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Title: Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 419 - Volume 17, New Series, January 10, 1852
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 419 - Volume 17, New Series, January 10, 1852" ***

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                     CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL


  CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
  INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


  No. 419. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JANUARY 10, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2 _d_.



THE LOST AGES.


My friends, have you read Elia? If so, follow me, walking in the
shadow of his mild presence, while I recount to you my vision of the
Lost Ages. I am neither single nor unblessed with offspring, yet,
like Charles Lamb, I have had my 'dream-children.' Years have flown
over me since I stood a bride at the altar. My eyes are dim and
failing, and my hairs are silver-white. My real children of flesh
and blood have become substantial men and women, carving their own
fortunes, and catering for their own tastes in the matter of wives
and husbands, leaving their old mother, as nature ordereth, to the
stillness and repose fitted for her years. Understand, this is not
meant to imply that the fosterer of their babyhood, the instructor
of their childhood, the guide of their youth, is forsaken or
neglected by those who have sprung up to maturity beneath her eye.
No; I am blessed in my children. Living apart, I yet see them often;
their joys, their cares are mine. Not a Sabbath dawns but it finds
me in the midst of them; not a holiday or a festival of any kind is
noted in the calendar of their lives, but Grandmamma is the first to
be sent for. Still, of necessity, I pass much of my time alone; and
old age is given to reverie quite as much as youth. I can remember a
time--long, long ago--when in the twilight of a summer evening it
was a luxury to sit apart with closed eyes; and, heedless of the
talk that went on in the social circle from which I was withdrawn,
indulge in all sorts of fanciful visions. Then my dream-people were
all full-grown men and women. I do not recollect that I ever thought
about children until I possessed some of my own. Those waking
visions were very sweet--sweeter than the realities of life that
followed; but they were neither half so curious nor half so
wonderful as the dreams that sometimes haunt me now. The imagination
of the old is not less lively than that of the young: it is only
less original. A youthful fancy will create more new images; the
mind of age requires materials to build with: these supplied, the
combinations it is capable of forming are endless. And so were born
my dream-children.

Has it never occurred to you, mothers and fathers, to wonder what
has become of your children's lost ages? Look at your little boy of
five years old. Is he at all, in any respect, the same breathing
creature that you beheld three years back? I think not. Whither,
then, has the sprite vanished? In some hidden fairy nook, in some
mysterious cloud-land he must exist still. Again, in your
slim-formed girl of eight years, you look in vain for the sturdy elf
of five. Gone? No; that cannot be--'a thing of beauty is a joy for
ever.' Close your eyes: you have her there! A breeze-like, sportive,
buoyant thing; a thing of breathing, laughing, unmistakable life;
she is mirrored on your retina as plainly as ever was dancing
sunbeam on a brook. The very trick of her lip--of her eye; the
mischief-smile, the sidelong saucy glance,

             'That seems to say,
  I know you love me, Mr Grey;'

is it not traced there--all, every line, as clear as when it
brightened the atmosphere about you in the days that are no more? To
be sure it is; and being so, the thing must exist--somewhere.

I never was more fully possessed with this conviction than once
during the winter of last year. It was Christmas-eve. I was sitting
alone, in my old armchair, and had been looking forward to the
fast-coming festival-day with many mingled thoughts--some tender,
but regretful; others hopeful, yet sad; some serious, and even
solemn. As I laid my head back and sat thus with closed eyes,
listening to the church-clock as it struck the hour, I could not but
feel that I was passing--very slowly and gently it is true--towards
a time when the closing of the grave would shut out even that sound
so familiar to my ear; and when other and more precious sounds of
life-human voices, dearer than all else, would cease to have any
meanings for me--and even their very echoes be hushed in the silence
of the one long sleep. Following the train of association, it was
natural that I should recur to the hour when that same church's
bells had chimed my wedding-peal. I seemed to hear their music once
again; and other music sweeter still--the music of young vows that
'kept the word of promise to the ear, and broke it' _not_ 'to the
hope.' Next in succession came the recollection of my children. I
seemed to lose sight of their present identity, and to be carried
away in thought to times and scenes far back in my long-departed
youth, when they were growing up around my knees--beautiful forms of
all ages, from the tender nursling of a single year springing with
outstretched arms into my bosom, to the somewhat rough but ingenuous
boy of ten. As my inner eye traced their different outlines, and
followed them in their graceful growth from year to year, my heart
was seized with a sudden and irresistible longing to hold fast these
beloved but passing images of the brain. What joy, I thought, would
it be to transfix the matchless beauty which had wrought itself thus
into the visions of my old age! to preserve for ever, unchanging,
every varied phase of that material but marvellous structure which
the glorious human soul had animated and informed through all its
progressive stages from the child to the man!

Scarcely was the thought framed when a dull, heavy weight seemed to
press upon my closed eyelids. I now saw more clearly even than
before my children's images in the different stages of their being.
But I saw these, and these alone, as they stood rooted to the
ground, with a stony fixedness in their eyes: every other object
grew dim before me. The living faces and full-grown forms which
until now had mingled with and played their part among my younger
phantoms, altogether disappeared. I had no longer any eyes, any
soul, but for this my new spectre-world. Life, and the things of
life, had lost their interest; and I knew of nothing, conceived of
nothing, but those still, inanimate forms from which the informing
soul had long since passed away.

And now that the longing of my heart was answered, was I satisfied?
For a time I gazed, and drew a deep delight from the gratification
of my vain and impious craving. But at length the still, cold
presence of forms no longer of this earth began to oppress me. I
grew cold and numb beneath their moveless aspect; and constant
gazing upon eyes lighted up by no varying expression, pressed upon
my tired senses with a more than nightmare weight. I felt a sort of
dull stagnation through every limb, which held me bound where I sat,
pulseless and moveless as the phantoms on which I gazed.

As I wrestled with the feeling that oppressed me, striving in vain
to break the bonds of that strange fascination, under the pressure
of which I surely felt that I must perish--a soft voice, proceeding
from whence I knew not, broke upon my ear. 'You have your desire,'
it said gently; 'why, then, struggle thus? Why writhe under the
magic of that joy you have yourself called up? Are they not here
before you, the Lost Ages whose beauty and whose grace you would
perpetuate? What would you more? O mortal!'

'But these forms have no life,' I gasped--'no pulsating, breathing
soul!'

'No,' replied the same still, soft voice; 'these forms belong to the
things of the past. In God's good time they breathed the breath of
life; they had _then_ a being and a purpose on this earth. Their day
has departed--their work is done.'

So saying, the voice grew still: the leaden weight which had pressed
upon my eyelids was lifted off: I awoke.

Filled with reveries of the past--my eyes closed to everything
without--sleep had indeed overtaken me as I sat listening to the old
church-clock. But my vision was not all a vision: my dream-children
came not without their teaching. If they had been called up in
folly, yet in their going did they leave behind a lesson of wisdom.

The morning dawned--the blessed Christmas-morning! With it came my
good and dutiful, my real life--children. When they were all
assembled round me, and when, subdued and thoughtful beneath the
tender and gracious associations of the day, each in turn
ministered, reverently and lovingly, to the old mother's need of
body and of soul, my heart was melted within me. Blessed, indeed,
was I in a lot full to overflowing of all the good gifts which a
wise and merciful Maker could lavish upon his erring and craving
creature. I stood reproved. I felt humbled to think that I should
ever for a moment have indulged one idle or restless longing for the
restoration of that past which had done its appointed work, and out
of which so gracious a present had arisen. One idea impressed me
strongly: I could not but feel that had the craving of my soul been
answered in reality, as my dream had foreshadowed; and had the wise
and beneficent order of nature been disturbed and distorted from its
just relations, how fearful would have been the result! Here, in my
green old age, I stood amongst a new generation, honoured for what I
was, beloved for what I had been. What if, at some mortal wish in
some freak of nature, the form which I now bore were for ever to
remain before the eyes of my children! Were such a thing to befall,
how would their souls ever be lifted upward to the contemplation of
that higher state of being into which it is my hope soon to pass
when the hand which guided me hither shall beckon me hence? At the
thought my heart was chastened. Never since that night have I
indulged in any one wish framed in opposition to nature's laws.
_Now_ I find my dream-children in the present; and to the past I
yield willingly all things which are its own--among the rest, the
Lost Ages.



STORY OF GASPAR MENDEZ.

BY CATHERINE CROWE.


The extraordinary motives under which people occasionally act, and
the strange things they do under the influence of these motives,
frequently so far transcend the bounds of probability, that we
romance-writers, with the wholesome fear of the critics before our
eyes, would not dare to venture on them. Only the other day we read
in the newspapers that a Frenchman who had been guilty of
embezzlement, and was afraid of being found out, went into a theatre
in Lyon and stabbed a young woman whom he had never seen before in
his life, in order that he might die by the hands of the
executioner, and so escape the inconvenience of rushing into the
other world without having time to make his peace with Heaven. He
desired death as a refuge from the anguish of mind he was suffering;
but instead of killing himself he killed somebody else, because the
law would allow him leisure for repentance before it inflicted the
penalty of his crime.

It will be said the man was mad--I suppose he was; and so is
everybody whilst under the influence of an absorbing passion,
whether the mania be love, jealousy, fanaticism, or revenge. The
following tale will illustrate one phase of such a madness.

In the year 1789, there resided in Italy, not far from Aquila in the
Abruzzo, a man called Gaspar Mendez. He appears to have been a
Spaniard, if not actually by birth, at least by descent, and to have
possessed a small estate, which he rendered valuable by pasturing
cattle. Not far from where he resided there lived with her parents a
remarkably handsome girl, of the name of Bianca Venoni, and on this
fair damsel Mendez fixed his affections. As he was by many degrees
the best match about the neighbourhood, he never doubted that his
addresses would be received with a warm welcome, and intoxicated
with this security, he seems to have made his advances so abruptly
that the girl felt herself entitled to give him an equally abrupt
refusal. To aggravate his mortification, he discovered that a young
man, called Giuseppe Ripa, had been a secret witness to the
rejection, which took place in an orchard; and as he walked away
with rage in his heart, he heard echoing behind him the merry laugh
of the two thoughtless young people. Proud and revengeful by nature,
this affront seems to have rankled dreadfully in the mind of Gaspar;
although, in accordance with that pride, he endeavoured to conceal
his feelings under a show of indifference. Those who knew the
parties well, however, were not deceived; and when, after an
interval, it was discovered that Giuseppe himself was the favoured
lover of Bianca, the enmity, though not more open, became more
intense than ever.

In the meantime old Venoni, Bianca's father, had become aware of the
fine match his daughter had missed, and was extremely angry about
it; more particularly as he was poor, and would have been very much
pleased to have a rich son-in-law. Nor was he disposed to relinquish
the chance so easily. After first trying his influence on Bianca,
upon whom he expended a great deal of persuasion and cajolery in
vain, he went so far as to call upon Gaspar, apologising for his
daughter's ignorance and folly in refusing so desirable a proposal,
and expressing a hope that Mendez would not relinquish the pursuit,
but try his fortune again; when he hoped to have brought her to a
better state of mind.

Gaspar received the old man with civility, but answered coldly, that
any further advances on his own part were out of the question,
unless he had reason to believe the young lady was inclined to
retract her refusal; in which case he should be happy to wait upon
her. With this response Venoni returned to make another attack upon
his daughter, whom, however, fortified by her strong attachment to
Ripa, he found quite immovable; and there for several months the
affair seems to have rested, till the old man, urged by the
embarrassment of his circumstances, renewed the persecution,
coupling it with certain calumnies against Giuseppe, founded on the
accidental loss of a sum of money which had been intrusted to him by
a friend, who wanted it conveyed to a neighbouring village, whither
the young man had occasion to go. This loss, which seems to have
arisen out of some youthful imprudence, appears to have occasioned
Ripa a great deal of distress; and he not only did his utmost to
repair it by giving up everything he had, which was indeed very
little, but he also engaged to pay regularly a portion of his weekly
earnings till the whole sum was replaced.

His behaviour, in short, was so satisfactory, that the person to
whom the money had belonged does not seem to have borne him any
ill-will on the subject; but Venoni took advantage of the
circumstance to fling aspersions on the young man's character,
whilst it strengthened his argument against the connection with his
daughter; for how was Giuseppe to maintain a wife and family with
this millstone of debt round his neck? Bianca, however, continued
faithful to her lover, and for some time nothing happened to advance
the suit of either party. In that interval a sister of Gaspar's had
married a man called Alessandro Malfi, who, being a friend of
Giuseppe's, endeavoured to bring about a reconciliation betwixt the
rivals, or, rather, to produce a more cordial feeling, for there had
never been a quarrel; and as far as Ripa was concerned, as he had no
cause for jealousy, there was no reason why he should bear ill-will
to the unsuccessful candidate. With Gaspar it was different: he
hated Ripa; but as it hurt his pride that this enmity to one whom he
considered so far beneath him should be known, he made no open
demonstration of dislike, and when Malfi expressed a wish to invite
his friend to supper, hoping that Mendez would not refuse to meet
him, the Spaniard made no objection whatever. 'Why not?' he said:
'he knew of no reason why he should not meet Giuseppe Ripa, or any
other person his brother-in-law chose to invite.'

Accordingly the party was made; and on the night appointed Giuseppe,
after a private interview in the orchard with his mistress, started
for Malfi's house, which was situated about three miles off, in the
same direction as Gaspar's, which, indeed, he had to pass; on which
account he deferred his departure to a later hour than he otherwise
would have done, wishing not to come in contact with his rival till
they met under Malfi's roof. Mendez had a servant called Antonio
Guerra, who worked on his farm, and who appears to have been much in
his confidence, and just as Ripa passed the Spaniard's door, he met
Guerra coming in an opposite direction, and asked him if Mendez had
gone to the supper yet; to which Guerra answered that he supposed he
had, but he did not know. Guerra then took a key out of his pocket,
and, unlocking the door, entered the house, whilst Ripa walked on.

In the meanwhile the little party had assembled in Malfi's parlour,
all but the two principal personages, Gaspar and Giuseppe; and as
time advanced without their appearing, some jests were passed
amongst the men present, who wished they might not have fallen foul
of each other on the way. At length, however, Ripa arrived, and the
first question that was put to him was: 'What had he done with his
rival?' which he answered by inquiring if the Spaniard was not come.
But although he endeavoured to appear unconcerned, there was a
tremor in his voice and a confusion of manner that excited general
observation. He made violent efforts, however, to appear at his
ease, but these efforts were too manifest to be successful; whilst
the continued absence of Mendez became so unaccountable, that a
cloud seems to have settled on the spirits of the company, which
made the expected festivity pass very heavily off.

'Where could Mendez be? What could have detained him? It was to be
hoped no harm had happened to him!' Such was the burden of the
conversation till--when at about an hour before midnight the party
broke up--Alessandro Malfi said, that to allay the anxiety of his
wife, who was getting extremely alarmed about her brother, he would
walk as far as Forni--which was the name of Gaspar's farm--to
inquire what had become of him.

As Ripa's way lay in the same direction, they naturally started
together; and after what appears to have been a very silent
walk--for the spirits of Giuseppe were so depressed that the other
found it impossible to draw him into conversation--they reached
Forni, when, having rung the bell, they were presently answered by
Antonio Guerra, who put his head out of an upper window to inquire
who they were, and what they wanted.

'It is I, Alessandro Malfi. I want to know where your master is, and
why he has not been to my house this evening as he promised?'

'I thought he was there,' said Antonio. 'He set off from here to go
soon after seven o'clock.'

'That is most extraordinary!' returned Malfi. 'What in the world can
have become of him?'

'It is very strange, certainly,' answered the servant. 'He has never
come home; and when you rang I thought it was he returned from the
party.'

As there was no more to be learned, the two friends now parted;
Malfi expressing considerable surprise and some uneasiness at the
non-appearance of his brother-in-law: whilst of Giuseppe we hear
nothing more till the following afternoon, when, whilst at work in
his vineyard, he was accosted by two officers of justice from
Aquila, and he found himself arrested, under an accusation of having
waylaid Mendez in a mountain-pass on the preceding evening, and
wounded him with the design of taking his life.

The first words Ripa uttered on hearing this impeachment--words
that, like all the rest of his behaviour, told dreadfully against
him--were: 'Isn't he dead, then?'

'No thanks to you that he's not,' replied the officer; 'but he's
alive, and likely to recover to give evidence against his assassin.'

'_Dio_!' cried Giuseppe, 'I wish I'd known he wasn't dead!'

'You confess, then, that you wounded him with the intent to kill?'

'No,' answered Ripa; 'I confess no such thing. As I was going
through the pass last night I observed a man's hat lying a little
off the road, and on lifting it, I saw it belonged to Señor Mendez.
Whilst I was wondering how it came there without the owner, and was
looking about for him, I spied him lying behind a boulder. At first
I thought he was asleep, but on looking again, I saw he didn't lie
like a sleeping man, and I concluded he was dead. Had it been any
one but he, I should have lifted him up; but it being very well
known that we were no friends, I own I was afraid to do so. I
thought it better not to meddle with him at all. However, if he is
alive, as you say, perhaps he can tell himself who wounded him.'

'To be sure he can,' returned the officer: 'he says it's you!'

'_Perduto son' io!_--Then I am lost!' exclaimed Ripa; who, on being
brought before the authorities, persisted in the same story; adding,
that so far from seeking Mendez, he had particularly wished to avoid
him, and that that was the reason he had started so late; for he had
been warned that the Spaniard was his enemy, and he apprehended that
if they met alone some collision might ensue.

It appeared, however, that he had consumed much more time on the
road than could be fairly accounted for; for two or three people had
met him on the way before he reached Forni; and then Antonio Guerra
could speak as to the exact hour of his passing. This discrepancy he
attempted to explain by saying, that after seeing Mendez on the
ground, dead--as he believed--he had been so agitated and alarmed
that he did not like to present himself at Malfi's house, lest he
should excite observation. He had also spent some time in
deliberating whether or not he should mention what he had seen; and
he had made up his mind to do so on his arrival, but was deterred by
everybody's asking him, when he entered the room, what he had done
with Mendez--a question that seemed to imply a suspicion against
himself.

This tale, of course, was not believed: indeed his whole demeanour
on the night in question tended strongly to his condemnation; added
to which, Malfi, who had been his friend, testified that not only
had Ripa betrayed all the confusion of guilt during the walk from
his house to Forni, but that having hold of his arm, he had
distinctly felt him tremble as they passed the spot where Mendez was
subsequently discovered.

With regard to Mendez himself, it appeared that when found he was in
a state of insensibility, and he was still too weak to give evidence
or enter into any particulars; but when, under proper remedies, he
had recovered his senses, Faustina Malfi, his sister--to whose house
he had been carried--asked him if Giuseppe Ripa was not the
assassin; and he answered in the affirmative.

Giuseppe was thrown into prison to await his trial; and having
public opinion, as well as that of the authorities against him, he
was universally considered a dead man. The only person that adhered
to him was Bianca, who visited him in the jail, and refused to
believe him guilty. But if he was innocent, who was the criminal? It
appeared afterwards that Ripa himself had his own suspicions on that
subject, but as they were founded only on two slight indications, he
felt it was useless to advance them.

In the meantime Gaspar Mendez was slowly recovering the injuries he
had received, and was of course expected to give a more explanatory
account of what had happened to him after he left Forni on his way
to Alessandro Malfi's. That he had been robbed as well as wounded
was already known--his brother and sister having found his pockets
empty and his watch gone. The explanation he could give, however,
proved to be very scanty. Indeed, he seemed to know very little
about the matter, but he still adhered to his first assertion, that
Ripa was the assassin. With regard to the money he had lost, there
was necessarily less mystery, since it consisted of a sum that he
was carrying to his sister, and was indeed her property, being the
half share of some rents which he had received on that morning, the
produce of two houses in the town of Aquila which had been
bequeathed to them conjointly by their mother. The money was in a
canvas bag, and the other half which belonged to himself he had left
locked in his strong box at home, where, on searching for it, it was
found. As Ripa was known to be poor, and very much straitened by his
endeavours to make good the sum he had lost, that he should add
robbery to assassination was not to be wondered at. On the contrary,
it strengthened the conviction of his guilt, by supplying an
additional motive for the crime.

The injuries having been severe, it was some time before Mendez
recovered sufficiently to return home; and when he was well enough
to move, instead of going to Forni, he discharged his servant
Antonio Guerra, and went himself to Florence, where he remained
several months.

All this time Giuseppe Ripa was in prison, condemned to die, but not
executed; because after his trial and sentence, a letter had been
received by the chief person in authority, warning him against
shedding the blood of the innocent. 'Señor Mendez is mistaken,' the
letter said: 'he did not see the assassin, who attacked him from
behind, and Giuseppe Ripa is not guilty.'

This judge, whose name was Marino, appears to have been a just man,
and to have felt some dissatisfaction with the evidence against
Ripa; inasmuch as Mendez, who, when first questioned, had spoken
confidently as to his identity, had since faltered when he came to
give his evidence in public, and seemed unable to afford any
positive testimony on the subject. The presumption against the
prisoner, without the evidence of the Spaniard, was considered by
the other judges strong enough to convict him; but Marino had
objected that since the attack was made by daylight--for it was in
the summer, and the evenings were quite light--it seemed
extraordinary that Mendez could give no more certain indications of
his assailant. Added to this, although every means had been used to
obtain a confession--such means as are permitted on the continent,
but illegal in this country--Giuseppe persisted in his innocence.
Moreover, as no money had been found about him, and Faustina Malfi
was exceedingly desirous of recovering what had been lost, she
exerted herself to obtain mercy to at least the extent that hopes of
a commutation of his sentence should be held out to the prisoner,
provided he would reveal where he had concealed the bagful of silver
he had taken from her brother. But in vain. Ripa was either
guiltless or obstinate, for nothing could be extracted from him but
repeated declarations of his innocence.

In the meantime Bianca had been undergoing a terrible persecution
from her father on the subject of Mendez, who had returned from
Florence and taken up his abode, as formerly, at Forni. Her former
lover was a condemned man, and altogether _hors de combat_: she
might regret him as she would, and lament his fate to her heart's
content, but he could never be her husband; and there was the
Spaniard, rich and ready; whilst the increasing age and poverty of
her parent rendered a good match of the greatest importance. In
short, under the circumstances of the case, it was urged upon her on
all hands, that she was bound both by her duty to her father and to
evince her abhorrence of Ripa's crime--which otherwise it might be
supposed she had instigated--to marry Mendez without delay.

Persuaded of Giuseppe's innocence, and half believing that the
accusation was prompted by jealousy, it may be imagined how
unwelcome these importunities were, and for a considerable time she
resisted them; indeed she seems only to have been overcome at last
by a ruse. A rumour being set afloat that the day was about to be
appointed for Ripa's execution, a hint was thrown out that it lay in
her power to save his life: she had only to become the wife of
Mendez, and her lover's sentence should be commuted from death to
banishment. This last argument prevailed, and poor Bianca, with a
heavy heart, consented to become the mistress of Forni. The Malfis,
however, do not seem to have been amongst those who desired the
match; and it would appear that they even made some attempts to
prevent its taking place, by circulating a report that she had been
privy to the assault and robbery. Perhaps they hoped, if Gaspar
remained unmarried, to inherit his property themselves; but however
that may be, their opposition was of no avail, and an early period
was fixed for the wedding.

The year had now come round to the summer season again, and it
happened, by mere accident, that the day appointed for the marriage
was the anniversary of that on which Mendez had been robbed and
wounded. Nobody, however, appears to have thought of this
coincidence, till Mendez himself, observing the day of the month,
requested that the ceremony might be postponed till the day after:
'Because,' said he, 'I have business which will take me to Aquila on
the 7th, so the marriage had better take place on the 8th.' And thus
it was arranged.

This alteration was made about ten days before the appointed period,
and nothing seems to have occurred in the interval worth recording,
except that as the hour of sacrifice drew nigh, the unwillingness of
the victim became more evident. We must conclude, however, that
Mendez, whose object in marrying her appears to have been fully as
much the soothing of his pride as the gratification of his love, was
not influenced by her disinclination, for when he started for Aquila
on the 7th, every preparation had been made for the wedding on the
following day.

The object of his journey was to receive the rents before named,
which became due at this period, and also to purchase a
wedding-present for his bride. On this occasion Alessandro Malfi was
to have accompanied him; but when Mendez stopped at his door to
inquire if he was ready, Malfi came down stairs half-dressed, saying
that he had been up all night with his wife, who was ill, and that
as she had now fallen asleep, he was going to lie down himself, and
try to get a little rest. This occurred early in the morning; and
Mendez rode on, saying that he should call as he came back in the
evening, to inquire how his sister was. Upon this Malfi went to bed,
where he remained some hours--indeed till he received a message from
his wife, begging him to go to her. When he entered the room, the
first question she asked was whether Gaspar was gone to Aquila; and
on being told that he was, she said she was very sorry for it, for
that she had dreamed she saw a man with a mask lying in wait to rob
him.

'I saw the man as distinctly as possible,' she said, 'but I could
not see his face for the mask; and I saw the place, so that I'm sure
if I were taken there I should recognise it.'

Her husband told her not to mind her dreams, and that this one was
doubtless suggested by the circumstance that had occurred the year
before. 'But,' said he, 'Ripa's safely locked up in jail now, and
there's no danger.'

Nevertheless the dream appears to have made so deep an impression on
the sick woman's fancy, that she never let her husband rest till he
promised to go with his own farm-servant to meet her brother--a
compliance which was at length won from him by her saying that she
had seen the man crouching behind a low wall that surrounded a
half-built church; 'and close by,' she added, 'there was a
direction-post with something written on it, but I could not read
what it was.'

Now it happened that on the horse-road to Aquila, which Faustina
herself had never travelled, there was exactly such a spot as that
she described. Malfi knew it well. Struck by the circumstance, he
desired to have his dinner immediately, and then, accompanied by his
hind, he set off to meet Gaspar.

In the meanwhile the Spaniard had got his money and made his
purchases in good time, not wishing to be late on the road, so that
they had scarcely got a mile beyond the church when they met him;
and in answer to his inquiries what had brought them there, Malfi
related his wife's dream, adding that he might have spared himself
the ride, for he had looked over the wall, and saw nobody there. 'I
told her it was nonsense,' he said, 'whilst we know your enemy's
under such good keeping at Aquila; but she wouldn't be satisfied
till I came.'

Mendez, however, appeared exceedingly struck with the dream,
inquired the particulars more in detail, and asked if they were sure
there was nobody concealed in the place Faustina indicated. Malfi
answered that he did not alight, but he looked over the wall and saw
nobody. During the course of this conversation they had turned their
horses' heads, and were riding back towards the church, Malfi
talking about Ripa's affair, remarking on the impropriety of
deferring his execution so long; Mendez more than usually silent and
serious, and the servant riding beside them, when, as they
approached the spot, they saw coming towards them on foot a man,
whom they all three recognised as Antonio Guerra, the Spaniard's
late servant. As this person was supposed to have gone to another
part of the country after quitting Gaspar's service, Malfi expressed
some surprise at seeing him; whilst Mendez turned very pale, making
at the same time some exclamation that attracted the attention of
his brother-in-law, who, however, drew up his horse to ask Guerra
what had brought him back, and if he was out of a situation, adding
that a neighbour of his, whom he named, was in want of a servant.
Guerra, who looked poorly dressed, and by no means in such good case
as formerly, answered that he should be very glad if Malfi would
recommend him.

'You had better turn about, then, and come on with us,' said Malfi,
as he rode forward. During this conversation Mendez had sat by
saying nothing; and if he was grave and silent before, he was still
more so now, insomuch that his behaviour drew the attention of his
brother-in-law, who asked him if there was anything wrong with him.

'Surely it's not Faustina's dream you are thinking of?' he said;
adding, 'that the meeting with Guerra had put it out of his head, or
he would have examined the place more narrowly.'

Mendez entered into no explanation; and as the servant, who was
acquainted with Guerra, took him up behind him, they all arrived at
their journey's end nearly together: Mendez, instead of proceeding
homewards, turning off with the others to Malfi's house, where the
first thing he did after his arrival was to visit his sister, whom
he found better; whilst she, on the contrary, was struck with the
pallor of his features and the agitation of his manner--a disorder
which, like her husband, she attributed to the shock of her dream,
acting upon a mind prepared by the affair of the preceding year to
take alarm. In order to remove the impression, she laughed at the
fright she had been in; but it was evident he could not share her
merriment, and he quickly left her, saying he had a message to send
to Rocca, which was the village where Bianca and her father resided,
and that he must go below and write a note, which he did, giving it
to Malfi's servant to take.

It appeared afterwards that this man, having other work in hand,
gave the note to Guerra, who willingly undertook the commission, and
who, to satisfy his own curiosity, broke the seal on the way, and
possessed himself of its contents before he delivered it. These
were, however, only a request that Bianca and her father would come
over to Malfi's house that evening and bring the notary of the
village with them, he (Mendez) being too tired to go to Rocca to
sign the contract, as had been arranged.

It being between six and seven o'clock when this dispatch arrived,
Bianca, who was very little inclined to sign the contract at all,
objected to going; but her father insisting on her compliance, they
set off in company with Guerra and the notary, who, according to
appointment, was already in waiting. They had nearly three miles to
go, and as Venoni had no horse, the notary gave Bianca a seat on
his, and the old man rode double with Guerra.

When they arrived, Mendez was standing at the door waiting for them,
accompanied by Malfi, his servant, a priest, and two or three other
persons of the neighbourhood; some of whom advanced to assist Bianca
and her father to alight, whilst the others surrounded Guerra as he
set his foot on the ground, pinioning his arms and plunging their
hands into his pockets, from whence they drew two small pistols and
a black mask, such as was worn at the carnivals; besides these
weapons, he carried a stiletto in his bosom.

Whilst the last comers were gaping with amazement at this unexpected
scene, the new-made prisoner was led away to a place of security,
and the company proceeded into the house, where the notary produced
the contract and laid it on the table, inquiring at the same time
what Guerra had done to be so treated.

Then Mendez rose, and taking hold of the contract, he tore it in two
and flung it on the ground; at which sight Venoni started up with a
cry, or rather a howl--an expression of rage and disappointment
truly Italian, and of which no Englishman who has not heard it can
have an idea.

'_Peccato!_ I have sinned!' said the Spaniard haughtily; 'but I have
made my confession to the padre; and why I have torn that paper my
brother-in-law, Alessandro, will presently tell you!' He then
offered his hand to Bianca, who, no less pleased than astonished to
see the contract destroyed, willingly responded to this token of
good-will by giving him hers, which he kissed, asking her pardon for
any pain he had occasioned her; after which, bowing to the company,
he quitted the room, mounted his horse, and rode off to Forni.

When the sound of the animal's feet had died away, and the parties
concerned were sufficiently composed to listen to him, Malfi
proceeded to make the communication he had been charged with;
whereby it appeared that Ripa had been unjustly accused, and that
Antonio Guerra was the real criminal. Mendez knew this very well,
and would not have thought of accusing his rival had not his brother
and sister, and indeed everybody else, assumed Ripa's guilt as an
unquestionable fact. The temptation was too strong for him, and
after he had once admitted it, pride would not allow him to retract.
At the same time he declared that he would never have permitted the
execution to take place, and that after the marriage with Bianca he
intended to use every effort to procure the innocent man's
liberation, on the condition of his quitting that part of the
country. Of course it was he who wrote the letter to Marino, and he
had used the precaution of placing a sealed packet, containing a
confession of the truth, in the hands of a notary at Aquila, with
strict directions to deliver it to Ripa if the authorities should
appear disposed to carry his sentence into execution.

He had nevertheless suffered considerable qualms of conscience about
the whole affair; and the moment he saw Guerra on the road that
night, he felt certain that he had come with the intention of
waylaying him as before--the man being well aware that it was on
that day he usually received his rents. He perceived that he should
never be safe as long as this villain was free, and that he must
either henceforth live in continual terror of assassination, or
confront the mortification of a confession whilst the fellow was in
his power.

With respect to Guerra himself, he made but feeble resistance when
he was seized. He had, in the first instance, left Mendez for dead;
and he would have immediately fled when he heard he was alive, had
not the news been accompanied with the further information that the
Spaniard had pointed out Ripa as his assailant. He was exceedingly
surprised, for he could scarcely believe that he had not been
recognised. Nevertheless it was possible; and whether it were so or
not, he did not doubt that what Mendez had once asserted he would
adhere to. On receiving his dismissal, he had gone to some distance
from the scene of his crime; but having, whilst the money lasted,
acquired habits of idleness and dissipation that could not be
maintained without a further supply, these necessities had provoked
this last enterprise.

He had really been concealed behind the wall when Malfi and his
servant passed; but concluding that they were going to meet Mendez,
and that his scheme was defeated, he had thought it both useless and
dangerous to remain, and was intending to make off in another
direction, when their sudden return surprised him.

A few hours more saw Antonio Guerra in Giuseppe Ripa's cell; and
whilst the first paid the penalty of his crimes, the latter was
rewarded for his sufferings by the hand of Bianca, to whom the
Spaniard gave a small marriage-portion before finally quitting the
country, which he did immediately after Antonio's trial.

Ripa said he had always had a strong persuasion that Guerra was the
real criminal from two circumstances: the first was the hurried
manner in which he was walking on the evening he met him at the gate
of Forni, and some strange expression of countenance which he had
afterwards recalled. The second was his answering them from the
window when he and Malfi went to inquire for Mendez. If he thought
it was his master, as he said, why had he not come down at once to
admit him?

It is remarkable that the enmity of the Spaniard was not directed
against the man that had aimed at his life, but against him who had
wounded his pride.



INFLUENCES OF THE RAILWAY SYSTEM.


While there are many machines which contribute much more directly to
the rapid accumulation of wealth in the persons of individuals, than
does the railway locomotive, there is probably none which tends more
to enrich a community. Unlike most other mechanical contrivances for
the abridgment of labour, the railway locomotive unites in the
effects which it produces the elements of social as well as
commercial improvement. Like the steamship, the railway is
cosmopolitan in its character. The range of its operations may be as
extensive as the globe itself; and throughout that sphere of
activity, be it what it may, the locomotive engine is scattering
thickly the seeds of civilisation, as well as of wealth.

By the application of steam as a motive agent an immense saving has
been effected in the outlay required to be made in producing a given
result in locomotion. This is the combined product of two causes.
Such perfection has been attained in the construction of machinery,
that by the aid of steam there can thence be obtained a continuity,
combined with a rapidity of motion, which far exceeds what can be
produced by any other means at present known to us. The fleetest
racer equipped for speed alone, cannot equal, even for a single
mile, the rate at which the locomotive engine, dragging after it a
load of eighty tons, can, for hours together, be driven with ease
and safety along its iron path. And this twofold result can be
secured at a comparatively small cost. Coal, iron, wood--substances
all to be easily obtained in nearly every quarter of the globe--can
be, and daily are, fashioned into working agents not merely fleeter,
stronger, and more docile than any endowed with animal life, but
agents likewise which it is far less costly to sustain in active
usefulness. The food, medicines, and attention which animal life
demands, form very serious items of expense in the case of beasts of
burden, and so very materially impair their utility. It is otherwise
with the locomotive engine. Money, ingenuity, and toil require
undoubtedly to be expended in its original construction, attention
and care must be given to avert or repair accident, and food of its
own peculiar kind it does unquestionably consume; yet when all the
original and working expenses of a locomotive are summed up, it is
found that, compared with the income it produces, it is the cheapest
of all motive agents.

No doubt the items of railway expenditure now mentioned do not
nearly exhaust the amount of money required in their construction.
In addition to expensive engines, there require carriages to be
supplied for the transport of goods and passengers, houses and sheds
to be built for their temporary accommodation, salaries to be paid
for management and service; and in addition to all this, there must
further be expended in the construction of the line itself sums far
greater in amount than those spent in the formation and repair of
roads and highways. All this is true; but in estimating the
comparative costliness of the old and new methods of
land-locomotion, regard must be had to the amount of their produce
as well as of their outlay; and an opinion regarding their
respective merits, in an economical point of view, must be formed by
striking a balance between these two sides of the account. The
result of such a comparison proves that in point of economy, not
less than of speed and endurance, railways take precedence over all
other known means of locomotion. This combined result of rapidity
and cheapness of transit produces a double effect upon a mercantile
community: it at once enables merchants to realise the fruits of a
given speculation more quickly, which is nothing else than
transacting more business in a shorter period than before; and it
also enables them to do this increased amount of business with a
smaller amount of actual outlay--that is, to extend with safety and
profit the field of their operations beyond those boundaries which
prudence formerly marked out as the proper limits of speculation.

When we consider the amount of travelling within the island which is
requisite for carrying on the mercantile and general business of the
country, and the double saving, therefore, of time on the one hand,
and of money on the other, which is effected by means of railways,
we cannot fail to perceive that even did this new system of
locomotion economise time and labour in no other way than this
alone, its effects upon commercial transactions and on business
generally would be immense. But when we reflect that this system is
exerting the very same influence upon trade--and in a much higher
degree, so far as the outlay of money is concerned--in reference to
the carriage of goods, as in regard to that of passengers, we then
come to comprehend in some measure how fertile the railway
locomotive is in the production of the fruits of industry.

Another commercial effect of the railway system has been to equalise
the value of land, and promote the cultivation of those districts of
a country which lie considerably removed from large towns. Every one
knows that distance from market forms, as regards the cultivation of
many vegetable and animal productions, a very serious drawback.
Hence it arises that lands lying immediately around large cities
bring a far larger price than portions of ground of equal extent and
fertility would do situated at a greater distance. This is
peculiarly the case with kitchen-gardens, and pasture-land suited
for the purposes of fattening cattle, or feeding such as are
required for the dairy. In all these cases, and others which might
be mentioned, the performance of a long journey affects very
injuriously the quality and value of the several articles, and hence
the demand for farms and fields not exposed to this drawback has
naturally raised their value. Now railways, as they abridge space by
means of speed, have had a tendency to increase the value of pasture
and garden ground lying at, comparatively speaking, a very great
distance around cities. It is now no unusual thing for the
inhabitants of cities such as London, Liverpool, and Manchester, to
use at breakfast milk or cream which has travelled thirty or forty
miles the very morning it is consumed, and at dinner to partake of
vegetables whose place of growth was more than a hundred miles
removed from the stall at which they were sold.

The railway system has had a marked effect upon the state of the
money-market of the commercial world in general, and of this country
in particular. From the successful experiment made in 1830 in steam
locomotion between Liverpool and Manchester, this new method of
transit has been developing itself with a rapidity to which no
parallel is to be found in the history of mercantile enterprise.
Keeping out of view entirely the large sums which were recklessly
squandered during the railway mania in mere gambling transactions
and bubble schemes, there has been actually sunk in the construction
and working of lines up to the present time more than L.200,000,000
sterling. Before railways were called into existence, by far the
larger portion of this enormous capital was divided into a great
number of comparatively small sums, invested in a corresponding
number of different speculations. From causes which it would be
easy, but foreign to our present purpose, to explain, the profits
arising from these various speculations were not only in the
aggregate larger than those hitherto derived from railways, but the
former speculations or investments being more temporary and
convertible in their nature, secured to the parties engaging in them
a far greater command over the capital employed in them. By
diverting, as the railway system has done, so much money from the
ordinary channels of mercantile enterprise, in which large profits
were made, and--what is of more importance to the present
remarks--when that money was well within the command and subject to
the recall of its owners; and by taking, so to speak, and locking it
up in a repository which could not be opened, the circulating medium
of exchange soon became a scarce commodity to those who but lately
had possessed it in abundance.

But it would be very false to infer because extensive bankruptcies,
and periods of severe pecuniary embarrassment, have accompanied, if
not indeed been caused by the development of the railway system,
that therefore that system must be an unsound and unremunerative
one. These monetary difficulties were in a great measure the
consequence of over-speculation, and therefore form no sounder
evidence against the utility of railways, than does over-speculation
in tea condemn the prudent employment of capital in the tea-trade.
Besides which, it must ever be remembered that the judiciousness of
an undertaking is not always to be judged of by its immediate
results. All investments of capital which are from their nature
permanent, require time for the development of their effects, and
may, as regards many of their immediate results, prove rather
injurious than beneficial. To this class of speculations railways
belong. Introduced for the purpose of facilitating locomotion, and
thus improving the industry of the country, this new system of
transit was calculated to produce rather an eventual and permanent,
than an immediate benefit to the empire. So long as Great Britain
retains and cultivates the resources of trade and manufactures now
at her disposal, and provided no new method of locomotion be
invented which shall supersede railways, there is every reason to
believe that railways will continue to form an ever-increasing
source of wealth to the nation. That this is an opinion very
generally entertained is proved from the vast sums of money which
are now lent out on the faith that this result will be realised. The
railway system has not only created a new field for speculation, but
likewise a new security for monetary investments. At the close of
1848, upwards of L.43,000,000 was lent upon railways. There is every
reason to believe that debenture-holding is much greater now than it
was then; but as no official report of its amount, so far as we
know, has been published since 1848, we, for accuracy's sake, quote
the return made in that year.

If railways have produced very important effects upon commercial
affairs, they have exercised an influence not less important in a
social and intellectual point of view. They have been greatly
instrumental in removing prejudices, in cementing old and forming
new friendships, in extending information, and in sharpening
ingenuity.

Prejudice has been one of the most formidable obstacles to the
spread of civilisation. It has for ages kept separate and at enmity
nations born to bless and benefit each other; propped up systems
whose graver errors or weaker absurdities now form subjects of
regret and ridicule; and fomented among the members of smaller
societies and sects discords, strifes, and recriminations, which
have been based on no other foundation than wilful or accidental
ignorance. By bringing those in contact who otherwise would never
have met, and improving the acquaintance of those who have, railways
have spread individual opinions, tastes, and information more
equally than before; and out of this mixture of the social and moral
elements have collected and more widely distributed just conclusions
regarding men, manners, politics, and religion. By being thus more
frequently brought together, individuals have increased the number
of their acquaintances, and become to a greater extent than before
'citizens of the world.' A mutual discharge of the good offices of
life has augmented those feelings of interest in our
fellow-creatures, and kindness towards them, which are not less in
accordance with the spirit of Christianity than conducive to the
social wellbeing of communities.

The knowledge which one acquires by personal experience and
observation is, generally speaking, much more valuable than that
obtained from the written experience or observation of others. By
the former method we obtain knowledge in a more rapid, accurate, and
impressive manner; and, as a consequence of this, retain it longer
in our memories, and possess a greater and more constant command
over it. Books always convey a faint and imperfect, and often a very
erroneous impression of things; and to the extent that railways have
superseded or assisted book-teaching, have they conferred upon
society an improved means of acquiring knowledge.

Through the instrumentality of railways also, an impetus has been
imparted to the inventive and constructive faculties of the human
mind. By being brought into more frequent contact with one another,
individuals whose tastes and occupations are more or less similar
are naturally led to form comparisons regarding the relative merits
of their respective productions. This comparison has necessarily
sharpened invention, improved taste, and suggested improvement. It
is not too much to affirm, that there is not a single branch of
industry now pursued within this country which has not, directly or
indirectly, been benefited to an immense degree by the introduction
of railways. Having served to bring into one market far more
articles of commerce than before were exposed in it, this new mode
of locomotion has to a great extent increased throughout our
different trades and callings that element of a generous and
wholesome competition which is the most effective agent in eliciting
a high degree of skill in the cultivation of an art, or the
improvement of an invention.

To railways we are also indebted for a new application to practical
usefulness of one of the most powerful elements in nature's
laboratory: we refer to the employment of electricity in the
transmission of thought. Although the wondrous powers and properties
of the electric telegraph were known long before the introduction of
the railway system, they were not till then made to minister, as
they now do, to the information of man. By providing facilities
towards laying and protecting the delicate machinery along which
electricity was to perform its marvellous exploits, railways have
directly contributed to apply and develop the resources of one of
the most useful and wonderful of inventions, which even in its first
stage of infancy has wrought a perfect revolution in the mode of
transmitting intelligence; and which promises at no very distant day
to play the same part among the continents and islands of the globe
that it now does between the provinces of an empire.



THE LAST OF THE PALÆOLOGI.


It would be a curious historical problem to trace the families of
emperors and kings, of heroes and conquerors, from the era of their
decline and fall to their ultimate extinction. Some 'Old Mortality'
might find as congenial employment in this field of sepulchral
research as did the original in clearing up the decayed and
moss-grown tombs of the Covenanters. The genealogist makes it his
business rather to flatter the great by blazoning the antiquity of
their pedigrees, than to teach the world a moral lesson on the
instability of earthly grandeur, by chronicling their reverses. Yet
the churchyard has its heraldry, from whose records wisdom might be
extracted for the benefit of the living.

What dynasty in ancient times held a prouder or wider sway than the
illustrious masters of the Roman world? The solid fabric of their
power was the growth of nearly a thousand years, and it cost about
thirteen centuries of revolutions and barbaric invasions before it
was undermined and finally extinguished. If its earlier annals were
disgraced by the crimes of a Tiberius, a Nero, and a Domitian, they
could boast of the virtues and abilities of a Titus, a Trajan, a
Nerva, a Hadrian, the two Antonini, &c.; though it must be admitted
that latterly the balance sadly preponderated on the side of vice
and corruption. If a Justinian or a Constantine appeared, his reign
was but a sunbeam in the midst of the universal degeneracy; or if a
ray of splendour was shed on the empire by his virtues or his
victories, the transient glory was speedily dispelled by irruptions
from without, or intrigue and revolt within. Gradually the work of
decay proceeded, until the vast expanse of the imperial conquests
was contracted to a few provinces, whose capital had been
transferred to the shores of the Bosphorus. A languishing existence
of about six centuries and a half--that is, from the revival of the
western empire in 800 by Charlemagne, to the taking of
Constantinople by the Turks in 1453--was brought to a close by the
death of Constantine Palæologus, the last of a race who had
continued, says Gibbon, 'to assume the titles of Caesar and Augustus
after their dominions were circumscribed to the limits of a single
city, in which the language as well as manners of the ancient Romans
had been long since forgotten!'

The family of Palæologus was of Greek origin, illustrious in birth
and merit. 'As early,' says Gibbon, 'as the middle of the eleventh
century, the noble race of the Palæologi stands high and conspicuous
in Byzantine history. It was the valiant George Palæologus who
placed the father of the Comneni on the throne; and his kinsmen or
descendants continued in each generation to lead the armies and
councils of the state.' The first that wore the imperial purple was
Michael, who was elevated to the throne in 1260. Already he had
distinguished himself as a soldier and a statesman, and had been
promoted in his early youth to the office of 'constable,' or
commander of the French mercenaries. His ambition excited jealousy,
and some acts of imprudence involved him in dangers from which he
thrice escaped. One of those perils was the usual appeal which was
made in the middle ages to the 'judgment of God' to vindicate
injured innocence. To this ordeal Michael submitted, in presence of
the emperor and the archbishop of Philadelphia. 'Three days before
the trial, the patient's arm was enclosed in a bag, and secured by
the royal signet; and it was incumbent on him to bear a redhot bolt
of iron three times from the altar to the rails of the sanctuary,
without artifice and without injury. Palæologus eluded the dangerous
experiment with sense and pleasantry. "I am a soldier," said he,
"and will boldly enter the list with my accusers; but a layman, a
sinner like myself, is not endowed with the gift of miracles. Your
piety, most holy prelate, may deserve the interposition of Heaven,
and from your hands I will receive the fiery globe, the pledge of my
innocence." The archbishop started, the emperor smiled, and the
absolution or pardon of Michael was approved by rewards and new
services.' The voice of the people and the favour of the army placed
the crown on his head, in recompense for his military exploits and
his public merits. With his accession terminated the reign of the
last of the Latin emperors at Constantinople (Baldwin II.), and
Michael became the founder of the Grecian dynasty.

The labours of the new monarch to retrieve the calamities of war, by
encouraging industry, planting colonies, and extending trade, were
deserving of all praise. His ambition raised up against him many
enemies, spiritual and temporal; but if his policy was not always
judicious, he increased his power and his fame by greatly enlarging
his dominions. It was by his intrigues that the revolt of Sicily was
instigated. A rude insult to a noble damsel by a Frank soldier,
during a procession on the vigil of Easter (1282), spread the flame
of insurrection over the whole island, and 8000 Franks were
exterminated in a promiscuous massacre, which has obtained the name
of the 'Sicilian Vespers.' His son and successor, Andronicus, was
reckoned a learned and virtuous prince; but his long reign is
chiefly memorable for the disputes of the Greek church, the invasion
of the Catalans, and the rise of the Ottoman power. He associated
with him in the administration his son Michael, at the age of
eighteen; and upon the premature death of the latter, his son
Andronicus, the emperor's favourite, became the colleague of his
grandfather. The reign of the elder Andronicus was consumed in civil
discord and disputes with his family, the young princes having
raised the standard of revolt in order to get possession of the
throne. He was at length compelled to abdicate; and assuming the
monastic habit, he spent the last few years of his life in a cell,
blind and wretched, his only consolation being the promise of a more
splendid crown in heaven than he had enjoyed on earth.

After a series of inglorious struggles among the princes of the
imperial house, the crown settled, in 1391, on Manuel, whose reign,
however, was little else than a train of disasters. His capital was
besieged by Amurath, and the Turks were masters of nearly the whole
of his dominions, which had now shrunk into a small corner of
Thrace, between the Propontis and the Black Sea, about fifty miles
in length and thirty in breadth. To retrieve his fortunes, Manuel
resolved on a journey to foreign countries, believing that the sight
of a distressed monarch would draw tears and supplies from the
sternest barbarians. From Italy he proceeded to the coast of France,
where he was received with the characteristic politeness of the
nation. Two thousand of the richest citizens of Paris, armed and on
horseback, came forth to meet him; and at the gates he was welcomed
as a brother by Charles VI., who saluted him with a cordial embrace.
He was clothed in a robe of white silk, and mounted on a milk-white
steed--a circumstance of great importance in the French ceremonial,
white being considered as the emblem of sovereignty. He was lodged
in the Louvre, and a succession of feasts and balls, varied by the
pleasures of the chase, was got up for his amusement. Having
satisfied his curiosity, but without any prospect of assistance, he
resolved to visit England. In his progress from Dover, he was
entertained at Canterbury by the prior and monks of St Austin; and
on Blackheath Henry IV. saluted the Greek hero, who for several days
was honoured and treated in London as Emperor of the East. Having
failed in the object of his journey, he returned to Constantinople
(1402), and was allowed to finish his reign in prosperity and peace
in 1425.

In his declining age, he had appointed as his associate his eldest
son John, the second of the name. The corruptions of the church,
divided between two popes, and the disputes of the clergy, afforded
him ample scope for the exercise of his religious zeal, and it was
to heal these ecclesiastical schisms that he undertook a voyage to
Italy. But the downfall of his race and of the Grecian dynasty was
approaching. At his decease (1448), there were five princes of the
imperial house; but the death of Andronicus, and the monastic
profession of Isidore, had reduced them to three--Constantine,
Demetrius, and Thomas. Constantine ascended the vacant throne, the
factious opposition of his brothers having been appeased by the
interposition of the empress-mother, the senate, the soldiers, and
the clergy, who allowed them the possession of the Morea.

The first act of the new emperor was to despatch an embassy to
Georgia to bring home a princess whom he had chosen for his royal
consort. His next care was to inquire into the state of public
affairs, which had been completely neglected by the weakness or
absence of his predecessor. But the imperial drama had reached its
last act. The danger which had long brooded over the doomed house of
the Palæologi was ready to burst in resistless fury upon the city of
the Cæsars. Mohammed II. had vowed to become master of
Constantinople, and vast were the preparations and the implements of
war which he had provided for its capture or its destruction. The
story of the siege need not here be told; nowhere has it been
recorded with more picturesque and energetic brevity than in the
glowing pages of Gibbon. Operations were carried on with
unprecedented vigour and effect, rendered more terrible by the
lavish use of gunpowder and artillery, then almost new elements in
the art of war. Constantine did all that a Christian prince and a
brave general could do. By his example he animated the courage of
his soldiers, and revived the hearts of the citizens, sinking in
despair. The scene on the day before the assault is thus described
by an eye-witness:--'The emperor and some faithful companions
entered the dome of St Sophia, which in a few hours was to be
converted into a mosque, and devoutly received with tears and
prayers the sacrament of the holy communion. He reposed some moments
in the palace, which resounded with cries and lamentations;
solicited the pardon of all he might have injured; and mounted on
horseback to visit the guards and explore the motions of the enemy.'
But the dreaded 29th of May had come; the last hour of the city and
the empire had struck. After a siege of fifty-three days,
Constantinople, to use the words of Gibbon, 'which had defied the
power of Chosroes, the chazan, and the caliphs, was irretrievably
subdued by the arms of Mohammed II. Her empire only had been
subverted by the Latins; her religion was trampled in the dust by
the Moslem conquerors.'

Constantine had nobly done his duty. Amidst the swarms of the enemy
who had climbed the walls and were pursuing the flying Greeks
through the streets, he was long seen with his bravest officers
fighting round his person, and finally lost. His only fear was that
of falling alive into the hands of the Infidels, and this fate he
sought to avert by prudently casting away the purple. Amidst the
tumult he was pierced by an unknown hand, and his body was buried
under a mountain of the slain. The last words he was heard to utter
was the mournful exclamation: 'Cannot there be found a Christian to
cut off my head?' His death put an end to resistance and order, and
left the capital to be sacked and pillaged by the victorious Turks.
Truly has it been said, that the distress and fall of the last
Constantine are more glorious than the long prosperity of the
Byzantine Cæsars.

The difficulties and dying moments of the emperor have been
faithfully and pathetically dramatised by Miss Joanna Baillie in her
tragedy of _Constantine Palæologus_. She adheres closely to history,
only she makes her hero receive his deathblow from the sword of a
relenting Turk, who admires his bravery, and pronounces over him a
farewell eulogy. All writers agree that the last of the imperial
Palæologi was the best of his race; and had he not been so ill
supported by his worthless subjects, and deserted by every Christian
prince in Europe, he might have repelled the tide of Turkish
invasion, though he would never have restored the glory of the
empire. Yet gallantly did he front the storm, and perish as became
the successor of a long line of kings--the last of the Romans.

The fall of Constantine was the signal for the degradation and
dispersion of his whole race. His two surviving brothers, Demetrius
and Thomas, reigned as despots of the Morea in Greece; but the ruin
of the empire was the gloomy prelude to their own misfortunes.
Demetrius became the pensioner of the new Turkish emperor Mohammed,
and received a city of Thrace and some adjacent islands for his own
maintenance and that of his followers. In this state of humiliating
dependence he remained until death released him from his ignominious
servitude. Thomas, the other brother, was driven into exile by the
invasion of his dominions. He fled to Corfu, and from thence to
Italy--according to Gibbon's account--'with some naked adherents;
his name, his sufferings, and the head of the apostle St Andrew,
entitled him to the hospitality of the Vatican, and his misery was
prolonged by a pension of 6000 ducats from the pope and cardinals.'
He left two sons (he must have had a third, as will afterwards
appear), Andrew and Manuel, who were educated in Italy. The eldest
degraded himself by the looseness of his life and marriage, and died
the inheritor of an empty title. Manuel was tempted to revisit his
native country; and after spending the remainder of his life in
safety and ease at Constantinople, he was gathered to his fathers,
'an honourable train of Christians and Moslems attending him to the
grave.'

From this date--early in the sixteenth century--little is known of
the name and lineage of the Palæologi. The crescent waved over the
royal city of Constantine; and, as an old Byzantine annalist
remarks, the last heir of the last spark of the Roman Empire seemed
to be extinct. History had forgotten them, and the restless tide of
human vicissitudes rolled onwards, unconscious of their existence.
Italy was understood to be the asylum of the imperial outcasts; and
there they might have vegetated in oblivion, or dropped into
unhonoured graves without leaving a single representative, had not a
monumental inscription revealed the fact, that a descendant of the
Cæsars had found a retreat and a tomb in an obscure parish in
England. In the small church of Landulph, in Cornwall, the following
inscription upon a small metal tablet, fixed in the wall, removes
all doubt as to the identity and royal pedigree of the person whose
memory it records. In its original spelling it runs thus:--'Here
lyeth the body of Theodoro Paleologvs of Pesaro in Italye, descended
from ye Imperiall lyne of ye last Christian Emperors of Greece,
being the sonne of Prosper, the sonne of Theodoro, the sonne of
John, the sonne of Thomas, second brother to Constantine Paleologvs,
the eighth of that name, and last of ye lyne yt raygned in
Constantinople vntill svbdeued by the Turkes; who married with Mary
ye davghter of William Balls of Hadlye in Sorffolke Gent., and had
issu five children, Theodoro, John, Ferdinando, Maria, and Dorothy,
and departed this life at Clyfton ye 21st of Janvary 1636.'[1] It
appears, then, that Theodore, who married and died in Cornwall, was
the fourth in direct descent from Thomas, younger brother of the
Emperor Constantine, and who fled 'with some naked adherents to
Italy,' where his children were educated.[2] The truth of the story
related in the inscription was corroborated by a circumstance which
happened upwards of twenty years ago. The vault in which Palæologus
was interred having been accidently opened, curiosity prompted the
lifting of the lid. The coffin, which was made of oak, was in an
entire state, and the body sufficiently perfect to shew that the
dead man exceeded the common stature. The head was a long oval, and
the nose believed to have been aquiline; a long white beard reached
down the breast--another symbol of his Greek extraction.

Of his family little is known: Theodore, the eldest son, was a
sailor, and died on board the _Charles II._, as is proved by his
will, dated 1693. He appears to have possessed landed property, and
to have left a widow named Martha, but no issue. The younger
daughter, Dorothy, was married at Landulph to William Arundell in
1636, and died in 1681.[3] Maria died unmarried, and was buried in
the same church in 1674. Of John and Ferdinando, the other sons, no
memorial seems to have been preserved in this country; and it was
believed as highly probable that the church of Landulph contained
the remains of the last survivors of the Grecian dynasty, once the
illustrious sovereigns of Byzantium.

Time, however, the great revealer of secrets, brought to light facts
which proved that one of the sons of Theodore of Pesaro in Italy had
removed to the West Indies, where he lived for some years, and died
in 1678. It is mentioned by the historian Oldmixon[4] as a
tradition, that a descendant of the former imperial Greek family of
Constantinople resided in Barbadoes; but he doubts the fact, without
giving any reason for his scepticism. The tradition, however, proves
to have been quite current, and the circumstance that led to its
confirmation, and to the discovery of the body of Ferdinando
Palæologus, and other relics testifying to his connection with the
Greek emperors, are narrated by Sir Robert Schomburgk in his recent
history of Barbadoes. During the terrible hurricane of 1831, which
nearly destroyed the island, among the other public buildings that
yielded to the violence of the storm, was the parish church of St
John, which stood in a romantic situation near the 'Cliff,' at an
elevation of 824 feet. When the ruins were removed, and in clearing
out the rubbish, 'the coffin of Ferdinando Palæologus (we quote Sir
Robert's account) was discovered under the organ-loft, in the vault
of Sir Peter Callotin. The circumstance that the coffin stood in a
direction opposite to the others deposited in the vault, drew
attention to it; the head was lying to the west, the feet pointing
to the east, according to the Greek custom. These accounts raised
the curiosity of the rector of the parish; and in order to ascertain
how much truth was connected with the tradition, he resolved to
examine the supposed coffin of Palæologus; it was consequently
opened on the 3d of May 1844, in presence of Mr R. Reici, jun.; Mr.
J.G. Young; and Mr J. Hinkson. The coffin was of lead, and in it was
found a skeleton of an extraordinary size, imbedded in quicklime,
which is another proof of the Greek origin of Palæologus, as it is
the custom in Greece to surround the body with quicklime. The coffin
was carefully deposited in the vault now in possession of Josiah
Heath, Esq., of Quintyer's and Redland.'

In the above discovery and examination, the coincidences are so
numerous and so remarkable as to leave no doubt whatever that the
Ferdinando Palæologus, whose body lies interred in St John's church,
was the same individual mentioned in the Landulph inscription as a
son of Theodore. The size of the skeleton, the envelope of
quicklime, the position of the body, are corroborative of an Eastern
descent. The name of the mother, Mary Balls, is an additional
presumption, as among the earliest proprietors in the island several
of that name occur; and three estates are given in Oldmixon's list
as belonging to the family of the Balls. It has been assumed,
therefore, with good reason, that a relationship may have existed
between the mother of Ferdinando and the Balls in Barbadoes,
which--at a period when so many families emigrated from England,
chiefly from Kent and the southern and western counties--might have
induced young Palæologus to seek his fortunes in the New World,
after his father's death in 1636.

Of the residence of Ferdinando in the island for thirty years, ample
evidence exists in various documents. Sir Robert Schomburgk was
shewn by the rector of the parish, the Rev. J.H. Gittens, an old
vestry-book of St John's, in which various entries occur of the name
of Ferdinando Palæologus, from 1649 till 1669, as vestryman,
churchwarden, trustee, surveyor of the highway, sidesman to the
churchwarden, and lieutenant, &c. The last entry is that of his
burial, 'October 3d 1678.' His name also appears in a legal document
respecting the sale of some land, executed in 1658. But the most
important evidence of his identity with the Cornwall family is his
will, in which the names of his sisters, Maria and Dorothy, occur.
It was entered in the Registrar's Office, the 20th of March 1678,
and proved before the deputy-governor, Colonel Christopher
Codrington. The widow became the sole survivor and heiress of the
property, Theodorious having died in his youth, so that the last of
the Palæologi reposes in the parish church of St John, in the island
of Barbadoes; and the estate which once belonged to the descendant
of the Greek emperors now forms part of Clifton Hall and the
Plantation Ashford. Laying these circumstances together, and
considering how completely the will of Ferdinando corroborates the
Landulph inscription, of which he probably knew nothing, the
genealogical problem, we think, is fairly wrought out, and the last
of the descendants of the Roman Cæsars traced to his final
resting-place beyond the Atlantic. A curious anecdote is mentioned
by Sir Robert Schomburgk as to the revival of the tradition of one
of the Palæologi being in Barbadoes. He says, but without vouching
for its truth, that during the last conflict for Grecian
independence and deliverance from the Turkish yoke, a letter was
received from the provisional government at Athens, addressed to the
authorities in Barbadoes, inquiring whether a male branch of the
Palæologi was still existing in the island, and conveying the
request that if such were the case he should be provided with the
means of returning to Greece, and the government would, if required,
pay all the expenses of the voyage. This story was not current in
Europe, at all events; and we on this side the water never dreamed
that among the competitors of King Leopold for the throne was a
veritable scion of the old imperial sovereigns of Constantinople.

The events detailed in the preceding narrative are fitted to suggest
various interesting reflections and amusing speculations. The fate
of the Palæologi--one day on a throne, the next in a dungeon,
passing from regal state to wretched exile--may have been the bitter
lot of other imperial families. If we find the descendants of the
Greek emperors in the humble occupation of sailors and
churchwardens, and vestrymen and road-trustees, there is nothing
extravagant in the supposition, that we may have royal porters and
scavengers on our streets, the sceptre having degenerated into the
besom, and the truck taken the place of the chariot of state. The
family of Nimrod may still exist, and retain their ancestral
propensities in the craft of sportsmen and deer-stalkers, or in the
lower grade of Jehus and jockeys. Who knows but the posterity of
Solomon may be retailing old clothes, and the heirs of the
Nebuchadnezzar dynasty still exist somewhere--perhaps among our
graziers or cattle-dealers, our keepers of dairies or secretaries of
agricultural associations. The line of Tamerlane may have ended in a
grave-digger, and that of Frederick Barbarossa in a hair-dresser.
The ideal transmigration of Pythagoras was not more improbable or
more wonderful than the strange metamorphoses through which, in the
course of centuries, the living representatives of kings and
emperors are sometimes doomed to pass.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Footnote 1: There is a slight error in the date of the inscription,
as the entry of his burial is October 20th 1636.]

[Footnote 2: Only two sons of Thomas are mentioned by Gibbon--Andrew
and Manuel; but the evidence of the Landulph tablet shews that he
must have had a third, John.]

[Footnote 3: Her name is entered in the register as 'Dorothea
Paleologus de Stirpe Imperatorious.']

[Footnote 4: _British Empire in America_, vol. ii. p. 111.]



A CHAPTER ON CATS.


The newspapers have recently been chronicling, as a fact provocative
of especial wonder, the enterprise of some speculative merchant of
New York, who has just been despatching a cargo of one hundred cats
to the republic of New Granada, in which it would appear the race,
owing, as we may believe, to the frequently disturbed state of the
country, has become almost extinct.

Your cat is a domestic animal, and naturally conservative in its
tastes--averse therefore to uproar, and to all those given to
change. Its propensities are to meditation and contemplative
tranquillity, for which reason it has ever been held in reverence by
nations of a similar staid and composed disposition, and has been
the favourite companion and constant friend of grave philosophers
and thoughtful students. By the ancient Egyptians cats were held in
the highest esteem; and we learn from Diodorus Siculus, their 'lives
and safeties' were tendered more dearly than those of any other
animal, whether biped or quadruped. 'He who has voluntarily killed a
consecrated animal,' says this writer, 'is punished with death; but
if any one has even involuntarily killed a cat or an ibis, it is
impossible for him to escape death: the mob drags him to it,
treating him with every cruelty, and sometimes without waiting for
judgment to be passed. This treatment inspires such terror, that, if
any person happen to find one of these animals dead, he goes to a
distance from it, and by his cries and groans indicates that he has
found the animal dead. This superstition is so deeply rooted in the
minds of the Egyptians, and the respect they bear these animals is
so profound, that at the time when their king, Ptolemy, was not yet
declared the friend of the Roman people--when they were paying all
possible court to travellers from Italy, and their fears made them
avoid every ground of accusation and every pretext for making war
upon them--yet a Roman having killed a cat, the people rushed to his
house, and neither the entreaties of the grandees, whom the king
sent for the purpose, nor the terror of the Roman name, could
protect this man from punishment, although the act was involuntary.
I do not relate this anecdote,' adds the historian, 'on the
authority of another, for I was an eye-witness of it during my stay
in Egypt.'[5]

During their lives, the consecrated cats were fed upon fish, kept
for the purpose in tanks; and 'when one of them happened to die,'
says the veracious writer just cited, 'it was wrapped in linen, and
after the bystanders had beaten themselves on the breast, it was
carried to the Tarichoea, where it was embalmed with coedria and
other substances which have the virtue of embalming bodies, after
which it was interred in the sacred monument.' It has puzzled not a
little the learned archæologists, who have endeavoured to discover a
profound philosophy figured and symbolised in the singular mythology
of the Egyptians, to explain how it is that in Thebes, where the
sacred character of the cat was held in the highest reverence, and
cherished with the greatest devotion, not only embalmed cats have
been found, but also the bodies of rats and mice, which had been
subjected to the same anti-putrescent process. If, however,
Herodotus is to be credited, the Egyptians owed a deep debt of
gratitude to the mice; for the venerable historian assures us, and
on the unquestionable authority of the Egyptian priests, that when
Sennacherib and his army lay at Pelusium, a mighty corps of
field-mice entered the camp by night, and eating up the quivers,
bowstrings, and buckler-leathers of the Assyrian troops, in this
summary fashion liberated Egypt from the terror of the threatened
invasion. Probably the existence of mice-mummies may be accounted
for in this way, and if--resorting to no violent supposition--we
presume in the good work which the tiny patriots so sagaciously
accomplished that their cousins-german the rats were assistant, the
whole matter receives a satisfactory explication. The hypothesis, it
is submitted, is not without plausible recommendations on its
behalf. There is extant a fragment of a comedy, entitled 'The
Cities,' written by the Rhodian poet Anaxandrides, in which the
Egyptian worship of animals is amusingly enough quizzed. A
translation will be found in Dr Prichard's _Analysis of Egyptian
Mythology_. The lines referring to cat-worship are as follow:--

  'You cry and wail whene'er ye spy a cat,
  Starving or sick; I count it not a sin
  To hang it up, and flay it for its skin;'

from which it appears this gay free-thinker was not only somewhat
sceptical in his religious notions, but, moreover, a hard-hearted,
good-for-nothing fellow--one who, had he lived in our times, would
unquestionably have brought himself within the sweep of the Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Duke of Beaufort's
Humanity Act.

We learn from Herodotus that in his days it was customary, whenever
a cat died, for the whole household at once to go into mourning, and
this although the lamented decease might have been the result of old
age, or other causes purely natural. In the case of a cat's death,
however, the eyebrows only were required to be shaved off; but when
a dog, a beast of more distinguished reputation, departed this life,
every inmate of the house was expected to shave his head and whole
body all over. Both cats and dogs are watched and attended to with
the greatest solicitude during illness. Indeed, by the ancient
Egyptians the cat was treated much in the same way as are dogs
amongst us: we find them even accompanying their masters on their
aquatic shooting-excursions; and, if the testimony of ancient
monuments is to be relied on, often catching the game for them,
although it may be permitted to doubt whether they ever actually
took to the water for this purpose.

In modern Egypt the cat, although more docile and companionable than
its European sister, has much degenerated; but still, on account of
its usefulness in destroying scorpions and other reptiles, it is
treated with some consideration--suffered to eat out of the same
dish with the children, to join with them in their sports, and to be
their constant companion and daily friend. A modern Egyptian would
esteem it a heinous sin indeed, to destroy, or even maltreat a cat;
and we are told by Sir Gardner Wilkinson, that benevolent
individuals have bequeathed funds by which a certain number of these
animals are daily fed at Cairo at the Cadi's court, and the bazaar
of Khan Khaleel.

But a tender regard for the inferior animals is a prevailing
characteristic of the Oriental races, and is inculcated as a duty by
their various religions. At Fez there was, and perhaps is at this
day, a wealthily-endowed hospital, the greater part of the funds of
which was devoted to the support and medical treatment of invalid
cranes and storks, and procuring them a decent sepulture whenever
they chanced to die. The founders are said to have entertained the
poetical notion that these birds are, in truth, human beings,
natives of distant islands, who at certain periods assume a foreign
shape, and after they have satisfied their curiosity with visiting
other lands, return to their own, and resume their original form.

To return, however, not to our sheep, but our cats, we must remark
that, in modern times, in spite of the kindness the cat habitually
receives in Egypt, his _morale_ is not in that country rated very
high--the universal impression being that, although, like Snug the
joiner's lion, he is by nature 'a very gentle beast,' still he is by
no means 'of a good conscience;' that he is, in short, a most
ungrateful beast; and that when, in a future state, it is asked of
him how he has been treated by man in this, he will obstinately deny
all the benefits he has received at his hand, and give him such a
character for cruelty and hardness of heart as is shocking to think
of. The dog, however, it is understood, will conduct himself more
discreetly, and readily acknowledge the good offices for which he is
indebted to the family of mankind.

Singular anecdotes have been related of the intense repugnance
persons have been found to entertain to these, at worst, harmless
animals. One shall be given in the very words of the Rev. Nicholas
Wanley, who, in his authentic _Wonders of the Little World_, has
recorded a number of other facts quite as marvellous, and sustained
by testimony not one whit more exceptionable:--'Mathiolus tells of a
German, who coming in winter-time into an inn to sup with him and
some other of his friends, the woman of the house being acquainted
with his temper (lest he should depart at the sight of a young cat
which she kept to breed up), had beforehand hid her kitling in a
chest in the same room where we sat at supper. But though he had
neither seen nor heard it, yet after some time that he had sucked in
the air infected by the cat's breath, that quality of his
temperament that had antipathy to that creature being provoked, he
sweat, and, of a sudden, paleness came over his face, and, to the
wonder of us all that were present, he cried out that in some corner
of the room there was a cat that lay hid.' Not long after the battle
of Wagram and the second occupation of Vienna by the French, an
aide-de-camp of Napoleon, who at the time occupied, together with
his suite, the Palace of Schönbrunn, was proceeding to bed at an
unusually late hour, when, on passing the door of Napoleon's
bedroom, he was surprised by a most singular noise, and repeated
calls from the Emperor for assistance. Opening the door hastily, and
rushing into the room, a singular spectacle presented itself--the
great soldier of the age, half undressed, his countenance agitated,
the beaded drops of perspiration standing on his brow, in his hand
his victorious sword, with which he was making frequent and
convulsive lunges at some invisible enemy through the tapestry that
lined the walls. It was a cat that had secreted herself in this
place; and Napoleon held cats not so much in abhorrence as in
terror. 'A feather,' says the poet, 'daunts the brave;' and a
greater poet, through the mouth of his Shylock, remarks that 'there
are some that are mad if they behold a cat--a harmless, necessary
cat.' Count Bertram would seem to have shared in this unaccountable
aversion. When 'Monsieur Parolles, the gallant militarist, that had
the whole theory of war in the knot of his scarf, and the practice
in the chape of his dagger,' was convicted of mendacity and
cowardice, Bertram exclaimed, 'I could endure anything before this
but a cat, and now he's a cat to me.' The force of censure could no
further go.

If Napoleon, however, held cats, as has been averred, in positive
fear, there have been others, and some of them illustrious captains,
that have regarded them with other feelings. Marshal Turenne could
amuse himself for hours in playing with his kittens; and the great
general, Lord Heathfield, would often appear on the walls of
Gibraltar, at the time of the famous siege, attended by his
favourite cats. Cardinal Richelieu was also fond of cats; and when
we have enumerated the names of Cowper and Dr Johnson, of Thomas
Gray and Isaac Newton, and, above all, of the tender-hearted and
meditative Montaigne, the list is far from complete of those who
have bestowed on the feline race some portion of their affections.

Butler, in his _Hudibras_, observes, in an oft-quoted passage, that

  'Montaigne, playing with his cat,
  Complains she thought him but an ass.'

And the annotator on this passage, in explanation, adds, that
'Montaigne in his Essays supposes his cat thought him a fool for
losing his time in playing with her;' but, under favour, this is a
misinterpretation of the essayist's sentiment, and something like a
libel on the capacity of both himself and cat. Montaigne's words
are: 'When I play with my cat, who knows whether I do not make her
more sport than she makes me? We mutually divert each other with our
play. If I have my hour to begin or refuse, so also has she hers.'
Nobody who has read the striking essay in which these words appear
could for a moment misconceive their author's meaning. He is
vindicating natural theology from the objections of some of its
opponents, and in the course of his argument he takes occasion to
dwell on the wonderful instincts, and almost rational sagacity of
the inferior animals. We must, however, lament that, although he
does full justice to the 'half-reasoning elephant,' to the aptitude
and fidelity of the dog, to the marvellous economical arrangements
of the bees, and even to the imitative capacity of the magpie, he
pays no higher tribute to the merits of the cat than that she is as
capable of being amused as himself, and like himself, too, has her
periods of gravity when recreative sports are distasteful. Her
social qualities he does not allude to, though he, so eminently
social himself, could scarcely have failed to appreciate them.

In this country, at this time, cats have superseded parlour
favourites decidedly less agreeable in their appearance, and
infinitely more mischievous in their habits. Writing in the
seventeenth century, Burton, in his _Anatomy of Melancholy_, remarks
that 'Turkey gentlewomen, that are perpetual prisoners, still mewed
up according to the custom of the place, have little else, beside
their household business or to play with their children, to drive
away time but to dally with their cats, which they have _in
delitiis_, as many of our ladies and gentlewomen use monkeys and
little dogs.' It is not the least merit of the cat that it has
banished from our sitting-rooms those frightful mimicries of
humanity--the monkey tribe; and as to the little dogs Tray, Blanch,
and Sweetheart, although we are not insensible to their many virtues
and utilities, we care not to see them sleeping on our hearth-rug,
or reposing beside our work-tables.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Footnote 5: In the matter of fanaticism, the modern Egyptians, or
rather the inhabitants of Alexandria, seem hardly to have
degenerated from their ethnic 'forbears,' as we read in Mr J.A. St
John's travels the account of a serious insurrection which broke out
some years ago in that city, in consequence of certain Jews having
taken up the butcher's trade, and having slain the meat with a knife
having _three_ instead of _five nails_ in the handle!]



BEGGARS IN THE FAR EAST.


Bengal is blessed with a mild climate and a fertile soil. Provisions
are consequently cheap; and as neither substantial houses nor
expensive clothing is there essential to comfort, we might naturally
expect to see less of misery and destitution than in this country.
Such, however, is not the case. Our severe winter engenders habits
of industry and forethought, which are unknown in India. The ease
with which in most cases their few wants are supplied, renders the
inhabitants of that country in the highest degree improvident; and
nowhere do we see a greater number of beggars, and misery and
destitution paraded through the streets in more revolting forms.

There are no poor-laws in any part of India. Relief, however, is not
withheld, nor indeed sparingly bestowed. Many can afford to give a
little; and where nothing is exacted, many give willingly. Little
charity is bestowed by Europeans in the streets, as they generally
ride in palanquins or carriages, and as, besides, they feel the
weight even of a purse too much on a hot day. However, let it not be
supposed that they, like Dives, wallow in wealth, and close their
ears to the importunities of the heathen. The Baboo or Sircar gives
weekly or monthly pensions to some patronised beggars; and on a
Saturday in some large towns, the blind, lame, and halt come to the
gates of the grandees, and receive from the trusty _durwan_ or
doorkeeper a handful of cowries and coarse rice, of which one, two,
or three rupees' worth are mixed up, according to the circumstances
of the master. But it is not to ordinary beggars I now propose to
draw the attention of the reader--the infirm or the lazy, with whom
we are all tolerably familiar. But in India there is another class
of beggars--_religious_ and _professional_ beggars--who are proud of
their calling. I do not mean that there are no religious mendicants
to be found at home; but although the object to be attained in both
countries may be similar, the agents employed in the East are so
different, that a description of them will to many European readers
have all the gloss of novelty.

The two principal sects in Bengal are known as _Soneeassees_ and
_Byrâgees_. The former _exclusively_ worship Mahado. 'They are not
to inhabit houses or temples,' say their scriptures; 'but to live in
woods and forests, under the wide expanse of heaven, _there_ to
meditate upon the greatness of the Creator, and contemplate his
beautiful works.' An infant who is to become a Soneeassee has from
his birth the badge of Sheva upon him: no razor ever touches his
hair, and his locks are matted and dishevelled, when other
children's are neatly combed and anointed. When he approaches
manhood, he takes the vow of celibacy, he receives from the hand of
the Brahmin the _muntra_ or mystical creed, the dried skin of an
antelope, and a piece of coarse, unbleached cotton, stained yellow
with ochre, which he can use as a plaid, it being seven feet long;
upon the skin he is supposed to sit and sleep, and the cloth
overshadows the shoulders of the young enthusiast. Even after these
are worn out, as it is supposed that the devotee is pretty well
broken in to the hardships of his situation, they on no account may
be renewed. These Soneeassees seldom adhere to the letter of their
religion in the present day, although it is said that in times gone
by some of their class have sat absorbed and abstracted until their
spirit held communion with the great god--their bodies wasting away
from neglect, and their nails growing like claws. In the present
day, prayer and meditation are given to the winds, and they may be
seen fat and sleek, perambulating the streets of the towns and
villages, smeared over with ashes and ochre, and great coils of
matted hair, which some tastefully wind like a turban round their
head. They take care also to display, in glaring red and white
paint, upon their foreheads and arms, the various insignia or marks
of Sheva, such as the trident. Occasionally one also flourishes
about a _steel_ trident, which the figure of Mahado always wields in
his hand, and which is also placed on the summit of his temple. The
Soneeassees are the most impudent and importunate of beggars. There
came under my notice a band of three, who used regularly to visit
the town twice a week. These men had made a vow to collect a certain
number of rupees to build a temple, and for this purpose infested
the doors of the wealthiest of the Hindoo community, and followed
and persecuted them even in their drives with continued cries. It is
astonishing how soon superstition enabled them to fulfil their vow,
and how the extortioners were allowed to escape the punishment their
impudence deserved.

The Byrâgees are not so intrusive a sect. They frequently live in
the open air, though not prohibited from seeking other shelter.
Their heads are differently treated from those of the Soneeassees,
for both men and women have the crown shaved quite smooth. Both
sexes wear a piece of cloth checked like shepherd's plaid. They have
great strings of wooden beads, or _malâhs_, turned out of the stalks
of the holy toolsie, round their necks; and they generally collect
their rice and cowries in a dried gourd-shell. Persons of this sect
at their death are placed in an upright position in a deep grave,
and so consumed with fire. In former times, the widows used to burn
themselves with their lords. The Byrâgees, when they attain years of
discretion, may choose their wives from any caste they please. Some
of the Byragins, therefore, are said to be far cleverer than the
everyday Hindoo women, having been selected from a class which are
looked down upon by the others, but who are taught high
accomplishments, and are devoted to the temples of the gods. In his
begging excursions the Byrâgee carries a pair of cymbals or a small
gong; and singing the songs of Krishna, and his courtships among the
milkmaids, he delights the hearts of his Hindoo hearers, and makes
them lavish of their gifts.

The English reader perhaps has never heard of a beggar such as I
shall now depict. One may happen to be in a reflective mood, and
aroused from his meditations by what he supposes to be a cow lowing
close to his ear. He starts up and goes to the window, but instead
of that quadruped he finds a man standing with a rope round his
neck, and a woful countenance, holding out his palms, indicating
that he wants charity. This man has had the misfortune to lose his
cow; and as it died tethered, his religion imposes on him the
penalty of begging from door to door without speaking, but imitating
the cow, till he has realised enough to purchase one of these sacred
animals, and to give something besides in charity to the Brahmins.
This provision was perhaps made by the religion of the country in
favour of the cow, to preserve so useful an animal from
ill-treatment; and it is astonishing to see how implicitly the
Hindoo submits himself to a mere convention, which he might easily
evade.



A LATE PRISON REPORT.


In the Sixteenth Report on the state of the Prisons, by Mr Frederic
Hill, lately laid before parliament, will be found some passages
worthy of general attention. While speaking favourably of the system
of discipline now ordinarily pursued towards prisoners, Mr Hill is
obliged to admit that certain prisons are rendered much too
attractive; in fact, that they create crime. It is important that
this condition of affairs should be known. Good food and medical
attendance are, it seems, the attractions. The following are Mr
Hill's words, with the quotations he makes from the statements of
prison officials:--

'Several of the prisons continue to be attractive, to certain
classes of persons, instead of repulsive; owing, apparently in some
instances, to the better dietary of the prison as compared with that
of the workhouse; in others, to the good medical treatment generally
provided in prisons; and in others, to a practice of giving
prisoners clothing on their liberation, a practice which, did the
law permit, might be replaced by a rule enabling prisoners to earn
clothing by extra labour.

'The governor of the borough prison at Cambridge stated that many
persons were reckless about committing offences, because they
preferred being sent to the prison to going to the workhouse, owing
chiefly (according to their statements) to their getting better food
at the prison.

'The chaplain of the prison at Spilsby stated as follows:--"I am
sorry to observe that the present system of discipline here does not
deter people from the commission of crime. Several have said that
they would rather come here than go to the Union workhouse." ...

'Mr Dunn, one of the surgeons of the prison at Wakefield, states--"I
am convinced that many persons, especially females, get committed to
the prison on purpose to be cured of attacks of disease. Many of
them have admitted to me that it was so. A man from Bradford, who
went out last week, told me that he had been here before, and that
he had got committed again in consequence of his having a return of
his disease, and that he came to be cured.... One man who was here
for a month last autumn, and who came in a very diseased state, but
who left cured, required, during nearly the whole time, a pint of
wine per day, besides malt liquor. It was a case in which a very
liberal diet is necessary to preserve life; and it was requisite to
have a prisoner, acting as nurse, to sit up with him through the
night. The cost to the West Riding of this single case, counting
expenses of all kinds, could not have been less than L.6."

'The governor of the city prison at York said--"By the
acknowledgments of the prisoners themselves, I know that the
practice still continues of committing offences on purpose to get
committed to this prison. Four prisoners were liberated this morning
who had broken a street-lamp with the evident intention of being
sent to this prison. They were sentenced to seven days'
imprisonment, and on their liberation each prisoner was supplied
with a coat, waistcoat, pair of trousers, and a pair of shoes, and
one of them had a shirt also! Many times last winter gas-lamps and
the windows of the police-office and vagrant-office were broken, in
order to get admission to the prison. Out of eighteen male prisoners
who were brought to trial at the last Quarter-Sessions, twelve in my
opinion committed their offences for the direct purpose of being
sent to prison. Most of the vagrants committed to the prison still
pass their time in idleness; no prisoners except those sentenced to
hard labour being set to work."

'The following is an extract from the visiting justices' minute-book
at the same prison:--

"_Dec. 12th, 1849._--The number of prisoners who commit offences
with the object of being maintained during the winter increases
yearly, and is deserving of serious consideration, as a serious
expense is entailed thereby on the city. The imprisonment inflicted
is not looked on as a punishment, but a reward."'

If such really be the case, it is evident that a wrong course has
been pursued in making the prisons so comfortable. Some years ago,
when society was seized with a paroxysm of humanity, prisons were
got up in a style of palatial splendour, and criminals, the most
worthless of the population, were treated with a degree of
tenderness which was opposed to every principle of justice. Possibly
the method of reclaiming by kindness was not bad in the abstract,
and in numerous instances it was perhaps effective; but in the main
it was unsuitable to a complicated condition of ignorance, poverty,
vice, and wretchedness. It should have been borne in mind that there
is a distinct class of persons to whom any kind of provision is
desirable, and who, being sunk below all sentiments of self-respect,
shame, and regret, would very willingly sell themselves into slavery
for the sake of a momentary gratification. To think of a warm,
comfortable prison being an object of dread to this
utterly-abandoned class!

Another philosophical crotchet did no small mischief. It was alleged
that hard labour on the tread-mill would do harm: knowing that the
labour tended to no useful purpose but merely the turning of a
wheel, prisoners would feel degraded, and this feeling would prevent
their reclamation! The error here consisted in imagining that the
criminal class possessed the feelings of gentlemen; whereas the real
thing to be thought of, was to give them labour so excessively
toilsome and irksome as to be remembered with salutary horror all
the days of their life. For example, no kind of punishment, we
believe, has proved so sure a terror as that of the shot-drill in
the military prisons. This consists in lifting a cannon-ball of
perhaps twenty pounds' weight; marching with it for a dozen yards;
then laying it down; and so on, repeating the same thing for an
hour. Now this is clearly a useless and most degrading species of
labour; yet it is a terrible infliction, and we are told seldom
fails in its effect--that is to say, it deters from the commission
of crime.

The experience of the last few years would shew that much is still
to be learned in the art of criminal discipline; and indeed the
whole question of what is to be done with our criminal population is
becoming daily more perplexing. Mere confinement is found to be of
small avail. Transportation is exploded; for it improves the
circumstances of criminals instead of making them worse. Capital
punishment has also had its day, and, excepting for a very few
offences, is abandoned as useless, independently of being revolting
to humanity. One writer proposes to work convicts in gangs at
out-door labour, such as mining, and making railways; but the public
would never tolerate the spectacle of this worst species of
slave-labour; and besides, the employment of honest workers would be
ruined. We are inclined to think that imprisonment, in a severe
form, is after all the only practicable means of dealing with
criminals. If anything be urgently wanted, it is a plan for
preventing the growth of the criminal class; and this probably is
not so difficult as it may appear. Of course, till there be a far
broader system of public education than now prevails, the criminal
population will never want recruits. Nevertheless, even with our
present imperfect educational arrangements, something might be done.
The criminal class is discovered to be on the whole a narrow class.
The practice of living by depredation runs in families, and clings
to individuals. The police of any given town could put their hand on
almost every person who lives by fraud, theft, and robbery. They
could at a day's notice secure nearly every one of them. A knowledge
of this fact has suggested to Mr Matthew Hill a plan for capturing
the whole criminal class, and obliging them to give security for
their good behaviour; failing which, they should suffer
incarceration as notoriously dangerous and troublesome to society. A
fear of trenching on the liberty of the subject may prevent this
ingenious scheme of the Recorder of Birmingham from being carried
into effect; but to something or other of the kind he proposes,
society must come at last, if it wish to save itself from being
everlastingly worried and plundered by a habitually predatory class.
In the Prison Report to which we have above referred, mention is
made of a single family of thieves, consisting of fifteen
individuals, who cost the country L.26,000 before they were got rid
of. Is not such a fact quite monstrous!



FRENCH BATTLE-PICTURES.


In an American work--_Glances at Europe_, by Mr H. Greeley--the
following sound observations occur on the battle-pictures in the
palace of Versailles: 'These battle-pieces have scarcely more
historic than artistic value, since the names of at least half of
them might be transposed, and the change be undetected by
ninety-nine out of every hundred who see them. If _all_ the French
battles were thus displayed, it might be urged with plausibility
that these galleries were historical in their character; but a full
half of the story--that which tells of French disaster and
discomfiture--is utterly suppressed. The battles of Ptolemais, of
Ivry, of Fontenoy, of Rivoli, of Austerlitz, &c. are here as
imposing as paint can make them; but never a whisper of Agincourt,
Cressy, Poitiers, Blenheim, or Ramillies; nor yet of Salamanca, of
Vittoria, of Leipsic, or Waterloo. Even the wretched succession of
forays which the French have for the last twenty years been
prosecuting in Algerine Africa, here shine resplendent; for Vernet
has painted, by Louis-Philippe's order, and at France's cost, a
succession of battle-pieces, wherein French numbers and science are
seen prevailing over Arab barbarism and irregular valour, in combats
whereof the very names have been wisely forgotten by mankind, though
they occurred but yesterday. One of these is much the largest
painting I ever saw, and is probably the largest in the world, and
it seems to have been got up merely to exhibit one of
Louis-Philippe's sons in the thickest of the fray. Last of all, we
have the Capture of Abd-el-Kader, as imposing as Vernet could make
it, but no whisper of the persistent perfidy wherewith he has been
retained for several years in bondage, in violation of the express
agreement of his captors. The whole collection is, in its general
effect, delusive and mischievous--the purpose being to exhibit war
as always glorious, and France as uniformly triumphant. It is by
means like these that the business of shattering knee-joints and
multiplying orphans is kept in countenance.'



NEW APPLICATIONS OF MANGEL-WURZEL.


A patent has been taken out for the following applications of
mangel-wurzel:--_1st_, To prepare a substance which may be combined
with, or employed in place of coffee, the mangel-wurzel roots are
well washed, cut into pieces; about the size of peas or beans, and
then dried and roasted in the same manner as coffee-berries. The
product is ground after being roasted, and it is then ready for use.
_2d_, A substitute for tea is produced by cutting the leaves of
mangel-wurzel into small strips or shreds, drying the same, and then
placing them upon a hot plate, which is kept at a temperature
sufficiently high to slightly char the leaves. The charred
mangel-wurzel leaves are to be used in precisely the same way as
tea. _3d_, To manufacture a fermented liquor, the mangel-wurzel
roots are well washed, cut into small pieces, and put into a vat,
wherein they are permitted to ferment for two or three days, at a
temperature of about 70 degrees, and water is added thereto. A
fermented liquor is thus obtained similar to perry or cider. _4th_,
When the mangel-wurzel roots are to be employed in the preparation
of wort, they are washed, and cut into small pieces, which are
dried, or slightly charred, by the action of kilns or ovens, of the
kind used for drying malt; and wort is prepared from this produce in
the same manner as from malt.



THE MARTYRDOM OF FAITHFUL IN VANITY FAIR.[6]


                             I.

  The great human whirlpool!--'tis seething and seething:
  On! No time for shrieking out, no time for breathing;
  All toiling and moiling--some feebler, some bolder,
  But each sees a fiend-face grin over his shoulder:
      Thus merrily live they in Vanity Fair!

  The great human caldron--it boils ever higher;
  Some drowning, some sinking; while some, creeping nigher,
  Come thirsting to lean o'er its outermost verges,
  Or touch--as a child's feet touch trembling the surges:
      One plunge--Ho! more souls swamped in Vanity Fair!

  'Let's live while we live, for to-morrow all's over.
  Drink deep, drunkard bold! and kiss close, thou mad lover!
  Smile, hypocrite, smile! it is no such hard labour,
  While each with red hand tears the heart of his neighbour
      All slyly.--We're strange folk in Vanity Fair!

  'Hist!--each for himself, or _herself_, which sounds smoother,
  Though man's no upholder, and woman no soother,
  Both struggle alike here.--What, weeping?--what, raving?
  Pah!--fight out the battle all! No time for saving!
      Ha! ha! 'tis a wondrous place, Vanity Fair!'

  The mad crowd divides, and then closes swift after;
  Afar, towers the pyre, lit with shouting and laughter;
  'What new sport is this?' lisps a reveller, half turning;--
  'One Faithful, poor wretch! who is led to the burning:
      He cumbered us sorely in Vanity Fair!

  'A dreamer--who held every man for a brother;
  A coward--who, emit on one cheek, gave the other:
  A fool--whose blind truth aye believed all knaves' lying;
  Too simple to live, so most fitted for dying.
      Ha! such are best swept out of Vanity Fair.'


                             II.

  Silence! though the flame-drifts wave and flutter;
  Silence! though the crowd their curses mutter;
  Silence! through this fiery purgatory
  God is leading up a soul to glory.

  See, the white lips with no moans are trembling,
  Hate of foes, or plaint of friends' dissembling;
  If sighs come--most patient prayers outlive them:
  _'Lord, these know not what they do. Forgive them!'_

  Thirstier still the roaring flames are glowing,
  Fainter in his ear the laughters growing;
  Brief endures the fierce and fiery trial--
  Angel-welcomes drown the earth-denial.

  Now the amorous death-fires, gleaming ruddy,
  Clasp him close. Down sinks the quivering body,
  While through harmless flames immortal flying
  Shoots the beauteous soul. This--this is _dying_!

  Lo! the opening heavens with splendours rifted;
  Lo! the palms that wait those hands uplifted;
  And the fiery chariot cloud-descending,
  And the legioned angels close attending!

  Let his poor dust mingle with the embers,
  While the crowd sweeps on, and none remembers;
  Saints and angels through the Infinite glory,
  Praising God, recount the martyr's story.

  Thou, who through the trial-fires bewildering
  Of this cruel world, dost lead Thy children,
  With the purifying give the balm;
  Grant to martyr-pangs the martyr's palm!

       *       *       *       *       *

[Footnote 6: Suggested partly by a sketch in David Scott's
illustrations of the _Pilgrim's Progress_.]



VARIETY OF AMBER.


There is a variety of amber, of the opacity of white wax, with a
very slight yellowish tinge. It is found intermixed with yellow
amber, in thin bands of some breadth. When the magnificent pile of
buildings called Fonthill Abbey was exhibited to the public, before
the sale of its curious and costly furniture, it contained an amber
cabinet, as beautiful in workmanship as material. It was
quadrangular, and about fifteen inches by twelve at the base,
standing on four legs, that raised it about half an inch from its
pedestal. It was pyramidal in form, about fourteen inches high, and
divided into eleven stages. These were separated by a ledge of
yellow amber, about one-eighth of an inch in thickness, projecting a
little over the under stage, like a cornice. The front of each stage
was ornamented with recumbent figures in white amber, in relief.
Some parts were at least one-eighth of an inch in thickness. The
effect was much like that of the white figures on the purple ground
of the well-known Portland Vase. Each stage had the appearance of
opening as a drawer. The top was flat, and the whole of the yellow
amber beautifully transparent.



HAVE SERPENTS TASTE?


Some naturalists have surmised that serpents have no sense of taste,
because the boa-constrictor in the Zoological Gardens swallowed his
blanket. Chemistry may, however, assist us in solving the mystery,
and induce us to draw quite an opposite conclusion from the curious
circumstance alluded to. May not the mistake of the serpent be
attributed to the marvellous acuteness of his taste? Take this
reason: All vegetable substances contain starch, all animal
substances contain ammonia; now it is most probable that the snake
detected the animal quality--the ammonia--in the wool of the
blanket, and he therefore naturally enough inferred that his bed was
something suitable to his digestive organs. It is certain that he
committed an error of judgment, but that error may be traceable to
the subtilty of his taste rather than to its obtuseness. We throw
out this suggestion as a specimen, if nothing better, of what
contradictory inferences may be drawn from a single fact, and as a
hint of how much caution is necessary in arriving at absolute
opinions, even when the evidence is apparently most unmistakable.



AN AMERICAN EDITOR.


He is a dangerous man to be trifled with. The grand hickory-stick he
twirls in his hand would be enough, with his dare-devil look, to
frighten most persons; but when we state that in the depth of the
pocket of the remarkable check-coat that he wears he conceals one of
the most beautiful 'persuaders' ever manufactured by Colt, we are
satisfied he will be a terror to all evil-doers. We should also
state that generally he is occupied doing out-door business, but
that on every Saturday until one o'clock P.M. he is always at the
office, perfectly ready and willing to give any and every
satisfaction for the articles he publishes.--_Boston Rouge Gazette._

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed and Published by W. and R. CHAMBERS, High Street, Edinburgh.
Also sold by W.S. ORR, Amen Corner, London; D.N. CHAMBERS, 55 West
Nile Street, Glasgow; and J. M'GLASHAN, 50 Upper Sackville Street,
Dublin.--Advertisements for Monthly Parts are requested to be sent
to MAXWELL & Co., 31 Nicholas Lane, Lombard Street, London, to whom
all applications respecting their insertion must be made.





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