran about in the woods eating acorns and drinking water.

Belief in the Pope. While I stopped to refresh my mules at a little village, the inhabitants came crowding about me as an ambassador going to their general. When they were informed of my country, a strong black fellow among them said, “Inglese ! sono barbari ; non credono in Dio grande, - English! they are barbarians; they don't believe in the great God.” I told him, “Excuse me, Sir, we do believe in God, and in Jesus Christ too." Um,” said he, “e nel Papa ? And in the Pope?” “No.” “E perche ? And why?” This was a puzzling question in these circumstances; for there was a great audience to the controversy. I thought I would try a method of my own, and very gravely replied, “ Perche siamo troppo lontani, — Because

« VorigeDoorgaan »