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When the mist creeps ower the Cumbrays,
An' Arran peaks are grey, And the great black hills, like sleepin' kings,
Sit grand roun' Rothsay Bay.
RECOLLECTIONS OF ITALY:
A ROMAN WEDDING AMONGST THE LOWER ORDERS.
FROM AN UNPUBLISHED WORK.
BY THE CHEVALIER DE CHATELAIN.
I had promised Signorina Felicia to sit down to her table and taste of one of the 135,000 eggs that had been laid on Good Friday; but "man proposes and God disposes ;” and I was obliged to request Signorina Felicia to excuse my availing myself of her polite invitation. My motives arose from the following cause.
In one of my excursions during the first days of October, being somewhat fatigued, I had entered a shabby little osteria to refresh myself. Several Roman eminenti, seated on the same bench as myself, began to show symptoms of impatience at the endless length of time the waiter was keeping them without the wine he was gone to fetch. I bethought myself to offer them the use of my bottle in the meantime, which they accepted without further ceremony. From that moment, notwithstanding my foreign accent, we were all hail-fellow-well-met.
“Signor Francese," said the gayest of the set, when I was about to retire, “I have a daughter, aged fifteen, who is going to be married in a few months : will you do me the favour to promise that you will be present at her wedding ?”
Seeing me hesitate, he added :
“Don't be afraid of finding yourself mixed up with low people : you will only meet my relations and friends, vinedressers, farmers, haberdashers, and frigitori (retailers of fried fish), &c., all of them jolly companions, whose throats have never been defiled by a drop of water ; therefore you can't fail of being amused, I can tell you.”
There was something so frank and simple-hearted in this invitation, that I promised, were I still in Rome at the time of the nuptials, that I should be delighted to be present; and accordingly I gave my address, that I might be warned in time.
On Easter-eve I was not a little surprised to receive a deputation that informed me the wedding-dinner would take place the next day at twelve. They offered to come and fetch me with all due honours; and if they did not press me to make one at the marriage ceremony, it was only because they were afraid of taxing me too much. I was perplexed : on one hand, the Paschal egg of Signorina Felicia seemed to claim the preference; on the other, I could scarcely refuse going to the wedding, especially when they came so obligingly to remind me of my promise. What was to be done? The deputation, unaware of the cause of my hesitation, exerted all their eloquence to convince me that I really ought not to miss such an opportunity of feasting. There were, they told me, at least two carts full of eatables : one might literally eat to bursting of macaroni, brocoli, and gallinacie. It would have been out of human nature to forego so tempting an offer. I suffered myself to be overruled; and Signorina Felicia was kind enough to admit my apology.
On Easter morning, therefore, after having witnessed the grande Funzione, I betook myself, towards twelve o'clock, to the locality which had been designated as the scene of the feast, which was somewhere in the regione de' monti, where I found a
numerous and somewhat noisy society gathered round the bride, who, according to custom, was dressed from head to foot in pink velvet, in spite of the heat of the season. Besides this she had silver buckles on her shoes, of about seven inches diameter, which, as often as she walked, made a noise very much resembling the clanking of a hussar's sword as it dangles along the ground. The bridegroom was every whit as smart as she: his costume consisted of a brigand's jacket, a Neapolitan sash, white stockings, and a broad-brimmed, long-piled hat.
I congratulated them; and I could not help saying to the bridegroom that he was no bad judge of beauty, his bride being really charming. He drew up his head proudly, as he answered me by quoting the Italian proverb :
“Ne donna ne tela, non comprare alla candela” – (Neither cloth nor wives should be chosen by candle-light.)
The father of the bride then interfered, saying to his son-inlaw :
“You may say what you will, son, but
* Al molino e a la sposa
Sempre manca qualche cosa,'"
(There is always something that might be mended, either in a mill or a wife.)
This bandying of proverbs was put a stop to by the arrival of the married women of the neighbourhood, who came to offer the presents customary on such occasions. One gave a saucepan ; another an old chair, fresh seated; a third brought nothing but a stockdove, to whom a mate might easily be given, and their offspring would form in time an extensive colony of doves; another gave half-a-dozen plates : and thus, in a few moments, the young bride was surrounded by utensils of housewifery of all ages, which made her look very much like the mistress of a lumber-shop. I do not attempt to describe the
noise made by these gossips as they gathered round her to present their offerings.
The dinner-hour was now come. We were invited to take our places at table, towards which the whole mass rushed with the greatest eagerness, except the girls and youths under eighteen, who were made to retire, because morals must be attended to, and it would not be proper for them to witness the freedom of action and language made use of on such occasions; but as to putting any restraint on themselves out of regard for their innocence, that was wholly out of the question.
The dining-room was a shed, or rather a barn, open to all the winds of heaven, as is often the case in Italy. There were more than a hundred present; consequently we were jammed together rather closely on the benches, and several were obliged to stand : they did not, however, devour a morsel the less : saucepans full of macaroni and brocoli did but appear and disappear ; viands such as lamb and boiled turkeys, sufficient to victual a garrison, were presently engulfed. For want of glasses each drank out of the bottle; I alone, being privileged as a stranger, drank from an earthen cup. But now the roast meats make their appearance: heated by wine, the guests pounce upon these as if a general pillage had taken place; one pulls off a wing, another tugs at a leg, and these are distributed right and left to their friends, who catch them adroitly. The salad in turn comes in ; the son-in-law dresses it, while the father-in-law takes care to bawl out to him the customary proverb :
“ Per fare buon insalata
Poco pepe, ben salata
(A little pepper and vinegar, and a great deal of oil and salt, compose a good salad.)
The son-in-law acted accordingly, and, like a gallant bride