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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 27, January, 1860 by Various

Part 2 out of 5

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a Testament, lay on the table. I knew I should find her name on the
fly-leaf, and was just on the point of satisfying myself with regard to
that particular when I heard her feet upon the stairs; and, with a start
which nearly carried away the curtains of her bed, I rushed from her
room into my own.

How my heart beat, after I had gently closed my door and was sitting
on the side of my bed, listening to the movements in the next room! It
didn't seem to me as though I had been guilty of a high misdemeanor,
and yet, though I had been prepared for her return, I was as much
discomposed as though I had been caught peeping.

So far from being satisfied with this resolution of my doubts with
regard to the sex of my neighbor, I now found myself more uneasy and
curious than before. Was she young and pretty and good? and what did she
do? and what was her name? My thoughts were perpetually running up those
six flights and stopping baffled at her close-shut door. I drew
ideal portraits of her, and introduced them into all my pictures as
pertinaciously as Rubens did his wives, and would often finish out an
accidental face in a study of rocks, much to my instructor's surprise
and my fellow-students' amusement. It was very remarkable, however,
that all these fancy sketches bore a striking resemblance to another
acquaintance of mine, who will shortly be introduced, and in whom, until
I moved into my now room, I had been exclusively interested,--so much
so, in fact, that----But I will not anticipate.

Most of my days were spent on the opposite side of the Seine; and, as
I crossed that river, by the Pont Royal, at about five o'clock, every
evening, on my way to the Laiterie, at which I usually took what I
called my dinner, I always stopped to buy a bunch of flowers, of violets
in their season, of a charming little flower-girl, who had her stand, on
the Quai Voltaire, and who, by the time my turn to be served came, had
usually disposed of nearly her whole stock. Every one who looked at her
bought of her. She possessed something that was more attractive even
than her beauty; though I question, if, without her glossy brown hair,
her soft, dark eyes, her glorious complexion, her round, dimpled cheek
and chin, her gentle winning smile, and her exquisite taste in dress--I
question, if, without all these, her quiet, modest demeanor and
unaffected simplicity and propriety would have attracted quite as much
attention as they always did.

I had not bought many bouquets of Therese before she began to recognize
me as I came up, and to greet me with a smile and a _"Bon jour,
Monsieur,"_ sweeter in tone and accent than any I had ever heard before.
What a voice hers was! Its tones were like those of a silver bell; and I
found that she always had my bunch of violets or heliotrope ready for me
by the time I reached her.

My frugal meal over, I was in the habit of visiting a neighboring
_cafe,_ where I read the papers, drank my evening cup of coffee, and, as
I smoked my cigar or pipe and twirled my posies in my fingers or held
them to my nose, would wonder who she was who sold them to me, if she
ever thought of those who bought them of her, and if she distinguished
me above her other customers. It seemed to me, that, if she had the same
angelic smile and happy greeting for them as she always bestowed upon
me, they must one and all be her slaves; and yet I couldn't decide
whether I really loved her or was only touched by a passing fancy for
her.

I looked forward, however, through the day, to my interview with her
with a great deal of impatience, and found myself making short cuts
in the long walk which led me to her. I used to arrange, on my way,
well-turned sentences with which to please her, and by which I expected
to startle her into some intimation of her feelings toward me. I was
angry that she was obliged to stand in so public a place, exposed to the
gaze and remarks of all who chose to stop and buy of her. In fine, I
was jealous, or rather was piqued, that she should receive all others
exactly as she received me, and almost flattered myself that necessity
forced her to meet them with the same sweet smile inclination led her to
bestow on me.

This was the state of affairs at the time I moved into my new lodgings,
before referred to, in the Place Maubert, and I was suffering these
mental torments for Therese's sake, when the appearance, or rather the
non-appearance, of my mysterious neighbor aggravated and complicated the
symptoms and converted my slow fever into an intermittent. I had called
my fair unknown Hermine;--the pronoun _she_, as it applied equally to
every individual of the female sex, and in the French language to many
things besides, soon became insufficient, and I took the liberty of
calling her Hermine. I was so ashamed of my foolish passion, that I
could not make up my mind even to question the porter at the door with
regard to her, nor to consult any of my better initiated acquaintances
as to the proper course to be pursued, but lived out a wretched
succession of days and nights of feverish anxiety and expectation,--of
what I knew not.

I was on my way over the Pont Royal, one evening, at my usual hour,
and was just coming in sight of my bewitching flower-merchant, when
a sudden, and, as I believed, a happy thought occurred to me, and I
resolved to put it into instant execution. I am sure I blushed and
stammered wofully as I asked for _two_ bunches of flowers instead of my
usual one, and I was confident, that, as she handed them to me without a
word, but with such a look, Therese's brow was shaded by something more
than the dark bands of her brown hair or the edge of her becoming cap,
and that her lip quivered rather with a suppressed sigh than with her
usual happy smile. I didn't stop to speak with her that night, but
hurried away towards my room, conscious--for I did not dare to look
behind me, or I am sure I should have relinquished my design--that her
large, sorrowful eyes were full of the tears she had kept back while I
had stood before her.

I reached my room as soon as possible, and, after assuring myself that
my neighbor was still absent, carefully inserted my second nosegay
into her keyhole, and rushed from the house as though I had committed
burglary.

I was very young then, very romantic, and wholly wanting in assurance.
I must have been, or I should never have regarded it as a crime, not
against myself, but others, that I was making my days miserable and my
nights sleepless on account of two young girls, one of whom I had never
seen, and the other of whom was merely a flower-merchant.

When I clambered up to my room late that night, the flowers were no
longer where I had put them. I had been torturing myself all the evening
with the thought that Hermine might have felt offended, and that I
should find them torn in pieces and thrown down at my door, or that she
would be waiting for me with a severe reprimand for my boldness and
impertinence. But I could find no trace of them, and went to sleep,
soothed by the conviction that they had been carefully put by in a glass
of water, or were occupying a place on her pillow by the side of her
dainty cheek. I feared to meet Therese's sorrowful face again the next
night, and was troubled so much by the thought of it through the day,
that I fairly deserted her that evening and bought my two bouquets
elsewhere. With one of these, which I had taken care should be of a
finer quality than before, I repeated my experiment of the preceding
night and with the same gratifying result. But the day after,
forgetting, until it was too late, that I had given Therese fair cause
to be seriously angry with me, habit carried me to my old resort again,
though I had fully determined to reach home by another way, and to
patronize, for the future, my new _bouquetiere,_ who was not only old
and ugly, but of the masculine gender. Habit--and perhaps wish had
something to do with it--was too strong, however, and I found myself
turning down the Quai Voltaire at the customary hour the next evening.

Much to my surprise, and somewhat to my mortification, Therese greeted
me with her old sunny smile. Her _"Bon jour, Monsieur,"_ was as cordial
as ever; and it even seemed to me--and that didn't in the least tend to
compose me--that her eyes sparkled with an archness which I had never
seen in them before, and that her voice had in it a tinge of malice, as
she held out to me two of her finest bunches, saying,--

_"Est-ce que, Monsieur en desire deux encore ce soir?"_

I was very angry with her for being in such good-humor, and believe I
was anything but aimable or polite with her. Why did she not look
hurt or offended and reproach me for my desertion, instead of almost
disarming my senseless anger by her gentleness?

"It seems that Monsieur forgets his old friends, sometimes," she
continued, as I took the flowers she had been holding towards me, and
was fumbling in my pocket for the change.

"Forget!" I stammered; for the temper I found her in had so completely
ruffled mine, that I was hardly sufficiently master of myself to be able
to answer her at all,--"what makes you think I forget? Am I not here
this evening, as usual?"

"This evening, yes,--but last night you did not come; or were you here
too late to find me? I"----she paused, and, with her color a little
heightened, as though she had narrowly escaped making a disclosure,
looked another way,--"Monsieur must have bought his flowers elsewhere,
yesterday. Were they as fresh and sweet as mine?"

"But how do you know, Mademoiselle,"--I answered, after I had given
her a long opportunity to add what I had hoped would follow that
long-drawn-out "I"; (she was going to say, I was sure, that she had
waited for me to come as long as was possible;)--"How do you know that I
bought my flowers elsewhere, or that I bought any? And where can I find
finer ones than you give me?"

"Monsieur is kind enough to say so," she returned. "Can you excuse my
indiscretion? I only thought, that, as you never miss carrying a bunch
of flowers home with you, and sometimes two," she added, with a wicked
twinkle in the corner of her mouth, "you must have found some better
than mine, last night. But Monsieur will, of course, act his own
pleasure."

Therese had never appeared to me more charming than at that moment. I
wondered afterwards how I had been able to tear myself away from her,
and was almost angry that I had not thrown down my second bunch, had not
vowed to her that I would never desert her again, and had not confessed
that the pain I had suffered from my folly had more than equalled hers,
since I was never so happy as when I could be near and see her and hear
the music of her voice.

And this was my life, and these the pains I used to suffer. Two tender
passions held alternate possession of my fickle heart, and a constant
struggle was always waging between them for the mastery; and the
impossibility of deciding in favor of either of them, which to accept
and which deny, prevented my yielding to either. Therese, however, whose
real presence I could enjoy, upon whose delicious beauty I could feast
my eyes whenever the fancy seized me, and whose voice I could hear,
even when separated from her, possessed a fearful advantage over her
invisible rival, who maintained her position in my interest only by
preserving her incognito and maintaining my curiosity strained to the
highest pitch. My acquaintance with Therese became daily more intimate,
and was soon upon such a footing as seemed to authorize my asking her
to accompany me on a Sunday jaunt to one of the thousand resorts of
Parisian pleasure-seekers just beyond the barriers of the city.

She accepted,--of course she did,--and the matter was finally arranged
one Saturday evening for the next day. I was to find her at the house of
her aunt, who lived in my neighborhood, and who, to my surprise, turned
out to be the proprietress of the Laiterie I frequented. Here we were to
breakfast, and afterwards take the proper conveyance to our destination,
which I think was Belleville.

Sunday came, and with it came such weather as the gods seldom vouchsafe
to mortals who contemplate visiting the country. It was one of those
cloudless days in early June when all Nature, and yourself more
than anything else in Nature, seems as though it had been taking
Champagne,--not too warm, but sufficiently so to make out-of-door life a
luxury, and an excursion like ours into the country almost a necessity.

Therese, like everything else in Nature on that summer's day, was more
gloriously beautiful, in my eyes, than ever before. Hermine's ideal
beauty, and with it her chance of success, faded out from my memory like
an unfixed photograph, before this charming reality, and Therese ruled
supreme. She had dressed herself with a taste which surprised even
me, who had so long regarded her as irreproachable, as she was
unapproachable, in that particular; and the joy she felt at the thought
of a whole day's ramble in the country showed itself in every feature
of her countenance, in every movement, and in every tone of her voice.
There didn't live a prouder or a happier man than I was, as we made our
way arm in arm towards the Place Dauphine, where we were to take the
omnibus for Belleville.

We ran wild in the woods and fields all that day, we fed the fishes in
the ponds, we made ourselves dizzy on the seesaws and merry-go-rounds,
and at last, fairly tired out, and feeling desperately and most
unromantically hungry, turned into the neatest and least frequented
restaurant we could find and ordered our dinner.

Therese was no _gourmande_, luckily. Her tastes were simple and
harmonized admirably with my slender means. We dined, however, like
princes, and drank a bottle of _Chateau Margeaux_, instead of the _vin
ordinaire_, which was my ordinary wine. Therese's gayety had fairly
inoculated me, and, forgetting my usual reserve, we laughed and chatted
as noisily as a couple of children.

"Upon my word," cried I, as I caught sight of a bouquet of flowers in
the room we occupied, "what a couple of ninnies we have been! We have
forgotten to get any flowers to carry home with us. But I suppose you
see too many of them through the week to care for them to-day."

"Oh, no!" replied Therese. "I could never see too much of flowers;
and besides, you must have a bunch to carry home to Mademoiselle this
evening. She will never forgive you, if you neglect her to-day. And what
would she think or say, if she knew where you are now and whom you are
with? She is very fond of flowers,--when they come from you, I mean."

"Well," I stammered, and my face burned like fire. "What Mademoiselle?
And what makes you think that I make presents of the flowers I get of
you? I only get them for myself, and as an excuse for seeing you."

"_Ah! menteur_!" cried Therese, shaking her finger at me with mock
solemnity. "_Fi donc! c'est vilain._ Do you think I have no eyes, or
that you have none that speak as plainly as your mouth, and more truly?
You try to deceive me, Monsieur!" and the little hypocrite assumed so
injured and heart-broken an expression and tone, that I was almost wild
with remorse, and cursed the wretch who had placed the flowers in the
room, and myself for having noticed them. I should have been hurried
into I don't know what expressions of attachment to her and of
indifference towards every other individual of her sex, if she had not
prevented me by the following startling remark.

"I know to whom you give the flowers you value so much as coming from
me. It is to your next-door neighbor, who pleases you more than I do,
and whom you have known, perhaps, longer than you have me. Why didn't
you invite her, and not me, to come with you to-day? It would have been
better."

"Ah!" cried I, "do you know her? She told you about it? Why doesn't she
let me see her? Is her name Hermine?"

And almost before I knew it, I had told her the whole story of my
passion for my invisible neighbor.

Therese pouted, and turned her back. She put her handkerchief to her
face, and called me all sorts of hard names for having brought her there
to listen to the confession of my love for another; and turned a deaf
ear, or I thought she did, to my expostulations and my protestations
that I didn't really care for Hermine,--that it was only a passing
fancy, more curiosity than anything else,--and that I really loved no
one but her.

She began to relent at last, though I was half inclined to be sorry, for
her resentment became her even better than her good-humor.

"Well," she said, finally, "it is too tiresome to quarrel, and I will
forgive; for, although you say you have never seen Hermine,--(that is a
prettier name than Therese, isn't it?)--she has, perhaps, seen you, and
may really love you "--

"But I don't love her," I cried. "I don't want to love her. I don't want
to see her. Her name isn't Hermine, I know. I will never think of her
again, nor make a fool of myself by putting nose-gays into her keyhole,
if you will only not look so sober any more."

"She will be very sorry for that, I am sure," returned Therese, with a
smile I could not translate; "and she will miss them very much. I judge
her by myself. I always find a bunch at my door when I go home at
night"--

"You! You find flowers at your door? And who puts them there?" And I
took my turn at being provoked. "You haven't used me fairly, Therese, to
make me understand all this time that you cared for no one but me. There
is some one, then, whom you love and who loves you?"

"Oh, yes!" she answered, her whole face beaming with a pleasure which
made me feel like committing a murder or a suicide; "oh, yes! I believe
he does; he has almost told me so. And--and I know that I do. But he is
so droll! He is my next-door neighbor, and has never seen me yet, and
has never tried to, I believe; but he leaves a bunch of flowers at my
door every evening, and calls me--Hermine."

"Hermine! You Hermine? Hurrah!"

And before she could prevent me, I held her in my arms, and, in spite
of her struggles, had kissed her forehead, eyes, hair, nose, and lips
before she could extricate herself, and then went round the room in a
wild dance of perfect joy and relief.

"I knew I could love no one else, Therese-Hermine, or Hermine-Therese! I
knew there must be some good and sufficient reason for the unaccountable
attraction my neighbor was exercising over me. Why didn't you tell me
sooner, _mechante_? I suppose you never would have done so at all, if we
had not come out here to-day. Suppose I had not asked you to come with
me?"

"Wouldn't you have asked me?" she answered, with so much winning grace
and in such a pleading tone that I found myself obliged to repeat the
operation of a few lines above. "Wouldn't you have asked me? I don't
know what I should have done," she continued, sadly and thoughtfully.
"Oh, yes!" she exclaimed, jumping up and clapping her hands, while her
whole face was radiant with triumph. "Oh, yes! then I should have been
Hermine, and you would have asked her."

Two happier young people than Therese and myself never, I am confident,
returned by rail from a day's excursion in the country. Our happy faces,
our rapid talking, and our devotion to each other, which we took no
pains to conceal, attracted the attention of all about us,--and I heard
one father of a family, who was returning to Paris with a half score of
cross, tired, and crying children, whisper to his wife, as he pointed
towards us,--"That is a couple in their honey-moon, or else lovers; how
happy they are!"

And that is the way in which I stumbled into wedlock. How many others,
in their pursuit of what has seemed to them the substance, have failed
to discover, perhaps too late, that they were following a flitting
shadow,--while I, favored mortal, in my chase of a dream, stumbled upon
the greatest real good of my whole life!

* * * * *

THROUGH THE FIELDS TO SAINT PETER'S.

There's a by-road to Saint Peter's. First you swing across the Tiber
In a ferry-boat that floats you in a minute from the crowd;
Then through high-hedged lanes you saunter; then by fields and sunny
pastures;
And beyond, the wondrous dome uprises like a golden cloud.

And this morning,--Easter morning,--while the streets were thronged
with people,
And all Rome moved toward the Apostle's temple by the usual way,
I strolled by the fields and hedges,--stopping now to view the
landscape,
Now to sketch the lazy cattle in the April grass that lay.

Galaxies of buttercups and daisies ran along the meadows,--
Rosy flushes of red clover,--blossoming shrubs and sprouting vines;
Overhead the larks were singing, heeding not the bells a-ringing,--
Little knew they of the Pasqua, or the proud Saint Peter's shrines.

Contadini, men and women, in their very best apparel,
Trooping one behind another, chatted all along the roads;
Boys were pitching quoits and coppers; old men in the sun were basking:
In the festive smile of Heaven all laid aside their weary loads.

Underneath an ancient portal, soon I passed into the city;
Entered San Pietro's Square, now thronged with upward crowding forms;
Past the Cardinals' gilded coaches, and the gorgeous scarlet lackeys,
And the flashing files of soldiers, and black priests in gloomy swarms.

All were moving to the temple. Push aside the ponderous curtain!
Lo! the glorious heights of marble, melting in the golden dome,
Where the grand mosaic pictures, veiled in warm and misty softness,
Swim in faith's religious trances,--high above all heights of Rome.

Grand as Pergolesi chantings, lovely as a dream of Titian,
Tones and tints and chastened splendors wreathed and grouped in sweet
accord;
While through nave and transept pealing, soar and sink the choral
voices,
Telling of the death and glorious resurrection of the Lord.

But, ah, fatal degradation for this temple of the nations!
For the soul is never lifted by the accord of sights and sound;
But yon priest in gold and satin, murmuring with his ghostly Latin,
Drags it from its natural flights, and trails its plumage on the ground.

And to-day the Pope is heading his whole army of gay puppets,
And the great machinery round us moving with an extra show:
Genuflexions, censers, mitres, mystic motions, candle-lighters,
And the juggling show of relics to the crowd that gapes below,

Till at last they show the Pontiff, a lay figure stuffed and tinselled;
Under canopy and fan-plumes he is borne in splendor proud
To a show-box of the temple overlooking the Piazza;
There he gives his benediction to the long-expectant crowd.

Benediction! while the people, blighted, cursed by superstition,
Steeped in ignorance and darkness, taxed and starved, looks up and begs
For a little light and freedom, for a little law and justice,--
That at least the cup so bitter it may drain not to the dregs!

Benediction! while old error keeps alive a nameless terror!
Benediction! while the poison at each pore is entering deep,
And the sap is slowly withered, and the wormy fruit is gathered,
And a vampire sucks the life out while the soul is fanned asleep!

Oh, the splendor gluts the senses, while the spirit pines and dwindles!
Mother Church is but a dry-nurse, singing while her infant moans;
While anon a cake or rattle gives a little half-oblivion,
And the sweetness and the glitter mingle with her drowsy tones.

But the infant moans and tosses with a nameless want and anguish,
While, with coarse, unmeaning bushings, louder sings the hireling
nurse,--
Knows no better, in her dull and superannuated blindness,--
Tries no potion,--seeks no nurture,--but consents to worse and worse.

If such be thy ultimation, Church of infinite pretension,--
Such within thy chosen garden be the flowers and fruits you bear,--
Oh, give me the book of Nature, open wide to every creature,
And the unconsecrated thoughts that spring like daisies everywhere!

Send me to the woods and waters,--to the studio,--to the market!
Give me simple conversation, books, arts, sports, and friends sincere!
Let no priest be e'er my tutor! on my brow no label written!
Coin or passport to salvation, rather none, than beg it here!

Give me air, and not a prison,--love for Heart, and light for Reason!
Let me walk no slave or bigot,--God's untrammelled, fearless child!
Yield me rights each soul is born to,--rights not given and not taken,--
Free to Cardinals and Princes and Campagna shepherds wild.

Like these Roman fountains gushing clear and sweet in open spaces,
Where the poorest beggar stoops to drink, and none can say him nay,--
Let the Law, the Truth, be common, free to man and child and woman,
Living waters for the souls that now in sickness waste away!

Therefore are these fields far sweeter than yon temple of Saint Peter;
Through this grander dome of azure God looks down and blesses all;
In these fields the birds sing clearer, to the Eternal Heart are nearer,
Than the sad monastic chants that yonder on my ears did fall.

Never smiled Christ's holy Vicar on the heretic and sinner
As this sun--true type of Godhead--smiles o'er all the peopled land!
Sweeter smells this blowing clover than the perfume of the censer,
And the touch of Spring is kinder than the Pontiff's jewelled hand!

THE EXPERIENCE OF SAMUEL ABSALOM, FILIBUSTER.

[Concluded.]

Some time after the departure of the riflemen, a detail of eight or nine
men from our company was ordered off towards the lake shore, and soon
afterward another smaller one to Potosi, a little village four or five
miles to the northward of Rivas, bearing orders to Captain Finney's
rangers, who had gone to scout in that direction. The rest of us ate
supper, and then lay listening for the boom of the little field-piece,
which should tell us that the rifles had met the enemy. But the
extraordinary toils and watchings of the last fortnight were too
overpowering, and we were all soon buried in dreamless sleep.

In an hour or two I was awakened by horses' feet clattering over the
stony pavement of the _porteria_, or gateway to the square courtyard,
in one of whose surrounding corridors we usually slept,--on blankets,
cow-hides, or hard tiles, according as each man was able to furnish
himself. It was the party returning from their scout on the lake. They
unsaddled and fed their animals in the yard, and afterward set about
frying plantains and fresh stolen pork for supper. As they talked over
their provant in the room behind me, I caught most of their adventure,
without the discomfort of rising or asking questions. Near the lake they
had chased and captured some natives, whose behavior was suspicious and
showed no good-will toward the Americans. The officer of the party,
thinking them spies, had carried them part of the way to Rivas to be
examined; but, fortunately, perhaps, for the captives, he afterwards
relented and set them at liberty. They also talked of a small boy who
had peeped out of the bushes as they rode by, and shouted to them,
"_Quieren for Walker_?" (Are you for Walker?) and then adding
energetically, "_Yo no quiero filibustero god-damn!_" darted away out
of sight, before any one, who was so minded, could have shot the little
rebel.

"Be sure," said one of the men at supper,--a noted croaker and tried
coward, against whom I bear a private grudge,--"the boys have learned
this from the _old_ greasers; and we are going to have all the people of
Nicaragua to fight."

Later in the night, the other party, which had been sent to Potosi, came
in with panting mules, excited countenances, and one of their number
stained with blood from a wound on his thigh. They told us, that,
failing to find Captain Finney at Potosi, they had stretched their
orders, and gone forward to Obraja, unaware that it was occupied by the
enemy. At the entrance of the village, whilst riding on in complete
darkness, they were challenged suddenly in Spanish. Taken by surprise,
they replied in English, and, before they could turn their animals, were
stunned with the glare and crash of a musket-volley, a few feet ahead of
them. They recoiled, and fled with such precipitation that one of the
riders was tossed over his horse's head;--however, scrambling to his
feet, he found sense and good-luck to remount; and the whole party made
good their flight to Rivas, with no further damage than two slight
flesh-wounds,--one on the trooper, and one on his mule.

The excitement upon this arrival soon subsided, and I had again fallen
into unconsciousness, when a rough shake of the shoulder aroused me, and
the voice of the old sergeant dinned in my ear,--"Come here! saddle up!
saddle up! You are detailed for Obraja." In a few moments I was mounted,
and, with two others of the company, rode out of the gateway into the
street. There we found awaiting us a fourth horseman, charged with
orders for the riflemen at Obraja, and whom it was our duty to accompany
as guard.

After clearing Rivas, we clattered over the road at a fast pace, rousing
all the dogs at the _haciendas_ as we passed, and leaving them baying
behind us, until we came to where the Potosi road forked off to the
right; thenceforward, fearing an ambush, we rode slowly and with great
caution, stopping often to dismount and reconnoitre moon-lit fields
beyond the roadside hedges. At length, after passing a picket of our
riflemen, we came to a large _adobe_ house directly on the roadside,
where we found the main body of the detachment encamped and sleeping.
The house stood something under half a mile from Obraja, and was the
residence of that friendly alcalde who on the approach of the enemy
had removed with his family to Rivas, and placed General Walker on his
guard. As we rode into the yard, we had some ado to keep our horses
from treading on the sleeping soldiers, who lay scattered all round
the building, and also in its open corridor fronting toward Obraja.
Dismounting here, our courier went into the house to communicate with
Colonel O'Neal, the commander of the detachment,--leaving it to us
either to tie up, and lie where we were until morning, or pass farther
up the road, where Captain Finney's rangers were stationed. I chose to
go forward and hear the rangers' story, who, we were told, had had a
slight brush with the enemy in the beginning of the night.

After riding near quarter of a mile, I came to another _adobe_ building
on the roadside, occupied by a small party, and forming Colonel O'Neal's
advanced post, at the distance of four hundred yards or more from
Obraja. Here they told me that Captain Finney's company, whilst riding
into Obraja early in the night, had been hotly fired upon, and Captain
Finney himself was brought off struck in the breast, wounded mortally.
The riflemen had as yet made no attack, but awaited daylight. The number
of the enemy was not known; though rumor placed it between one thousand
and fifteen hundred. Whatever it was, they were apprehensive; for
throughout the night we heard them barricading the town with great hurry
and clatter; and it gave us sad discomfort to think that in the morning
there would be these walls to climb before our men could get at them. It
was the occasion of much bitter cursing that there should be delay until
this was accomplished, and of one man's protesting seriously that it
was, and had been, General Walker's endeavor, not to whip the greasers,
but to get as many Americans killed in Nicaragua as possible,--he
nourishing secret and implacable hatred against them for some cause.
However, I think this judgment weak and improbable, though plausible
enough from some points of view.

During the night there was some firing between our party and the enemy
from under cover in front, with some few wounds, and one man on our
side shot through the hat,--who thereupon, pulling off the injured
head-piece, and looking at it gravely, declared he would always
thenceforward wear his hat with a high crown; for, said he, had this one
been half an inch lower, the bullet must have struck the head:--which
drollery, in consideration of the circumstances, was allowed to pass for
an exceeding good stroke.

We passed a disturbed and rather uneasy night, fearful all the time of
being cut off or overwhelmed. But morning breaking at length, a party
of riflemen came up from Colonel O'Neal's camp below, and affairs were
immediately changed for the offensive. The riflemen moved forward
against the town, whilst the rangers were posted at several points along
the road to guard against surprise from the bushes. Among these latter
I took my stand. The squad which went forward could not have numbered
above sixty men, and was armed with Mississippi rifles only,--without
wheel-piece of any kind, or even bayonets. I took them for a party of
skirmishers, sent ahead to clear the way; yet they were not followed or
supported by any additional force that I saw then or afterwards.

As they passed up the road, I observed that the most listless and dead
amongst them were at length stirred up and thoroughly awake,--though not
with enthusiasm or martial impatience. Some seemed uneasy and careworn,
and glanced about nervously; had their countenances not been unalterably
yellow, they would certainly have been white. One fellow near the
rear was trembling sadly, and carried his rifle in an unreasonable
manner,--promising aimless discharges, and, perhaps, dodgings into the
bushes. But this one was excusable, and I may have slandered him; for
ague had shaken the life almost out of him so often that shaking
was become natural, and little else could be expected of him; and,
furthermore, a pale face or unsteady joints are not always weathercock
to a fainting spirit. In some constitutions these may come from other
emotions than fear; and it often happens that your most lamentable
shaker will stand you longer at the breach than the man of iron nerve,
with a white liver. I have seen such. However, the majority of these
were resolute and dangerous-looking men, and, though without any marks
of inordinate zeal, seemed willing enough to fight whatever appeared.
They held their rifles in the hand cocked, and, as they advanced, threw
their eyes sharply into the bushes on either side the road,--having
received orders to shoot the first greaser that showed himself, without
awaiting the word.

In a few moments after, the party having disappeared behind a turn of
the road, we suddenly heard the cracking of their rifles, mingled
with the deeper crash of more numerous musketry; and it was a vivid
sensation, new to me, that some of those bullets were surely finding
billets in the bodies of men. This seemed an encounter with a force
of the enemy outside of the town; and directly we thought, from the
movement of the noise, that our riflemen were driving them in. Then
there was a louder and more rapid volleying of musketry, which
completely drowned the rifles, and seemed to tell us that our men were
come in sight of the barricades. This lasted but a moment, when it was
succeeded by a scattered fire of fewer guns, and finally by irregular
volleys. We knew that our men had fallen back; and we had not once
thought it would be otherwise. Indeed, it had been a rarely preposterous
enemy who should allow himself to be driven from behind a rampart by
that handful of dispirited, men.

Whilst things were on this foot, the courier of last night came up with
his guard, having been sent by Colonel O'Neal, who had remained at the
alcalde's house below, to get news of the attacking party. As I was
still under his orders, I joined him, and rode forward towards the
combatants,--not without sundry misgivings, known to most men who are
about to enter a fray for the first time,--or the twentieth time,
perhaps, if the truth were confessed. We found the riflemen drawn up in
the road, protected by the raised side-bank and cactus-hedge from an
enemy concealed amongst some trees and bushes, a little distance to the
right of the road in front. Above the trees, within pistol-shot, was
visible the red roof of a church which stood on the _plaza_ of Obraja,
where were barricaded, as they said, over a thousand greaser soldiers.
All other sign of the town than this one roof was shut in from view by
the abundant foliage which embowered it. As we approached the riflemen,
we dismounted and led our horses, fearing to attract a shower from the
enemy, who lay in the bushes firing irregularly. The officer of the
party told us to report to Colonel O'Neal that he had advanced within
sight of the _plaza_, and, finding it strongly barricaded, and "swarming
with greasers," he held it folly to assail it with fifty men, and so had
retreated. He mentioned some loss,--very small for the noise that had
been made,--of which I remember the name of one Lieutenant Webster, shot
through the head. He charged us to ask Colonel O'Neal's permission to
fall back on the _adobe_ where we had passed the night, as the enemy
appeared to be moving around his right, and he was fearful of being
surrounded in the open road. But, directly after, seeing the enemy were
in earnest to cut him off, he concluded to fall back on the house upon
his own responsibility, and did so, and with the _adobe_ walls around
him probably felt secure enough against such an enemy.

We returned to the lower camp, and delivered our report to a
boyish-looking person, in unepauletted red flannel shirt, but who was
no other than Colonel O'Neal, the officer in command. He was popular
amongst his men, and reputed a brave and energetic officer. He probably
mistrusted from the first that his force was too small; and hence the
delay in the attack, and the dispatch of the little party of riflemen
merely to satisfy General Walker. Be that as it may, upon hearing our
report, he recalled the advanced party, and immediately sent off
to Rivas to say he could do nothing against the town without a
reinforcement.

In the mean time those of the men who were off guard lay about under
the trees and ate oranges, with which the alcalde's yard was stocked
plentifully, whilst such wounded as had been brought in were laid on the
floor of the house, and their wounds probed by the surgeon; whereupon,
being but young soldiers mostly, there arose loud outcries and dismal
bellowings. For my own part, I set about comforting my mule, who had
been under saddle since leaving Rivas. I unsaddled him, brought him an
armful of _tortilla_ corn from the alcalde's kitchen-loft, some water
from the well, and left him making merry as if he had nothing worse
ahead of him.

Some time after mid-day the rest of our company came out from Rivas, and
we immediately had orders to ride up the road and fire upon the enemy's
outpost,--which, as the riflemen had been withdrawn and our advanced
picket was now nearly half a mile from the town, promised to be a
service of some danger. Therefore one of our commissioned officers,
afterwards dismissed the service for cowardice, was here seized suddenly
with the colic,--so badly, that he was unable to ride with us at his
post. Other sick men being left in quarters at Rivas, we counted now but
little over twenty men,--armed with Mississippi or Sharpe's rifles, and
some of us with the revolvers we had brought from California. After
passing the _adobe_ building, garrisoned last night, but now empty, we
advanced with great care, our leader taking often the precaution to
dismount and peer with bared head over the cactus-hedge which crowned
the right-hand bank of the road and shut us in on that side completely.
At every turn of the road he repeated his reconnoissance, so that our
advance was very slow, giving a watchful enemy almost time to place an
ambush, if they had none ready prepared. It was as sweet a place for a
trap as greaser's heart could wish. On our right was the impenetrable
cactus-hedge, with an open space beyond, terminated at the distance of
a few yards by a wood or plantain-patch. On the left was another wood,
matted with tangled underbrush and vines which no horseman could
penetrate. On either side half a dozen men might couch in ambush and
shoot us down in perfect security.

We passed on, however, without disturbance, or sight of an enemy, until
we came nearly to the edge of the town and saw the glistening roof of
the church appear above the foliage,--where sat sundry carrion-loving
buzzards, elbowing each other, shuffling to and fro with outspread
wings, and chuckling, doubtless, over the promise of glorious times.
As we go on, suddenly heads appear over the bushes less than a hundred
yards in front, and we hear the vindictive whistle of Minie-balls above
us. Our leader, calling upon us to fire, began himself to blaze away
rapidly with his Colt's revolver. We huddled forward, with little care
for order, and delivered some dozen Mississippi and Sharpe's rifles.
There were nervous men in the crowd; for, after the discharge, dust
was flying from the road within thirty feet of us. However, some aimed
higher; and when we looked again, the heads had disappeared. One bold
greaser stepped out into the road and sent his Minie-ball singing
several yards above us, then darted back quickly, before any of us
could have him. We waited a moment to see others, but they seemed to be
satisfied;--and we were satisfied,--with prospect of a swarm bursting
out on us from the town; so, sinking spurs into our weary animals, we
made good pace back to the camp,--not without an alarm that a troop of
well-mounted lancers was behind us.

In the course of the afternoon, General Henningsen arrived, bringing a
fine brass howitzer, and a small reinforcement of infantry--as those
armed with rifled muskets and bayonets were called--and artillerymen;
and, after some hours' rest, he ordered a fresh attempt with the
howitzer, supported by somewhere near two hundred men. This party was
received with so fierce a fire at the barricade that they shrank back,
leaving the howitzer behind in the road,--so that the enemy were on the
point of capturing it, when a brave artilleryman touched off the piece,
loaded with grape-shot, almost in their faces, and, strewing the
earth with dead, sent the others flying back to the barricade. This
artilleryman told me that an old officer amongst the enemy stood his
ground alone after the discharge, and swore manfully at the fugitives,
but they were panic-struck and took no heed; and it was his assertion,
that, had a small part of the riflemen rallied and charged at this time,
they might have gone over the barricade without difficulty or hindrance.
As it was, the howitzer was scarcely brought off, and the attack failed
ingloriously. Whether this story of the artilleryman were true or false,
we heard in other ways, by general report, that the riflemen had behaved
badly, and quailed as the filibusters had scarcely done before; though,
after all, it will seem unreasonable to blame these two hundred or less,
disease-worn and spiritless men, for not whipping ten hundred out of a
barricaded town. It may be worth saying here, that, seeing things in
Nicaragua from a common soldier's befogged view-point, and having only
general rumor, or the tales of privates like myself, for parts of an
engagement where I was not present, I may easily make mistakes in
the numbers, and otherwise do Walker and his officers, or the enemy,
injustice. Yet I may be excused, since I am not attempting a history
of the war, but merely some account of my own experience, passive and
active.

Late in the evening our company assisted to carry some wounded to Rivas.
Amongst them was Captain Finney, mentioned before as the first man
struck by the enemy. He seemed to be a brave and uncommonly considerate
officer, and whilst being carried in on a chair, suffering with his
death-wound, he showed concern for his supporters, and insisted on
having them relieved upon the smallest sign of fatigue. He was taken to
the quarters of a friend, where he died a few days afterward. The other
wounded were carried to the hospital, and, finding no one there to take
charge of them, we left them to themselves, lying or sitting upon the
floor, dismal and uncared-for enough.

After dark we were again in the saddle and riding out to Obraja, in
charge of a commissary's party, with provisions for the detachment of
foot. But after getting a little way from the town, we were overtaken by
an order from General Walker, stopping the provisions, and directing us
to ride on and recall the detachment to Rivas; he having changed his
mind about dislodging the enemy at this tardy hour. We reached the camp
some hours into the night, and, after a little delay, calling in the
pickets, and securing some native women who lived in the vicinity, to
prevent their carrying word of our movement to the enemy, the detachment
commenced its retrograde march,--leaving the enemy victorious, and free
to go where they wished.

I remember, several times on this march, when the detachment had made
some temporary halt, seeing a grim-faced dog, of the terrier species,
trot along the line to the front of the column, where we rangers stood,
and then, satisfied seemingly that all was well ordered, turn himself
round and trot back to the rear again.

He did this with such a look and air, that it struck me he felt himself
in some way responsible for our party. He was, indeed, if the tales
current about him were true, the most remarkable character in all that
very variegated conglomerate of characters which made up the filibuster
army. He had appeared in the camp long before, coming, some said, from
the Costa Ricans, with whom he became disgusted on account of their bad
behavior in battle on several occasions when he was there to see. After
this desertion, if it were thus, he followed the Americans faithfully,
through good and bad fortune, retreat or victory; always going into
battle with them,--where he actually seemed to enjoy himself,--trotting
about amidst the whewing of bullets, the uptossing of turf, and the
outcries of wounded men, with calm heart, and tail erect,--envied by
the bravest even. On an occasion when General Walker was attacking the
Costa-Ricans in Rivas, the dog entered the _plaza_ ahead of the rest,
and, finding there one of his own species, he forthwith seized him, and
shook him, and put him to flight howling,--giving an omen so favorable,
that the greasers were driven out of the town with ease by the others.
Even his every-day life was sublime, and elevated above the habit of
vulgar dogs. He allowed no man to think himself his master, or attach
him individually by liberal feeding or kind treatment, but quartered
indiscriminately amongst the foot, sometimes with one company, sometimes
with another,--taking food from whoever gave it, but showing little
gratitude, and despising caresses or attempts at familiarity. He seemed,
indeed, to consider himself one amongst the rest,--one and somewhat, as
they say; and his sole apparent tie with his human friends seemed to
be the delight which he took in seeing them kill or killed. With this
_penchant_, it was said, he never missed a battle, and went out with
every detachment that left the camp to see that none should escape him
unaware.--But enough of him,--strange dog, or devil.

The withdrawal from Obraja was opposed, so rumor said, by Henningsen and
other officers; and it certainly had a most depressing effect upon the
men, whilst it elated the enemy correspondingly, giving them a degree of
confidence which they had never attained to before. It was agreed on
all hands, by all critics whom I heard, that, having once begun this
attempt, General Walker should have carried it through successfully,
even if it required his whole force. However, as only part of the
enemy's force was on land, the other part being supposed to be
still aboard the steamers or on the island, General Walker
possibly feared an attack on Rivas, should he send out a very large
detachment,--remembering, too vividly, a former blunder, when he left
Granada with all his army to attack the enemy at Masaya, and the enemy,
making a _detour_, came upon his camp in Granada, and destroyed
baggage, ammunition, and all it contained.

The next day the foot lay quiet in Rivas, and had rest. The rangers,
however, were in the saddle almost continuously, and, what with
foraging, broken sleep, and expeditions by day and night, those of us
who had garrisoned Virgin Bay were become worried nearly past grumbling.
On this day our own company rode out to Obraja, to visit the enemy's
picket again, and afterwards to San Jorge on the lake, to guard the
transportation of a row-boat thence to Rivas. The boat was one of those
borrowed from the vessels in San Juan harbor for the purpose of retaking
the steamers, and had been rowed up to San Jorge, and was now removed to
Rivas, to prevent its seizure by the enemy,--the garrison at Virgin
Bay having burnt the brig, and marched to Rivas, when the enemy first
appeared on land at Obraja. So that the whole American force (except
the crew of the little schooner in which General Walker and his fifty
original followers first came to Nicaragua, and which was lying at this
time in San Juan harbor) was now concentrated at Rivas; the enemy being
eight or nine miles behind them at Obraja, or on the lake with the two
steamers. As we rode through the town of San Jorge, the place seemed
almost deserted, and I remember lingering with others to haversack some
bunches of yellow plantains which hung in an empty house on the _plaza_.
The delay may have come near being fatal to us, for we heard afterwards
that we had been gone but a little while, when a troop of the enemy's
horse rode into the place, reconnoitred, and returned in the direction
in which they came. Their reconnoissance in San Jorge was explained soon
afterwards.

Some time in the last half of the night following, I was detailed, along
with a considerable detachment from two mounted companies, to ride on a
scout toward Obraja. On the outward ride I was but half-awake, and
my recollection of our course is confused: however, I think it was
somewhere between Potosi and Obraja that we came to a halt, and I was
aroused by some excitement in the party. Pickets were hastily posted
in several directions, whilst the officers gathered about some natives
awakened from a neighboring hut, and seemed to question them earnestly.
We soon heard that the enemy were on the road moving from Obraja, and
that a large force had a little while before passed this place going
eastward. The natives, prone to exaggeration, declared that this force
had been an hour in passing,--with baggage, eight pieces of cannon
mounted on ox-carts, several hundred pressed native Nicaraguans, tied
and guarded to prevent their running away, and a long train of women to
nurse the wounded. The Chamorristas, it seemed, had been around pressing
all the native men they could find into service against the Americans;
and whilst we were here, two, who had been hiding all day in the bushes
to avoid the conscription, came out and asked us to take them with us to
Rivas,--they preferring, if forced to take sides, to join _el valiente_
Walker.

This is the stripe of most Central American soldiers. The lower classes
are lazy and cowardly, little concerned about politics, and must
generally be impressed, let the cause of war be what it may. And I am
persuaded, that, since General Walker never harnessed them into his
service, as their own chiefs were doing perpetually, but let them swing
in their hammocks and eat their plantains, (provided they lived beyond
his forage-ground,) un-called-for, they were so far well satisfied with
his government. However, their sympathy, supposing he had it, were worth
little to him; since it takes a stronger impulsion than this to put them
in motion to do anything,--a strong pulling by the nose, indeed,--such
as their native rulers know how to apply.--But this is speculative, and
neither here nor there.

After getting all the information concerning the enemy that was to be
had from these people, the detachment returned to Rivas at a fast trot,
with the two friendly natives mounted behind, on such stronger animals
as were able to carry double burden. We all supposed, that, now the
enemy were again out of cover and on the open road, or, leastwise, in
the confusion of a new camp, there would be an immediate attack on them.
But General Walker followed his own head; and, after making our report,
we saw no stir, and heard nothing until morning,--when it was known that
the enemy were all moved into San Jorge, with only some two miles' space
between us. This place, being on the lake, was more convenient for
provisions, which were easily brought by the steamers from the island of
Ometepec and the towns and _haciendas_ along the shore,--and the enemy
had gained boldness to go there by our repulse at Obraja: or it may be
that the force at Obraja had come down from Granada by land, and so only
continued their march to San Jorge,--though the rumor was, that they had
landed from the lake, as I have said.

But be that as it may, time was given them to barricade at San Jorge,
till near the middle of the forenoon, and then Generals Henningsen and
Sanders were sent out with some four hundred riflemen and infantry to
drive them into the lake, which lay some few hundred yards behind them.
During the first part of the attack, our company remained in Rivas,
listening anxiously to the uproar at San Jorge,--every volley fired by
the combatants being borne distinctly to us by the east wind. For some
time there was a continuous rattle of musketry, with rapid detonations
of deeper-mouthed cannon,--at each roar shaking our suspended
hearts,--for we knew that our own men were using small arms only. After
a while this abated, grew irregular, and almost ceased. An order then
came for our company to mount and join the combatants. We galloped down
the broad and almost level highway which passes between Rivas and
San Jorge, bordered a great part of its length, on either side, by
cactus-hedges, broken at various intervals by the grassy by-lanes that
run out to the neighboring _haciendas_ or parallel roads. At places
where there is a slight elevation, the bottom of the road is worn
several feet below the level by the carts which ply between Rivas and
the lake. Opposite one of these, where the banks sloped at a sharp
angle, we came upon General Henningsen and a detachment of musketeers
resting on the right bank of the road, and halted beside them. The men
were sitting under the shade of an _adobe_, refreshing themselves with
oranges; and those in the nearest rank were close enough to hand us
fruit and keep their seats on the grass. Five or six hundred yards up
the road, the large church which stood on the _plaza_ of San Jorge, with
the door facing us, and a low wall of white stone running squarely from
its side across to the right, ended the vista between banks of green
foliage. Our view stretched across the _plaza_, which seemed to be empty
and unbarricaded; and I remember the painted door of the church beyond,
the red-tiled roof, the low, flanking wall of white stone, all dazily
trembling in the unsteady atmosphere radiating from the heated
road,--whilst a cloud of white smoke was sailing slowly away to the
west. It was a hot and tranquil scene. But I always think of it with the
same secret disgust with which the shipwrecked traveller looks upon the
placid ocean the day after the angry storm has passed over it; for it
was here I first saw the cruelty of a round shot.

When we came to a halt, there seemed to be a lull in the struggle, and
no enemy was anywhere visible, nor was firing heard from any direction.
The infantry, though within range of small arms from the town, were
concealed by the bushes, and the enemy were scarcely aware of their
presence. But when our company came galloping up the road, in full view,
their attention was aroused, and we had scarcely checked our animals and
exchanged a few words with the foot-soldiers, when a column of smoke
shot up from the wall in front.--"Now look out!" exclaimed some one.
I looked, but saw nothing to follow, and had turned my attention
elsewhere, when I heard a hissing noise, as of something rushing swiftly
past, and at the same time turf is thrown into the air, the horses start
aside in affright, and outcries of pain and terror assail the ear.
After a confused moment, I saw that the shot had struck in the line of
infantry a few feet on our right. One man, the drummer of the party, was
running about in the fluttered crowd with his hand hanging by a shred,
crying, "Cut it off! cut it off! D--your souls, why don't some of you
cut it off?" Another lay struggling on the ground, with the fleshy part
of his thighs torn abruptly off, calling upon some one for God's sake to
take him away from there. But the dismallest sight was a bloody shape,
with face to the ground, fingers clutching the grass with aimless
eagerness, and shivering silently with an invisible wound. Twisting
convulsively, it rolled down into the road under our horses' feet,--and
there this human form, which some call godlike, writhed and floundered
like a severed worm, and disguised itself in blood and dust.

But it is dangerous to look long upon the wounded; an old soldier never
rests his eye there; it is the greatest mistake of the raw one; and it
was well enough for some of us that our attention was timely drawn away
by alarm of another shot from the town. We spurred our horses up the
bank on the left; the foot-soldiers rushed behind the _adobe;_ and this
time the shot passed harmlessly down the road. Before another, General
Henningsen had ordered us all to move forward and get to cover. The foot
stopped in the right branch of a by-lane which crossed the road a little
way ahead. The rangers moved into the same lane,--but on the left, and
divided by the highway from the foot. Here we were entirely hidden from
the town by a belt of small trees and bushes. Nevertheless, the
enemy's round shot, tearing through the trees, still pursued, and the
Minie-balls, though thrown from smooth-bored guns, sang above and far
beyond us. At this place, as near as I recollect, above a dozen men were
killed and wounded,--most of them by that first round shot.

Our company shortly after was separated, and placed, for the most part,
as videttes, at various points near the town. Some hours after our
arrival, (which time was spent by the filibusters in drinking spirits
and resting from the late unsuccessful assault,--by the enemy in
barricading their position, and drinking spirits, perhaps, likewise,)
General Henningsen led an attack with part of the foot,--taking several
of us rangers along in the capacity of couriers, to ride off to Rivas at
any important turn of the fight and report to General Walker. The enemy
had taken position about the _plaza,_ in the church, and behind the
stone wall at its side, where they had by this time strengthened
themselves with barricades. They had cannon looking towards every
assailable point; and also on top of the church, in the cupola, they
had mounted a small piece, from which they threw grape against our men
advancing on any side. It proved a great source of annoyance throughout
the day. Their number was not certainly known, at least among the ranks,
but was rumored as high as two thousand men,--Costa-Ricans, Guatemalans,
and Chamorristas.

General Henningsen moved up by a straggling street, with an _adobe_ here
and there, and the intervals filled up with fruit-trees, bushes, and
cactus-hedges. Grape-shot, which may be the saddest thing, touching the
body, on earth, made miserable noise above us and miserable work among
us; and we couriers had leave to dismount and crawl nearer the ground.
General Henningsen gained respect from us by sitting his horse alone.
He was a soldier, it is said, from a boy, in European wars,--where this
were a feeble skirmish; yet he wore his life here, perhaps, more
loosely than in many a noisier battle. However, he seemed calm and easy
enough,--never moving his head, even slightly, when the shot whizzed
nearest him. General Walker, though a brave man, and cool in battle,
will nevertheless dodge when a bullet hisses him fiercely. So would
almost all his officers or soldiers, that I had an opportunity to
notice. Yet, after all, it is a mere trick of the nerves, and only
indicates familiarity and long service, or a deaf ear,--and not want of
self-possession or strength of heart. The advance at length became so
harassing that the party halted under cover on the roadside, whilst yet
some distance from the _plaza,_ and from this lodgment the couriers were
sent off to report progress at Rivas.

My post thenceforward was, with that of others, at the head of a lane
not far from the town, where we heard the voices of the combatants
and the whistling of balls, but could see nothing. After some hours'
comparative quiet, the drums began beating a charge again, and every gun
on the ground seemed awakened and doing its best. Then there was a loud,
heart-lifted shout, which rose above the din, and gave us too much joy;
and, a moment after, Colonel Casey, a hard-faced, one-armed man, spurred
past towards Rivas, saying, as he went, that our men were in the
_plaza,_ the greasers were running, and "we had 'em, sure as hell!" I
recollect some one observing, that it were of no use to believe Colonel
Casey, for he was the greatest liar in the army of Nicaragua. And
shortly after, the firing having ceased, another officer, Baldwin, I
think it was, came past and told us, with curses of vexation, that the
men had been checked, by command, in the heat of the assault, when the
greasers were already wavering,--and that the latter, recovering, had
rebarricaded so strongly, that we might now all go back to Rivas and
whistle.

However, this failure was not the end. Towards evening, another
detachment renewed the assault, and the uproar commenced again. It
seems, that, during the whole day, there was no simultaneous attack by
all the detachments. Now, it was the infantry who charged,--with the
riflemen in reserve, probably to prevent a rout, in case the enemy
pursued a repulse; then, it was the riflemen, with the infantry in
reserve; and so alternating through three or four charges;--so that
there never could have been more than a very contemptible force facing
the enemy at one time.

As it grew late, the wagons began to jolt past, removing the wounded to
Rivas. Some were drunk and merry in spite of their wounds; and their
laughter and drunken sport made strange concert with the cries and
curses of the others. I remember one man going by on foot, with a small
cut on the brow, from which blood was flowing copiously. He said the
wound was a mere scratch,--too slight to have sent him out of the fight,
had not the blood run down into his eyes and blinded him, preventing his
aim. Yet this small affair brought his death shortly afterwards. The
surgeons at Rivas gave him no care,--not so much as to wash his wound,
or have him wash it; and the climate is so malignant to strangers, that
the smallest cut, with the best care, heals only after long hesitation.

At length night came on, and our men drew off,--foiled at every attempt,
having sustained great loss, and, apparently, made little impression on
the enemy. They lay on their arms, however, in the outskirts, expecting
to renew the attack during the night; and, to assist at this, a party of
rangers had orders to leave their horses in quarters, and march on foot
to join the others. Quitting our horses with regret, we walked to San
Jorge, where the foot lay, awaiting the hour of attack. We found them
stomach-qualmed with hunger, weary of fighting, thoroughly disheartened,
and provoked against their officers. One told how an officer, whose duty
it was to lead the charge, took shelter behind an orange-tree no bigger
than his wrist, and shouted, "Go on, men! go on!" when he should
have been saying, "Come on!" and how another, become stupid with
_aguardiente_, had tried to force his men to a barricade, when their
cartridge-boxes were empty, and their unbayonetted arms useless.
There seemed also to have been slackness among the men; and some
were lamenting, that the First Rifles were not what they used to
be;--anciently they only wanted to _see_ the greasers; to-day they were
found taking to the bushes. They all agreed that no great number of the
enemy had been killed,--whilst the filibusters, they doubted, must
have lost nearly one-third of their men and many of their best
officers;--among the number I recollect Major Dusenbury, highly praised.

There was one affair, however, over which they crowed and took fierce
satisfaction. They told it thus:--A detached party, of about thirty of
them, were seated on the roadside drinking _aguardiente_, preparatory
to advancing. On one side was a cactus-hedge, and a grove of plantain
a little in front. Whilst they sat here deeply absorbed in the
_aguardiente_, a considerable party of the enemy got amongst the
plantain-trees, and fired a hundred muskets into them at the distance of
a few rods. Strange to say, the greasers were so nervous at finding no
barricade between them, or were such contemptible marksmen, that not
a shot took serious effect; only the demijohn of _aguardiente_ was
shivered into a thousand pieces, and the liquor ran out into the grass.
The filibusters jumped up astounded and disordered; but, seeing so much
good liquor running away wastefully into the grass, they grew terrible.
It was an insult and injury which both men and officers appreciated. It
gave every man in the troop a personal quarrel with the enemy. "Charge
'em!" shouted the captain; "we'll pay the scoundrels for the miserable
trick!" At full speed they swept through a gap in the hedge, and rushed
into the plantain-grove before the enemy had time to reload. But when
the greasers saw them coming on fiercely, their hearts failed them, and,
turning their backs, they fled towards the town. Never were filibusters
or men-of-war better pleased than now! They rattled on furiously behind
the nimble greasers. They sent howling death into their midst at every
step of the chase. They passed bloody forms stretched here and there
upon the earth. They followed the flying foe even to the edge of
the town, and saw its hostile swarm running hither and thither in
alarm.--Alas! General William Walker, why were you not here at this
propitious moment, with all your brave spirits, invincible with rum,
behind you? Then might you have rushed with the fugitives into the town,
and hurled the yellow-skinned invaders into the lake! Then might the
flag of Regeneration have waved even at this day over the hills and
valleys of Nicaragua,--and the unfortunate author of this history have
received a reward for his services!--_Ay de mi!_ Even now, reposing in
the shade of the palm-tree, fanned by the orange-scented breeze that
blows over the lake, I might drink the immortal juice of the sugarcane,
called _aguardiente_, and dream, and gaze at the cloud-wrapped cone of
Ometepec!--But I must forget this.

The dead killed in this plantain-patch were all that our men obtained
sight of. How many fell behind the barricades, where all the serious
fighting took place, it was impossible to tell; though there was no
reason to think that the enemy, fighting under cover, had suffered at
all proportionably with our men, or, indeed, had suffered equally,
losing man for man, except that ours were the better marksmen.

We passed a cold and sleepless night, awaiting the word to take up
arms and advance; but in the mean time General Walker had changed
his intention, and, when morning broke, the whole force quitted the
outskirts and marched back into Rivas. The killed and wounded by
the whole affair were reported officially at one hundred, or
thereabout,--underrated, most probably, for effect upon the men. It
was enough, however, considering the filibusters had no more than
four hundred engaged. Amongst them, though not reported, was that
devil-hearted dog which I have mentioned heretofore. He fell, shot
through the head, whilst advancing with the others toward the barricade.
He was lamented by the whole army,--by many superstitiously, even,--who
said he had gone through all Walker's hard stresses so far untouched,
and his end was prophetic of downfall.

And it is even true, that from this battle General Walker's prospects
clouded rapidly. A proclamation, issued by the Costa-Rican government,
promising fugitive filibusters free passage to the United States, found
its way into Rivas, and immediately worked immense mischief, and was,
indeed, the instrument of his overthrow. The men had no sooner seen it
than they began to leave as fast as they found opportunities to escape.
Guards were placed around the town, and spies in every company; but it
was of no avail; and every morning it was rumored through the camp that
this or that number had got off for Costa Rica during the night. General
Walker, in a speech which he made a few days after to infuse new spirit,
said that these were the cowards,--whose absence was beneficial, and
from whom it was well that the army should be purged. However, this was
exaggerated. It is true, doubtless, that there were many leaving merely
from fear, who would have chosen to stay with him, rather than trust
to the promises of a people believed to be treacherous and
promise-breaking, and whose hatred they had incurred,--had the battles
of San Jorge and Obraja been successful. And, indeed, the filibuster
ranks were not wanting in cowards. Cowards might be induced to come on
a desperate enterprise like this, through misrepresentation by Walker's
own agents; through mere thoughtlessness, or mistake,--not knowing what
soldier's metal was in them; or, with the bayonet of Hunger against
their backs at home, they might be unmindful of any other bayonet on the
distant shore of Nicaragua. (It should be musket-shot, however; for the
greasers never found heart to use the bayonet.) And then again, many,
who, when they first reached Nicaragua, were no cowards, after a few
months' stay, became changed,--by the depressing effects of fever, by
loss of confidence in their drunken officers, and by the absence of all
incentive to fight stoutly for a leader so unpopular as Walker. It was a
common saying, that in this army an old rule was reversed,--the veterans
were worse fighters than the recruits. The soldier was at his best
when he first landed upon the Isthmus, raw and healthy. After that, he
rapidly deteriorated, losing spirit with every battle, until he became
at last a thoroughbred coward. Seven or eight greasers to one filibuster
was said to be good fighting, at one time; but now three or four to one
was thought to be great odds; and before the game ended, I hear, they
were become equally matched, man for man, almost. But, whatever General
Walker said in his speech, this class of weak ones were not always the
deserters. It required some little energy or strength of legs, with
which these were unfurnished, to go over to the enemy at San Jorge, or
walk down to Costa Rica; and the fact was, that from the first many of
the healthiest and liveliest men, whose defection could least be borne,
were leaving,--not from fear, mainly, but because by this proclamation
they were offered the first opportunity to escape from a disagreeable
service to which they thought themselves bound by no tie of love or
honor.

It was now about time for a steamer to arrive at San Juan on the Pacific
with the California passengers; and the next day, or the second day,
perhaps, succeeding the battle at San Jorge, General Walker said to
General Sanders, in his quiet, whining way,--"General Sanders, I am
going to take two hundred and fifty riflemen and the rangers and go down
to San Juan to bring up our recruits to Rivas; and if three thousand
greasers are on the Transit road, I intend to go through them."
Accordingly, the riflemen, the ranger regiment, and a small party of
artillerymen with one of the two brass howitzers, met in the _plaza_,
and set out on this expedition at midnight, with Generals Walker and
Sanders both in the party.

The route of the detachment was the one I have mentioned before as
inland through the forest, and striking the Transit road some miles west
of the lake and Virgin Bay. It was firmly believed that we should meet
the enemy somewhere on the Transit road,--since the hills through which
it passed offered many excellent barricading-points, and it would seem a
matter of great importance to them to cut us off from junction with any
fresh recruits the steamer might land at San Juan. So there was much
preparatory drinking amongst the officers, (yet I say it not in slander,
for many were brave enough for any deed, and drank before battle only
because they drank always,)--and less amongst the men solely because
spirits had become scarce around Rivas, and dear; and there were very
few, truly, who had not ceased long since to carry coin in their
pockets. The captain of our company, who was an incautious man, and was
frequently drinking more than was needful, on this occasion drank more
than he was fitted to bear; and whilst the detachment was stopped some
time getting the wheel-piece over a hard place in the road, his strong
friend Aguardiente brought him to the ground, as he sat on his mule near
the front with his company,--where he lay in eruptive state like a
young toper, and so falling asleep lost his mule, which strayed into the
forest to browse, causing him much embarrassment and confused search
when the detachment was ready to start. Being up again, however, the
sleep and stomachic alleviation proved beneficial, and we, his soldiers,
followed after him in much greater comfort and confidence.

Such delays by the howitzer, and a wagon transporting spare muskets for
the expected recruits, were so frequent, that we made but slow progress,
and when we emerged from the woods the sun was already shining upon
the broad Transit road,--I might have said like a glory on the brow of
Ometepec, but my memory is bad, and I doubt whether the fact may not be
that the sun rises upon this point from lower down on the lake. After
entering the Transit road, the rangers were sent ahead to discover if
there were an enemy in the way. Our regiment, as we called it, now
together for the first time since I joined it, consisted of some
seventy men, divided into three companies, all under command of Colonel
Waters,--a soldierly-looking man, and, moreover, brave, and not without
training in the Mexican War. Some time before the regiment had numbered
one hundred, but had become thus reduced by disease and the enemy.

On this ride I remember a feeble infusion of that excellent spirit
which, since the days of Sir Walter Scott, ought to belong to all
horse-soldiers, moss-troopers, or mounted rangers, but which I had
despaired of ever finding in General Walker's service. It is true we had
no bugler, or standard-bearer, or piece of feather in the troop, or,
indeed, any circumstance of war, save our revolvers and Sharpe's rifles,
vermin and dirty shirts. Nevertheless the morning was splendid, with a
fresh breeze behind us; the road was hard and smooth, and rang under
our horses' feet; and withal I felt, that, if we should see a troop
of greaser lancers ahead, in good uniform, we might run 'em down, and
bullet 'em, and strip 'em, with good romantic spirit, even.

But this is a most hollow cheat which Sir Walter Scott and other
book-men have played off on some weak-headed young men of our low-minded
generation. There is no doubt but a man seated amongst ten thousand
cavalry, who shake the earth as they charge, ought to feel himself
swell, as part of an avalanche or mighty Niagara,--as part of the
mightiest visible force which feeble man can enter or his spirit
commingle with. This were no contemptible joy, which the thin-blooded
philosopher might laugh at,--better, indeed, than most to be found here
on this fog-rounded flat of ours, where some few melodies from heaven
and countless blasts from hell meet, and make such strange, unequal
dissonance. But, alack! alack! it is not for the feeble, or the young
soldier, fresh from his plough or his yardstick, his briefs or his
pestle. For how shall we who have all our lives been standing guard
against the approach of death, who start horror-shaken from the dropping
of a tile, whose small wounds are quickly bound up by tender mother or
sister, and lamented over,--how shall we feel romantic in the midst of a
shower of bullets? Enough done, if our vanity or sense of duty hold us
there in any spirit, so that we do the needed trigger-work, and not turn
tail and disgrace ourselves. Even the veteran's satisfaction, since the
laying aside of steel armor, is not much, to be sure, or is gathered
after the battle. There is some savage ecstasy, perhaps, when he sees
his enemy fall, or when he sees his back; this last, indeed, a glorious
sight for any soldier,--worth rushing at the cannon's mouth to look
at, almost. But the man, be he veteran or other, who tells me he found
pleasure on the field where the Minie-balls kill afar off, in cold
blood,--I know him for one of the eccentric, stupid, or talkers for
purposes of vanity.--But this will suffice.

There were three places on the road, amongst the Cordillera ridges,
where, in former wars, a Costa-Rican force, flying before the
filibusters, had stopped to barricade, and gathered heart to withstand
their pursuers awhile,--long enough to bark the surrounding trees with
musket-shot,--some of them, indeed, amid their topmost branches; for it
is a greaser-failing to shoot inordinately high. Each of these sites we
approached with caution, expecting to see an enemy there; but there was
none, and we came down safely at length to our old shed-camp. Here we
halted, and made our station, as it was more convenient for pasturage,
whilst the foot passed on to San Juan, two miles beyond.

The steamer not arriving, we remained at this place several days,
employed as before, with the sugar-cane and the wood-ticks, miserable
enough.

In the mean time, the foot at San Juan, finding unusual temptation to
escape from this place, so much nearer the Costa-Rican line, were
leaving in large parties; and unwilling service was made of the rangers
to intercept the fugitives, by posting them below on all the paths
leading through the forest to Costa Rica. General Walker esteemed these
more faithful, because they had been more considerately treated, better
fed, allowed greater freedom and privilege,--having no drill, loose
discipline, and exemption from guard-duty when with the foot; and,
above all, their part of the service being healthier, and, though more
fatiguing, far preferable, on the whole, to the other. One night I was
detailed, with others, on this disagreeable duty, and remember it,
for other reasons, as the most wretched night of all that I passed in
Nicaragua. Our station was on the bank of a little wooded stream, some
miles below San Juan. After the guard had been posted, I lay down to get
some hours' sleep, which I needed,--but was no sooner on the ground than
a swarm of infinitesimally small creatures, of the tick genus, whose den
I had invaded, came over me, and the rest was merely one sensation of
becrawled misery; so that, notwithstanding great previous loss of sleep,
I went again unrefreshed. I asked an old filibuster who lay near me, how
he could sleep through it. "Oh," said he, "I've got my skin dirty and
callous, and this easy-walking species, that can't bite, never troubles
me." On this subject I read the following in Mr. Irving's "History
of Columbus" with some emotion:--"Nor is the least beautiful part of
animated nature [in those tropical regions] the various tribes of
insects that people every plant, displaying brilliant coats-of-mail,
which sparkle to the eye like precious gems." It seems strange to me
that any good should be recognized in these children of despair, which
have caused me more unhappiness than all the world's vermin beside.
I think this praise must be from Mr. Irving himself, looking up the
picturesque. It is not possible that Columbus would have had the heart
to flatter and polish up these mailed insects, who, in his day, ate him,
turned him over and over, and harried him more than ever was Job by
Satan.

Next morning, whilst we were roasting green plantains in
the fire for breakfast, a man dressed in General Walker's
blue-shirt-and-cotton-breeches uniform came upon us suddenly
from out of the woods beyond the stream. He was evidently going
south,--but seeing our party, with startled look, he turned, and
went in the direction of San Juan. We knew him at once for a deserter,
but had no zeal to arrest him; and he had already got past us, when
some one ejaculated,--"D--- him, why don't he go right? That's not
the road to Costa Rica!" Upon this unlucky speech, the officer in
command of the detail, who, either through inattention or design,
was suffering the man to pass unquestioned, ordered him to be
followed and seized. He was a German, and either a dull, heavy
fellow, or else stupefied by his terrible misfortune; and being
unable to say a consistent word for himself, the officer sent him
off under guard to San Juan, where it was well known what General Walker
would do with him.

Some hours after this misadventure, as most of us took it, our detail
was relieved and we rode back to camp. The man who had been taken in the
act of deserting was condemned to be shot at San Juan this same evening,
in presence of the whole detachment. He was led down to the beach, and
seated in a chair at the water's edge. He bore himself carelessly, or
with an absent, almost unconscious air, like one who felt himself acting
a part in a dream. A squad of drafted riflemen was brought up in front
of him, and the word was given by a sergeant. They made their aim false
purposely, and but one shot took effect on the doomed man. He fell back
into the water, where he lay struggling, and stained the waves red with
his blood. It was a wrenching sight, too brutal far, to see the sergeant
place his gun against the poor wretch's head, and end his agony!

It seemed so abominable to every spectator there that General Walker
should thus seek to enforce Devil's service from his men, entrapped
mostly in the first place, without wages or half maintenance, and with
no claim upon them whatever, but by a contract without consideration
on the one part, on the other hard labor to the death,--that this
exhibition, which in another army were calculated to strengthen just
authority, here only aroused indignation and disgust. This very night,
after witnessing the deserter's punishment, eleven men left the company
to which he belonged in a body, and were seen no more in Nicaragua. And
though for selfish reasons I was concerned to see the army falling to
pieces, and the load of toil and danger increasing upon the rest of us,
yet both I and the rest acknowledged that there was no tie of honor or
honesty to keep any man with us who wished to escape; and this deed
seemed to us without decent sanction.

The steamer at length made its appearance, and, after landing us about
forty recruits, departed south with the States passengers for Panama;
and afterwards, the new soldiers being all furnished with muskets, the
detachment started on its return to Rivas. On the way, it was rumored
amongst the men, that a reinforcement to the enemy, marching from Costa
Rica, were halted at Virgin Bay, and that General Walker was going to
attack them. We hurried over the Transit road as fast as the foot were
able,--General Sanders, I recollect, riding far in advance, sometimes
out of sight, and thus giving himself to an ambush, had the enemy placed
any. By repute he was a man of extreme courage, and held his life so
contemptuously that he would scarce hesitate to charge an enemy's line
by himself. But I fear that this time he had other impulse than his
innate valor; for there was no occasion for a solitary man, riding in
these gloomy woods, to be singing and hallooing, and whirling his sword
about his head, and swaying to and fro on his horse, unless he were
strongly worked by _aguardiente_.

Reaching Virgin Bay some time after dark, we found the report of an
enemy there untrue; but the pickets were got out in remarkable haste,
and all the native population--some dozen women and children--were
seized, to prevent discovery of us to the enemy, and I suppose there was
some expectation of an attack. However, liquor being plenty amongst the
hotel-keepers at Virgin Bay, the officers thought it a good place to get
drunk in,--and many spent the night in that endeavor, and in playing
poker; so that in the morning, walking down to the lake to water my
mule, I met a colonel and a general staggering into quarters, rubbing
their eyes sullenly, having just lifted themselves from the street,
where the honest god Bacchus, as a poet calls him, had put them to bed
the night before.

The steamer "San Carlos" still lay over at the island, under shadow of
the volcano. The other probably lay at San Jorge, by the enemy. The old
brig formerly anchored at Virgin Bay having been burned, there was now
no hope of retaking these steamers, unless the party of Texans, which we
had by this time heard was fighting its way up the Rio San Juan, should
succeed in getting upon the lake with a boat from the river. But to-day
we came near reaching the top of this hope unexpectedly. For whilst we
still delayed in Virgin Bay, smoke began to rise from the chimneys of
the "San Carlos," and in proper time she turned her prow and came across
the water directly toward us. It was scarcely possible that she knew
anything of our presence in Virgin Bay; and it was doubted by no one but
she was coming to land there for some purpose; and then her recapture,
were she full of the enemy, was certain, in the spirit we then were in:
for all felt, that, could we once get the steamer into our hands, and
reach the four hundred fresh Texans on the river, the filibuster star
would have shot up so high that it were ill-management indeed that would
ever pull it down again. Accordingly all were quickly driven into the
houses, and told to lie there close, and be ready to burst forth when
the steamer touched her pier. But we were miserably disappointed. She
came steadily up within half a mile of land, and then, catching an
alarm, turned, and put swiftly back to the island. I afterward heard
that two drunken officers had rushed out into the street, and so
apprised her of the danger.

After this the detachment set out towards Rivas. We advanced along the
lake shore some distance, fording the mouth of the little Rio Lajas,
whose waters had lost much depth since I first, passed over this road,
crossing the stream in a bungo. In the forest we found, at one point,
trees felled across the road, as if the enemy had here been minded to
oppose us; but we passed by, seeing no one, and reached Rivas in good
time, unmolested.

Arrived at Rivas, we found that a change was taking place in the
character of the war. The town had been threatened by the enemy during
our absence, and General Henningsen was busy putting it into a state
better suited to repel any sudden attack. Pieces of artillery looked
down all the principal approaches, from behind short walls of _adobe_
blocks, raised in the middle of the street with open passage-ways on
either side. Native men with _machetes_, watched by armed guards, were
clearing away the fine groves of orange, mango, and plantain, which
everywhere surrounded Rivas, and were fitted to cover the approach of an
enemy. Others were tearing down or burning the houses in the outskirts,
to narrow the circle of defence. The tenants of these houses--when they
had any--were moved up nearer the _plaza_, or, if native, sometimes
into the country. The native population of Rivas, however, was scanty,
consisting mostly of a few women,--of the kindest and most affable sort.
In what direction the men had all, or nearly all, gone, I am unable to
say. Doubtless some of them were with the Chamorristas.

So many of the houses were marked out to be pulled down, that General
Walker was obliged to quarter his new recruits in the church, a large
stone building, and curious from the head of Washington, easily
identified, carved in relief on its _facade_. Hitherto some native women
had been accustomed to assemble in this church and worship, under care
of a fat, unctuous little _padre_, very obsequiously courteous toward
filibusters;--and well he might be; for General Walker was suspicious
of all _padres_, and kept a stern eye upon them. Once he caught one of
them, who had preached treason against him within reach of his arm, and
released him again only upon payment of five thousand _pesos_. Another,
for a like offence, was put into the guard-house, and required to ransom
himself at twenty-five hundred. What became of this one, whether he paid
his ransom and got out, or whether he stayed there until he lost oil and
became lean on the small ration furnished him, was not rumored. Yet,
with all this in his memory, when the present _padre_ came again with
his flock of women and found the church occupied by soldiers, he went
away scowling, and never even lifted his shovel-hat to me when I met
him.

On the night succeeding our return from San Juan, General Walker
determined to try a night attack on San Jorge, hoping much from the
fresh spirit and muscle of his forty Californians. To assist in this,
our company had orders to be on the _plaza_ at two o'clock, afoot, with
clean rifles and forty rounds of ammunition. At one o'clock we arose
and went down on the _plaza_, in number about twenty, the rest of the
company remaining behind on account of sickness. On the way, however,
the number was augmented by a second company of near twenty dismounted
rangers, with Colonel Waters at their head.

Whilst we stood, in rather low spirits, waiting the hour of departure,
our captain procured us a calabash of _aguardiente_, which, thinking
upon the desperate work ahead of us and the infinite toil and
sleeplessness of the last few weeks, we considered excellent, and not to
be spared. Discomfort in battle is a positive evil, felt, perhaps, by
all sons of Adam; and he who will use means to get rid of it and leave
himself free to work is no more a coward, so far, than he who takes
chloroform to prevent the pain of a tooth-pulling,--mere positive evil,
likewise. _Aguardiente_ will serve a good purpose;--provided the head be
not essentially weak, or too inflammable, it ascends you into the brain,
and dries you there, as one hath said, all the nervous, crudy vapors
that environ it. But this captain of ours drank too injudiciously, and,
indeed, so obscured himself with his drink, often, that we his men were
loath to trust and follow him,--doubting that he knew where he was about
to take us, or for what purpose. To-night he strapped a large canteen of
_aguardiente_ about his neck and wore it into battle,--and many times,
as the danger staggered, we saw him draw courageous spirit through the
neck of it, and go on befogged and reassured. Yet, withal, he was no
greater coward than other men,--indeed, much braver than most,--had been
wounded whilst leading a forlorn hope over a barricade,--and would, I
doubt not, have fought well without _aguardiente_, had drinking been a
mark of cowardice in the army.

At length all was ready, and, with something above three hundred
riflemen and infantry, under command of Generals Walker and Sanders, we
started out on the San Jorge road some hours after midnight. We kept
along the highway until we began to approach the town, and then turned
aside into a by-lane crossing to the left. The by-lane was interrupted
at one place by a deep pool of water, through which the detachment
plunging, half-leg deep, some of the weak-legged stumbled and fell,
getting their cartridge-boxes under, and spoiling their ammunition.

At the end of this lane we came into another highway running toward San
Jorge, along which we advanced rapidly. After a while we came to a halt,
and a party was sent off; then forward again, a corner turned, and
another halt,--when I heard General Walker asking some one, in composed
voice, "Does he know exactly where we are?" Whilst we stood there, a
sudden and hot rattle of musketry began from the front, and we again
advanced swiftly, by scattered _adobes_, turning corners, and came in
full view of a barricade some distance ahead spitting flashes of fire
crosswise into the right-hand side of the street. We crossed over from
left to right, and halted behind an _adobe_. On our right hand stood
a grove of small trees, through which the assailants had probably
advanced, and in which, just ahead, hot work was now going on
loudly,--with Minie-balls, grape-shot, shouts, outcries, and blood
enough doubtless. After some delay here, part of us rangers, led by
Colonel Waters, recrossed the street, and advanced, crouching, toward
the barricade spitting flames in front. We crept, double file, along a
palisade of tall cactus which bordered this part of the street, against
whose thorns my neighbor on the right would frequently thrust me, as the
shot nipped him closely,--inconvenient, but without pain, so intense was
the distraction of the moment. We had crept within a few rods of the
barricade, where we had glimpse of faces through embrasures, amidst the
smoke and flame, and our leader, as he afterwards said, had it on his
lips to order the forward rush,--when the party attacking on our right,
behind the trees, gave back, and our own mere handful was checked, and
retraced its steps running. A moment later, and we had gone upon that
high barricade, some score of us, without backers in the street, to
draw on us the enemy's whole fire,--and very likely--unless they had
foolishly fled at our first rush--to be all killed there.

On the retreat, I with some others was ordered out of the ranks to pick
up a wounded officer and carry him off the ground. We took him down the
street, turned a corner, and laid him on the floor of a church some
distance beyond. He had an arm broken and a bad wound in his body,--a
hopeless man; but upborne and defiant through _aguardiente_ and native
strength. After getting him off our hands, we returned to our company,
which we found sheltering behind the _adobe_ where we had halted when on
the advance. Here we remained some time, with instructions from General
Walker (whom, at this time, we seemed to follow as personal guard) to
keep ourselves out of reach of the missiles flying on either side of the
house. The darkness was so thick that we could see only what was passing
immediately around us, and therefore were ignorant as to the position
of the foot, and what was now doing amongst them. It was said, however,
afterwards, that their officers strove to rally and bring them up to
another charge, but that they proved mutinous, and refused to move.

They had suffered, indeed, discouragement enough. Colonel O'Neal, who
had led them, was mortally wounded; the barricade was too high and
dangerous; they had tried to fire it without success. Some of the forty
recruits, who were in front of the party, had climbed over it; and these
afterwards affirmed, that, had the others followed then, the barricade
had been gained; but the older soldiers had degenerated, possessed
little of these men's zeal or spirit, hesitated, and, their colonel
falling, gave back. Those who had gone over the barricade were killed
there, or came back with wounds,--one with a bayonet-thrust through the
arm,--a most remarkable wound, in which, perhaps, Central-Americans
fleshed a bayonet for the first time.

Our company, or part of it,--for most had been placed about on pickets
when the attack failed,--after a while fell farther back, turned the
corner before mentioned, faced about, and came to a stand in the street,
with an _adobe_ house on the left. The street in which we stood ran
straight forward, and crossed the one down which we had just receded at
right angles, a few feet ahead of us, so that there was here a junction
of four streets, or, I might better say, roads; for there were no more
than four disconnected houses in the immediate vicinity,--the one on the
corner beside us, one on the corner diagonally opposite, the one up the
street running left, on the far side, behind which we had a little while
ago taken shelter, and the square stone church, whither we had carried
the wounded man, and which stood on the far side of the street some
yards behind us. The rest of the space was covered with fruit-trees and
a heavy growth of hushes; and concealed behind these lay the barricades
and the _plaza_ of San Jorge. But all this was seen later; then the
whole was wrapped in thick darkness, it yet lacking some short time of
daybreak.

Whilst our detached company was standing there, with the foot drawn up
in the road a little way before us, a single horseman came out from the
enemy and galloped past our picket, stationed up the road some distance
ahead of the detachment. The picket fired upon him after he had passed;
he dropped under his horse's side, and galloped back, apparently
unharmed; but, from the direction of their fire, the picket was
naturally mistaken for the enemy by the detachment in front, who could
see only the flashes through the darkness. Some stood their ground, and
returned the fire, placing the picket in great danger; but the bulk,
already well scared by their repulse, broke away panic-stricken, and
came rushing down the road toward us, thinking the enemy were charging
behind them. Our company was suddenly overwhelmed, or borne along by the
current, ignorant of the cause of alarm. I brought myself up behind the
corner house, where many of the others were taking shelter. But hearing
some one cry out, "To the church! to the church! make a stand in the
church!" I immediately ran across the road and entered the church by a
side-door. As I crossed the entrance, with two or three others,
General Walker came running up from the interior, with his sword out,
crying,--"Where's that man came into the church? Show me that man!"
There were cocked revolvers with some of us, and it was, perhaps, well
for General Walker that the crowd now pouring in strongly at both front
and side doors diverted him. Turning to these, he threw himself first on
one, then on another, battered, tugged, and thrust them out at the door
with such force as I hardly thought was in him. He was soon assisted
by Sanders, Waters, and other officers, and, with the curses and
vociferations of these men, the confused rush of the panic-stricken
crowd in the dark, and the outcries of the wounded, who lay about
on the floor, as the fugitives trampled over them, there was such a
pressure as might unchart a young soldier, and strand him among his
fears.

After seeing enough of it, I ran out again into the street, sore
bestead, indeed, to know what I should do. Day was beginning to break,
and in the gray dawn I saw the men ejected from the church running
hither and thither, trying to rejoin their officers. And, there being
neither standards nor drums to collect by, the sergeants stood at divers
points shouting at the top of their voices the number and letter
of their companies, and calling the fugitives to come into ranks.
Minie-balls whizzed about in the air or knocked up the dust from
the street, and firing was now and then heard near by in uncertain
directions, where perhaps the enemy were vexing our pickets. I believe
it had been a helter-skelter day for us all, had the enemy got in then
and attacked us in the midst of this confusion. They might surely have
driven us into irretrievable rout, flying on the road to Rivas, by a
spirited charge of fifty good men, or much less.

Whilst I stood in doubt what course to take, I saw our captain, followed
by three or four of the company, looking over the ground for the
missing, and I forthwith made up and joined him. Others came in, one by
one; and at length, the foot being gathered together in the _adobes_,
and things brought to order outside, the captain led his company into
the church. General Walker was still there, talking earnestly with
Sanders and Waters, having cleared the church of the fugitives. As we
approached, he asked the captain, who by this time had emptied his
canteen of _aguardiente_, how many of his men were killed. The captain
began cursing the foot, and telling how he had been run over, having
tried to stand,--and would have made a long talc, but Colonel Waters
touched him on the shoulder, and said in undertone,--"Lead your company
off. You are too drunk to talk now."

Our post thenceforward was at the several doors of the church, where we
kept guard for the wounded, who lay about the floor in miserable plight
for lack of water. Outside, drop-shooting was still kept up by the enemy
in the bushes, and returned by ours from the doors.

It was an ill-looking situation for our small, panic-shaken party,
resting here within pistol-shot of an overwhelming and victorious enemy.
The enemy's respect for us was too great and unreasonable. It behooved
them certainly, as honest soldiers, to come forth now and drive us out
of their town, in which, I think, if well commenced, there had been but
little difficulty. Afterwards, indeed, when I was amongst them in Costa
Rica, they declared concerning this affair that they knew we were in
their power then, but refrained because they were unwilling to shed more
filibuster blood, preferring rather to conquer us by proclamation, and
send us back to our homes unhurt,--more expensive, to be sure, but
recommended by humanity. Yet I laugh at this when I remember how they
crept snake-like in the bushes, and tried to pick us off at the doors,
and how they strove, without much danger to themselves, to run our
pickets in on us, and get to see our backs turned, whereupon, doubtless,
humanity would have been little thought of, and filibuster blood cheap
enough. Indeed, once that morning, with little less than four-score
horse, they came charging with hope to pass a picket of ten men; but
saddles being emptied, they recoiled, and their leader being slain,
whilst attempting to rally them, they fled contemptibly,--seven or eight
from one. However, this is only my revenge for much exasperation and
deploration that they would never come away from their pestiferous
walls,--where, after all, they had a right to stay, and will not be
blamed by the candid and unbebullet-whizzed reader that they did stay.

We kept our post at the doors, annoyed and apprehensive, until the sun
was an hour or so high, when a party of rangers arrived from Rivas
with led horses to transport the wounded,--which incumbrance it was, I
suppose, that prevented our withdrawal earlier. The wounded were carried
out and mounted, some with a soldier behind to support them. Colonel
O'Neal, however, who had both legs broken, was carried on a litter, with
a cocked revolver on each side of him; for, though he had lost much
blood, there was yet spirit in him, and he wanted revenge for these
death-wounds. The pickets were now all brought in hastily, and the
detachment began its march, leaving, I remember, one stark form propped
against the church wall, with staring eyeballs fixed, and soul wandered
somewhither. This, from his clean looks, had been one of the fresh
California recruits, who, indeed, had found miserable entertainment on
their arrival in Nicaragua, land of oranges and sunshine,--being first
and longest this night at the barricade, and leaving many of their
number there.

A little way from the church we crossed a road running into San Jorge,
and, looking up, saw a high log-barricade, some fifty rods off, with
embrasures and black-mouthed cannon frowning down on us. Why we were not
fired upon I know not, unless on that same score of humanity, or because
the enemy had abandoned it during last night's assault. Farther on,
whilst passing through a plantain-patch, we saw the greasers some
way off in our rear, watching us, running to and fro, and seemingly
exercised with preparation for attacking. However, we passed out into
the road, and went on undisturbed, yet still with the enemy hovering
behind us.

Coming to a place where an abrupt little mound rose at a fork in the
road, our company, which brought up the rear of the detachment, had
orders to conceal itself behind this, and await the pursuers, and give
them check. In a moment they came galloping up the slope of a hill some
two or three hundred yards back, their heads only appearing at first,
then the rest down to the saddle, when we arose suddenly and gave them a
volley of rifle-bullets. They dropped down quickly, either to the ground
or under their horses' bellies, in which manoeuvre some of them rival
the prairie Indians. Others coming up from behind, we gave them more,
until they all disappeared finally. After this we saw no more of them,
and arrived at Rivas without further alarm.

This was now the third repulse we had sustained within a few days, with
an aggregate loss, perhaps, counting wounded, (who, as I have said, were
more regretted than the dead,) not very far under two hundred men,--and
it became apparent that the filibuster day was over, unless General
Walker could find some stratagem in his head, or some better mode of
fighting than this confident rushing upon an overwhelming enemy, under
strong cover, and grown bold with success. The prospect, truly, began
to look black enough. The men had lost confidence in themselves and in
their officers, no longer despised the enemy, and dreaded the barricades
at San Jorge so deeply that they would be led against them no more.
Those who intended to desert avoided every exposure to danger, and
feigned sickness whenever detailed for service. One of the rifle
regiments had grown mutinous, upon some quarrel with its officers, and
refused to do duty of any kind, and it was absurd to attempt to compel
it by aid of the others. The natives, who had charge of the beef cattle,
turned them all out of the _corral_, and ran away in the night, leaving
the army without meat, and the commissary force, some forty horsemen,
to seek for prey wherever it was to be found. And then there were ill
reports heard about the party on the Rio San Juan, and its success began
to be doubted. But worse than all was the fast-spreading spirit of
desertion, which all saw would prove ruinous of itself, unless shortly
stopped in some way.

At this juncture it might have been worth while for General Walker to
form a corps for one attack of all the men in his army who felt an
earnest interest in driving the enemy out, and were willing to fight
desperately for the sake of it. There were scores of stout men acting
as lieutenants, captains, majors, etc., of slight performance in those
capacities, but who, had they been formed into companies, and asked to
fight now one night, at this desperate juncture, for the _haciendas_
General Walker had promised them, would have done willing, perhaps, and
excellent service. To these might be added all those among the ranks
to whom, from any cause, desertion or expulsion from Nicaragua was
disagreeable,--those who distrusted the Costa-Rican promises, or feared
disgrace at home, or had sick or wounded friends at Rivas, or were
desperate, broken men without other home, or with what other peculiar
motives there might be. With this force gathered to themselves by call
for volunteers, allowed to choose their own officers, furnished with
Colt's revolvers, or bayonets, or both, and led in advance, as a forlorn
hope, with ladders to scale the barricades by,--it is likely the enemy
might have been driven out, and the cause of Regeneration set up once
more. So, at least, it was thought by some. And, indeed, it must have
been extremely discouraging for one of better will to be fearful at
every step that his comrades would dart aside into the bushes and leave
him unsupported; it must have served to cripple the efforts of all the
well-intentioned in the army, and should have been remedied. However,
no call for volunteers was ventured by General Walker,--he, probably,
thinking it too unreasonable to ask his men to do anything for him
unforced.

There were some others who thought affairs might be retrieved, if
General Walker were displaced, at least from his military command,
and Henningsen, or some other, put in his stead. He was exceedingly
unpopular, hated, indeed, by a great many, (I have known more than one
who professed to nourish the intent of shooting him during his next
battle, when the deed could be covered,) was respected only for his
strong will and personal bravery, and had never been superseded, solely,
perhaps, because the great majority of his men were either without
energy, or were careless about everything but escape, and so felt no
interest in dethroning him and setting up another, when thereby they
were not helping their chance of getting out of the Isthmus. However,
there was now a conspiracy commenced by some who were unwilling to leave
Nicaragua, and who distrusted General Walker's ability to save the
filibusters much longer.

But these underworkers had made us no sign up to the night attack on
San Jorge, and the day succeeding that the writer lost sight of the
filibuster camp, and knew what took place in it no more. I will tell how
the withdrawal was brought about, and then extinguish my story. Near the
middle of the day, after returning from San Jorge, the company rode out,
under command of the sergeant, to gather forage for the animals. In
order to give my own mule a respite, I mounted for this occasion a
bad-winded animal, long before used up, and discarded by one of the
company, and left to run about the yard. As we rode out at the gateway,
one of the men advised me with some pointedness to go back and get my
own animal, assuring me the one I had would fail me on this expedition.
Yet, knowing he was good for the distance we usually rode foraging, I
paid him no heed, and thought nothing of his somewhat singular manner
until afterwards. When we had gone some distance, the same man asked me
if I had heard that forty deserters had left last night for Costa Rica,
adding, that it was his opinion the whole army would soon be on the same
road. "Well," said I, "I suppose we'll be among the last." "I don't
think I will," rejoined he, "nor the rest of this company." He said no
more; but it flashed upon me then that we were even now on the road for
Costa Rica; and it soon became certainty, as the sergeant turned down
toward the Transit road, a direction in which we had never been
allowed to forage, probably because the natives on that side had more
communication with San Juan and Virgin Bay, and General Walker was
unwilling that the States passengers should hear too many complaints
from them. I was before aware that many of the company had been for some
time revolving desertion, and had myself been sounded by one a day or
two previously; but could have had no suspicion that this was to be the
occasion, because several of the most forward in the matter had made
excuses, and remained behind in quarters.

At length we halted in a little stream, some miles from Rivas, to water
our animals, and it was here openly announced that the party was on its
way to Costa Rica to take the benefit of the government proclamation. I
rode back toward the rear, where I saw a dispute going on between one of
the company who wanted to return to Rivas and others who insisted that
he must go forward. One of them met me in the path, and told me I must
go with them until they had got beyond the Transit road. They had no
wish, he said, to force men to desert; but this much was needed to save
themselves from danger of pursuit. I told him my mule would never carry
me back from the Transit road. "We will catch you another," said he,
"when we reach the Jocote _rancho_." The whole crowd, save two or three,
were with him, and it was useless to persist. So I turned and rode
forward with the rest.

At the Jocote _rancho_ we succeeded in catching a mule, but he was given
to another of the company, whose animal showed worse signs than my own,
which, indeed, had borne me much better than I expected, and was not yet
seriously fatigued.

We came out upon the Transit road, passed over the Cordillera ridges,
and, just beyond the little river which crosses the road, two miles from
San Juan, turned aside into a forest-trail leading down the coast to
Costa Rica. Those of us who had been pressed thus far, after crossing
the Transit road, gave over all design of returning. The bonds which
drew us back were not strong, and the danger of return was considerable.
We had heard that the enemy was at Virgin Bay, and that their lancers
frequently passed backward and forward on the Transit road, and between
San Jorge and Virgin Bay. If we returned, we should be confined to the
path nearly all the way to Rivas by the impenetrable forest, and easily
taken, should we meet the enemy, or liable even, one or two only, to be
shot down from ambush by the hostile natives who lived on the route.

For my own part, I decided to go on with hesitation and regret, and I
believe, had one been ready to return, I should have borne him willing
company. I preferred even the hard service and dubious chance of General
Walker to the alternative of going amongst the Costa-Ricans, where
a cowardly populace would probably kick and spit upon us as dirty
filibusters and deserters; and should their government even keep its
promises, I had no stomach for being set ashore in the city of New York,
without money in my pocket, or home that I wished to go to. My health
had been good in Nicaragua, and, I believed, would remain good. The
motive which sent me there was still in force; and, withal, I wished to
see the filibuster game played out,--with Henningsen, or some other man
than General Walker, as military director. I believed it might even
take a turn so, and a _sans-culotte_ man be furnished at last with a
two-hundred-and-fifty-acre home in Nicaragua,--

"'Mid sandal bowers and groves of spice,
Might be a Peri's paradise";

and plantain food without sweat, and the elixir of joy called
_aguardiente!_ Nevertheless it was all left behind; and Samuel Absalom
tore the large, dirty canvas letters M.R., signifying Mounted Ranger,
off from his blue flannel shirt-breast; and his experience as filibuster
in Nicaragua closed,--somewhat ingloriously.

* * * * *

ROBA DI ROMA.

[Continued.]

CHAPTER V.

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS.

The Christmas Holidays have come, and with them various customs and
celebrations quite peculiar to Rome. They are ushered in by the festive
clang of a thousand bells from all the belfries in Rome at Ave Maria of
the evening before the august day. At about nine o'clock of the same
evening the Pope performs High Mass in some one of the great churches,
generally at Santa Maria Maggiore, when all the pillars of this fine old
basilica are draped with red hangings, and scores of candles burn in the
side chapels, and the great altar blazes with light. The fuguing chants
of the Papal choir sound into the dome and down the aisles, while the
Holy Father ministers at the altar, and a motley crowd parade and jostle
and saunter through the church. Here, mingled together, may be seen
soldiers of the Swiss guard, with their shining helmets, long halberds,
and party-colored uniforms, designed by Michel Angelo,--chamberlains of
the Pope, all in black, with their high ruffs, Spanish cloaks, silken
stockings, and golden chains,--_contadini_ from the mountains, in their
dully brilliant costumes and white _tovaglie_,--common laborers from the
Campagna, with their black mops of tangled hair,--_forestieri_ of
every nation,--Englishmen, with long, light, pendant whiskers, and an
eye-glass stuck in one eye,--Germans, with spectacles, frogged coats,
and long, straight hair put behind their ears and cut square in the
neck,--then Americans, in high-heeled patent-leather boots, a black
dress-coat, and a black satin waistcoat,--and wasp-waisted French
officers, with baggy trousers, a goat-beard, and a pretentious swagger.
Nearer the altar are crowded together in pens a mass of women in black
dresses and black veils, who are determined to see and hear all,
treating the ceremony purely as a spectacle, and not as a religious
rite. Meantime the music soars, the organ groans, the censer clicks,
steams of incense float to and fro. The Pope and his attendants kneel
and rise,--he lifts the Host, and the world prostrates itself. A great
procession of dignitaries with torches bears a fragment of the original
cradle of the Holy Bambino from its chapel to the high altar, through
the swaying crowd that gape and gaze and stare and sneer and adore. And
thus the evening passes. When the clock strikes midnight all the bells
ring merrily, Mass commences at the principal churches, and at San Luigi
dei Francesi and the Gesu there is a great illumination (what the French
call _un joli spectacle_) and very good music. Thus Christmas is ushered
in at Rome.

The next day is a great _festa_. All classes are dressed in their best
and go to Mass,--and when that is over, they throng the streets to chat
and lounge and laugh and look at each other. The Corso is so crowded in
the morning, that a carriage can scarcely pass. Everywhere one hears the
pleasant greeting of "_Buona Festa,_" "_Buona Pasqua_." All the _basso
popolo_, too, are out,--the women wearing their best jewelry, heavy
gold ear-rings, three-rowed _collane_ of well-worn coral and gold, long
silver and gold pins and arrows in their hair, and great worked brooches
with pendants,--and the men of the Trastevere in their peaked hats,
their short jackets swung over one shoulder in humble imitation of the
Spanish cloak, and with rich scarfs tied round their waists. Most of
the ordinary cries of the day are missed. But the constant song of
"_Arancie! arancie dolci_!" is heard in the crowd; and everywhere
are the _sigarari_, carrying round their wooden tray of tobacco, and
shouting, "_Sigari! sigari dolci! sigari scelti_!" at the top of their
lungs; the _nocellaro_ also cries sadly about his dry chestnuts and
pumpkin-seeds. The shops are all closed, and the shopkeepers and clerks
saunter up and down the streets, dressed better than the same class
anywhere else in the world,--looking spick-and-span, as if they had just
come out of a bandbox, and nearly all of them carrying a little cane.
One cannot but be struck by the difference in this respect between the
Romans on a _festa_-day in the Corso and the Parisians during _fete_ in
the Champs Elysees,--the former are so much better dressed, and so much
happier, gayer, and handsomer.

During the morning, the Pope celebrates High Mass at San Pietro, and
thousands of spectators are there,--some from curiosity, some from
piety. Few, however, of the Roman families go there to-day;--they perform
their religious services in their private chapel or in some minor
church; for the crowd of _forestieri_ spoils St. Peter's for prayer.[A]
At the elevation of the Host, the guards, who line the nave, drop to
their knees, their side-arms ringing on the pavement,--the vast crowd
bends,--and a swell of trumpets sounds through the dome. Nothing can be
more impressive than this moment in St. Peter's. Then the choir from its
gilt cage resumes its chant, the high falsetti of the soprani soaring
over the rest, and interrupted now and then by the clear musical voice
of the Pope,--until at last he is borne aloft in his Papal chair on the
shoulders of his attendants, crowned with the triple crown, between
the high, white, waving fans; all the cardinals, monsignori, canonici,
officials, priests, and guards going before him in splendid procession.
The Pope shuts his eyes, from giddiness and from fasting,--for he has
eaten nothing for twenty-four hours, and the swaying motion of the chair
makes him dizzy and sick. But he waves at intervals his three fingers to
bless the crowd that kneel or bend before him, and then goes home to the
Vatican to dine with a clean conscience and a good appetite.

[Footnote A: "How," says Marforio to Pasquino, "shall I, being a true
son of the Holy Church, obtain admittance to her services?" To which
Pasquino returns for answer: "Declare that you are an Englishman, and
swear that you are a heretic."]

It is the universal rule among priests to fast before saying Mass, and
never to take the wafer or body of Christ upon a full stomach. The
law is _de rigueur_, and is almost never broken. But sometimes the
temptation of the appetite, it may be supposed, will overcome even a
pious man; for priest though one be, one is also flesh-and-blood. An
anecdote lately told me by the Conte Cignale (dei Selvaggi) may not
be out of place in this connection, and I instance it as an undoubted
exception to the general rule. A friend of his, an English artist,
enamored of Italian life, was spending the summer in one of the mountain
towns. Finding little society there except the physician and the parish
priest, he soon became on intimate terms with them. One morning the
priest called on him before he had finished breakfast. A savory dish was
smoking on the table, and the fumes of the hot coffee filled the room.
"I wish you could take breakfast with me," said he; "but I know you are
to say Mass, and that it would be contrary to rule for you to eat
until it is performed." The priest shrugged his shoulders and looked
deprecatorily at the artist and at the breakfast. "Still," continued the
latter, "if your scruples would allow you, I should be delighted if you
would help me with this capital dish." The temptation was great; the
smell was savory. The priest made a strong internal defence, but the
garrison was forced at last to capitulate. _"Eh!"_ said he, as he took
his seat, _"in fatto e il costume generale di non mangiare prima di dire
la messa e di prendere l'ostia. Ma--in queste circostanze_,"--here
he looked to see that the door was well fastened,--_"mi pare che si
potrebbe far un letto per nostro Signore, Gesu Cristo."_

It is the custom in Rome at the great _festas,_ of which Christmas is
one of the principal ones, for each parish to send round the sacrament
to all its sick; and during these days a procession of priest and

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