A Day at a Consulate
AN American consulate is a veritable Mirza’s Hill, where human life, in its various phases, with its sharps and flats, its tragedy and comedy, passes in continuous though informal review. Lexically it is a commercial agency, but practically it is that and a great deal more ; in an accommodated sense, it is a police-station, a criminal court, despatch agency, bank of deposit, reading-room, post-office,— in fine, a general depository, or sort of omniana, where from time to time you may find everything, from a love-letter to a Saratoga trunk, or from a sailor’s tarpauling to a lady’s trousseau.
So, too, a consul is supposed to be a commercial agent; but in fact, and of necessity, he is everything by turns, and nothing,long. What with debentures, invoices, protests, legalizations, and the rest of that category, his official duties are sufficiently numerous, and often perplexing; but his unofficial services, which never figure in the despatches, are still more multiform and multiplied. He conducts trials, in which he is at once advocate, judge, and jury. He draws up a legal instrument as a notary, signs it as a witness, and legalizes it as a consul. Now he is engaged in the humble vocation of an interpreter, or valet de place, and, presto ! he is discharging the functions of a minister extraordinary. Now he is looking after the stray baggage of some unfortunate tourist, and anon he is deciding cases involving, not only the property and personal liberty, but even *the lives, of his countrymen.
Then, too, as the recognized agent of Uncle Sam, — that benevolent old gentleman, with a great, capacious pocket full of double-eagles, — he is regarded as a sort of special providence to the whole tribe of improvident scapegraces. If some peripatetic vagabond, or seedy nobleman-, or political refugee, is out of funds, and minus credit, especially if he can lay claim to a nationality that has figured in some war of independence, no matter how remote he calls for aid upon the United States Consul. If-one of his countrywomen contemplates marriage, she consults the consular oracle. If she is married and wishes she were not, or if she is not married when in all conscience she ought to be, she confides the terrible secret to the consul. If a male child is born of American parentage, the consul is forthwith notified of the happy event, and thereupon issues a certificate of United States citizenship. Should one of his countrymen conclude that “ it is not good for man to be alone,” the consul may solemnize the rites of matrimony ; or, should he die intestate, the latter becomes, by virtue of his office, the executor or administrator-of his personal estate.
I should have considered the foregoing an exaggerated statement of the case, if I had not recently had occasion to pass a day at one of the principal Italian consulates, of which I propose to furnish a brief record from notes taken upon the spot. Having ordered a small box of sundries sent to my address by steamer from Marseilles, I called at the consulate to ascertain its whereabouts and to inquire for letters. Antonio, the messenger, soon arrived with the mail. By way of parenthesis we -may say, that Antonio is a fixture of the office, having been connected with it for the last twenty years. He speaks four or five different languages, and yet is in blissful ignorance of his own age and surname. He knows that everybody call him Antonio, and that’s all he knows about it. He is slightly at fault sometimes with his languages, as he exclaimed, on coming into the office, and glancing at the stove to see if it were drawing well, “The stufa pulls fust-rate.”
This struck me as being rather extraordinary, as one of the peculiarities of an Italian fireplace is, as Dickens has it, that “ everything goes up the chimney except the smoke.”
“ How about the box, Antonio ?”
“ All right, Signore.”
Though, to the best of my knowledge, it contained nothing dutiable, still, as I had been totally oblivious of the fact that the custom-house “Cerberus loves a sop,” I anticipated some difficulty on that score, and inquired, with a little nervous anxiety, “ How did you get it through, Antonio ? ”
“ Why, sir, I told ’em it was only a little tapioca for the consul, who has the dyspepsy.”
“ Birbantc ! ” exclaimed that worthy functionary w'ith considerable fervor, as he wheeled around upon his tripod, “ how dared you tell them that ? ”
“ Why, you know, Signore Console, it is right to lie for my padronej so I • told ’em a lie in order to be honest.”
“A very singular idea of honesty, certainly ! ” rejoined the consul, his severe aspect relaxing, notwithstanding his evident displeasure, into an involuntary smile. And yet not so singular either, when we consider the moral possibilities of a regime under which pious brigands, baptized with sacrilegious rites in human blood, can repeat with sanctimonious airs the Ave Maria over the mutilated corpses of their foully murdered victims. It was only an efflorescence of Machiavelianism, — a rather original statement of the old dogma, that “the end justifies the means,” enunciated and illustrated by an ignorant Italian porter.
I might have read the now crestfallen messenger a homily on veracity, but for the entrance of an honest-looking peasant, who wished to procure the consular legalization to some paper that he evidently deemed of considerable importance. As a preliminary, it was necessary that he should be sworn. The consul, after explaining the nature of an oath, requested him to raise his right hand. This he positively refused to do, until fully assured that, whatever other terrible consequences might follow, he would probably not fall down dead, as did Ananias and Sapphira, in the event of his failing to tell the truth. It soon became further evident that he was superstitious to the last degree, and in this respect he is probably a fair representative of his class. As from believing too much we end by believing too little, so the natural rebound of superstition is infidelity. This is eminently true of the religious metamorphosis which is now taking place in Italy.
“ What is your creed ? ” I inquired, a few days since, of a professor in one of the universities.
“ Credo in Dio e buon vino,” (I believe in God and good wine.)
It is to be feared that, among the more intelligent classes, Epicurus has more disciples than Jesus.
Meanwhile the consul had been despatching the mail that lay upon his desk.
There was a note from the mayor, enclosing an invitation to attend, on the following Sabbath, a military review in the morning and a grand ball in the evening ; which, as the consul is a Protestant clergyman, seemed rather incongruous.
There was a letter in a feminine hand, in which the consul is informed that velvets and human hair are frightfully high in the United States, that she understands they are both 'very cheap in Italy, and that she will consider herself under lasting obligations if he will do her the favor of sending a quantity for herself and several of her lady friends, provided he can do so without the payment of the duties,— the velvets, no doubt, because the duty is so high ; and the hair, I suppose, on the ground of its being secondhand.
There is one in Italian, from a youth of belligerent proclivities, who proposes enlistment in the United States Army on condition that his expenses are paid to the United States and he is guaranteed a commission.
There is another in French, from a Hungarian refugee, who is desirous of emigrating to America. He is confident that the United States government will provide .him with transportation, but, in case that he is mistaken, he has no doubt but that the consul will advance the money for the expenses of himself and family, consisting of a wife and seven children, begging him to accept in advance his most distinguished consideration and hearty thanks. The consul is reluctantly compelled to decline this modest request, which would take the greater part of his salary for a year, notwithstanding the assurance that every cent will be refunded on the establishment of the applicant in some lucrative employment. This is a fair specimen of that shabby-genteel way of begging — borrowing without the slightest intention of paying — which is so common on the Continent, even among those who lay claim to rank and respectability.
There is a note from a representative of Young America abroad, hailing from the insane hospital. It appears that the previous evening he had been mixing up claret and champagne with something stronger at a. cafe, until, laboring under the illusion that he had been transformed into a Flying Dutchman, he attempted to execute a pirouette upon a marble-topped table, to the no little detriment of wine-glasses and queen’s-ware, and to the utter amazement of the more sober habitues of the establishment. As the proprietor interfered, Young America, whose blood was now fully up, brought one of his fists in rather violent collision with the right eye of that worthy individual, which did not dispose him to see this affair in the most favorable light. The natural consequence of all this was a polite invitation, on the part of a couple of policemen, to accompany them to the guard-house. But as the belligerent youth exhibited some rather extraordinary symptoms which excited suspicions of temporary insanity, he was subsequently transferred to the ward for the insane in the hospital, where, after being divested of every article of his own wardrobe under protest, he was furnished with a wooden spoon, a soup-dish of the same material, a narrow -cot-bed, and a coarse linen shirt. He besought the consul to come at once, and extricate him, if possible, from this most embarrassing situation ; though it was very evident from the tenor of his note, either that he had not recovered from the effect of last night’s potations, or else was really insane. The only account he could give of this ill-starred adventure, in connection with the singular proceedings on the part of the authorities, was, that, having been arrested whilst laboring under that peculiar mental phenomenon denominated double consciousness, upon the false charge of having committed an assault and battery upon the Virgin Mary, he was fully satisfied that he was the victim of a most atrocious conspiracy. Poor fellow! he is the representative of an unfortunately large class of American youth, who, like* mountain torrents, live too fast to live long.
Then there is another note of a very different character. It is from an American sailor in prison, charged with the murder of a shipmate on board an Italian brig. He pleads his innocence, begs the consul to intercede with the authorities in his behalf, and, in the postscript, requests him to send him any letters from his poor mother, and, if possible, a little tobacco. Thus do the comedy and tragedy of human life go hand in hand.
A consumptive invalid writes from one of the principal hotels, making inquiries relative to less expensively furnished apartments, and then jocularly adds that he can hardly afford to die at an Italian hotel. In truth, so superstitious are the Italians with regard to death, that, when a traveller dies, his friends are expected to indemnify the landlord for the expenses of thoroughly renovating the apartment occupied by the deceased; and the bill too often contains the following item for renewing the furniture, scraping, papering and frescoing the walls : —
“ Indemnité pour réfaction des meubles, et de la chambre occupé par le defunct,— £100 sterling.”
So, too, in private families, upon the death of a member of the household the friends of the deceased immediately desert the apartment, sometimes even before life is extinct; seldom, if ever, attending the funeral, whilst the apartment is either thoroughly renovated, as indicated above, or, if possible, is exchanged for another. Besides these, there were sundry notesrelating to matters of minor importance,— to a stray Murray or Harper, that had gone sight-seeing on its own account; to a truant opera-glass, that was playing hide and go to seek ” among the palchi of the theatre, or had found another proprietor ; to sundry trunks that were making excursions in one direction whilst their owners were travelling in another, or else to prime Havanas, that in a most provoking manner had found their way into the capacious pockets of custom-house officials, and were doubtless rapidlydisappearing in volumes of smoke.
“ Sprechen sie deutch ? ”
“ No, Signore.”
“ Parla I' ltaliano ? ”
“ Si, si.”
These questions were hastily ejaculated by an extraordinary-looking individual, who, striding into the office like an English grenadier, announced himself as a Russian ex-captain from Montenegro, just returning from the Paris Exposition, and unfortunately out of funds. His singular appearance, no less than his manner, attracted my attention, — a swarthy complexion, dark hair and eyes ; an enormous mustache hanging down on either side of a sufficiently large mouth ; dark blue Turkish trousers; an ex-white tunic, reaching down below the knees, and embroidered with gold lace ; skull-cap, or fez ; a silk sash with a leathern holster, minus the pistols ; and a riding-whip of undressed chamois, minus the horse, which he had pawned, as he said, to pay his expenses to Paris.
He showed a scar upon his right wrist, and another upon his left thumb, that he had received, according to his own account, in the war of ’57, with the Turks ; spoke of the entente cordiale existing between Russia and the United States, and then came to the main point in hand, namely, money.
“Have you been to see the Russian Consul ? ”
He slightly colored, and stammered, “ Yes.” His manner excited suspicion.
“ Bring me a note from your consul, and, if it is satisfactory, I will do something for you.”
“ No ! impossible ! I ask you only for twenty francs, and that’s not worth writing a note about.”
The consul’s suspicions were confirmed, and, having made up his mind to give nothing, to repeated solicitations he resolutely said “ No.” The ex-captain’s countenance assumed a portentous longitude. Rising from his seat, he began to pace the floor, growing more and more excited all the while, until he resembled nothing so much as a polar bear in a menagerie.
“ Say ten francs, then.”
“No, not without the note.”
“ Five francs.”
“ Per I' amore di Dio, solamente cinque franchi,” and then, in the midst of a passionate invocation to the Holy Virgin and all the saints, he went down upon one knee, gold lace and all, grasped fervently one of the consul’s hands in both of his, and carried it passionately in the direction of his lips. Now, of all things in this transitory world there is nothing more transitory than a kiss and yet it is not altogether objectionable on that account, provided it is tendered by the lips of beauty or of love. But in this particular instance the consul very prudently declined the proffered favor, and, resolutely withdrawing his hand, executed a flank movement, which very naturally resulted in a change of base on the part of the suppliant captain. The two stood eying each other rather awkwardly for a moment, when the latter, gathering up his fez and riding-whip, started for the door, and, growling an adieu, disappeared like a thunder-cloud.
Footsteps were now heard in the hall, with a regular Anglo-Saxon accent, the heels being brought down with an emphasis that denoted energy and a will. It proved to be the captain of an American brig.
“ Consul, there ’s been a row on board.”
“ What now ? ”
“ Two of my men have nearly killed the mate.”
The captain then, with some minuteness of detail, gave an account of the bloody affray. He warmed up as he proceeded, until he so far forgot himself as to indulge in some “ percussion English,” as he apologetically styled it ; and though he spoke of the uniform good treatment and moral influence exercised on board, it must have been patent to the most casual observer, that in the discipline of seamen he had very little faith in moral suasion, and was better versed in the “ Fool’s Litany ” than the Apostles’ Creed.
“ Where are the seamen ? ” inquired the consul.
“ In the other office.”
The “ men ” were now brought in, accompanied by two policemen in uniform. They gazed doggedly upon the floor and said nothing, though their bloodshot eyes and blood-stained shirts spoke volumes. Then followed the examination and cross-examination, when it appeared that the motive for committing this deadly assault was, as one of the sailors characteristically expressed it, cruel treatment, hard work, and “ poor grub.” As the result of the examination, the seamen were remanded to prison.
The captain subsequently related a number of amusing passages in his own experience at sea, and, among others, how Captain Semmes, on his return from England to the United States, after the destruction of the Alabama, came on boa-rd his vessel at Havana under the assumed name of John Smith ; and that, although his manner attracted considerable attention, he never suspected he was carrying contraband of war until his arrival at Matamoras.
“ Signor Console, I pray you tell me what this is for ! ” exclaimed an Italian shop-keeper, as he entered the office, accompanied by a boy carrying a patent clothes-wringer. “ I have had this in my establishment for nearly a year, and I should like to know certainly what it is.”
“ Why, that’s for drying clothes.”
“ Per Bacco !”
“ What did you think it was ? ”
A shrug of the shoulders was the only response, but it afterward appeared that he had been trying to sell it to the artists as a great improvement in photography.
The boy, we may add, by way of supplement, was a very necessary part of the transaction. A gentleman in Italy, going to market with a market-basket on his arm, would run great risk ol being mistaken for a porter. Even the humblest artisan would lose caste if he could not afford to keep a servant to carry his tools. If a mason comes to adjust your bell-rope, or a glazier to repair a broken pane, he is accompanied by the inevitable boy. The consul related, in this connection, that on the previous day a poor woman, who had formerly been a signora, but was now reduced to extreme destitution, called at his residence to beg for broken victuals and cast-off clothing, but who at the same time, as a saving clause to her respectability* was accompanied by an old family servant to carry them home to her desolate garret.
There was a rustling of silks, and, a moment after, a lady who had evidently seen better days was ushered into the office, and announced as Signora B—.
“A veritable countess,” whispered the consul in a scarcely audible aside. It soon appeared from the conversation that she was one of that unfortunate class of our countrywomen who have bartered wealth for a title. Her personal appearance was by no means prepossessing, but in her youth she had been an heiress with a hundred thousand in her own right, in the shape of a Southern plantation, with its chattels real and personal, upon which she herself was the only encumbrance. During a European tour she had met and married an Italian count, who^proved, as is generally the case with such fortunehunters, a worthless adventurer, and who, after having squandered a large portion of her property, had abandoned her in the most heartless manner. Since then she had been married de facto, if not de jure, several times, and had led an altogether irregular life. In a state of society where so much latitude is allowed to the marriage relation, her character was not decidedly compromised ; but it had reached that equivocal stage, when the more severe censors of social morality thought it prudent to subject it to a sort of informal quarantine.
After the usual civilities her conversation turned upon her domestic infelicity, of which she made no secret, and which appeared to have become hopelessly chronic. From any other standpoint than that of her present disreputable life, her story of domestic wrongs — though related, as witches say their prayers, backwards — would have been sufficiently touching.
As it was, the consul, desirous of terminating an interview which had already" become not a little embarrassing, intimated that he had no disposition to interfere in domestic controversies.
« It is your duty, as an officer of the government, to do so,” she exclaimed, with much fervor.
“ I will consult my consular instructions,” he replied, in a vein of quiet humor ; “and, in case I find this duty imposed upon me, I will not shrink from its performance.”
“ I ‘ll have justice,” she continued, not in the least disconcerted by the last remark, — “I ’ll have justice, or I ’ll — non mangerà piu pane.”
Under the surface of this mild but expressive form of denunciation so common among Italians, — “ He shall eat no more bread,” — there lurks a terrible significance, which contemplates nothing less than a forcible divorce of soul and body.
“ That would be a most remarkable change of venue, certainly,” rather soliloquized than said the genius loci; “and yet I am not sure but that she would be more likely to procure justice in that court than any other.”
“What court?” she inquired rather abruptly, and slightly coloring.
“ Heaven’s Chancery.”
The entrance of a party of American tourists interrupted this awkward interview, and changed the current of conversation. Presently there was heard the heavy discharge of cannon in the direction of the harbor, which fell upon the ear in slow and measured pulsations.
“An American man-of-war!” cried Antonio, who was ever on the qui vive for the old flag.
“ Papa,” chimed in a childish treble, between two successive discharges, “ why do they make such a fuss over men-of-war ? Is it because they kill people ? ” But as papa only sat in a fit of abstraction, beating the devil’s tattoo upon a writing-desk, the poor child turned her eyes, full of interrogation-points, first upon one and then another of the company, but there was no response.
The silence was ominous. Let us consult Victor Hugo !
“That’s a fine picture you have there, Consul,” observed a rather titanic specimen of feminine humanity, pointing at the same time to an indifferent copy of Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin. “ As we are thinking some of investing in the fine arts, I would like to know the name of the artist.”
Other considerations aside, you would naturally have taken the fair author of the preceding remark, whom we shall designate as Madame Malaprop, to be a lady of considerable importance, judging from the size of her chignon, and the profusion of jewelry and other gim' cracks with which her person was ‘adorned. You could not say that she was positively attractive, but then, like Miss Crawley, she-had a balance at her banker’s, which, with all her drawbacks, would have made her beloved and respected anywhere.
“ I am unable to give you the name of the artist,” the consul replied, after some hesitation, “but the painting evidently belongs to the Venetian school.”
“ Ah ! ” she exclaimed, applying her eye-glass, and observing it again with the air of a connoisseur. “ O, I see ! the schoolmarm is having prayers with the scholars,” — doubtless led into this very innocent, though rather ludicrous, mistake, by the devout attitude of the Virgin, enveloped in an aureola of cherub faces in the act of adoration.
There was a very significant silence, which really began to grow embarrassing, when she again commenced and continued in a strain that could have reflected credit upon Don Eraclio in the Raggiatore, which, if the truth must be told, was much more amusing than edifying.
Madame Malaprop evidently belonged to that worthy, but nevertheless to be commiserated class, whose intelligence has not kept pace with their acquisition of wealth. Her former husband had the good or ill fortune to strike oil, which had rather served, however, for the enlightenment of others than of himself and family. When apparently just ready to enter upon the enjoyment of his suddenly acquired wealth, he fell ill and died. The buxom widow, who was by no means a proper person to grieve over what she termed “a merciful dispensation of Providence,” resigned herself without a murmur. Shortly after she consoled herself with another husband, though we are bound to add, by way of extenuation, that he was an unusually small one, which she doubtless considered a very plausible excuse for marrying so soon.
He was a dapper little gentleman. of apparently her own age. His hair and whiskers were of the most formal cut; his linen was unexceptionable, and even Beau Brummel could not have objected to the tie of his cravat. There was* withal a certain stiffness in his manner decidedly suggestive of the tincture of ramrods, whilst his slender proportions reminded one constantly of Philetus and his leaden sandals. Either he was easily disconcerted or slightly absentminded, for he had a most singular fashion of looking for his spectacles when they were upon his nose. There was one other striking feature in the appearance of this eccentric personage. His hair was quite gray for about one half of its natural length, whilst the remaining half appeared to be of no very decided color, —whether from the effect of disappointed love, domestic infelicity, or from a failure in his supply of hairrestorative, we are unable to decide. If two persons would ride the same horse, as Dogberry would say, one of them must ride behind ; and so with this amiable couple, though it was very evident that it was the husband who occupied this rather unenviable position. He rarely ventured to more than echo the oracular utterances of his titanic spouse, unless he occasionally presumed to modestly suggest a modification of their plans, when she would abruptly interpose her sic volo, and then there would be an energetic fumbling in waistcoat pockets for a pair of lost spectacles, and that was the end of the matter.
Madame Malaprop and her husband were evidently in quest of a social position. In such cases, a season at Saratoga or the grand tour of Europe is the Pons Asinorum on the other side of which many worthy but mistaken people expect to find respectability and position in society.
At this moment an American officer in full uniform entered the consulate, and announced the arrival in port of the C-, a United States man-of-war, stating, at the same time, that the captain’s gig was at the consul’s disposal whenever it suited his pleasure or convenience to pay his official visit.
“ I will go at once,” the latter replied ; and fifteen minutes later the consular salute of seven guns announced his arrival on board. And now follow the official calls, official dinners, official excursions, and official shopping, in which the consul, who is expected to officiate in a variety of capacities, will have a most excellent opportunity of exhibiting the versatility of his talent, no less than the quality of his hospitality. Meanwhile the locum tenens exercises alittle brief authority. Just as we were on the point of leaving, a whole ship’s crew, having been paid off and discharged, came into the office in a body, and, being in various stages of intoxication, made themselves as variously disagreeable. Shortly after, several policemen brought in an American seaman, who, having succeeded, whilst under the influence of liquor, in getting upon the roof of a six-story house, minus everything but his shirt, was amusing himself by dancing a sailor’s jig, to the great consternation of the spectators below. And thus ended a day, such as we saw' it, at an American consulate.
It was with a feeling of relief that we strolled out into the public square. The day was superb, such a one as is not to be found outside of “ Paradise or Italy.” The old cathedral with its black-and-white marble front, with its colossal lions of fierce and forbidding aspect flanking the side entrances, with its spiral columns and antique sculpture, constituted an admirable background to as quaint and varied a picture as is to be found anywhere in Europe. There were priests with their long black cassocks, cocked hats, and silver shoebuckles; Turks with their white turbans and baggy trousers ; Bersagliert sporting their flowing crests of cocks’ feathers; marines with their broad blue shirt-collars and glazed tarpaulings set jauntily upon their heads ; gensd’armes who might be taken for majorgenerals in full dress,—great strapping fellows, strutting about in showy uniforms, that poor peasant-women may have an opportunity of laboring in the fields. Then, too, there were monks with coarse browm cowls, bare feet, and skull-caps, in all the odor of sanctity, which, if my olfactories do not deceive me, is certainly not a very agreeable one ; nurses with jaunty white caps, caressing babies swaddled like Egyptian mummies, or coquetting gayly with soldiers ; and everywhere the inevitable cavour, — a cigar that makes up in length what it lacks in body and flavor.
Here a cabman is despatching a dish of ministrone, whilst another is asleep upon his box, his horses nodding alternately to the pavement. There a cripple hobbles about on crutches, with a portable variety-stand suspended from his neck, containing — I was about to give an inventory, though I see no good reason for advertising his goods — but his quick and practised glance has detected my apparent interest in his wares, and so, bearing down upon me with his crazy-looking craft, he shouts out in auctioneer style, “Tre per un franco ! ” at the same time shuffling a package of cards, among which I noticed the photograph of Booth, which he sold as President Lincoln’s, along with those of some theatre actresses, in pieno costume d' Eva. There goes a dandy officer with laced waist and delicate kids, bedizened with gold lace and redolent of lavender, leading a poodle, — a fair representative of those drawing-room heroes whose theatre of conquest has ever been the hearts of foolish, faithless women, who from time immemorial have had a penchant for fine feathers and brass buttons, — knightly heroes who fence with a fan. or charge with a parasol, as they cry, —
And then the numerous street cries, pitched upon every possible and impossible key from A sharp to X flat, — this is Bedlam run mad. As a climax to the discord of sounds, earthly and unearthly, several donkeys commenced braying in lusty style for the further edification of the passers-by.
Now there is infinite pathos, as well as irresistible laughter, in the braying of a donkey. It ranges all the way from high tragedy to low comedy or broad farce. There is in its incipiency the subdued neighings of unbridled love. Then there comes a solemn protest against the hardship and abuse of centuries. Then it culminates in a climax of despair, — in utter abandonment to grief like that of a mother for her firstborn. It seems as if some lost spirit had taken up its temporary abode in that unpromising tenement, and would wail out an infinite despair were it not for the imperfection of the instrument And then there is an anti-climax ; beginning with a sort of inarticulate running commentary on the “Vanity of Vanities,” and ending in a reckless devil-may-care, as if it were reconciling itself to its hard lot, and saying, after all a little provender would be very acceptable, though it may be somewhat transitory.
We continue our stroll down to the sea-shore. What a sky and sea ! Who can paint the dissolving views of such a landscape, ever varying, ever changing! Should an artist succeed in catching the golden glories and imperial splendors of yonder sunset, and transferring them to canvas, no one would dream that the picture could have its counterpart in reality. The quaint old city with its semicircular sweep, its towers and palaces and gardens, is beginning to bathe itselt in shadow. The gayly decorated villas with their grated windows, dilapidated gateways, and faded frescos, each a sort of compromise between a prison and a palace, have just enough of ruin and decay attaching to them to give them a flavor of romance and poetry. T he valley beyond, with its unfading mantle of green in the presence of eternal snows ; the antique well-sweeps ; the little garden lodges, from which is kept up a perfect fusillade against the little songsters that would otherwise fill the orangegroves and olive - orchards with the melody of their song, now saddened into singular harmony with the pensive music of the monastery bells. You look away to where the Mediterranean rolls her liquid emerald, now dark with shadow or resplendent with light, as it reflects the ever-changing aspect of the sky, or else kindles in the sunlight, — a sea of glass and gold and glory. Here the clouds nestle in the valleys, or conceal the summits of the mountains so that they appear like truncated cones ; yonder they lift and betray the snowclad peaks, bathed in sunlight and pure as heaven. In the clear morning light, villas and villages gleamed with a white radiance through the crystalline atmosphere. Now, a blue haze slumbers up-. on the sides and summits of the distant mountains, investing them with all the inexpressible charm of a veiled beauty. And still your eye wanders away to the vanishing point of the fading landscape, until it finds repose in the “ bridal of sea and sky.”
Italia! thou art Paradise without the angels. And yet if Momus had given us a charter of fault-finding as large as the wind, we could not find it in our heart to chide thee, though one of thine own poets has sung that the straightest thing in all thy fair domains is the leaning tower of Pisa : —
Che la piu dritta è il campanile de Pisa.”