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BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE
NO. CCCXXXI. MAY, 1843. VOL. LIII.
DUMAS IN ITALY
AMMALAT BEK. A TRUE TALE OF THE CAUCASUS FROM THE
RUSSIAN OF MARLINSKI.--CHAPTER VI.
REYNOLD'S DISCOURSES. CONCLUSION
LEAP-YEAR. A TALE
THE BATTLE OF THE BLOCKS. THE PAVING QUESTION
POEMS AND BALLADS OF SCHILLER.--No. VIII.
NATURAL HISTORY OF SALMON AND SEA-TROUT
CALEB STUKELY. PART THE LAST
COMMERCIAL POLICY. SPAIN
DUMAS IN ITALY.
[_Souvenirs de Voyage en Italie, par_ ALEXANDRE DUMAS. 5 vols. duod.]
France has lately sent forth her poets in great force, to travel, and to
write travels. Delamartine, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and others,
have been forth in the high-ways and the high-seas, observing,
portraying, poetizing, romancing. The last-mentioned of these, M. Dumas,
a dramatist very ingenious in the construction of plots, and one who
tells a story admirably, has travelled quite in character. There is a
dramatic air thrown over all his proceedings, things happen as pat as if
they had been rehearsed, and he blends the novelist and tourist together
after a very bold and original fashion. It is a new method of writing
travels that he has hit upon, and we recommend it to the notice of our
countrymen or countrywomen, who start from home with the fixed idea,
happen what may, of inditing a book. He does not depend altogether upon
the incidents of the road, or the raptures of sight-seeing, or any odd
fantasy that buildings or scenery may be kind enough to suggest: he
provides himself with full half of his materials before he starts, in
the shape of historical anecdote and romantic story, which he
distributes as he goes along. A better plan for an amusing book could
not be devised. Your mere tourist, it must be confessed, however
frivolous he submits for our entertainment to become, grows heavy on our
hands; that rapid and incessant change of scene which is kindly meant to
enliven our spirits, becomes itself wearisome, and we long for some
resting-place, even though it should be obtained by that most
illegitimate method of closing the volume. On the other hand, a teller
of tales has always felt the want of some enduring thread--though, as
some one says in a like emergency, it be only _packthread_--on which his
tales may be strung--something to fill up the pauses, and prevent the
utter solution of continuity between tale and tale--something that gives
the narrator a reasonable plea for _going on again_, and makes the
telling another story an indispensable duty upon his part, and the
listening to it a corresponding obligation upon ours; and ever since the
time when that young lady of unpronounceable and unrememberable name
told the One Thousand and One Tales, telling a fragment every morning to
keep her head upon her shoulders, there has been devised many a strange
expedient for this purpose. Now, M. Dumas has contrived, by uniting the
two characters of tourist and novelist, to make them act as reliefs to
each other. Whilst he shares with other travellers the daily adventures
of the road--the journey, the sight, and the dinner--he is not compelled
to be always moving; he can pause when he pleases, and, like the
_fableur_ of olden times, sitting down in the market-place, in the
public square, at the corner of some column or statue, he narrates his
history or his romance. Then, the story told, up starts the busy and
provident tourist; lo! the _voiture_ is waiting for him at the hotel; in
he leaps, and we with him, and off we rattle through other scenes, and
to other cities. He has a track _in space_ to which he is bound; we
recognize the necessity that he should proceed thereon; but he can
diverge at pleasure through all _time_, bear us off into what age he
pleases, make us utterly oblivious of the present, and lap us in the
Elysium of a good story.
With a book written palpably for the sole and most amiable purpose of
amusement, and succeeding in this purpose, how should we deal? How but
receive it with a passive acquiescence equally amiable, content solely
to be amused, and giving all severer criticism--to him who to his other
merits may add, if he pleases, that of being the first critic. Most
especially let us not be carping and questioning as to the how far, or
what precisely, we are to set down for _true_. It is all true--it is all
fiction; the artist cannot choose but see things in an artistical form;
what ought not to be there drops from his field of vision. We are not
poring through a microscope, or through a telescope, to discover new
truths; we are looking at the old landscape through coloured glasses,
blue, or black, or roseate, as the occasion may require. And here let us
note a favourable contrast between our dramatic tourist, bold in
conception, free in execution, and those compatriots of our own, authors
and authoresses, who write travels merely because they are artists in
ink, yet without any adequate notion of the duties and privileges of
such an artist.
When a writer has got a name, the first rational use to make of the
charming possession is to get astride of it, as a witch upon her
broomstick, and whisk and scamper over half the kingdoms of the earth.
Talk of bills of exchange!--letters of credit!--we can put our name to a
whole book, and it will pass--it _will_ pass. The idea is good--quite
worthy of our commercial genius--and to us its origin, we believe, is
due; but here, as in so many other cases, the Frenchman has given the
idea its full development. Keeping steadily in view the object of his
book, which is--first, amusement--secondly, amusement--thirdly,
amusement; he adapts his means consistently to his end. Does he want a
dialogue?--he writes one: a story?--he invents one: a description?--he
takes his hint from nature, and is grateful--the more grateful, because
he knows that a hint to the wise is sufficient. It is the description
only which the reader will be concerned with; what has he to do with the
object? That is the merely traveller's affair. Now, your English
tourists have always a residue of scruple about them which balks their
genius. Not satisfied with pleasing, they aspire to be believed; are
almost angry if their anecdote is not credited; content themselves with
adding graces, giving a turn, trimming and decorating--cannot build a
structure boldly from the bare earth. This necessity of finding a
certain straw for their bricks, which must be picked up by the roadside,
not only impedes the work of authorship, but must add greatly to their
personal discomfort throughout the whole of their travels. They are in
perpetual chase of something for the book. They bag an incident with as
much glee as a sportsman his first bird in September. They are out on
pleasure, but manifestly they have their task too; it is not quite
holiday, only half-holiday with them. The prospect or the picture gives
no pleasure till it has suggested the appropriate expression of
enthusiasm, which, once safely deposited in the note-book, the
enthusiasm itself can be quietly indulged in, or permitted to evaporate.
At the dinner-table, even when champagne is circulating, if a jest or a
story falls flat, they see with an Aristotelian precision the cause of
its failure, and how an additional touch, or a more auspicious moment,
would have procured for it a better fate; they stop to pick it up, they
clean it, they revolve the chapter and the page to which it shall lend
its lustre. Nay, it is noticeable, that without much labour from the
polisher, many a dull thing in conversation has made a good thing in
print; the conditions of success are so different. Now, from all such
toils and perplexities M. Dumas is evidently free; free as the wildest
Oxonian who flies abroad in the mere wanton prodigality of spirits and
of purse. His book is made, or can be made, when he chooses: fortune
favours the bold, and incidents will always dispose themselves
dramatically to the dramatist.
Our traveller opens his campaign at Nice. It may be observed that M.
Dumas cannot be accused, like the present minister of his country, of
any partiality to the English; if the mortifying truth must be told, he
has no love of us at all; to which humour, so long as he delivers
himself of it with any wit or pleasantry, he is heartily welcome. Our
first extract will be thought, perhaps, to taste of this humour; but we
quote it for the absurd proof it affords of the manner in which we
English have overflooded some portions of the Continent:--
"As to the inhabitants of Nice, every traveller is to them an
Englishman. Every foreigner they see, without distinction of
complexion, hair, beard, dress, age, or sex, has, in their
imagination, arrived from a certain mysterious city lost in the
midst of fogs, where the inhabitants have heard of the sun only
from tradition, where the orange and the pine-apple are unknown
except by name, where there is no ripe fruit but baked apples,
and which is called _London_.
"Whilst I was at the York Hotel, a carriage drawn by post
horses drove up; and, soon after, the master of the hotel
entering into my room, I asked him who were his new arrivals.
"'_Sono certi Inglesi_,' he answered, '_ma non saprei dire se
sono Francesi o Tedeschi_. Some English, but I cannot say
whether French or German.'"--Vol. i. p. 9.
The little town of Monaco is his next resting-place. This town, which is
now under the government of the King of Sardinia, was at one time an
independent principality; and M. Dumas gives a lively sketch of the
vicissitudes which the little state has undergone, mimicking, as it has,
the movements of great monarchies, and being capable of boasting even of
its revolution and its republic. During the reign of Louis XIV. the
territory of Monaco gave the title of prince to a certain Honore III.,
who was under the protection of the _Grand Monarque_.
"The marriage of this Prince of Monaco," says our annalist,
"was not happy. One fine morning his spouse, who was the same
beautiful and gay Duchess de Valentinois so well known in the
scandalous chronicles of that age, found herself at one step
out of the states of her lord and sovereign. She took refuge at
Paris. Desertion was not all. The prince soon learned that he
was as unfortunate as a husband can be.
"At that epoch, calamities of this description were only
laughed at; but the Prince of Monaco was, as the duchess used
to say, a strange man, and he took offence. He got information
from time to time of the successive gallants whom his wife
thought fit to honour, and he hanged them in effigy, one after
the other, in the front court of his palace. The court was soon
full, and the executions bordered on the high road;
nevertheless, the prince relented not, but continued always to
hang. The report of these executions reached Versailles; Louis
XIV. was, in his turn, displeased, and counselled the prince to
be more lenient in his punishments. He of Monaco answered that,
being a sovereign prince, he had undoubtedly the right of pit
and gallows on his own domain, and that surely he might hang as
many men of straw as he pleased.
"The affair bred so much scandal, that it was thought prudent
to send the duchess back to her husband. He, to make her
punishment the more complete, had resolved that she should, on
her return, pass before this row of executed effigies. But the
dowager Princess of Monaco prevailed upon her son to forego
this ingenious revenge, and a bonfire was made of all the
scarecrows. 'It was,' said Madame de Sevigne, 'the torch of
their second nuptials.' ...
"A successor of this prince, Honore IV., was reigning
tranquilly in his little dominions when the French Revolution
broke out. The Monacites watched its successive phases with a
peculiar attention, and when the republic was finally
proclaimed at Paris, they took advantage of Honore's absence,
who was gone from home, and not known where, armed themselves
with whatever came to hand, marched to the palace, took it by
assault, and commenced plundering the cellars, which might
contain from twelve to fifteen thousand bottles of wine. Two
hours after, the eight thousand subjects of the Prince of
Monaco were drunk.
"Now, at this first trial, they found liberty was an excellent
thing, and they resolved to constitute themselves forthwith
into a republic. But it seemed that Monaco was far too
extensive a territory to proclaim itself, after the example of
France, a republic one and indivisible; so the wise men of the
country, who had already formed themselves into a national
assembly, came to the conclusion that Monaco should rather
follow the example of America, and give birth to a federal
republic. The fundamental laws of the new constitution were
then discussed and determined by Monaco and Mantone, who united
themselves for life and death. There was a third village called
Rocco-Bruno: it was decided that it should belong half to the
one and half to the other. Rocco-Bruno murmured: it had aspired
to independence, and a place in the federation; but Monaco and
Mantone smiled at so arrogant a pretension. Rocco-Bruno was not
the strongest, and was reduced to silence: from that moment,
however, Rocco-Bruno was marked out to the two national
conventions as a focus of sedition. The republic was finally
proclaimed under the title of the Republic of Monaco.
"The Monacites next looked abroad upon the world for allies.
There were two nations, equally enlightened with themselves, to
whom they could extend the hand of fellowship--the American and
the French. Geographical position decided in favour of the
latter. The republic of Monaco sent three deputies to the
National Convention of France to proffer and demand alliance.
The National Convention was in a moment of perfect good-humour:
it received the deputies most politely, and invited them to
call the next morning for the treaty they desired.
"The treaty was prepared that very day. It was not, indeed, a
very lengthy document: it consisted of the two following
"'Art. 1. There shall be peace and alliance between the French
Republic and the Republic of Monaco.
"'Art. 2. The French Republic is delighted with having made the
acquaintance of the Republic of Monaco.'
"This treaty was placed next morning in the hands of the
ambassadors, who departed highly gratified. Three months
afterwards the French Republic had thrown its lion's paw on its
dear acquaintance, the Republic of Monaco."--P. 14.
From Monaco our traveller proceeds to Geneva; from Geneva, by water, to
Livorno, (_Anglice_, Leghorn.) Now there is little or nothing to be seen
at Livorno. There is, in the place _della Darnesa_, a solitary statue of
Ferdinand I., some time cardinal, and afterwards Grand-Duke of Florence.
M. Dumas bethinks him to tell us the principal incident in the life of
this Ferdinand; but then this again is connected with the history of
Bianca Capello, so that he must commence with her adventures. The name
of Bianca Capello figures just now on the title-page of one of Messrs
Colburn's and Bentley's _last and newest_. Those who have read the
novel, and those who, like ourselves, have seen only the title, may be
equally willing to hear the story of this high-spirited dame told in the
terse, rapid manner--brief, but full of detail--of Dumas. We cannot give
the whole of it in the words of M. Dumas; the extract would be too long;
we must get over a portion of the ground in the shortest manner
"It was towards the end of the reign of Cosmo the Great, about
the commencement of the year 1563, that a young man named
Pietro Bonaventuri, the issue of a family respectable, though
poor, left Florence to seek his fortune in Venice. An uncle who
bore the same name as himself, and who had lived in the latter
city for twenty years, recommended him to the bank of the
Salviati, of which he himself was one of the managers. The
youth was received in the capacity of clerk.
"Opposite the bank of the Salviati lived a rich Venetian
nobleman, head of the house of the Capelli. He had one son and
one daughter, but not by his wife then living, who, in
consequence, was stepmother to his children. With the son, our
narrative is not concerned; the daughter, Bianca Capello, was a
charming girl of the age of fifteen or sixteen, of a pale
complexion, on which the blood, at every emotion, would appear,
and pass like a roseate cloud; her hair, of that rich flaxen
which Raphael has made so beautiful; her eyes dark and full of
lustre, her figure slight and flexile, but of that flexibility
which denotes no weakness, but force of character; prompt, as
another Juliet, to love, and waiting only till some Romeo
should cross her path, to say, like the maid of Verona--'I will
be to thee or to the tomb!'
"She saw Pietro Bonaventuri: the window of his chamber looked
out upon hers; they exchanged glances, signs, promises of love.
Arrived at this point, the distance from each other was their
sole obstacle: this obstacle Bianca was the first to overcome.
"Each night, when all had retired to rest in the house of the
Salviati, when the nurse who had reared Bianca, had betaken
herself to the next chamber, and the young girl, standing
listening against the partition, had assured herself that this
last Argus was asleep, she threw over her shoulders a dark
cloak to be the less visible in the night, descended on tiptoe,
and light as a shadow, the marble stairs of the paternal
palace, unbarred the gate, and crossed the street. On the
threshold of the opposite door, her lover was standing to
receive her; and the two together, with stifled breath and
silent caresses, ascended the stairs that led to the little
chamber of Pietro. Before the break of day, Bianca retired in
the same manner to her own room, where her nurse found her in
the morning, in a sleep as profound at least as the sleep of
"One night whilst our Juliet was with her Romeo, a baker's boy,
who had just been to light his oven in the neighbourhood, saw a
gate half open, and thought he did good service by closing it.
Ten minutes afterwards, Bianca descended, and saw that it was
impossible to re-enter her father's house.
"Bianca was one of those energetic spirits whose resolutions
are taken at once, and for ever. She saw that her whole future
destiny was changed by this one accident, and she accepted
without hesitation the new life which this accident had imposed
on her. She re-ascended to her lover, related what had
happened, demanded of him if he was ready to sacrifice all for
her as she was for him, and proposed to take advantage of the
two hours of the night which still remained to them, to quit
Venice and conceal themselves from the pursuit of her parents.
Pietro was true--he adopted immediately the proposal; they
stepped into a gondola, and fled towards Florence.
"Arrived at Florence, they took refuge with the father of
Pietro--Bonaventuri the elder, who with his wife had a small
lodging in the second floor in the place of St Mark. Strange!
it is with poor parents that the children are so especially
welcome. They received their son and their new daughter with
open arms. Their servant was dismissed, both for economy and
the better preservation of their secret. The good mother
charged herself with the care of the little household. Bianca,
whose white hands had been taught no such useful duties, set
about working the most charming embroidery. The father, who
earned his living as a copyist for public offices, gave out
that he had retained a clerk, and took home a double portion of
papers. All were employed, and the little family contrived to
"Meanwhile, it will be easily imagined how great a commotion
the flight of Bianca occasioned in the palace of the noble
Capello. During the whole of the first day they made no
pursuit, for they still, though with much anxiety, expected her
return. The day passed, however, without any news of the
fugitive; the flight, on the same morning, of Pietro
Bonaventuri was next reported; a thousand little incidents
which attracted no notice at the time were now brought back to
recollection, and the result of the whole was the clear
conviction that they had fled together. The influence of the
Capelli was such that the case was brought immediately before
the Council of Ten; and Pietro Bonaventuri was placed under the
ban of the Republic. The sentence of this tribunal was made
known to the government of Florence; and this government
authorized the Capelli, or the officers of the Venetian
Republic, to make all necessary search, not only in Florence,
but throughout all Tuscany. The search, however was unavailing.
Each one of the parties felt too great an interest in keeping
their secret, and Bianca herself never stirred from the
"Three months passed in this melancholy concealment, yet she
who had been habituated from infancy to all the indulgences of
wealth, never once breathed a word of complaint. Her only
recreation was to look down into the street through the sloping
blind. Now, amongst those who frequently passed across the
Place of St Mark was the young grand-duke, who went every other
day to see his father at his castle of Petraja. Francesco was
young, gallant, and handsome; but it was not his youth or
beauty that preoccupied the thoughts of Bianca, it was the idea
that this prince, as powerful as he seemed gracious, might, by
one word, raise the ban from Pietro Bonaventuri, and restore
both him and herself to freedom. It was this idea which kindled
a double lustre in the eyes of the young Venetian, as she
punctually at the hour of his passing, ran to the window, and
sloped the jalousie. One day, the prince happening to look up
as he passed, met the enkindled glance of his fair observer.
Bianca hastily retired."
What immediately follows need not be told at any length. Francesco was
enamoured: he obtained an interview. Bianca released and enriched her
lover, but became the mistress of the young duke. Pietro was quite
content with this arrangement; he had himself given the first example of
inconstancy. He entered upon a career of riotous pleasure, which ended
in a violent death.
Francesco, in obedience to his father, married a princess of the house
of Austria; but Bianca still retained her influence. His wife, who had
been much afflicted by this preference of her rival, died, and the
repentant widower swore never again to see Bianca. He kept the oath for
four months; but she placed herself as if by accident in his path, and
all her old power was revived. Francesco, by the death of his father,
became the reigning Duke of Tuscany, and Bianca Capello, his wife and
duchess. And now we arrive at that part of the story in which Ferdinand,
the brother of Francesco, and whose statue at Livorno led to this
history, enters on the scene.
"About three years after their nuptials, the young Archduke,
the issue of Francesco's previous marriage, died, leaving the
ducal throne of Tuscany without direct heir; failing which the
Cardinal Ferdinand would become Grand-duke at the death of his
brother. Now Bianca had given to Francesco one son; but,
besides that he was born before their marriage, and therefore
incapable of succeeding, the rumour had been spread that he was
supposititious. The dukedom, therefore, would descend to the
Cardinal if the Grand-duchess should have no other child; and
Francesco himself had begun to despair of this happiness, when
Bianca announced to him a second pregnancy.
"This time the Cardinal resolved to watch himself the
proceedings of his dear sister-in-law, lest he should be the
dupe of some new manoeuvre. He began, therefore, to cultivate
in an especial manner the friendship of his brother, declaring,
that the present condition of the Grand-duchess proved to him
how false had been the rumours spread touching her former
_accouchement_. Francesco, happy to find his brother in this
disposition, returned his advances with the utmost cordiality.
The Cardinal availed himself of this friendly feeling to come
and install himself in the Palace Pitti.
"The arrival of the Cardinal was by no means agreeable to
Bianca, who was not at all deceived as to the true cause of
this fraternal visit. She knew that, in the Cardinal, she had a
spy upon her at every moment. The spy, however, could detect
nothing that savoured of imposture. If her condition was
feigned, the comedy was admirably played. The Cardinal began to
think that his suspicions were unjust. Nevertheless, if there
were craft, the game he determined should be played out with
equal skill upon his side.
"The eventful day arrived. The Cardinal could not remain in the
chamber of Bianca, but he stationed himself in an antechamber,
through which every one who visited her must necessarily pass.
There he began to say his breviary, walking solemnly to and
fro. After praying and promenading thus for about an hour, a
message was brought to him from the invalid, requesting him to
go into another room, as his tread disturbed her. 'Let her
attend to her affairs, and I to mine,' was the only answer he
gave, and the Cardinal recommenced his walk and his prayer.
"Soon after this the confessor of the Grand-duchess entered--a
Capuchin, in a long robe. The Cardinal went up to him, and
embraced him in his arms, recommending his sister most
affectionately to his pious care. While embracing the good
monk, the Cardinal felt, or thought he felt, something strange
in his long sleeve. He groped under the Capuchin's robe, and
drew out--a fine boy.
"'My dear brother,' said the Cardinal, 'I am now more tranquil.
I am sure, at least, that my dear sister-in-law will not die
this time in childbirth.'
"The monk saw that all that remained was to avoid, if possible,
the scandal; and he asked the Cardinal himself what he should
do. The Cardinal told him to enter into the chamber of the
Duchess, whisper to her what had happened, and, as she acted,
so would he act. Silence should purchase silence; clamour,
"Bianca saw that she must renounce at present her design to
give a successor to the ducal crown; she submitted to a
miscarriage. The Cardinal, on his side, kept his word, and the
unsuccessful attempt was never betrayed.
"A few months passed on; there was an uninterrupted harmony
between the brothers, and Francesco invited the Cardinal, who
was fond of field-sports, to pass some time with him at a
country palace, famous for its preserves Of game.
"On the very day of his arrival, Bianca, who knew that the
Cardinal was partial to a certain description of tart,
bethought her to prepare one for him herself. This flattering
attention on the part of his sister-in-law was hinted to him by
Francesco, who mentioned it as a new proof of the Duchess's
amiability, but, as he had no great confidence in his
reconciliation with Bianca, it was an intimation which caused
him not a little disquietude. Fortunately, the Cardinal
possessed an opal, given to him by Pope Sixtus V., which had
the property of growing dim the moment it approached any
poisonous substance. He did not fail to make trial of it on the
tart prepared by Bianca. The opal grew dim and tarnished. The
Cardinal said, with an assumed air of carelessness, that, on
consideration, he would not eat to-day of the tart. The Duke
pressed him; but not being able to prevail--'Well,' said he,
'since Ferdinand will not eat of his favourite dish, it shall
not be said that a Grand-duchess had turned confectioner for
nothing--I will eat of it.' And he helped himself to a piece of
"Bianca was in the act of bending forward to prevent him--but
suddenly paused. Her position was horrible. She must either
avow her crime, or suffer her husband to poison himself. She
cast a quick retrospective glance along her past life; she saw
that she had exhausted all the pleasures of the world, and
attained to all its glories; her decision was rapid--as rapid
as on that day when she had fled from Venice with Pietro. She
also cut off a piece from the tart, and extending her hand to
her husband, she smiled, and, with her other hand, eat of the
"On the morrow, Francesco and Bianca were dead. A physician
opened their bodies by order of Ferdinand, and declared that
they had fallen victims to a malignant fever. Three days after,
the Cardinal threw down his red hat, and ascended the ducal
But presto! Mr Dumas is traveller as well as annalist He must leave the
Middle Ages to themselves; the present moment has its exigences; he must
look to himself and his baggage. He had great difficulty in doing this
on his landing at the Port of Livorno; and now, on his departure, he is
beset with _vetturini_. Let us recur to some of these miseries of
travel, which may at least claim a wide sympathy, for most of us are
familiar with them. It is not necessary even to leave our own island to
find how great an embarrassment too much help may prove, but we
certainly have nothing in our own experience quite equal to the lively
picture of M. Dumas:--
"I have visited many ports--I have traversed many towns--I have
contended with the porters of Avignon--with the _facchini_ of
Malta, and with the innkeepers of Messina, but I never entered
so villanous a place as Livorno.
"In every other country of the world there is some possibility
of defending your baggage, of bargaining for its transport to
the hotel; and if no treaty can be made, there is at least
liberty given to load your own shoulders with it, and be your
own porter. Nothing of this kind at Livorno. The vessel which
brings you has not yet touched the shore when it is boarded;
_commissionnaires_ absolutely rain upon you, you know not
whence; they spring upon the jetty, throw themselves on the
nearest vessel, and glide down upon you from the rigging.
Seeing that your little craft is in danger of being capsized by
their numbers, you think of self-preservation, and grasping
hold of some green and slimy steps, you cling there, like
Crusoe to his rock; then, after many efforts, having lost your
hat, and scarified your knees, and torn your nails, you at
length stand on the pier. So much for yourself. As to your
baggage, it has been already divided into as many lots as there
are articles; you have a porter for your portmanteau, a porter
for your dressing-case, a porter for your hat-box, a porter for
your umbrella, a porter for your cane. If there are two of you,
that makes ten porters; if three, fifteen; as we were four, we
had twenty. A twenty-first wished to take Milord (the dog,) but
Milord, who permits no liberties, took him by the calf, and we
had to pinch his tail till he consented to unlock his teeth.
The porter followed us, crying that the dog had lamed him, and
that he would compel us to make compensation. The people rose
in tumult; and we arrived at the _Pension Suisse_ with twenty
porters before us, and a rabble of two hundred behind.
"It cost us forty francs for our portmanteaus, umbrellas, and
canes, and ten francs for the bitten leg. In all, fifty
francs for about fifty steps."--P. 59.
 This was not the only case of compensation made out against
this travelling companion. "Milord," says our tourist, "in his
quality of bulldog, was so great a destroyer of cats, that we
judged it wise to take some precautions against overcharges in
this particular. Therefore, on our departure from Genoa, in
which town Milord had commenced his practices upon the feline
race of Italy, we enquired the price of a full-grown,
well-conditioned cat, and it was agreed on all hands that a cat
of the ordinary species--grey, white, and tortoiseshell--was
worth two pauls--(learned cats, Angora cats, cats with two
heads or three tails, are not, of course, included in this
tariff.) Paying down this sum for two several Genoese cats
which had been just strangled by our friend, we demanded a
legal receipt, and we added successively other receipts of the
same kind, so that this document became at length an
indisputable authority for the price of cats throughout all
Italy. As often as Milord committed a new assassination, and
the attempt was made to extort from us more than two pauls as
the price of blood, we drew this document from our pocket, and
proved beyond a cavil that two pauls was what we were
accustomed to pay on such occasions, and obstinate indeed must
have been the man or woman who did not yield to such a weight
This was on his landing at Livorno: on his departure he gives us an
account, equally graphic, of the _vetturini_:--
"A diligence is a creature that leaves at a fixed hour, and its
passengers run to it; a vetturino leaves at all hours, and runs
after its passengers. Hardly have you set your foot out of the
boat that brings you from the steam-vessel to the shore, than
you are assailed, stifled, dragged, deafened by twenty drivers,
who look on you as their merchandise, and treat you
accordingly, and would end by carrying you off bodily, if they
could agree among them who should have the booty. Families have
been separated at the port of Livorno, to find each other how
they could in the streets of Florence. In vain you jump into a
_fiacre_, they leap up before, above, behind; and at the gate
of the hotel, there you are in the midst of the same group of
villains, who are only the more clamorous for having been kept
waiting. Reduced to extremities, you declare that you have come
to Livorno upon commercial business, and that you intend
staying eight days at least, and you ask of the _garcon_, loud
enough for all to hear, if there is an apartment at liberty for
the next week. At this they will sometimes abandon the prey,
which they reckon upon seizing at some future time; they run
back with all haste to the port to catch some other traveller,
and you are free.
"Nevertheless, if about an hour after this you should wish to
leave the hotel, you will find one or two sentinels at the
gate. These are connected with the hotel, and they have been
forewarned by the _garcon_ that it will not be eight days
before you leave--that, in fact, you will leave to-morrow.
These it is absolutely necessary that you call in, and make
your treaty with. If you should have the imprudence to issue
forth into the street, fifty of the brotherhood will be
attracted by their clamours, and the scene of the port will be
renewed. They will ask ten piastres for a carriage--you will
offer five. They will utter piercing cries of dissent--you will
shut the door upon them. In three minutes one of them will
climb in at the window, and engage with you for the five
"This treaty concluded, you are sacred to all the world; in
five minutes the report is spread through all Livorno that you
are _engaged_. You may then go where you please; every one
salutes you, wishes you _bon voyage_; you would think yourself
amongst the most disinterested people in the world."--P. 94.
The only question that remains to be decided is that of the
drink-money--the _buona-mano_, as the Italian calls it. This is a matter
of grave importance, and should be gravely considered. On this
_buona-mano_ depends the rapidity of your journey; for the time may vary
at the will of the driver from six to twelve hours. Hereupon M. Dumas
tells an amusing story of a Russian prince, which not only proves how
efficient a cause this _buona mano_ may be in the accomplishment of the
journey, but also illustrates very forcibly a familiar principle of our
own jurisprudence, and a point to which the Italian traveller must pay
particular attention. We doubt if the necessity of a written agreement,
in order to enforce the terms of a contract, was ever made more
painfully evident than in the following instance:--
"The Prince C---- had arrived, with his mother and a German
servant, at Livorno. Like every other traveller who arrives at
Livorno, he had sought immediately the most expeditious means
of departure. These, as we have said, present themselves in
sufficient abundance; the only difficulty is, to know how to
"The vetturini had learnt from the industrious porters that
they had to deal with a prince. Consequently they demanded
twelve piastres instead of ten, and the prince, instead of
offering five, conceded the twelve piastres, but stipulated
that this should include every thing, especially the
_buona-mano_, which the master should settle with the driver.
'Very good,' said the vetturini; the prince paid his twelve
piastres, and the carriage started off, with him and his
baggage, at full gallop. It was nine o'clock in the morning:
according to his calculation, the Prince would be at Florence
about three or four in the afternoon.
"They had advanced about a quarter of a league when the horses
relaxed their speed, and began to walk step by step. As to the
driver, he sang upon his seat, interrupting himself now and
then to gossip with such acquaintances as he met upon the road;
and as it is ill talking and progressing at the same time, he
soon brought himself to a full stop when he had occasion for
"The prince endured this for some time; at length putting his
head out of the window, he said, in the purest Tuscan,
'_Avanti! avanti! tirate via!_'
"'How much do you give for _buona-mano_?' answered the driver,
turning round upon his box.
"'Why do you speak to me of your _buona-mano_?' said the prince.
'I have given your master twelve piastres, on condition that it
should include every thing.'
"'The _buona-mano_ does not concern the master,' responded the
driver; 'how much do you give?'
"'Not a sou--I have paid.'
"'Then, your excellence, we will continue our walk.'
"'Your master has engaged to take me to Florenco in six hours,'
said the Prince.
"'Where is the paper that says that--the written paper, your
"'Paper! what need of a paper for so simple a matter? I have no
"'Then, your excellence, we will continue our walk.'
"'Ah, we will see that!' said the Prince.
"'Yes, we _will_ see that!' said the driver.
"Hereupon the prince spoke to his German servant, Frantz, who
was sitting beside the coachman, and bade him administer due
correction to this refractory fellow.
"Frantz descended from the voiture without uttering a word,
pulled down the driver from his seat, and pummelled him with
true German gravity. Then pointing to the road, helped him on
his box, and reseated himself by his side. The driver
proceeded--a little slower than before. One wearies of all
things in this world, even of beating a coachman. The prince,
reasoning with himself that, fast or slow, he must at length
arrive at his journey's end, counselled the princess his mother
to compose herself to sleep; and, burying himself in one corner
of the carriage, gave her the example.
"The driver occupied six hours in going from Livorno to
Pontedera; just four hours more than was necessary. Arrived at
Pontedera, he invited the Prince to descend, as he was about to
change the carriage.
"'But,' said the Prince, 'I have given twelve piastres to your
master on condition that the carriage should not be changed.'
"'Where is the paper?'
"'Fellow, you know I have none.'
"'In that case, your excellence, we will change the carriage.'
"The prince was half-disposed to break the rascal's bones
himself; but, besides that this would have compromised his
dignity, he saw, from the countenances of those who stood
loitering round the carriage, that it would be a very imprudent
step. He descended; they threw his baggage down upon the
pavement, and after about an hour's delay, brought out a
miserable dislocated carriage and two broken-winded horses.
"Under any other circumstances the Prince would have been
generous--would have been lavish; but he had insisted upon his
right, he was resolved not to be conquered. Into this
ill-conditioned vehicle he therefore doggedly entered, and as
the new driver had been forewarned that there would be no
_buona-mano_, the equipage started amidst the laughter and
jeers of the mob.
"This time the horses were such wretched animals that it would
have been out of conscience to expect anything more than a walk
from them. It took six more hours to go from Pontedera to
"Arrived at Empoli the driver stopped, and presented himself at
the door of the carriage.
"'Your excellence sleeps here,' said he to the prince.
"'How! are we at Florence?'
"'No, your excellence, you are at the charming little town of
"'I paid twelve piastres to your master to go to Florence, not
to Empoli. I will sleep at Florence.'
"'Where is the paper?'
"'To the devil with your paper!'
"'Your excellence then has no paper?'
"'In that case, your excellence now will sleep at Empoli!'
"In a few minutes afterwards the prince found himself driven
under a kind of archway. It was a coach-house belonging to an
inn. On his expressing surprise at being driven into this sort
of place, and repeating his determination to proceed to
Florence, the coachman said, that, at all events, he must
change his horses; and that this was the most convenient place
for so doing. In fact, he took out his horses, and led them
"After waiting some time for his return, the prince called to
Frantz, and bade him open the door of this coach-house, and
"Frantz obeyed, but found the door shut--fastened.
"On hearing that they were shut in, the prince started from the
carriage, shook the gates with all his might, called out
lustily, and looked about, but in vain, for some paving stone
with which to batter them open.
"Now the prince was a man of admirable good sense; so, having
satisfied himself that the people in the house either could
not, or would not hear him, he determined to make the best of
his position. Re-entering the carriage, he drew up the glasses,
looked to his pistols, stretched out his legs, and wishing his
mother good night, went off to sleep. Frantz did the same on
his post. The princess was not so fortunate; she was in
perpetual terror of some ambush, and kept her eyes wide open
all the night.
"So the night passed. At seven o'clock in the morning the door
of the coach-house opened, and a driver appeared with a couple
"'Are there not some travellers for Florence here?' he asked
with the tone of perfect politeness, and as if he were putting
the most natural question in the world.
"The prince leapt from the carriage with the intention of
strangling the man--but it was another driver!
"'Where is the rascal that brought us here?' he demanded.
"'What, Peppino? Does your excellence mean Peppino?'
"'The driver from Pontedera?'
"'Ah, well, that was Peppino.'
"'Then where is Peppino?'
"'He is on his road home. Yes, your excellence. You see it was
the fete of the Madonna, and we danced and drank together--I
and Peppino--all the night; and this morning about an hour ago
says he to me, 'Gaetano, do you take your horses, and go find
two travellers and a servant who are under a coach-house at the
_Croix d'Or_; all is paid except the _buona-mano_.' And I asked
him, your excellence, how it happened that travellers were
sleeping in a coach-house instead of in a chamber. 'Oh,' said
he, 'they are English--they are afraid of not having clean
sheets, and so they prefer to sleep in their carriage in the
coach-house.' Now as I know the English are a nation of
originals, I supposed it was all right, and so I emptied
another flask, and got my horses, and here I am. If I am too
early I will return, and come by and by.
"'No, no, in the devil's name,' said the prince, 'harness your
beasts, and do not lose a moment. There is a piastre for your
"They were soon at Florence.
"The first care of the prince, after having breakfasted, for
neither he nor the princess had eaten any thing since they had
left Livorno, was to lay his complaint before a magistrate.
"'Where is the paper?' said the judicial authority.
"'I have none,' said the prince.
"'Then I counsel you,' replied the judge, 'to let the matter
drop. Only the next time give five piastres to the master, and
a piastre and a half to the driver; you will save five piastres
and a half, and arrive eighteen hours sooner.'"--P. 97.
M. Dumas, however, arrives at Florence without any such disagreeable
adventure as sleeping in a coach-house. He gives a pleasing description
of the Florentine people, amongst whom the spirit of commerce has died
away, but left behind a considerable share of the wealth and luxury that
sprang from it. There is little spirit of enterprise; no rivalry between
a class enriching itself and the class with whom wealth is hereditary;
the jewels that were purchased under the reign of the Medici still shine
without competitors on the promenade and at the opera. It is a people
that has made its fortune, and lives contentedly on its revenues, and on
what it gets from the stranger. "The first want of a Florentine," says
our author, "is repose; even pleasure is secondary; it costs him some
little effort to be amused. Wearied of its frequent political
convulsions, the town of the Medici aspires only to that unbroken and
enchanted slumber which fell, as the fairy tale informs us, on the
beautiful lady in the sleepy wood. No one here seems to labour, except
those who are tolling and ringing the church-bells, and they indeed
appear to have rest neither day nor night."
There are but three classes visible in Florence. The nobility--the
foreigner--and the people. The nobility, a few princely houses excepted,
spend but little, the people work but little, and it would be a marvel
how these last lived if it were not for the foreigner. Every autumn
brings them their harvest in the shape of a swarm of travellers from
England, France, or Russia, and, we may now add, America. The winter
pays for the long delicious indolence of the summer. Then the populace
lounges, with interminable leisure, in their churches, on their
promenades, round the doors of coffee-houses that are never closed
either day or night; they follow their religious processions; they
cluster with an easy good-natured curiosity round every thing that wears
the appearance of a fete; taking whatever amusement presents itself,
without caring to detain it, and quitting it without the least distrust
that some other quite as good will occupy its place. "One evening we
were roused," says our traveller, "by a noise in the street: two or
three musicians of the opera, on leaving the theatre, had taken a fancy
to go home playing a waltz. The scattered population of the streets
arranged themselves, and followed waltzing. The men who could find no
better partners, waltzed together. Five or six hundred persons were
enjoying this impromptu ball, which kept its course from the opera house
to the Port del Prato, where the last musician resided. The last
musician having entered his house, the waltzers returned arm-in-arm,
still humming the air to which they had been dancing."
"It follows," continues M. Dumas, "from this commercial apathy,
that at Florence you must seek after every thing you want. It
never comes of itself--never presents itself before
you;--everything there stays at home--rests in its own place. A
foreigner who should remain only a month in the capital of
Tuscany would carry away a very false idea of it. At first it
seems impossible to procure the things the most indispensable,
or those you do procure are bad; it is only after some time
that you learn, and that not from the inhabitants, but from
other foreigners who have resided there longer than yourself,
where anything is to be got. At the end of six months you are
still making discoveries of this sort; so that people generally
quit Tuscany at the time they have learned to live there. It
results from all this that every time you visit Florence you
like it the better; if you should revisit it three or four
times you would probably end by making of it a second country,
and passing there the remainder of your lives."
 It is amusing to contrast the _artistic_ manner in which
our author makes all his statements, with the style of a
guide-book, speaking on the manufactures and industry of
Florence. It is from Richard's _Italy_ we quote. Mark the
exquisite medley of humdrum, matter-of-fact details, jotted
down as if by some unconscious piece of mechanism:--"Florence
_manufactures_ excellent silks, woollen cloths, elegant
carriages, bronze articles, earthenware, straw hats, perfumes,
essences, _and candied fruits_; also, all kinds of turnery and
inlaid work, piano-fortes, philosophical and mathematical
instruments, &c. The dyes used at this city are much admired,
particularly the black, _and its sausages are famous throughout
Shall we visit the churches of Florence with M. Dumas? No, we are not in
the vein. Shall we go with him to the theatres--to the opera--to the
Pergola? Yes, but not to discuss the music or the dancing. Every body
knows that at the great theatres of Italy the fashionable part of the
audience pay very little attention to the music, unless it be a new
opera, but make compensation by listening devoutly to the ballet. The
Pergola is the great resort of fashion. A box at the Pergola, and a
carriage for the banks of the Arno, are the _indispensables_, we are
told, at Florence. Who has these, may eat his macaroni where he
pleases--may dine for sixpence if he will, or can: it is his own affair,
the world is not concerned about it--he is still a gentleman, and ranks
with nobles. Who has them not--though he be derived from the loins of
emperors, and dine every day off plate of gold, and with a dozen
courses--is still nobody. Therefore regulate your expenditure
accordingly, all ye who would be somebody. We go with M. Dumas to the
opera, not, as we have said, for the music or the dancing, but because,
as is the way with dramatic authors, he will there introduce us, for the
sake of contrast with an institution very different from that of an
"Sometimes in the midst of a cavatina or a _pas-de-deux_, a
bell with a sharp, shrill, excoriating sound, will be heard; it
is the bell _della misericordia_. Listen: if it sound but once,
it is for some ordinary accident; if twice, for one of a
serious nature; if it sounds three times, it is a case of
death. If you look around, you will see a slight stir in some
of the boxes, and it will often happen that the person you have
been speaking to, if a Florentine, will excuse himself for
leaving you, will quietly take his hat and depart. You inquire
what that bell means, and why it produces so strange an effect.
You are told it is the bell _della misericordia_, and that he
with whom you were speaking is a brother of the order.
"This brotherhood of mercy is one of the noblest institutions
in the world. It was founded in 1244, on occasion of the
frequent pestilences which at that period desolated the town,
and it has been perpetuated to the present day, without any
alteration, except in its details--with none in its purely
charitable spirit. It is composed of seventy-two brothers,
called chiefs of the watch, who are each in service four months
in the year. Of these seventy-two brothers, thirty are priests,
fourteen gentlemen, and twenty-eight artists. To these, who
represent the aristocratic classes and the liberal arts, are
added 500 labourers and workmen, who may be said to represent
"The seat of the brotherhood is in the place _del Duomo_. Each
brother has there, marked with his own name, a box enclosing a
black robe like that of the _penitents_, with openings only for
the eyes and mouth, in order that his good actions may have the
further merit of being performed in secret. Immediately that
the news of any accident or disaster is brought to the brother
who is upon guard, the bell sounds its alarm, once, twice, or
thrice, according to the gravity of the case; and at the sound
of the bell every brother, wherever he may be, is bound to
retire at the instant, and hasten to the rendezvous. There he
learns what misfortune or what suffering has claimed his pious
offices; he puts on his black robe and a broad hat, takes the
taper in his hand, and goes forth where the voice of misery has
called him. If it is some wounded man, they bear him to the
hospital; if the man is dead, to a chapel: the nobleman and the
day labourer, clothed with the same robe, support together the
same litter, and the link which unites these two extremes of
society is some sick pauper, who, knowing neither, is praying
equally for both. And when these brothers of mercy have quitted
the house, the children whose father they have carried out, or
the wife whose husband they have borne away, have but to look
around them, and always, on some worm-eaten piece of furniture,
there will be found a pious alms, deposited by an unknown hand.
"The Grand-duke himself is a member of this fraternity, and I
have been assured that more than once, at the sound of that
melancholy bell, he has clothed himself in the uniform of
charity, and penetrated unknown, side by side with a
day-labourer, to the bed's head of some dying wretch, and that
his presence had afterwards been detected only by the alms he
had left behind."--p. 126.
It is not to be supposed that our dramatist pursues the same direct and
unadventurous route that lies open to every citizen of Paris and London.
At the end of the first volume we leave him still at Florence; we open
the second, and we find him and his companion Jadin, and his companion's
dog Milord, standing at the port of Naples, looking out for some vessel
to take them to Sicily. So that we have travels in Italy with Rome left
out. Not that he did not visit Rome, but that we have no "souvenirs" of
his visit here. As the book is a mere _capriccio_, there can be no
possible objection taken to it on this score. Besides, the island of
Sicily, which becomes the chief scene of his adventures, is less beaten
ground. Nor do we hear much of Naples, for he quits Naples almost as
soon as he had entered it. This last fact requires explanation.
M. Dumas has had the honour to be an object of terror or of animosity to
crowned heads. When at Genoa, his Sardinian Majesty manifested this
hostility to M. Dumas--we presume on account of his too liberal
politics--by dispatching an emissary of the police to notify to him that
he must immediately depart from Genoa. Which emissary of his Sardinian
Majesty had no sooner delivered his royal sentence of deportation, than
he extended his hand for a _pour boire_. Either M. Dumas must be a far
more formidable person than we have any notion of, or majesty can be
very nervous, or very spiteful. And now, when he is about to enter
Naples----but why do we presume to relate M. Dumas's personal
adventures in any other language than his own? or language as near his
own as we--who are, we must confess, imperfect translators--can hope to
"The very evening of our arrival at Naples, Jadin and I ran to
the port to enquire if by chance any vessel, whether steam-boat
or sailing packet, would leave on the morrow for Sicily. As it
is not the ordinary custom for travellers to go to Naples to
remain there a few hours only, let me say a word on the
circumstance that compelled us to this hasty departure.
"We had left Paris with the intention of traversing the whole
of Italy, including Sicily and Calabria; and, putting this
project into scrupulous execution, we had already visited Nice,
Genoa, Milan, Florence, and Rome, when, after a sojourn of
about three weeks at this last city, I had the honour to meet,
at the Marquis de P----'s, our own _charge des affaires_, the
Count de Ludorf, the Neapolitan ambassador. As I was to leave
in a few days for Naples, the Marquis introduced me to his
brother in diplomacy. M. de Ludorf received me with that cold
and vacant smile which pledges to nothing; nevertheless, after
this introduction, I thought myself bound to carry to him our
passports myself. M. de Ludorf had the civility to tell me to
deposit the passports at his office, and to call there for them
the day after the morrow.
"Two days having elapsed, I accordingly presented myself at the
office: I found a clerk there, who, with the utmost politeness,
informed me that some difficulties having arisen on the subject
of my _visa_, I had better make an application to the
ambassador himself. I was obliged, therefore, whatever
resolution I had made to the contrary, to present myself again
to M. de Ludorf.
"I found the ambassador more cold, more measured than before,
but reflecting that it would probably be the last time I should
have the honour of seeing him, I resigned myself. He motioned
to me to take a chair. This was some improvement upon the last
visit; the last visit he left me standing.
"'Monsieur,' said he, with a certain air of embarrassment, and
drawing out, one after the other, the folds of his shirt-front,
'I regret to say that you cannot go to Naples.'
"'Why so?' I replied, determined to impose upon our dialogue
whatever tone I thought fit--'are the roads so bad?'
"'No, monsieur; the roads are excellent, but you have the
misfortune to be on the list of those who cannot enter the
kingdom of Naples.'
"'However honourable such a distinction may be, monsieur
l'ambassadeur,' said I, suiting my tone to the words, 'it will
at present be rather inconvenient, and I trust you will permit
me to inquire into the cause of this prohibition. If it is
nothing but one of those slight and vexatious interruptions
which one meets with perpetually in Italy, I have some friends
about the world who might have influence sufficient to remove
"'The cause is one of a grave nature, and I doubt if your
friends, of whatever rank they may be, will have influence to
"'What may it be?'
"'In the first place, you are the son of General Matthieu
Dumas, who was minister of war at Naples during the usurpation
"'I am sorry,' I answered, 'to be obliged to decline any
relationship with that illustrious general. My father was not
General Matthieu, but General Alexandre Dumas. The same,' I
continued, seeing that he was endeavouring to recall some
reminiscences connected with the name of Dumas, 'who, after
having been made prisoner at Tarentum, in contempt of the
rights of hospitality, was poisoned at Brindisi, with Mauscourt
and Dolomieu, in contempt of the rights of nations. This
happened, monsieur l'ambassadeur, at the same time that they
hanged Carracciolo in the Gulf of Naples. You see I do all I
can to assist your recollection.'
"M. de Ludorf bit his lips.
"'Well, monsieur,' he resumed after a moment's silence, 'there
is a second reason--your political opinions. You are marked out
as a republican, and have quitted Paris, it is said, on some
"'To which I answer, monsieur, by showing you my letters of
introduction. They bear nearly all the seals and signatures of
our ministers. Here is one from the Admiral Jacob, another from
Marshal Soult, another from M. de Villemain; they claim for me
the aid of the French ambassador in any case of this
"'Well, well,' said M. de Ludorf, 'since you have foreseen the
very difficulty that has occurred, meet it with those means
which are in your power. For me, I repeat, I cannot sign your
passport. Those of your companions are quite regular; they can
proceed when they please; but they must proceed without you.'
"'Has the Count de Ludorf' said I, rising, 'any commissions for
"'Why so, monsieur?'
"'Because I shall have great pleasure in undertaking them.'
"'But I repeat, you cannot go to Naples.'
"'I shall be there in three days.'
"I wished M. de Ludorf good morning, and left him stupefied at
my assurance."--Vol. ii. p. 5.
Our dramatical traveller ran immediately to a young friend, an artist
then studying at Rome, and prevailed on him to take out a passport, in
his own name for Naples. Fortified with this passport, and assuming the
name of his friend, he left Rome that evening. The following day he
reached Naples. But as he was exposed every moment to detection, it was
necessary that he should pass over immediately to Sicily. The
steam-boats at Naples, unlike the steam-boats every where else, start at
no fixed period. The captain waits for his contingent of passengers, and
till this has been obtained both he and his vessel are immovable. M.
Dumas and his companion, therefore, hired a small sailing vessel, a
_speronara_ as it is called, in which they embarked the next morning.
But before weighing anchor M. Dumas took from his portfolio the neatest,
purest, whitest, sheet of paper that it contained, and indited the
following letter to the Count de Ludorf:--
"Monsieur le Comte,
"I am distressed that your excellency did not think fit to
charge me with your commissions for Naples. I should have
executed them with a fidelity which would have convinced you of
the grateful recollection I retain of your kind offices.
"Accept, M. le Comte, the assurance of those lively sentiments
which I entertain towards you, and of which, one day or other,
I hope to give you proof.
"Naples, 23d Aug. 1835."
With the crew of this _speronara_ we became as familiar as with the
personages of a novel; and, indeed, about this time the novelist begins
to predominate over the tourist.
On leaving the bay of Naples our traveller first makes for the island of
Capri. The greatest curiosity which he here visits and describes in the
_azure grotto_. He and his companion are rowed, each in a small skiff,
to a narrow dark aperture upon the rocky coast, and which appears the
darker from its contrast with the white surf that is dashing about it.
He is told to lie down on his back in the boat, to protect his head from
a concussion against the low roof.
"In a moment after I was borne upon the surge--the bark glided
on with rapidity--I saw nothing but a dark rock, which seemed
for a second to be weighing on my chest. Then on a sudden I
found myself in a grotto so marvellous that I uttered a cry of
astonishment, and started up in my admiration with a bound
which endangered the frail bark on which I stood.
"I had before me, around me, above me, beneath me, a perfect
enchantment, which words cannot describe, and which the pencil
would utterly fail to give any impression of. Imagine an
immense cavern, all pure azure--as if God had made a tent there
with some residue of the firmament; a surface of water so
limpid, so transparent, that you seem to float on air: above
you, the pendant stalactites, huge and fantastical, reversed
pyramids and pinnacles: below you a sand of gold mingled with
marine vegetation; and around the margin of cave, where it is
bathed by the water, the coral shooting out its capricious and
glittering branches. That narrow entrance which, from the sea,
showed like a dark spot, now shone at one end a luminous point,
the solitary star which gave its subdued light to this fairy
palace; whilst at the opposite extremity a sort of alcove led
on the imagination to expect new wonders, or perhaps the
apparition of the nymph or goddess of the place.
"In all probability the azure grotto was unknown to the
ancients. No poet speaks of it; and surely with their
marvellous imagination the Greeks could not have failed to make
it the palace of some marine goddess, and to have transmitted
to us her history. The sea, perhaps, was higher than it is now,
and the secrets of this cave were known only to Amphitrite and
her court of sirens, naiads, and tritons.
"Even now at times the sea rises and closes the orifice, so
that those who have entered cannot escape. In which case they
must wait till the wind, which had suddenly shifted to the east
or west, returns to the north or south; and it has happened
that visitors who came to spend twenty minutes in the azure
grotto, have remained there two, three, and even four days. To
provide against such an emergency, the boatmen always bring
with them a certain quantity of biscuit to feed the prisoners,
and as the rock affords fresh water in several places, there is
no fear of thirst. It was not till we had been in the grotto
some time that our boatmen communicated this piece of
information; we were disposed to reproach them for this delay,
but they answered with the utmost simplicity, that if they told
this at first to travellers, half of them would decline coming,
and this would injure the boatmen.
"I confess that this little piece of information raised a
certain disquietude, and I found the azure grotto infinitely
less agreeable to the imagination.... We again laid ourselves
down at the bottom of our respective canoes, and issued forth
with the same precautions, and the same good fortune, with
which we had entered. But we were some minutes before we could
open our eyes; the burning sun upon the glittering ocean
absolutely blinded us. We had not gone many yards, however,
before the eye recovered itself, and all that we had seen in
the azure grotto had the consistency of a dream."
From Capri our travellers proceed to Sicily. We have a long story and a
violent storm upon the passage, and are landed at Messina. Here M. Dumas
enlarges his experience by an acquaintance with the _Sirocco_. His
companion, M. Jadin, had been taken ill, and a physician had been called
"The doctor had ordered that the patient (who was suffering
under a fever) should be exposed to all the air possible, that
doors and windows should be opened, and he should be placed in
the current. This was done; but on the present evening, to my
astonishment, instead of the fresh breeze of the night--which
was wont to blow the fresher from our neighbourhood to the
sea--there entered at the open window a dry hot wind like the
air from a furnace. I waited for the morning, but the morning
brought no change in the state of the atmosphere.
"My patient had suffered greatly through the night. I rang the
bell for some lemonade, the only drink the doctor had
recommended; but no one answered the summons. I rang again, and
a third time: still no one came; at length seeing that the
mountain would not come to me, I went to the mountain. I
wandered through the corridor, and entered apartment after
apartment, and found no one to address. It was nine o'clock in
the morning, yet the master and mistress of the house had not
left their room, and not a domestic was at his post. It was
"I descended to the portico; I found him lying on an old sofa
all in tatters, the principal ornament of his room, and asked
him why the house was thus deserted.
"'Ah, monsieur!' said he, 'do you not feel the sirocco?'
"'Sirocco or not, is this a reason why no one should come when
"'Oh, monsieur, when it is sirocco no one does any thing!'
"'And your travellers, who is to wait upon them?'
"'On those days they wait upon themselves.'
"I begged pardon of this respectable official for having
disturbed him; he heaved such a sigh as indicated that it
required a great amount of Christian charity to grant the
pardon I had asked.
"The hour arrived when the doctor should have paid his visit,
and no doctor came. I presumed that the sirocco detained him
also; but as the state of Jadin appeared to me alarming, I
resolved to go and rouse my Esculapius, and bring him, willing
or unwilling, to the hotel. I took my hat and sallied forth.
"Messina had the appearance of a city of the dead: not an
inhabitant was walking in the streets, not a head was seen at
the windows. The mendicants themselves (and he who has not seen
the Sicilian mendicant, knows not what wretchedness is,) lay in
the corners of the streets, stretched out, doubled up, panting,
without strength to stretch out their hand for charity, or
voice to ask an alms. Pompeii, which I visited three months
afterwards, was not more silent, more solitary, more inanimate.
"I reached the doctor's. I rang, I knocked, no one answered. I
pushed against the door, it opened;--I entered, and pursued my
search for the doctor.
"I traversed three or four apartments. There were women lying
upon sofas, and children sprawling on the floor. Not one even
raised a head to look at me. At last, in one of the rooms, the
door of which was, like the rest, half-open, I found the man I
was in quest of, stretched upon his bed.
"I went up to him, I took him by the hand, and felt his pulse.
"'Ah,' said he, with a melancholy voice, and scarcely turning
his head towards me, 'Is that you? What can you want?'
"'Want!--I want you to come and see my friend, who is no
better, as it seems to me.'
"'Go and see your friend!' cried the doctor, in a
"He made a desperate effort to move, and taking his cane in his
left hand, passed his right hand slowly down it, from the
golden head that adorned it to the other extremity. 'Look you,'
said he, 'my cane sweats.'
"And, in fact, there fell some globules of water from it, such
an effect has this terrible wind even on inanimate things.
"'Well,' said I, 'and what does that prove?'
"'That proves, that at such a time as this, there are no
physicians, all are patients.'"--P. 175.
 The extreme misery of the paupers in Sicily, who form, he
tells us, a tenth part of the population, quite haunts the
imagination of M. Dumas. He recurs to it several times. At one
place he witnesses the distribution, at the door of a convent,
of soup to these poor wretches, and gives a terrible
description of the famine-stricken group. "All these
creatures," he continues, "had eaten nothing since yesterday
evening. They had come there to receive their porringer of
soup, as they had come to-day, as they would come to-morrow.
This was all their nourishment for twenty-four hours, unless
some of them might obtain a few _grani_ from their
fellow-citizens, or the compassion of strangers; but this is
very rare, as the Syracusans are familiarized with the
spectacle, and few strangers visit Syracuse. When the
distributor of this blessed soup appeared, there were
unheard-of cries, and each one rushed forward with his wooden
bowl in his hand. Only there were some too feeble to exclaim,
or to run, and who dragged themselves forward, groaning, upon
their hands and knees. There was in the midst of all, a child
clothed, not in anything that could be called a shirt, but a
kind of spider's web, with a thousand holes, who had no wooden
bowl, and who wept with hunger. It stretched out its poor
little meagre hands, and joined them together, to supply as
well as it could, by this natural receptacle, the absent bowl.
The cook poured in a spoonful of the soup. The soup was
boiling, and burned the child's hand. It uttered a cry of pain,
and was compelled to open its fingers, and the soup fell upon
the pavement. The child threw itself on all fours, and began to
eat in the manner of a dog."--Vol. iii. p. 58.
And in another place he says, "Alas, this cry of hunger! it is
the eternal cry of Sicily; I have heard nothing else for three
months. There are miserable wretches, whose hunger has never
been appeased, from the day when, lying in their cradle, they
began to draw the milk from their exhausted mothers, to the
last hour when, stretched on their bed of death, they have
expired endeavouring to swallow the sacred host which the
priest had laid upon their lips. Horrible to think of! there
are human beings to whom, to have eaten once sufficiently,
would be a remembrance for all their lives to come."--Vol. iv.
Seeing there was no chance of bringing the doctor to the hotel, unless
he carried him there by main force, Mr Dumas contented himself with
relating the symptoms of his friend. To drink lemonade--much
lemonade--all the lemonade he could swallow, was the only prescription
that the physician gave. And the simple remedy seems to have sufficed;
for the patient shortly after recovered.
Not the least agreeable portion of these travels, is the pleasant
impression they leave of the traveller himself, one who has his humours
doubtless, but who is social, buoyant, brave, generous, and
enterprising. A Frenchman--as a chemist, in his peculiar language, would
say--is a creature "endowed with a considerable range of affinity." Our
traveller has this range of affinity; he wins the heart of all and
several--the crew of his _speronara._ We will close with the following
extract, both because it shows the frank and lively feelings of the
Frenchman, and because it introduces a name dear to all lovers of
melody. The father of Bellini was a Sicilian, and Dumas was in Sicily.
"It was while standing on this spot, that I asked my guide if
he knew the father of Bellini. At this question he turned, and
pointing out to me an old man who was passing in a little
carriage drawn by one horse--'Look you,' said he, 'there he is,
taking his ride into the country!'
"I ran to the carriage and stopped it, knowing that he is never
intrusive who speaks to a father of his son, and of such a son
as Bellini's. At the first mention of his name, the old man
took me by both hands, and asked me eagerly if I really knew
his son. I drew from my portfolio a letter of introduction,
which, on my departure from Paris, Bellini had given me for the
Duchess de Noja, and asked him if he knew the handwriting. He
took the letter in his hands, and answered only by kissing the
"'Ah,' said he, turning round to me, 'you know not how good he
is! We are not rich. Well, at each success there comes some
remembrance, something to add to the ease and comfort of an old
man. If you will come home with me, I will show you how many
things I owe to his goodness. Every success brings something
new. This watch I carry with me, was from _Norma_; this little
carriage and horse, from _the Puritans_. In every letter that
he writes, he says that he will come; but Paris is far from
Sicily. I do not trust to this promise--I am afraid that I
shall die without seeing him again. You will see him, you----'
"'Yes,' I answered, 'and if you have any commission----'
"'No--what should I send him?--My blessing?--Dear boy, I give
it him night and morning. But tell him you have given me a
happy day by speaking to me of him--tell him that I embraced
you as an old friend--(and he embraced me)--but you need not
say that I was in tears. Besides,' he added, 'it is with joy
that I weep.--And is it true that my son has a reputation?'
"'Indeed a very great reputation.'
"'How strange!' said the old man, 'who would have thought it,
when I used to scold him, because, instead of working, he would
be eternally beating time, and teaching his sister all the old
Sicilian airs! Well, these things are written above. I wish I
could see him before I die.--But your name?' he added, 'I have
forgotten all this time to ask your name.'
"I told him: it woke no recollection.
"'Alexandre Dumas, Alexandre Dumas,' he repeated two or three
times, 'I shall recollect that he who bears that name has given
me good news of my son. Adieu! Alexandre Dumas--I shall
recollect that name--Adieu!'
"Poor old man! I am sure he has not forgotten it; for the news
I gave him of his son was the last he was ever to receive."--P.
Sicily is one of those _romantic_ countries, where you may still meet
with adventures in your travels, where you may be shot at by banditti
with pointed hats and long guns. M. Dumas passes not without his share
of such adventures. Perhaps, as Sicily is less trodden ground than
Italy, his "Souvenirs" will be found more interesting as he proceeds. We
have naturally taken our quotations in the order in which they presented
themselves, and we have not advanced further than the second of the five
delectably small volumes in which these travels are printed. Would our
space permit us to proceed, it is probable that our extracts would
increase, instead of diminishing, in interest.
* * * * *
A TRUE TALE OF THE CAUCASUS. FROM THE RUSSIAN OF MARLINSKI.
_Fragments from the Diary of Ammalat Bek.--Translated from the Tartar_.
... Have I been asleep till now, or am I now in a dream?... This, then,
is the new world called _thought_!... O beautiful world! thou hast long
been to me cloudy and confused, like the milky way, which, they say,
consists of thousands of glittering stars! It seems to me that I am
ascending the mountain of knowledge from the valley of darkness and
ignorance; each step opens to me views further and more extensive.... My
breast breathes freer, I gaze in the face of the sun.... I look
below--the clouds murmur under my feet!... annoying clouds! You prevent
me from seeing the heavens from the earth; from the heaven to look upon
I wonder how the commonest questions, _whence_ and _how_, never before
came into my head? All God's world, with every thing in it good or evil,
was seen reflected in my soul as in the sea: I only knew as much of it
as the sea does, or a mirror. In my memory, it is true, much was
preserved: but to what end did this serve? Does the hawk understand why
the hood is put on his head? Does the steed understand why they shoe
him? Did I understand why in one place mountains are necessary, in
another steppes, here eternal snows, there oceans of sand? Why storms
and earthquakes were necessary? And thou, most wondrous being, Man! it
never has entered my head to follow thee from thy cradle, suspended on a
wandering mule, to that magnificent city which I have never seen, and
which I am enchanted merely to have heard of!... I confess that I am
already delighted with the mere outside of a book, without understanding
the meaning of the mysterious letters ... but V. not only makes
knowledge attractive, but gives me the means of acquiring it. With him,
as a young swallow with its mother, I try my new wings.... The distance
and the height still astonish, but no longer alarm me. The time will
come when I shall mount upwards to the heavens!...
* * * * *
... But yet, am I happy because V. and his books teach me to think? The
time was, when a spirited steed, a costly sabre, a good gun, delighted
me like a child. Now, that I know the superiority of mind over body, my
former pride in shooting or horsemanship appears to me ridiculous--nay,
even contemptible. Is it worth while to devote oneself to a trade, in
which the meanest broad-shouldered nouker can surpass me?... Is it worth
while to seek honour and happiness, of which the first wound may deprive
me--the first awkward leap? They have taken from me this plaything, but
with what have they replaced it?... With new wants, with new wishes,
which Allah himself can neither weary nor satisfy. I thought myself a
man of consequence; but now I am convinced of my own nothingness.
Formerly, to my memory, my grandfather and great-grandfather were at the
beginning of the night of the past, with its stories and dreaming
traditions.... The Caucasus contained my world, and I peacefully slept
in that night. I thought to be famous in Daghestan--the height of glory.
And what then? History has peopled my former desert with nations,
shattering each other for glory; with heroes, terrifying the nations by
valour to which we can never rise. And where are they? Half forgotten,
they have vanished in the dust of ages. The description of the earth
shows me that the Tartars occupy a little corner of the world; that they
are miserable savages in comparison with the European nations; and that
of the existence, not only of their brave warriors, but of the whole
nation, nobody thinks, nobody knows, nobody wishes to know. It is worth
while to be a glow-worm amongst insects. Was it worth while to expand my
mind, in order to be convinced of such a bitter truth?
* * * * *
What is the use of a knowledge of the powers of nature to me, when I
cannot change my soul, master my heart? The sea teaches me to build
dykes--but I cannot restrain my tears!... I can conduct the lightning
from the roof, but I cannot throw off my sorrows! Was I not unhappy
enough from my feelings alone, without calling around me my thoughts,
like greedy vultures? What does the sick man gain by knowing that his
disease is incurable?... The tortures of my hopeless love have become
sharper, more piercing, more various, since my intellect has been
* * * * *
No! I am unjust. Reading shortens for me the long winter-like night--the
hours of separation. In teaching me to fix on paper my flying thoughts,
V. has given me a heartfelt enjoyment. Some day I shall meet Seltanetta,
and I shall show her these pages; in which her name is written oftener
than that of Allah in the Koran. "These are the annals of my heart," I
shall say: "Look! on such a day thus thought about you--on such a night,
I saw you thus in my dreams! By these little leaves, as by a string of
diamond beads, you may count my sighs, my tears for you." O lovely, and
beloved being! you will often smile at my strange phantasies--long will
they supply matter for our conversations. But, by your side,
enchantress, shall I be able to remember the past?... No, no!... Every
thing before me, every thing around me, will then fade away, except the
present bliss--to be with you! O, how burning, and how light will my
soul be! Liquid sunshine will flow in my veins--I shall float in heaven,
like the sun! To forget all by your side is a bliss prouder than the
* * * * *
I have read stories of love, of the charms of woman--of the perfidy of
man--but no heroine approaches my Seltanetta in loveliness of soul or
body--not one of the heroes do I resemble--I envy them the fascination,
I admire the wisdom of lovers in books--but then, how weak, how cold is
their love! It is a moonbeam playing on ice! Whence come these European
babblers of Tharsis--these nightingales of the market-place--these
sugared confections of flowers? I cannot believe that people can love
passionately, and prate of their love--even as a hired mourner laments
over the dead. The spendthrift casts his treasure by handfuls to the
wind; the lover hides it, nurses it, buries it in his heart like a
* * * * *
I am yet young, and I ask "what is friendship?" I have a friend in V.--a
loving, real, thoughtful friend; yet I am not _his_ friend. I feel it, I
reproach myself that I do not reciprocate his regard as I ought, as he
deserves--but is in my power? In my soul there is no room for any one
but Seltanetta--in my heart there is no feeling but love.
* * * * *
No! I cannot read, I cannot understand what the Colonel explains to me.
I cheated myself when I thought that the ladder of science could be
climbed by me ... I am weary at the first steps, I lose my way on the
first difficulty, I entangle the threads, instead of unravelling them--I
pull and tear them--and I carry off nothing of the prey but a few
fragments. The _hope_ which the Colonel held out to me I mistook for my
own progress. But who--what--impedes this progress? That which makes the
happiness and misery of my life--love. In every place, in every thing, I
hear and see Seltanetta--and often Seltanetta alone. To banish her from
my thoughts I should consider sacrilege; and, even if I wished, I could
not perform the resolution. Can I see without light? Can I breathe
without air? Seltanetta is my light, my air, my life, my soul!
* * * * *
My hand trembles--my heart flutters in my bosom. If I wrote with my
blood, 'twould scorch the paper. Seltanetta! your image pursues me
dreaming or awake. The image of your charms is more dangerous than the
reality. The thought that I may never possess them, touch them, see
them, perhaps, plunges me into an incessant melancholy--at once I melt
and burn. I recall each lovely feature, each attitude of your exquisite
person--that little foot, the seal of love, that bosom, the gem of
bliss! The remembrance of your voice makes my soul thrill like the chord
of an instrument--ready to burst from the clearness of its tone--and
your kiss! that kiss in which I drank your soul! It showers roses and
coals of fire upon my lonely bed--I burn--my hot lips are tortured by
the thirst for caresses--my hand longs to clasp your waist--to touch
your knees! Oh, come--Oh, fly to me--that I may die in delight, as now I
do in weariness!
* * * * *
Colonel Verkhoffsky, endeavouring by every possible means to divert
Ammalat's grief, thought of amusing him with a boar-hunt, the favourite
occupation of the Beks of Daghestan. In answer to his summons, there
assembled about twenty persons, each attended by his noukers, each eager
to try his fortune, or to gallop about the field and vaunt his courage.
Already had grey December covered the tops of the surrounding mountains
with the first-fallen snow. Here and there in the streets of Derbend lay
a crust of ice, but over it the mud rolled in sluggish waves along the
uneven pavement. The sea lazily plashed against the sunken turrets of
the walls which descended to the water, a flock of bustards and of geese
whizzed through the fog, and flew with a complaining cry above the
ramparts; all was dark and melancholy--even the dull and tiresome
braying of the asses laden with faggots for the market, sounded like a
dirge over the fine weather. The old Tartars sat in the bazars, wrapping
their shoubes over their noses. But this is exactly the weather most
favourable to hunters. Hardly had the moollahs of the town proclaimed
the hour of prayer, when the Colonel, attended by several of his
officers, the Beks of the city, and Ammalat, rode, or rather swam,
through the mud, leaving the town in the direction of the north, through
the principal gate Keerkhlar Kapi, which is covered with iron plates.
The road leading to Tarki is rude in appearance, bordered for a few
paces to the right and left with beds of madder--beyond them lie vast
burying-grounds, and further still towards the sea, scattered gardens.
But the appearance of the suburbs is a great deal more magnificent than
those of the Southern ones. To the left, on the rocks were seen the
Keifars, or barracks of the regiment of Kourin; while on both sides of
the road, fragments of rock lay in picturesque disorder, rolled down in
heaps by the violence of the mountain-torrents. A forest of ilex,
covered with hoar-frost, thickened as it approached Vellikent, and at
each verst the retinue of Verkhoffsky was swelled by fresh arrivals of
_Beglar_ and _Agalar_. The hunting party now turned to the left, and
they speedily heard the cry of the _ghayalstchiks_ assembled from the
surrounding villages. The hunters formed into an extended chain, some on
horseback, and some running on foot; and soon the wild-boars also began
to show themselves.
 _Lar_ is the Tartar plural of all substantives.
 Beaters for the game.
The umbrageous oak-forests of Daghestan have served, from time
immemorial, as a covert for innumerable herds of wild hogs; and although
the Tartars--like the Mussulmans--hold it a sin not only to eat, but
even to touch the unclean animal, they consider it a praiseworthy act to
destroy them--at least they practise the art of shooting on these
beasts, as well as exhibit their courage, because the chase of the
wild-boar is accompanied by great danger, and requires cunning and
The lengthened chain of hunters occupied a wide extent of ground; the
most fearless marksmen selecting the most solitary posts, in order to
divide with no one else the glory of success, and also because the
animals make for those points where there are fewer people. Colonel
Verkhoffsky, confident in his gigantic strength and sure eye, posted
himself in the thickest of the wood, and halted at a small savannah to
which converged the tracks of numerous wild-boars. Perfectly alone,
leaning against the branch of a fallen tree, he awaited his game.
Interrupted shots were heard on the right and left of his station; for a
moment a wild-boar appeared behind the trees; at length the bursting
crash of falling underwood was heard, and immediately a boar of uncommon
size darted across the field like a ball fired from a cannon. The
Colonel took his aim, the bullet whistled, and the wounded monster
suddenly halted, as if in surprise--but this was but for an instant--he
dashed furiously in the direction whence came the shot. The froth smoked
from his red-hot tusks, his eye burned in blood, and he flew at the
enemy with a grunt. But Verkhoffsky showed no alarm, waiting for the
nearer approach of the brute: a second time clicked the cock of his
gun--but the powder was damp and missed fire. What now remained for the
hunter? He had not even a dagger at his girdle--flight would have been
useless. As if by the anger of fate, not a single thick tree was near
him--only one dry branch arose from the oak against which he had leaned;
and Verkhoffsky threw himself on it as the only means of avoiding
destruction. Hardly had he time to clamber an arschine and a half
from the ground, when the boar, enraged to fury, struck the branch with
his tusks--it cracked from the force of the blow and the weight which
was supported by it.... It was in vain that Verkhoffsky tried to climb
higher--the bark was covered with ice--his hands slipped--he was sliding
downwards; but the beast did not quit the tree--he gnawed it--he
attacked it with his sharp tusks a _tchetverin_ below the feet of the
hunter. Every instant Verkhoffsky expected to be sacrificed, and his
voice died away in the lonely space in vain. No, not in vain! The sound
of a horse's hoofs was heard close at hand, and Ammalat Bek galloped up
at full speed with uplifted sabre. Perceiving a new enemy, the wild-boar
turned at him, but a sideway leap of the horse decided the battle--a
blow from Ammalat hurled him on the earth.
 Rather less than an English yard.
The rescued Colonel hurried to embrace his friend, but the latter was
slashing, mangling, in a fit of rage, the slain beast. "I accept not
unmerited thanks," he answered at length, turning from the Colonel's
embrace. "This same boar gored before my eyes a Bek of Tabasoran, my
friend, when he, having missed him, had entangled his foot in the
stirrup. I burned with anger when I saw my comrade's blood, and flew in
pursuit of the boar. The closeness of the wood prevented me from
following his track; I had quite lost him; and God has brought me hither
to slay the accursed brute, when he was on the point of sacrificing a
yet nobler victim--you, my benefactor."
"Now we are quits, dear Ammalat. Do not talk of past events. This day
our teeth shall avenge us on this tusked foe. I hope you will not refuse
to taste the forbidden meat, Ammalat?"
"Not I! nor to wash it down with champagne, Colonel. Without offence to
Mahomet, I had rather strengthen my soul with the foam of the wine, than
with the water of the true believer."
The hunt now turned to the other side. From afar were heard cries and
hallooing, and the drums of the Tartars in the chase. From time to time
shots rang through the air. A horse was led up to the Colonel: and he,
feasting his sight with the boar, which was almost cut in two, patted
Ammalat on the shoulder, crying "A brave blow!"
"In that blow exploded my revenge," answered the Bek; "and the revenge
of an Asiatic is heavy."
"You have seen, you have witnessed," replied the Colonel, "how injury is
avenged by Russians--that is, by Christians; let this be not a reproach,
but--a lesson to you."
And they both galloped off towards the Line.
Ammalat was remarkably absent--sometimes he did not answer at all--at
others, he answered incoherently to the questions of Verkhoffsky, by
whom he rode, gazing abstractedly around him. The Colonel, thinking
that, like an eager hunter, he was engrossed by the sport, left him, and
rode forward. At last, Ammalat perceived him whom he was so impatiently
expecting, his hemdjek, Saphir Ali, flew to meet him, covered with mud,
and mounted on a smoking horse. With cries of "Aleikoum Selam," they
both jumped off their horses, and were immediately locked in each
"And so you have been there--you have seen her--you have spoken to her?"
cried Ammalat, tearing off his kaftan, and choking with agitation. "I
see by your face that you bring good news; here is my new _tchoukha_
for you for that. Does she live? Is she well? Does she love me as
 The Tartars have an invariable custom, of taking off some
part of their dress and giving it to the bearer of good news.
"Let me recollect myself," answered Saphir Ali. "Let me take breath. You
have put so many questions, and I myself are charged with so many
commissions, that they are crowding together like old women at the door
of the mosque, who have lost their shoes. First, at your desire, I have
been to Khounzakh. I crept along so softly, that I did not scare a
single thrush by the road. Sultan Akhmet Khan is well, and at home. He
asked about you with great anxiety, shook his head, and enquired if you
did not want a spindle to dry the silk of Derbend. The khansha sends you
tchokh selammoum, (many compliments,) and as many sweet cakes. I threw
them away, the confounded things, at the first resting-place.
"The devil take them all! What about Seltanetta?"
"Aha! at last I have touched the chilblain of your heart. Seltanetta, my
dear Ammalat, is as beautiful as the starry sky; but in that heaven I
saw no light, until I conversed about you. Then she almost threw herself
on my neck when we were left alone together, and I explained the cause
of my arrival. I gave her a camel-load of compliments from you--told her
that you were almost dead with love--poor fellow!--and she burst into
"Kind, lovely soul! What did she tell you to say to me?"
"Better ask what she did not. She says that, from the time that you left
her, she has never rejoiced even in her dreams; that the winter snow has
fallen on her heart, and that nothing but a meeting with her beloved,
like a vernal sun, can melt it.... But if I were to continue to the end
of her messages, and you were to wait to the end of my story, we should
both reach Derbend with grey beards. Spite of all this, she almost drove
me away, hurrying me off, lest you should doubt her love!"
"Darling of my soul! you know not--I cannot explain what bliss it is to
be with thee, what torment to be separated from thee, not to see thee!"
"That is exactly the thing, Ammalat; she grieves that she cannot rejoice
her eyes with a sight of him whom she never can be weary of gazing at.
'Is it possible,' she says, 'that he cannot come but for one little day,
for one short hour, one little moment?'"
"To look on her, and then die, I would be content!"
"Ah, when you behold her, you will wish to live. She is become quieter
than she was of old; but even yet she is so lively, that when you see
her your blood sparkles within you."
"Did you tell her why it is not in my power to do her will, and to
accomplish my own passionate desire?"
"I related such tales that you would have thought me the Shah of
Persia's chief poet. Seltanetta shed tears like a fountain after rain.
She does nothing else but weep."
"Why, then, reduce her to despair? 'I cannot now' does not mean 'it is
for ever impossible.' You know what a woman's heart is, Saphir Ali: for
them the end of hope is the end of love."
"You sow words on the wind, djannion (my soul.) Hope, for lovers, is a
skein of worsted--endless. In cool blood, you do not even trust your
eyes; but fall in love, and you will believe in ghosts. I think that
Seltanetta would hope that you could ride to her from your coffin--not
only from Derbend."
"And how is Derbend better than a coffin to me? Does not my heart feel
its decay, without power to escape it? Here is only my corpse: my soul
is far away."
"It seems that your senses often take the whim of walking I know not
where, dear Ammalat. Are you not well at Verkhoffsky's--free and
contented? beloved as a younger brother, caressed like a bride? Grant
that Seltanetta is lovely: there are not many Verkhoffskys. Cannot you
sacrifice to friendship a little part of love?"
"Am not I then doing so, Saphir Ali? But if you knew how much it costs
me! It is as if I tore my heart to pieces. Friendship is a lovely thing,
but it cannot fill the place of love."
"At least, it can console us for love--it can relieve it. Have you
spoken about this to the Colonel?"
"I cannot prevail on myself to do so. The words die on my lips, when I
would speak of my love. He is so wise, that I am ashamed to annoy him
with my madness. He is so kind, that I dare not abuse his patience. To
say the truth, his frankness invites, encourages mine. Figure to
yourself that he has been in love since his childhood with a maiden, to
whom he was plighted, and whom he certainly would have married if his
name had not been by mistake put into a list of killed during the war
with the Feringhis. His bride shed tears, but nevertheless was given
away in marriage. He flies back to his country, and finds his beloved
the wife of another. What, think you, should I have done in such a case?
Plunged a dagger in the breast of the robber of my treasure!--carried
her away to the end or the world to possess her but one hour, but one
moment! Nothing of this kind happened. He learned that his rival was an
excellent and worthy man. He had the calmness to contract a friendship
with him: had the patience to be often in the society of his former
love, without betraying, either by word or deed, his new friend or his
still loved mistress."
"A rare man, if this be true!" exclaimed Saphir Ali, with feeling,
throwing away his reins. "A stout friend indeed!"
"But what an icy lover! But this is not all. To relieve both of them
from misrepresentation and scandal, he came hither on service. Not long
ago--for his happiness or unhappiness--his friend died. And what then?
Do you think he flew to Russia. No! his duty kept him away. The
Commander-in-chief informed him that his presence was indispensable here
for a year more, and he has remained--cherishing his love with hope. Can
such a man, with all his goodness, understand such a passion as mine?
And besides, there is such a difference between us in years, in
opinions. He kills me with his unapproachable dignity; and all this
cools my friendship, and impedes my sincerity."
"You are a strange fellow, Ammalat; you do not love Verkhoffsky for the
very reason that he most merits frankness and affection!"
"Who told you that I do not love him? How can I but love the man who has
educated me--my benefactor? Can I not love any one but Seltanetta? I
love the whole world--all men!"
"Not much love, then, will fall to the share of each!" said Saphir Ali.
"There would be enough not only to quench the thirst, but to drown the
whole world!" replied Ammalat, with a smile.
"Aha! This comes of seeing beauties unveiled--and then to see nothing
but the veil and the eyebrows. It seems that you are like the
nightingales of Ourmis; you must be caged before you can sing!"
Conversing in this strain, the two friends disappeared in the depths of
FRAGMENT OF A LETTER FROM COLONEL VERKHOFFSKY TO HIS BETROTHED.
Fly to, me, heart of my heart, dearest Maria! Rejoice in the sight of a
lovely vernal night in Daghestan. Beneath me lies Derbend, slumbering
calmly, like a black streak of lava flowing from the Caucasus and cooled
in the sea. The gentle breeze bears to me the fragrant odour of the
almond-trees, the nightingales are calling to each other from the
rock-crevices, behind the fortress: all breathes of life and love; and
beautiful nature, full of this feeling, covers herself with a veil of
mists. And how wonderfully has that vaporous ocean poured itself over
the Caspian! The sea below gleams wavingly, like steel damasked with
gold on an escutcheon--that above swells like a silver surge lighted by
the full moon, which rolls along the sky like a cup of gold, while the
stars glitter around like scattered drops. In a moment, the reflection
of the moonbeams in the vapours of the night changes the picture,
anticipating the imagination, now astounding by its marvels--now
striking by its novelty. Sometimes I seem to behold the rocks of the
wild shore, and the waves beating against them in foam. The billows roll
onward to the charge: the rocky ramparts repel the shock, and the surf
flies high above them; but silently and slowly sink the waves, and the
silver palms arise from the midst of the inundation, the breeze stirs
their branches, playing with the long leaves, and they spread like the
sails of a ship gliding over the airy ocean. Do you see how she rolls
along, how the spray-drops sparkle on her breast, how the waves slide
along her sides. And where is she?... and where am I?... You cannot
imagine, dearest Maria, the sweetly solemn feeling produced in me by the
sound and sight of the sea. To me, the idea of eternity is inseparable
from it; of immensity--of our love. That love seems to me, like it,
infinite--eternal. I feel as if my heart overflowed to embrace the
world, even as the ocean, with its bright waves of love. It is in me and
around me; it is the only great and immortal feeling which I possess.
Its spark lights and warms me in the winter of my sorrows, in the
midnight of my doubts. Then I love so blindly! I believe so ardently!
You smile at my fantasy, friend and companion of my soul. You wonder at
this dark language; blame me not. My spirit, like the denizen of another
world, cannot bear the chill and frosty moonlight--it shakes off the
dust of the grave; it soars away, and, like the moonlight, dimly
discovers all things darkly and uncertainly. You know that it is to you
alone that I write down the pictures which fall on the magic-glass of my
heart, assured that you will guess, not with cold criticism, but with
the heart, what I would describe. Besides, next August, your happy
bridegroom will himself explain all the dark passages in his letters. I
cannot think without ecstasy of the moment of our meeting. I count the
sand-grains of the hours which separate us. I count the versts which lie
between us. And so in the middle of June you will be at the waters of
the Caucasus. And nought but the icy chain of the Caucasus will be
between two ardent hearts.... How near--yet how immeasurably far shall
we be from each other! Oh! how many years of life would I not give to
hasten the hour of our meeting! Long, long, have our hearts been
plighted.... Why have they been separated till now?
My friend Ammalat is not frank or confiding. I cannot blame him. I know
how difficult it is to break through habits imbibed with a mother's
milk, and with the air of one's native land. The barbarian despotism of
Persia, which has so long oppressed Aderbidjan, has instilled the basest