Part 1 out of 9
Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Charlie Kirschner and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.
J. FENIMORE COOPER
Without star or angel for their guide,
Who worship God shall find him."
It is difficult to say of which there is most in the world, a blind
belief in religious dogmas, or a presumptuous and ignorant cavilling on
revelation. The impression has gone abroad, that France was an example
of the last, during the height of her great revolutionary mania; a
charge that was scarcely true, as respects the nation, however just it
might be in connection with her bolder and more unquiet spirits. Most of
the excesses of France, during that momentous period, were to be
attributed to the agency of a few, the bulk of the nation having little
to do with any part of them, beyond yielding their physical and
pecuniary aid to an audacious and mystifying political combination. One
of the baneful results, however, of these great errors of the times, was
the letting loose of the audacious from all the venerable and healthful
restraints of the church, to set them afloat on the sea of speculation
and conceit. There is something so gratifying to human vanity in
fancying ourselves superior to most around us, that we believe few young
men attain their majority without imbibing more or less of the taint of
unbelief, and passing through the mists of a vapid moral atmosphere,
before they come to the clear, manly, and yet humble perceptions that
teach most of us, in the end, our own insignificance, the great
benevolence as well as wisdom of the scheme of redemption, and the
philosophy of the Christian religion, as well as its divinity.
Perhaps the greatest stumbling-block of the young is a disposition not
to yield to their belief unless it conforms to their own crude notions
of propriety and reason. If the powers of man were equal to analyzing
the nature of the Deity, to comprehending His being, and power, and
motives, there would be some little show of sense in thus setting up the
pretence of satisfying our judgments in all things, before we yield our
credence to a religious system. But the first step we take brings with
it the instructive lesson of our incapacity, and teaches the wholesome
lesson of humility. From arrogantly claiming a right to worship a deity
we comprehend, we soon come to feel that the impenetrable veil that is
cast around the Godhead is an indispensable condition of our faith,
reverence, and submission, A being that can be comprehended is not a
being to be worshipped.
In this book, there is an attempt to set these conflicting tendencies in
a full but amicable contrast to each other, We believe there is nothing
in the design opposed to probability; and it seems to us, that the
amiable tenderness of a confiding but just-viewing female heart might,
under the circumstances, be expected to manifest the mingled weakness
and strength that it has here been our aim to portray.
We acknowledge a strong paternal feeling in behalf of this book, placing
it very high in the estimate of its merits, as compared with other books
from the same pen: a species of commendation that need wound no man.
Perhaps some knowledge of Italian character is necessary to enjoy the
_vice-governatore_ (veechy-gov-er-na-_to_-re), and the _podesta_; but we
confess they have given us, in reading over these pages for the first
time since they were written, quite as much amusement as if they were
altogether from an unknown hand.
As for the Mediterranean, that unrivalled sea, its pictures always
afford us delight. The hue of the water; the delicious and voluptuous
calm; the breathings of the storm from the Alps and Apennines; the noble
mountain-sides basking in the light of the region or shrouded in mists
that increase their grandeur; the picturesque craft; the islands, bays,
rocks, volcanoes, and the thousand objects of art, contribute to render
it the centre of all that is delightful and soothing to both the mind
and the senses.
The reader will recollect the painful history of Caraccioli. We have
taken some liberties with his private history, admitting frankly that we
have no other authority for them than that which we share in common with
all writers of romance. The grand-daughter we have given the unfortunate
admiral is so much in accordance with Italian practices that no wrong is
done to the _morale_ of Naples, whatever may be the extent of the
liberty taken with the individual.
Nelson seems to have lived and died under the influence of the
unprincipled woman who then governed him with the arts of a siren. His
nature was noble, and his moral impressions, even, were not bad; but his
simple and confiding nature was not equal to contending with one as
practised in profligacy as the woman into whose arms he was thrown, at a
most evil moment for his reputation.
There is nothing more repugnant to the general sense of rights, than the
prostitution of public justice to the purposes of private vengeance.
Such would seem to have been the reason of the very general odium
attached to the execution of Admiral Prince Caraccioli, who was the
victim of circumstances, rather than the promoter of treason. The whole
transaction makes a melancholy episode in the history of modern Europe.
We have made such use of it as is permitted to fiction, neither
neglecting the leading and known facts of the event, nor adhering to the
minuter circumstances more closely than the connection of our
"Filled with the face of heaven, which from afar
Comes down upon the waters; all its hues,
From the rich sunset to the rising star,
Their magical variety diffuse:
And now they change: a paler shadow strews
Its mantle o'er the mountains; parting day
Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
With a new color as it gasps away,
The last still loveliest, till--'tis gone--and all is grey."
The charms of the Tyrrhenian Sea have been sung since the days of Homer.
That the Mediterranean generally, and its beautiful boundaries of Alps
and Apennines, with its deeply indented and irregular shores, forms the
most delightful region of the known earth, in all that relates to
climate, productions, and physical formation, will be readily enough
conceded by the traveller. The countries that border on this midland
water, with their promontories buttressing a mimic ocean--their
mountain-sides teeming with the picturesque of human life--their heights
crowned with watch-towers--their rocky shelves consecrated by
hermitages, and their unrivalled sheet dotted with sails, rigged, as it
might be, expressly to produce effect in a picture, form a sort of world
apart, that is replete with charms which not only fascinate the
beholder, but which linger in the memories of the absent like visions of
a glorious past.
Our present business is with this fragment of a creation that is so
eminently beautiful, even in its worst aspects, but which is so often
marred by the passions of man, in its best. While all admit how much
nature has done for the Mediterranean, none will deny that, until quite
recently, it has been the scene of more ruthless violence, and of deeper
personal wrongs, perhaps, than any other portion of the globe. With
different races, more widely separated by destinies than even by origin,
habits, and religion, occupying its northern and southern shores, the
outwork, as it might be, of Christianity and Mohammedanism, and of an
antiquity that defies history, the bosom of this blue expanse has
mirrored more violence, has witnessed more scenes of slaughter, and
heard more shouts of victory, between the days of Agamemnon and Nelson,
than all the rest of the dominions of Neptune together. Nature and the
passions have united to render it like the human countenance, which
conceals by its smiles and godlike expression the furnace that so often
glows within the heart, and the volcano that consumes our happiness. For
centuries, the Turk and the Moor rendered it unsafe for the European to
navigate these smiling coasts; and when the barbarian's power
temporarily ceased, it was merely to give place to the struggles of
those who drove him from the arena.
The circumstances which rendered the period that occurred between the
years 1790 and 1815 the most eventful of modern times are familiar to
all; though the incidents which chequered that memorable quarter of a
century have already passed into history. All the elements of strife
that then agitated the world appear now to have subsided as completely
as if they owed their existence to a remote age; and living men recall
the events of their youth as they regard the recorded incidents of other
centuries. Then, each month brought its defeat or its victory; its
account of a government overturned, or of a province conquered. The
world was agitated like men in a tumult. On that epoch the timid look
back with wonder; the young with doubt; and the restless with envy.
The years 1798 and 1799 were two of the most memorable of this
ever-memorable period; and to that stirring and teeming season we must
carry the mind of the reader in order to place it in the midst of the
scenes it is our object to portray.
Toward the close of a fine day in the month of August, a light,
fairy-like craft was fanning her way before a gentle westerly air into
what is called the Canal of Piombino, steering easterly. The rigs of the
Mediterranean are proverbial for their picturesque beauty and
quaintness, embracing the xebeque, the felucca, the polacre, and the
bombarda, or ketch; all unknown, or nearly so, to our own seas; and
occasionally the lugger. The latter, a species of craft, however, much
less common in the waters of Italy than in the Bay of Biscay and the
British Channel, was the construction of the vessel in question; a
circumstance that the mariners who eyed her from the shores of Elba
deemed indicative of mischief. A three-masted lugger, that spread a wide
breadth of canvas, with a low, dark hull, relieved by a single and
almost imperceptible line of red beneath her channels, and a waist so
deep that nothing was visible above it but the hat of some mariner
taller than common, was considered a suspicious vessel; and not even a
fisherman would have ventured out within reach of a shot, so long as her
character was unknown. Privateers, or corsairs, as it was the fashion to
term them (and the name, with even its English signification, was often
merited by their acts), not unfrequently glided down that coast; and it
was sometimes dangerous for those who belonged to friendly nations to
meet them, in moments when the plunder that a relic of barbarism still
legalizes had failed.
The lugger was actually of about one hundred and eighty tons
admeasurement, but her dark paint and low hull gave her an appearance of
being much smaller than she really was; still, the spread of her canvas,
as she came down before the wind, wing-and-wing, as seamen term it, or
with a sail fanning like the heavy pinions of a sea-fowl, on each side,
betrayed her pursuits; and, as has been intimated, the mariners on the
shore who watched her movements shook their heads in distrust as they
communed among themselves, in very indifferent Italian, concerning her
destination and object. This observation, with its accompanying
discourse, occurred on the rocky bluff above the town of Porto Ferrajo,
in the Island of Elba, a spot that has since become so renowned as the
capital of the mimic dominion of Napoleon. Indeed, the very dwelling
which was subsequently used by the fallen emperor as a palace stood
within a hundred yards of the speakers, looking out toward the entrance
of the canal, and the mountains of Tuscany; or rather of the little
principality of Piombino, the system of merging the smaller in the
larger states of Europe not having yet been brought into extensive
operation. This house, a building of the size of a better sort of
country residence of our own, was then, as now, occupied by the
Florentine governor of the Tuscan portion of the island. It stands on
the extremity of a low rocky promontory that forms the western ramparts
of the deep, extensive bay, on the side of which, ensconced behind a
very convenient curvature of the rocks, which here incline westward in
the form of a hook, lies the small port, completely concealed from the
sea, as if in dread of visits like those which might be expected from
craft resembling the suspicious stranger. This little port, not as large
in itself as a modern dock in places like London or Liverpool, was
sufficiently protected against any probable dangers, by suitable
batteries; and as for the elements, a vessel laid upon a shelf in a
closet would be scarcely more secure. In this domestic little basin,
which, with the exception of a narrow entrance, was completely
surrounded by buildings, lay a few feluccas, that traded between the
island and the adjacent main, and a solitary Austrian ship, which had
come from the head of the Adriatic in quest of iron.
At the moment of which we are writing, however, but a dozen living
beings were visible in or about all these craft. The intelligence that
a strange lugger, resembling the one described, was in the offing, and
had drawn nearly all the mariners ashore; and most of the habitues of
the port had followed them up the broad steps of the crooked streets
which led to the heights behind the town; or to the rocky elevation that
overlooks the sea from northeast to west. The approach of the lugger
produced some such effect on the mariners of this unsophisticated and
little frequented port, as that of the hawk is known to excite among the
timid tenants of the barn-yard. The rig of the stranger had been noted
two hours before by one or two old coasters, who habitually passed their
idle moments on the heights, examining the signs of the weather, and
indulging in gossip; and their conjectures had drawn to the Porto
Ferrajo mall some twenty men, who fancied themselves, or who actually
were, _cognoscenti_ in matters of the sea. When, however, the low, long,
dark hull, which upheld such wide sheets of canvas, became fairly
visible, the omens thickened, rumors spread, and hundreds collected on
the spot, which, in Manhattanese parlance, would probably have been
called a battery. Nor would the name have been altogether inappropriate,
as a small battery was established there, and that, too, in a position
which would easily throw a shot two-thirds of a league into the offing;
or about the distance that the stranger was now from the shore.
Tommaso Tonti was the oldest mariner of Elba, and luckily, being a
sober, and usually a discreet man, he was the oracle of the island in
most things that related to the sea. As each citizen, wine-dealer,
grocer, innkeeper, or worker in iron, came up on the height, he
incontinently inquired for Tonti, or 'Maso, as he was generally called;
and getting the bearings and distance of the gray-headed old seaman, he
invariably made his way to his side, until a group of some two hundred
men, women, and children had clustered near the person of the _pilota_,
as the faithful gather about a favorite expounder of the law, in moments
of religious excitement. It was worthy of remark, too, with how much
consideration this little crowd of gentle Italians treated their aged
seaman, on this occasion; none bawling out their questions, and all
using the greatest care not to get in front of his person, lest they
might intercept his means of observation. Five or six old sailors, like
himself, were close at his side; these, it is true, did not hesitate to
speak as became their experience. But Tonti had obtained no small part
of his reputation by exercising great moderation in delivering his
oracles, and perhaps by seeming to know more than he actually revealed.
He was reserved, therefore; and while his brethren of the sea ventured
on sundry conflicting opinions concerning the character of the stranger,
and a hundred idle conjectures had flown from mouth to mouth, among the
landsmen and females, not a syllable that could commit the old man
escaped his lips. He let the others talk at will; as for himself, it
suited his habits, and possibly his doubts, to maintain a grave and
We have spoken of females; as a matter of course, an event like this, in
a town of some three or four thousand souls, would be likely to draw a
due proportion of the gentler sex to the heights. Most of them contrived
to get as near as possible to the aged seaman, in order to obtain the
first intelligence, that it might be the sooner circulated; but it would
seem that among the younger of these there was also a sort of oracle of
their own, about whose person gathered a dozen of the prettiest girls;
either anxious to hear what Ghita might have to say in the premises, or,
perhaps, influenced by the pride and modesty of their sex and condition,
which taught them to maintain a little more reserve than was necessary
to the less refined portion of their companions. In speaking of
condition, however, the words must be understood with an exceedingly
limited meaning. Porto Ferrajo had but two classes of society, the
tradespeople and the laborers; although there were, perhaps, a dozen
exceptions in the persons of a few humble functionaries of the
government, an avvocato, a medico, and a few priests. The governor of
the island was a Tuscan of rank, but he seldom honored the place with
his presence; and his deputy was a professional man, a native of the
town, whose original position was too well known to allow him to give
himself airs on the spot where he was born. Ghita's companions, then,
were daughters of shopkeepers, and persons of that class who, having
been taught to read, and occasionally going to Leghorn, besides being
admitted by the deputy to the presence of his housekeeper, had got to
regard themselves as a little elevated above the more vulgar curiosity
of the less cultivated girls of the port. Ghita herself, however, owed
her ascendency to her qualities, rather than to the adventitious
advantage of being a grocer's or an innkeeper's daughter, her origin
being unknown to most of those around her, as indeed was her family
name. She had been landed six weeks before, and left by one who passed
for her father, at the inn of Christoforo Dovi, as a boarder, and had
acquired all her influence, as so many reach notoriety in our own simple
society, by the distinction of having travelled; aided, somewhat, by her
strong sense, great decision of character, perfect modesty and propriety
of deportment, with a form which was singularly graceful and feminine,
and a face that, while it could scarcely be called beautiful, was in the
highest degree winning and attractive. No one thought of asking her
family name; and she never appeared to deem it necessary to mention it.
Ghita was sufficient; it was familiar to every one; and, although there
were two or three others of the same appellation in Porto Ferrajo, this,
by common consent, got to be _the_ Ghita, within a week after she
Ghita, it was known, had travelled, for she had publicly reached Elba in
a felucca, coming, as was said, from the Neapolitan states. If this were
true, she was probably the only person of her sex in the town who had
ever seen Vesuvius, or planted her eyes on the wonders of a part of
Italy that has a reputation second only to that of Rome. Of course, if
any girl in Porto Ferrajo could imagine the character of the stranger it
must be Ghita; and it was on this supposition that she had unwittingly,
and, if the truth must be owned, unwillingly, collected around her a
_clientelle_ of at least a dozen girls of her own age, and apparently of
her own class. The latter, however, felt no necessity for the reserve
maintained by the curious who pressed near 'Maso; for, while they
respected their guest and friend, and would rather listen to her
surmises than to those of any other person, they had such a prompting
desire to hear their own voices that not a minute escaped without a
question, or a conjecture, both volubly and quite audibly expressed. The
interjections, too, were somewhat numerous, as the guesses were crude
and absurd. One said it was a vessel with despatches from Livorno,
possibly with "His Eccellenza" on board; but she was reminded that
Leghorn lay to the north, and not to the west. Another thought it was a
cargo of priests, going from Corsica to Rome; but she was told that
priests were not in sufficient favor just then in France, to get a
vessel so obviously superior to the ordinary craft of the Mediterranean,
to carry them about. While a third, more imaginative than either,
ventured to doubt whether it was a vessel at all; deceptive appearances
of this sort not being of rare occurrence, and usually taking the aspect
of something out of the ordinary way.
"_Si_," said Annina, "but that would be a miracle, Maria; and why should
we have a miracle, now that Lent and most of the holidays are past? _I_
believe it is a real vessel."
The others laughed, and, after a good deal of eager chattering on the
subject, it was quite generally admitted that the stranger was a _bona
fide_ craft, of some species or another, though all agreed she was not a
felucca, a bombarda, or a sparanara. All this time Ghita was thoughtful
and silent; quite as much so, indeed, as Tommaso himself, though from a
very different motive. Nothwithstanding all the gossip, and the many
ludicrous opinions of her companions, her eyes scarcely turned an
instant from the lugger, on which they seemed to be riveted by a sort of
fascination. Had there been one there sufficiently unoccupied to observe
this interesting girl, he might have been struck with the varying
expression of a countenance that was teeming with sensibility, and which
too often reflected the passing emotions of its mistress's mind. Now an
expression of anxiety, and even of alarm, would have been detected by
such an observer, if acute enough to separate these emotions, in the
liveliness of sentiment, from the more vulgar feelings of her
companions; and now, something like gleamings of delight and happiness
flashed across her eloquent countenance. The color came and went often;
and there was an instant, during which the lugger varied her course,
hauling to the wind, and then falling off again, like a dolphin at its
sports, when the radiance of the pleasure that glowed about her soft
blue eyes rendered the girl perfectly beautiful. But none of these
passing expressions were noticed by the garrulous group around the
stranger female, who was left very much to the indulgence of the
impulses that gave them birth, unquestioned, and altogether unsuspected.
Although the cluster of girls had, with feminine sensitiveness, gathered
a little apart from the general crowd, there were but a few yards
between the spot where it stood and that occupied by 'Maso; so that,
when the latter spoke, an attentive listener among the former might hear
his words. This was an office that Tonti did not choose to undertake,
however, until he was questioned by the podesta, Vito Viti, who now
appeared on the hill in person, puffing like a whale that rises to
breathe, from the vigor of his ascent.
"What dost thou make of her, good 'Maso?" demanded the magistrate, after
he had examined the stranger himself some time in silence, feeling
authorized, in virtue of his office, to question whom he pleased.
"Signore, it is a lugger," was the brief, and certainly the accurate
"Aye, a lugger; we all understand that, neighbor Tonti; but what sort of
a lugger? There are felucca-luggers, and polacre-luggers, and
bombarda-luggers, and all sorts of luggers; which sort of lugger
"Signor Podesta, this is not the language of the port. We call a
felucca, a felucca; a bombarda, a bombarda; a polacre, a polacre; and a
lugger, a lugger. This is therefore a lugger."
'Maso spoke authoritatively, for he felt that he was now not out of his
depth, and it was grateful to him to let the public know how much better
he understood all these matters than a magistrate. On the other hand,
the podesta was nettled, and disappointed into the bargain, for he
really imagined he was drawing nice distinctions, much as it was his
wont to do in legal proceedings; and it was his ambition to be thought
to know something of everything.
"Well, Tonti," answered Signor Viti, in a protecting manner, and with an
affable smile, "as this is not an affair that is likely to go to the
higher courts at Florence, your explanations may be taken as sufficient,
and I have no wish to disturb them--a lugger is a lugger."
"Si, Signore; that is just what we say in the port. A lugger is a
"And yonder strange craft, you maintain, and at need are ready to swear,
is a lugger?"
Now 'Maso seeing no necessity for any oath in the affair, and being
always somewhat conscientious in such matters, whenever the custom-house
officers did not hold the book, was a little startled at this
suggestion, and he took another and a long look at the stranger before
"Si, Signore," he replied, after satisfying his mind once more, through
his eyes, "I _will_ swear that the stranger yonder is a lugger."
"And canst thou add, honest Tonti, of what nation? The _nation_ is of
as much moment in these troubled times, as the _rig_."
"You say truly, Signor Podesta; for if an Algerine, or a Moor, or even a
Frenchman, he will be an unwelcome visitor in the Canal of Elba. There
are many different signs about him, that sometimes make me think he
belongs to one people, and then to another; and I crave your pardon if I
ask a little leisure to let him draw nearer, before I give a
As this request was reasonable, no objection was raised. The podesta
turned aside, and observing Ghita, who had visited his niece, and of
whose intelligence he entertained a favorable opinion, he drew nearer to
the girl, determined to lose a moment in dignified trifling.
"Honest 'Maso, poor fellow, is sadly puzzled," he observed, smiling
benevolently, as if in pity for the pilot's embarrassment; "he wishes to
persuade us that the strange craft yonder is a lugger, though he cannot
himself say to what country she belongs!"
"It is a lugger, Signore," returned the girl, drawing a long breath, as
if relieved by hearing the sound of her own voice.
"How! dost thou pretend to be so skilled in vessels as to distinguish
these particulars at the distance of a league?"
"I do not think it a league, Signore--not more than half a league; and
the distance lessens fast, though the wind is so light. As for knowing a
lugger from a felucca, it is as easy as to know a house from a church,
or one of the reverend padri, in the streets, from a mariner."
"Aye, so I would have told 'Maso on the spot, had the obstinate old
fellow been inclined to hear me. The distance is just about what you
say; and nothing is easier than to see that the stranger is a lugger. As
to the nation--"
"That may not be so easily told, Signore, unless the vessel show us her
"By San Antonio! thou art right, child; and it is fitting she should
show us her flag. Nothing has a right to approach so near the port of
his Imperial and Royal Highness, that does not show its flag, thereby
declaring its honest purpose and its nation. My friends, are the guns in
the battery loaded as usual?"
The answer being in the affirmative, there was a hurried consultation
among some of the principal men in the crowd, and then the podesta
walked toward the government-house with an important air. In five
minutes, soldiers were seen in the batteries, and preparations were made
for levelling an eighteen-pounder in the direction of the stranger. Most
of the females turned aside, and stopped their ears, the battery being
within a hundred yards of the spot where they stood; but Ghita, with a
face that was pale certainly, though with an eye that was steady, and
without the least indications of fear, as respected herself, intensely
watched every movement. When it was evident the artillerists were about
to fire, anxiety induced her to break silence.
"They surely will not aim _at_ the lugger!" she exclaimed. "_That_
cannot be necessary, Signor Podesta, to make the stranger hoist his
flag. Never have I seen _that_ done in the south."
"You are unacquainted with our Tuscan bombardiers, Signorina," answered
the magistrate, with a bland smile, and an exulting gesture. "It is well
for Europe that the grand duchy is so small, since such troops might
prove even more troublesome than the French!"
Ghita, however, paid no attention to this touch of provincial pride,
but, pressing her hands on her heart, she stood like a statue of
suspense, while the men in the battery executed their duty. In a minute
the match was applied, and the gun was discharged. Though all her
companions uttered invocations to the saints, and other exclamations,
and some even crouched to the earth in terror, Ghita, the most delicate
of any in appearance, and with more real sensibility than all united
expressed in her face, stood firm and erect. The flash and the
explosion evidently had no effect on her; not an artillerist among them
was less unmoved in frame, at the report, than this slight girl. She
even imitated the manner of the soldiers, by turning to watch the flight
of the shot, though she clasped her hands as she did so, and appeared to
wait the result with trembling. The few seconds of suspense were soon
past, when the ball was seen to strike the water fully a quarter of a
mile astern of the lugger, and to skip along the placid sea for twice
that distance further, when it sank to the bottom by its own gravity.
"Santa Maria be praised!" murmured the girl, a smile half pleasure, half
irony, lighting her face, as unconsciously to herself she spoke, "these
Tuscan artillerists are no fatal marksmen!"
"That was most dexterously done, bella Ghita!" exclaimed the magistrate,
removing his two hands from his ears; "that was amazingly well aimed!
Another such shot as far ahead, with a third fairly between the two, and
the stranger will learn to respect the rights of Tuscany. What say'st
thou now, honest 'Maso--will this lugger tell us her country, or will
she further brave our power?"
"If wise, she will hoist her ensign; and yet I see no signs of
preparations for such an act."
Sure enough the stranger, though quite within effective range of shot
from the heights, showed no disposition to gratify the curiosity, or to
appease the apprehensions, of those in the town. Two or three of her
people were visible in her rigging, but even these did not hasten their
work, or in any manner seem deranged at the salutation they had just
received. After a few minutes, however, the lugger jibed her mainsail,
and then hauled up a little, so as to look more toward the headland, as
if disposed to steer for the bay, by doubling the promontory. This
movement caused the artillerists to suspend their own, and the lugger
had fairly come within a mile of the cliffs, ere she lazily turned aside
again, and shaped her course once more in the direction of the entrance
of the Canal. This drew another shot, which effectually justified the
magistrate's eulogy, for it certainly flew as much ahead of the stranger
as the first had flown astern.
"There, Signore," cried Ghita eagerly, as she turned to the magistrate,
"they are about to hoist their ensign, for now they know your wishes.
The soldiers surely will not fire again!"
"That would be in the teeth of the law of nations, Signorina, and a blot
on Tuscan civilization. Ah! you perceive the artillerists are aware of
what you say, and are putting aside their tools. Cospetto! 'tis a
thousand pities, too, they couldn't fire the third shot, that you might
see it strike the lugger; as yet you have only beheld their
"It is enough, Signor Podesta," returned Ghita, smiling, for she could
smile now that she saw the soldiers intended no further mischief; "we
have all heard of your Elba gunners, and what I _have_ seen convinces me
of what they can do, when there is occasion. Look, Signore! the lugger
is about to satisfy our curiosity."
Sure enough, the stranger saw fit to comply with the usages of nations.
It has been said, already, that the lugger was coming down before the
wind wing-and-wing, or with a sail expanded to the air on each side of
her hull, a disposition of the canvas that gives to the felucca, and to
the lugger in particular, the most picturesque of all their graceful
attitudes. Unlike the narrow-headed sails that a want of hands has
introduced among ourselves, these foreign, we might almost say
classical, mariners send forth their long pointed yards aloft, confining
the width below by the necessary limits of the sheet, making up for the
difference in elevation by the greater breadth of their canvas. The idea
of the felucca's sails, in particular, would seem to have been literally
taken from the wing of the large sea-fowl, the shape so nearly
corresponding that, with the canvas spread in the manner just mentioned,
one of those light craft has a very close resemblance to the gull or
the hawk, as it poises itself in the air or is sweeping down upon its
prey. The lugger has less of the beauty that adorns a picture, perhaps,
than the strictly latine rig; but it approaches so near it as to be
always pleasing to the eye, and, in the particular evolution described,
is scarcely less attractive. To the seaman, however, it brings with it
an air of greater service, being a mode of carrying canvas that will
buffet with the heaviest gales or the roughest seas, while it appears so
pleasant to the eye in the blandest airs and smoothest water.
The lugger that was now beneath the heights of Elba had three masts,
though sails were spread only on the two that were forward. The third
mast was stepped on the taffrail; it was small, and carried a little
sail, that, in English, is termed a jigger, its principal use being to
press the bows of the craft up to the wind, when close-hauled, and
render her what is termed weatherly. On the present occasion, there
could scarcely be said to be anything deserving the name of wind, though
Ghita felt her cheek, which was warmed with the rich blood of her
country, fanned by an air so gentle that occasionally it blew aside
tresses that seemed to vie with the floss silk of her native land. Had
the natural ringlets been less light, however, so gentle a respiration
of the sea air could scarcely have disturbed them. But the lugger had
her lightest duck spread--reserving the heavier canvas for the
storms--and it opened like the folds of a balloon, even before these
gentle impulses; occasionally collapsing, it is true, as the
ground-swell swung the yards to and fro, but, on the whole, standing out
and receiving the air as if guided more by volition than any mechanical
power. The effect on the hull was almost magical; for, notwithstanding
the nearly imperceptible force of the propelling power, owing to the
lightness and exquisite mould of the craft, it served to urge her
through the water at the rate of some three or four knots in the hour;
or quite as fast as an ordinarily active man is apt to walk. Her motion
was nearly unobservable to all on board, and might rather be termed
gliding than sailing, the ripple under her cut-water not much exceeding
that which is made by the finger as it is moved swiftly through the
element; still the slightest variation of the helm changed her course,
and this so easily and gracefully as to render her deviations and
inclinations like those of the duck. In her present situation, too, the
jigger, which was brailed, and hung festooned from its light yard, ready
for use, should occasion suddenly demand it, added singularly to the
smart air which everything wore about this craft, giving her, in the
seaman's eyes, that particularly knowing and suspicious look which had
awakened 'Maso's distrust.
The preparations to show the ensign, which caught the quick and
understanding glance of Ghita, and which had not escaped even the duller
vision of the artillerists, were made at the outer end of this
jigger-yard, A boy appeared on the taffrail, and he was evidently
clearing the ensign-halyards for that purpose. In half a minute,
however, he disappeared; then a flag rose steadily, and by a continued
pull, to its station. At first the bunting hung suspended in a line, so
as to evade all examination; but, as if everything on board this light
craft were on a scale as airy and buoyant as herself, the folds soon
expanded, showing a white field, traversed at right angles with a red
cross, and having a union of the same tint in its upper and
"_Inglese_!" exclaimed 'Maso, infinitely aided in this conjecture by the
sight of the stranger's ensign--"Si, Signore; it is an Englishman; I
_thought_ so, from the first, but as the lugger is not a common rig for
vessels of that nation, I did not like to risk anything by saying it."
"Well, honest Tommaso, it is a happiness to have a mariner as skilful as
yourself, in these troublesome times, at one's elbow! I do not know how
else we should ever have found out the stranger's country. An Inglese!
Corpo di Bacco! Who would have thought that a nation so maritime, and
which lies so far off, would send so small a craft this vast distance!
Why, Ghita, it is a voyage from Elba to Livorno, and yet, I dare say
England is twenty times further."
"Signore, I know little of England, but I have heard that it lies
beyond our own sea. This is the flag of the country, however; for _that_
have I often beheld. Many ships of that nation come upon the coast,
"Yes, it is a great country for mariners; though they tell me it has
neither wine nor oil. They are allies of the emperor, too; and deadly
enemies of the French, who have done so much harm in upper Italy. That
is something, Ghita, and every Italian should honor the flag. I fear the
stranger does not intend to enter our harbor!"
"He steers as if he did not, certainly, Signor Podesta," said Ghita,
sighing so gently that the respiration was audible only to herself.
"Perhaps he is in search of some of the French, of which they say so
many were seen, last year, going east."
"Aye, that was truly an enterprise!" answered the magistrate,
gesticulating on a large scale, and opening his eyes by way of
accompaniments. "General Bonaparte, he who had been playing the devil in
the Milanese and the states of the Pope, for the last two years, sailed,
they sent us word, with two or three hundred ships, the saints at first
knew whither. Some said, it was to destroy the holy sepulchre; some to
overturn the Grand Turk; and some thought to seize the islands. There
was a craft in here, the same week, which said he had got possession of
the Island of Malta; in which case we might look out for trouble in
Elba. I had my suspicions, from the first!"
"All this I heard at the time, Signore, and my uncle probably could tell
you more--how we all felt at the tidings!"
"Well, that is all over now, and the French are in Egypt. Your uncle,
Ghita, has gone upon the main, I hear?" this was said inquiringly, and
it was intended to be said carelessly; but the podesta could not prevent
a glance of suspicion from accompanying the question.
"Signore, I believe he has, but I know little of his affairs. The time
has come, however, when I ought to expect him. See, Eccellenza," a title
that never failed to mollify the magistrate, and turn his attention from
others entirely to himself, "the lugger really appears disposed to look
into your bay, if not actually to enter it!"
This sufficed to change the discourse. Nor was it said altogether
without reason; the lugger, which by this time had passed the western
promontory, actually appearing disposed to do as Ghita conjectured. She
jibed her mainsail--brought both sheets of canvas on her larboard side,
and luffed a little, so as to cause her head to look toward the opposite
side of the bay, instead of standing on, as before, in the direction of
the canal. This change in the lugger's course produced a general
movement in the crowd, which began to quit the heights, hastening to
descend the terraced streets, in order to reach the haven. 'Maso and the
podesta led the van, in this descent; and the girls, with Ghita in their
midst, followed with equal curiosity, but with eager steps. By the time
the throng was assembled on the quays, in the streets, on the decks of
feluccas, or at other points that commanded the view, the stranger was
seen gliding past, in the centre of the wide and deep bay, with his
jigger hauled out, and his sheets aft, looking up nearly into the wind's
eye, if that could be called wind which was still little more than the
sighing of the classical zephyr. His motion was necessarily slow, but it
continued light, easy, and graceful. After passing the entrance of the
port a mile or more, he tacked and looked up toward the haven. By this
time, however, he had got so near in to the western cliffs, that their
lee deprived him of all air; and, after keeping his canvas open half an
hour in the little roads, it was all suddenly drawn to the yards, and
the lugger anchored.
"His stock, a few French phrases, got by heart,
With much to learn, but nothing to impart;
The youth, obedient to his sire's commands,
Sets off a wanderer into foreign lands."
It was now nearly dark, and the crowd, having satisfied its idle
curiosity, began slowly to disperse. The Signor Viti remained till the
last, conceiving it to be his duty to be on the alert in such troubled
times; but, with all his bustling activity, it escaped his vigilance and
means of observation to detect the circumstance that the stranger, while
he steered into the bay with so much confidence, had contrived to bring
up at a point where not a single gun from the batteries could be brought
to bear on him; while his own shot, had he been disposed to hostilities,
would have completely raked the little haven. But Vito Viti, though so
enthusiastic an admirer of the art, was no gunner himself, and little
liked to dwell on the effect of shot, except as it applied to others,
and not at all to himself.
Of all the suspicious, apprehensive, and curious, who had been collected
in and about the port, since it was known the lugger intended to come
into the bay, Ghita and 'Maso alone remained on watch, after the vessel
was anchored. A loud hail had been given by those intrusted with the
execution of the quarantine laws, the great physical bugbear and moral
mystification of the Mediterranean; and the questions put had been
answered in a way to satisfy all scruples for the moment. The "From
whence came ye?" asked, however, in an Italian idiom, had been answered
by "Inghilterra, touching at Lisbon and Gibraltar," all regions beyond
distrust, as to the plague, and all happening, at that moment, to give
clean bills of health. But the name of the craft herself had been given
in a way to puzzle all the proficients in Saxon English that Porto
Ferrajo could produce. It had been distinctly enough pronounced by some
one on board, and, at the request of the quarantine department, had been
three times slowly repeated, very much after the following form; viz.:
"_Come chiamate il vostro bastimento?_"
A long pause, during which the officials put their heads together, first
to compare the sounds of each with those of his companions' ears, and
then to inquire of one who professed to understand English, but whose
knowledge was such as is generally met with in a linguist of a
little-frequented port, the meaning of the term.
"Ving-y-ving!" growled this functionary, not a little puzzled "what ze
devil sort of name is zat! Ask zem again."
"_Come si chiama la vostra barca, Signori Inglesi?_" repeated he who
"_Diable!_" growled one back, in French; "she is called ze
Wing-and-Wing--'Ala e Ala,'" giving a very literal translation of the
name, in Italian.
'"_Ala e ala!_" repeated they of the quarantine, first looking at each
other in surprise, and then laughing, though in a perplexed and doubtful
This passed just as the lugger anchored and the crowd had begun to
disperse. It caused some merriment, and it was soon spread in the little
town that a craft had just arrived from Inghilterra, whose name, in the
dialect of that island, was "Ving-y-Ving," which meant "_Ala e ala_" in
Italian, a cognomen that struck the listeners as sufficiently absurd. In
confirmation of the fact, however, the lugger hoisted a small square
flag at the end of her main-yard, on which were painted, or wrought, two
large wings, as they are sometimes delineated in heraldry, with the beak
of a galley between them; giving the whole conceit something very like
the appearance that the human imagination has assigned to those heavenly
beings, cherubs. This emblem seemed to satisfy the minds of the
observers, who were too much accustomed to the images of art, not to
obtain some tolerably distinct notions, in the end, of what "_Ala e
But 'Maso, as has been said, remained after the rest had departed to
their homes and their suppers, as did Ghita. The pilot, for such was
Tonti's usual appellation, in consequence of his familiarity with the
coast, and his being principally employed to direct the navigation of
the different craft in which he served, kept his station on board a
felucca to which he belonged, watching the movements of the lugger;
while the girl had taken her stand on the quay, in a position that
better became her sex, since it removed her from immediate contact with
the rough spirits of the port, while it enabled her to see what occurred
about the Wing-and-Wing. More than half an hour elapsed, however, before
there were any signs of an intention to land; but, by the time it was
dark, a boat was ready, and it was seen making its way to the common
stairs, where one or two of the regular officials were ready to
It is unnecessary to dwell on the forms of the pratique officers. These
troublesome persons had their lanterns, and were vigilant in examining
papers, as is customary; but it would seem the mariner in the boat had
everything _en regle_, for he was soon suffered to land. At this
instant, Ghita passed near the group, and took a close and keen survey
of the stranger's form and face, her own person being so enveloped in a
mantle as to render a recognition of it difficult, if not impossible.
The girl seemed satisfied with this scrutiny, for she immediately
disappeared. Not so with 'Maso, who by this time had hurried round from
the felucca, and was at the stairs in season to say a word to
"Signore," said the pilot, "his Eccellenza, the podesta, has bidden me
say to you that he expects the honor of your company at his house, which
stands so near us, hard by here, in the principle street, as will make
it only a pleasure to go there; I know he would be disappointed, if he
failed of the happiness of seeing you."
"His Excellenza is a man not to be disappointed," returned the stranger,
in very good Italian, "and five minutes shall prove to him how eager I
am to salute him"; then turning to the crew of his boat, he ordered them
to return on board the lugger, and not to fail to look out for the
signal by which he might call them ashore.
'Maso, as he led the way to the dwelling of Vito Viti, would fain ask a
few questions, in the hope of appeasing certain doubts that beset him.
"Since when, Signor Capitano," he inquired, "have you English taken to
sailing luggers? It is a novel rig for one of your craft."
"Corpo di Bacco!" answered the other, laughing, "friend of mine, if you
can tell the precise day when brandy and laces were first smuggled from
France into my country, I will answer your question. I think you have
never navigated as far north as the Bay of Biscay and our English
Channel, or you would know that a Guernsey-man is better acquainted with
the rig of a lugger than with that of a ship."
"Guernsey is a country I never heard of," answered 'Maso simply; "is it
like Holland--or more like Lisbon?"
"Very little of either. Guernsey is a country that was once French, and
where many of the people still speak the French language, but of which
the English have been masters this many an age. It is an island subject
to King George, but which is still half Gallic in names and usages. This
is the reason why we like the lugger better than the cutter, which is a
more English rig."
'Maso was silent, for, if true, the answer at once removed many
misgivings. He had seen so much about the strange craft which struck him
as French, that doubts of her character obtruded; but if her captain's
account could only be substantiated, there was an end of distrust. What
could be more natural than the circumstance that a vessel fitted out in
an island of French origin should betray some of the peculiarities of
the people who built her?
The podesta was at home, in expectation of this visit, and 'Maso was
first admitted to a private conference, leaving the stranger in an outer
room. During this brief conference, the pilot communicated all he had to
say--both his suspicions and the seeming solution of the difficulties;
and then he took his leave, after receiving the boon of a paul. Vito
Viti now joined his guest, but it was so dark, lights not having yet
been introduced, that neither could distinguish the other's countenance.
"Signor Capitano," observed the magistrate, "the deputy-governor is at
his residence, on the hill, and he will expect me to do him the favor to
bring you thither, that he may do you the honors of the port."
This was said so civilly, and was, in itself, both so reasonable and so
much in conformity with usage, that the other had not a word to say
against it. Together, then, they left the house, and proceeded toward
the government-dwelling--a building which has since become celebrated as
having been the residence of a soldier who came so near subjugating
Europe. Vito Viti was a short, pursy man, and he took his time to ascend
the stairs-resembling street; but his companion stepped from terrace to
terrace with an ease and activity that, of themselves, would have
declared him to be young, had not this been made apparent by his general
bearing and his mien, as seen through the obscurity.
Andrea Barrofaldi, the vice-governatore, was a very different sort of
person from his friend the podesta. Although little more acquainted with
the world, by practice, the vice-governatore was deeply read in books;
owing his situation, in short, to the circumstance of his having written
several clever works, of no great reputation, certainly, for genius, but
which were useful in their way, and manifested scholarship. It is very
seldom that a man of mere letters is qualified for public life; and yet
there is an affectation, in all governments, most especially in those
which care little for literature in general, of considering some
professions of respect for it necessary to their own characters. Andrea
Barrofaldi had been inducted into his present office without even the
sentimental profession of never having asked for it. The situation had
been given to him by the Fossombrone of his day, without a word having
been said in the journals of Tuscany of his doubts about accepting it,
and everything passed, as things are apt to pass when there are true
simplicity and good faith at the bottom, without pretension or comment.
He had now been ten years in office, and had got to be exceedingly
expert in discharging all the ordinary functions of his post, which he
certainly did with zeal and fidelity. Still, he did not desert his
beloved books, and, quite apropos of the matter about to come before
him, the Signor Barrofaldi had just finished a severe, profound, and
extensive course of study in geography.
The stranger was left in the ante-chamber, while Vito Viti entered an
inner room, and had a short communication with his friend, the
vice-governatore. As soon as this was ended, the former returned, and
ushered his companion into the presence of the substitute for the grand
duke. As this was the sailor's first appearance within the influence of
a light sufficiently strong to enable the podesta to examine his person,
both he and Andrea Barrofaldi turned their eyes on him with lively
curiosity, the instant the rays of a strong lamp enabled them to
scrutinize his appearance. Neither was disappointed, in one sense, at
least; the countenance, figure, and mien of the mariner much more than
equalling his expectations.
The stranger was a man of six-and-twenty, who stood five feet ten in his
stockings, and whose frame was the very figure of activity, united to a
muscle that gave very fair indications of strength. He was attired in an
undress naval uniform, which he wore with a smart air, that one who
understood these matters, more by means of experience, and less by means
of books, than Andrea Barrofaldi, would at once have detected did not
belong to the manly simplicity of the English wardrobe. Nor were his
features in the slightest degree those of one of the islanders, the
outline being beautifully classical, more especially about the mouth and
chin, while the cheeks were colorless, and the skin swarthy. His eye,
too, was black as jet, and his cheek was half covered in whiskers of a
hue dark as the raven's wing. His face, as a whole, was singularly
beautiful--for handsome is a word not strong enough to express all the
character that was conveyed by a conformation that might be supposed to
have been copied from some antique medal, more especially when
illuminated by a smile that, at times, rendered the whole countenance
almost as bewitching as that of a lovely woman. There was nothing
effeminate in the appearance of the young stranger, notwithstanding; his
manly, though sweet voice, well-knit frame, and firm look affording
every pledge of resolution and spirit.
Both the vice-governatore and the podesta were struck with the unusual
personal advantages and smart air of the stranger, and each stood
looking at him half a minute in silence, after the usual salutations had
passed, and before the party were seated. Then, as the three took
chairs, on a motion from Signor Barrofaldi, the latter opened the
"They tell me that we have the honor to receive into our little haven a
vessel of Inghilterra, Signor Capitano," observed the vice-governatore,
earnestly regarding the other through his spectacles as he spoke, and
that, too, in a manner not altogether free from distrust.
"Signer Vice-governatore, such is the flag under which I have the honor
to serve," returned the mariner.
"You are an Inglese, yourself, I trust, Signor Capitano--what name shall
I enter in my book, here?"
"Jaques Smeet," answered the other, betraying what might have proved
two very fatal shibboleths, in the ears of those who were practised in
the finesse of our very unmusical language, by attempting to say
"Jaques Smeet," repeated the vice-governatore--"that is, Giacomo, in our
"No--no--Signore," hastily interrupted Captain Smeet; "not Jaqueomo, but
Jaques--Giovanni turned into Jaques by the aid of a little salt water."
"Ah!--I begin to understand you, Signore; you English have this usage in
your language, though _you_ have softened the word a little, in mercy to
our ears. But we Italians are not afraid of such sounds; and I know the
name.--'Giac Smeet'--Il Capitano Giac Smeet--I have long suspected my
English master of ignorance, for he was merely one of our Leghorn
pilots, who has sailed in a bastimento de guerra of your country--he
called your honorable name 'Smees,' Signore."
"He was very wrong, Signor Vice-governatore," answered the other,
clearing his throat by a slight effort; "we always call our
"And the name of your lugger, Signor Capitano Smeet?" suspending his pen
over the paper in expectation of the answer.
"Ze Ving-and-Ving"; pronouncing the _w's_ in a very different way from
what they had been sounded in answering the hails.
"Ze Ving-y-Ving," repeated Signor Barrofaldi, writing the name in a
manner to show it was not the first time he had heard it; "ze
Ving-y-Ving; that is a poetical appellation, Signor Capitano; may I
presume to ask what it signifies?"
"_Ala e ala_, in your Italian, _Mister_ Vice-governatore. When a craft
like mine has a sail spread on each side, resembling a bird, we say, in
English, that she marches 'Ving-and-Ving,'"
Andrea Barrofaldi mused, in silence, near a minute. During this
interval, he was thinking of the improbability of any but a bona-fide
Englishman's dreaming of giving a vessel an appellation so thoroughly
idiomatic, and was fast mystifying himself, as so often happens by tyros
in any particular branch of knowledge, by his own critical acumen. Then
he half whispered a conjecture on the subject to Vito Viti, influenced
quite as much by a desire to show his neighbor his own readiness in such
matters, as by any other feeling. The podesta was less struck by the
distinction than his superior; but, as became one of his limited means,
he did not venture an objection.
"Signor Capitano," resumed Andrea Barrofaldi, "since when have you
English adopted the rig of the lugger? It is an unusual craft for so
great a naval nation, they tell me."
"Bah! I see how it is, Signor Vice-governatore--you suspect me of being
a Frenchman, or a Spaniard, or something else than I claim to be. On
this head, however, you may set your heart at rest, and put full faith
in what I tell you. My name is Capitaine Jaques Smeet; my vessel is ze
Ving-and-Ving; and my service that of the king of England."
"Is your craft, then, a king's vessel; or does she sail with the
commission of a corsair?"
"Do I look like a corsair, Signor?" demanded le Capitaine Smeet, with an
offended air; "I have reason to feel myself injured by so unworthy an
"Your pardon, Signor Capitano Smees--but our duty is a very delicate
one, on this unprotected island, in times as troubled as these in which
we live. It has been stated to me, as coming from the most experienced
pilot of our haven, that your lugger has not altogether the appearance
of a vessel of the Inglese, while she has many that belong to the
corsairs of France; and a prudent caution imposes on me the office of
making certain of your nation. Once assured of that, it will be the
delight of the Elbans to prove how much we honor and esteem our
"This is so reasonable, and so much according to what I do myself, when
I meet a stranger at sea," cried the captain, stretching forth both arms
in a frank and inviting manner, "that none but a knave would object to
it. Pursue your own course, Signor Vice-governatore, and satisfy all
your scruples, in your own manner. How shall this be done--will you go
on board ze Ving-and-Ving, and look for yourself--send this honorable
magistrate, or shall I show you my commission? Here is the last,
altogether at your service, and that of his Imperial Highness, the
"I flatter myself with having sufficient knowledge of Inghilterra,
Signor Capitano, though it be by means of books, to discover an
impostor, could I believe you capable of appearing in so unworthy a
character; and that, too, in a very brief conversation. We bookworms,"
added Andrea Barrofaldi, with a glance of triumph at his neighbor, for
he now expected to give the podesta an illustration of the practical
benefits of general learning, a subject that had often been discussed
between them, "we bookworms can manage these trifles in our own way; and
if you will consent to enter into a short dialogue on the subject of
England, her habits, language, and laws, this question will be speedily
put at rest."
"You have me at command; and nothing would delight me more than to chat
for a few minutes about that little island. It is not large, Signore,
and is doubtless of little worth; but, as my country, it is much in
"This is natural. And now, Signor Capitano," added Andrea, glancing at,
the podesta, to make sure that he was listening, "will you have the
goodness to explain to me what sort of a government this Inghilterra
possesses--whether monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy?"
"Peste!--that is not so easily answered. There is a king, and yet there
are powerful lords; and a democracy, too, that sometimes gives trouble
enough. Your question might puzzle a philosopher, Signor
"This may be true enough, neighbor Vito Viti, for the constitution of
Inghilterra is an instrument of many strings. Your answer convinces me
you have thought on the subject of your government, Capitano, and I
honor a reflecting man in all situations in life. What is the religion
of the country?"
"Corpo di Bacco! that is harder to answer than all the rest! We have as
many religions in England as we have people. It is true the law says one
thing on this head, but then the men, women, and children say another.
Nothing has troubled me more than this same matter of religion."
"Ah! you sailors do not disquiet your souls with such thoughts, if the
truth must be said. Well, we will be indulgent on this subject--though,
out of doubt, you and all your people are Luterani?"
"Set us down as what you please," answered the captain, with an ironical
smile. "Our fathers, at any rate, were all good Catholics once. But
seamanship and the altar are the best of friends, living quite
independent of each other."
"That I will answer for. It is much the same here, caro Vito Viti,
though our mariners do burn so many lamps and offer up so many aves."
"Your pardon, Signor Vice-governatore," interrupted the Signor Smeet,
with a little earnestness; "this is the great mistake of your seamen in
general. Did they pray less, and look to their duties more, their
voyages would be shorter, and the profits more certain."
"Scandalous!" exclaimed the podesta, in hotter zeal than it was usual
for him to betray.
"Nay, worthy Vito Viti, it is even so," interrupted the deputy, with a
wave of the hand that was as authoritative as the concession was
liberal, and indicative of a spirit enlightened by study; "the fact must
be conceded. There is the fable of Hercules and the wagoner to confirm
it. Did our men first strive, and then pray, more would be done than by
first praying and then striving; and now, Signor Capitano, a word on
your language, of which I have some small knowledge, and which,
doubtless, you speak like a native."
"Sairtain_lee_," answered the captain, with perfect self-composure,
changing the form of speech from the Italian to the English with a
readiness that proved how strong he felt himself on this point; "one
cannot fail to speak ze tongue of his own muzzair."
This was said without any confusion of manner, and with an accent that
might very well mislead a foreigner, and it sounded imposing to the
vice-governatore, who felt a secret consciousness that he could not have
uttered such a sentence to save his own life, without venturing out of
his depth; therefore, he pursued the discourse in Italian.
"Your language, Signore," observed Andrea Barrofaldi, with warmth, "is
no doubt a very noble one, for the language in which Shakespeare and
Milton wrote cannot be else; but you will permit me to say that it has a
uniformity of sound, with words of different letters, that I find as
unreasonable as it is embarrassing to a foreigner."
"I have heard such complaints before," answered the captain, not at all
sorry to find the examination which had proved so awkward to himself
likely to be transferred to a language about which he cared not at all,
"and have little to say in its defence. But as an example of what
"Why, Signore, here are several words that I have written on this bit of
paper, which sound nearly alike, though, as you perceive, they are quite
differently spelled. Bix, bax, box, bux, and bocks," continued Andrea,
endeavoring to pronounce, "big," "bag," "bog," "bug," and "box," all of
which, it seemed to him, had a very close family resemblance in sound,
though certainly spelled with different letters; "these are words,
Signore, that are enough to drive a foreigner to abandon your tongue
"Indeed they are; and I often told the person who taught me the
"How! did you not learn your own tongue as we all get our native forms
of speech, by ear, when a child?" demanded the vice-governatore, his
suspicions suddenly revived.
"Without question, Signore, but I speak of books, and of learning to
read. When 'big,' 'bag,' 'bog,' bug,' and 'box,'" reading from the paper
in a steady voice, and a very tolerable pronunciation, "first came
before me, I felt all the embarrassment of which you speak."
"And did you only pronounce these words when first taught to read them?"
This question was awkward to answer; but Vito Viti began to weary of a
discourse in which he could take no part, and most opportunely he
interposed an objection of his own.
"Signor Barrofaldi," he said, "stick to the lugger. All our motives of
suspicion came from Tommaso Tonti, and all of his from the rig of Signor
Smees' vessel. If the lugger can be explained, what do we care about
bixy, buxy, boxy!"
The vice-governatore was not sorry to get creditably out of the
difficulties of the language, and, smiling on his friend, he made a
gentle bow of compliance. Then he reflected a moment, in order to plan
another mode of proceeding, and pursued the inquiry.
"My neighbor Vito Viti is right," he said, "and we will stick to the
lugger. Tommaso Tonti is a mariner of experience, and the oldest pilot
of Elba. He tells us that the lugger is a craft much in use among the
French, and not at all among the English, so far as he has ever
"In that Tommaso Tonti is no seaman. Many luggers are to be found among
the English; though more, certainly, among the French. But I have
already given the Signor Viti to understand that there is such an island
as Guernsey, which was once French, but which is now English, and that
accounts for the appearances he has observed. We are Guernsey-men--the
lugger is from Guernsey--and, no doubt, we have a Guernsey look. This is
being half French, I allow."
"That alters the matter altogether. Neighbor Viti, this is all true
about the island, and about its habits and its origin; and if one could
be as certain about the names, why, nothing more need be said. Are Giac
Smees, and Ving-y-Ving, Guernsey names?"
"They are not particularly so," returned the sailor, with difficulty
refraining from laughing in the vice-governatore's face; "Jaques Smeet'
being so English, that we are the largest family, perhaps, in all
Inghilterra. Half the nobles of the island are called Smeet', and not a
few are named Jaques. But little Guernsey was conquered; and our
ancestors who performed that office brought their names with them,
Signore. As for Ving-and-Ving, it is _capital_ English."
"I do not see, Vito, but this is reasonable. If the capitano, now, only
had his commission with him, you and I might go to bed in peace, and
sleep till morning."
"Here, then, Signore, are your sleeping potions," continued the laughing
sailor, drawing from his pocket several papers. "These are my orders
from the admiral; and, as they are not secret, you can cast your eyes
over them. This is my commission, Signor Vice-governatore--this is the
signature of the English minister of marine--and here is my own, 'Jaques
Smeet'' as you see, and here is the order to me, as a lieutenant, to
take command of the Ving-and-Ving."
All the orders and names were there, certainly, written in a clear, fair
hand, and in perfectly good English. The only thing that one who
understood the language would have been apt to advert to, was the
circumstance that the words which the sailor pronounced "Jaques Smeet'"
were written, plainly enough, "Jack Smith"--an innovation on the common
practice, which, to own the truth, had proceeded from his own obstinacy,
and had been done in the very teeth of the objections of the scribe who
forged the papers. But Andrea was still too little of an English scholar
to understand the blunder, and the Jack passed, with him, quite as
currently as would "John," "Edward," or any other appellation. As to the
Wing-and-Wing, all was right; though, as the words were pointed out and
pronounced by both parties, one pertinaciously insisted on calling them
"Ving-and-Ving," and the other, "Ving-y-Ving." All this evidence had a
great tendency toward smoothing down every difficulty, and 'Maso Tonti's
objections were pretty nearly forgotten by both the Italians, when the
papers were returned to their proper owner.
"It was an improbable thing that an enemy, or a corsair, would venture
into this haven of ours, Vito Viti," said the vice-governatore, in a
self-approving manner; "we have a reputation for being vigilant, and for
knowing our business, as well as the authorities of Livorno, or Genova,
"And that too, Signore, with nothing in the world to gain but hard
knocks and a prison," added the Captain Smeet', with one of his most
winning smiles--a smile that even softened the heart of the podesta,
while it so far warmed that of his superior as to induce him to invite
the stranger to share his own frugal supper. The invitation was accepted
as frankly as it had been given, and, the table being ready in an
adjoining room, in a few minutes Il Capitano Smees and Vito Viti were
sharing the vice-governatore's evening meal.
From that moment, if distrust existed any longer in the breasts of the
two functionaries of Porto Ferrajo, it was so effectually smothered as
to be known only to themselves. The light fare of an Italian kitchen,
and the light wines of Tuscany, just served to strengthen the system and
enliven the spirits; the conversation becoming general and lively, us
the business of the moment proceeded. At that day, tea was known
throughout southern Europe as an ingredient only for the apothecary's
keeping; nor was it often to be found among his stores; and the
_convives_ used, as a substitute, large draughts of the pleasant
mountain liquors of the adjacent main, which produced an excitement
scarcely greater, while it may be questioned if it did as much injury to
the health. The stranger, however, both ate and drank sparingly, for,
while he affected to join cordially in the discourse and the business of
_restoration_, he greatly desired to be at liberty to pursue his
Andrea Barrofaldi did not let so excellent an opportunity to show his
acquirements to the podesta go by neglected. He talked much of England,
its history, its religion, government, laws, climate, and industry;
making frequent appeals to the Capitano Smees for the truth of his
opinions. In most cases the parties agreed surprisingly, for the
stranger started with a deliberate intention to assent to everything;
but even this compliant temper had its embarrassments, since the
vice-governatore so put his interrogatories as occasionally to give to
acquiescence the appearance of dissent. The other floundered through his
difficulties tolerably well, notwithstanding; and so successful was he,
in particular, in flattering Andrea's self-love by expressions of
astonishment that a foreigner should understand his own country so
well--better, indeed, in many respects, than he understood it
himself--and that he should be so familiar with its habits,
institutions, and geography, that, by the time the flask was emptied,
the superior functionary whispered to his inferior, that the stranger
manifested so much information and good sense, he should not be
surprised if he turned out, in the long run, to be some secret agent of
the British government, employed to make philosophical inquiries as to
the trade and navigation of Italy, with a view to improve the business
relations between the two countries.
"You are an admirer of nobility, and a devotee of aristocracy," added
Andrea Barrofaldi, in pursuit of the subject then in hand; "if the
truth were known, a scion of some Noble house yourself, Signor?"
"I?--Peste!--I hate an aristocrat, Signor Vice-governatore, as I do the
This was said just after the freest draught the stranger had taken, and
with an unguarded warmth that he himself immediately regretted.
"This is extraordinary, in an Inglese! Ah--I see how it is--you are in
the _opposizione_, and find it necessary to say this. It is most
extraordinary, good Vito Viti, that these Inglese are divided into two
political _castes_, that contradict each other in everything. If one
maintains that an object is white, the other side swears it is black;
and so _vice versa_. Both parties profess to love their country better
than anything else; but the one that is out of power abuses even power
itself, until it falls into its own hands."
"This is so much like Giorgio Grondi's course toward me, Signore, that I
could almost swear he was one of these very opposizione! I never approve
of a thing that he does not condemn, or condemn that he does not
approve. Do you confess this much, Signor Capitano?"
"Il vice-governatore knows us better than we know ourselves, I fear.
There is too much truth in his account of our politics; but, Signori,"
rising from his chair, "I now crave your permission to look at your
town, and to return to my vessel. The darkness has come, and discipline
must be observed."
As Andrea Barrofaldi had pretty well exhausted his stores of knowledge,
no opposition was made; and, returning his thanks, the stranger took his
departure, leaving the two functionaries to discuss his appearance and
character over the remainder of the flask.
"There's Jonathan, that lucky lad,
Who knows it from the root, sir;--
He sucks in all that's to be had,
And always trades for boot, sir."
14,763D VERSE OF YANKEE DOODLE.
Il Capitano Smeet' was not sorry to get out of the government
house--palazzo, as some of the simple people of Elba called the
unambitious dwelling. He had been well badgered by the persevering
erudition of the vice-governatore; and, stored as he was with nautical
anecdotes and a tolerable personal acquaintance with sundry seaports,
for any expected occasion of this sort, he had never anticipated a
conversation which would aspire as high as the institutions, religion,
and laws of his adopted country. Had the worthy Andrea heard the
numberless maledictions that the stranger muttered between his teeth, as
he left the house, it would have shocked all his sensibilities, if it
did not revive his suspicions.
It was now night; but a starry, calm, voluptuous evening, such as are
familiar to those who are acquainted with the Mediterranean and its
shores. There was scarcely a breath of wind, though the cool air, that
appeared to be a gentle respiration of the sea, induced a few idlers
still to linger on the heights, where there was a considerable extent of
land that might serve for a promenade. Along this walk the mariner
proceeded, undetermined, for the moment, what to do next. He had
scarcely got into the open space, however, before a female, with her
form closely enveloped in a mantle, brushed near him, anxiously gazing
into his face. Her motions were too quick and sudden for him to obtain a
look in return; but, perceiving that she held her way along the heights,
beyond the spot most frequented by the idlers, he followed until
"Ghita!" said the young man, in a tone of delight, when he had got near
enough to the female to recognize a face and form she no longer
attempted to conceal; "this _is_ being fortunate, indeed, and saves a
vast deal of trouble. A thousand, thousand thanks, dearest Ghita, for
this one act of kindness. I might have brought trouble on you, as well
as on myself, in striving to find your residence."
"It is for that reason, Raoul, that I have ventured so much more than is
becoming in my sex, to meet you. A thousand eyes, in this gossiping
little town, are on your lugger, at this moment, and be certain they
will also be on its captain, as soon as it is known he has landed. I
fear you do not know for what you and your people are suspected, at this
"For nothing discreditable, I hope, dear Ghita, if it be only not to
dishonor your friends!"
"Many think, and say, you are Frenchmen, and that the English flag is
only a disguise."
"If that be all, we must bear the infamy," answered Raoul Yvard,
laughing. "Why, this is just what we are to a man, a single American
excepted, who is an excellent fellow to make out British commissions,
and help us to a little English when harder pushed than common; and why
should we be offended, if the good inhabitants of Porto Ferrajo take us
for what we are?"
"Not offended, Raoul, but endangered. If the vice-governatore gets this
notion, he will order the batteries to fire upon you, and will destroy
you as an enemy."
"Not he, Ghita. He is too fond of le Capitaine Smeet', to do so cruel a
thing; and then he must shift all his guns, before they will hurt _le
Feu-Follet_ where she lies. I never leave my little Jack-o'-Lantern
within reach of an enemy's hand. Look here, Ghita; you can see her
through this opening in the houses--that dark spot on the bay,
there--and you will perceive no gun from any battery in Porto Ferrajo
can as much as frighten, much less harm her."
 The English of _Feu Follet_.
"I know her position, Raoul, and understand why you anchored in that
spot. I knew, or thought I knew you, from the first moment you came in
plain sight; and so long as you remained outside, I was not sorry to
look on so old a friend--nay, I will go further, and say I rejoiced, for
it seemed to me you passed so near the island just to let some whom you
knew to be on it understand you had not forgotten them; but when you
came into the bay, I thought you mad!"
"Mad I should have been, dearest Ghita, had I lived longer without
seeing you. What are these _miserables_ of Elbans, that I should fear
them! They have no cruiser--only a few feluccas--all of which are not
worth the trouble of burning. Let them but point a finger at us, and we
will tow their Austrian polacre out into the bay, and burn her before
their eyes. Le Feu-Follet deserves her name; she is here, there, and
everywhere, before her enemies suspect her."
"But her enemies suspect her now, and you cannot be too cautious. My
heart was in my throat a dozen times, while the batteries were firing at
you this evening."
"And what harm did they? they cost the Grand Duke two cartridges, and
two shot, without even changing the lugger's course! You have seen too
much of these things, Ghita, to be alarmed by smoke and noise."
"I have seen enough of these things, Raoul, to know that a heavy shot,
fired from these heights, would have gone through your little
Feu-Follet, and, coming out under water, would have sunk you to the
bottom of the Mediterranean."
"We should have had our boats, then," answered Raoul Yvard, with an
indifference that was not affected, for reckless daring was his vice,
rather than his virtue; "besides, a shot must first hit before it can
harm, as the fish must be taken before it can be cooked. But enough of
this, Ghita; I get quite enough of shot, and ships, and sinkings, in
everyday life, and, now I have at last found this blessed moment, we
will not throw away the opportunity by talking of such matters--"
"Nay, Raoul, I can think of nothing else, and therefore can talk of
nothing else. Suppose the vice-governatore should suddenly take it into
his head to send a party of soldiers to le Feu-Follet, with orders to
seize her--what would then be your situation?"
"Let him; and I would send a boat's crew to his palazzo, here"--the
conversation was in French, which Ghita spoke fluently, though with an
Italian accent--"and take him on a cruise after the English and his
beloved Austrians! Bah!--the idea will not cross his constitutional
brain, and there is little use in talking about it. In the morning, I
will send my prime minister, mon Barras, mon Carnot, mon Cambaceres, mon
Ithuel Bolt, to converse with him on politics and religion."
"Religion," repeated Ghita, in a saddened tone; "the less you say on
that holy subject, Raoul, the better I shall like it, and the better it
will be for yourself, in the end. The state of your country makes your
want of religion matter of regret, rather than of accusation, but it is
none the less a dreadful evil."
"Well, then," resumed the sailor, who felt he had touched a dangerous
ground, "we will talk of other things. Even supposing we are taken, what
great evil have we to apprehend? We are honest corsairs, duly
commissioned, and acting under the protection of the French Republic,
one and undivided, and can but be made prisoners of war. That is a
fortune which has once befallen me, and no greater calamity followed
than my having to call myself le Capitaine Smeet', and finding out the
means of mystifying le vice-governatore."
Ghita laughed, in spite of the fears she entertained, for it was one of
the most powerful of the agencies the sailor employed in making others
converts to his opinions, to cause them to sympathize with his
light-hearted gayety, whether it suited their natural temperaments or
not. She knew that Raoul had already been a prisoner in England two
years, where, as he often said himself, he stayed just long enough to
acquire a very respectable acquaintance with the language, if not with
the institutions, manners, and religion, when he made his escape aided
by the American called Ithuel Bolt, an impressed seaman of our own
Republic, who, fully entering into all the plans imagined by his more
enterprising friend and fellow-sufferer, had cheerfully enlisted in the
execution of his future schemes of revenge. States, like powerful
individuals in private life, usually feel themselves too strong to allow
any considerations of the direct consequences of departures from the
right to influence their policy; and a nation is apt to fancy its power
of such a character, as to despise all worldly amends, while its moral
responsibility is divided among too many to make it a matter of much
concern to its particular citizens. Nevertheless, the truth will show
that none are so low but they may become dangerous to the highest; and
even powerful communities seldom fail to meet with their punishment for
every departure from justice. It would seem, indeed, that a principle
pervades nature, which renders it impossible for man to escape the
consequences of his own evil deeds, even in this life; as if God had
decreed the universal predominance of truth and the never-failing
downfall of falsehood from the beginning; the success of wrong being
ever temporary, while the triumph of the right is eternal. To apply
these consoling considerations to the matter more immediately before us:
The practice of impressment, in its day, raised a feeling among the
seamen of other nations, as well as, in fact, among those of Great
Britain herself, that probably has had as much effect in destroying the
prestige of her nautical invincibility, supported, as was that prestige,
by a vast existing force, as any other one cause whatever. It was
necessary to witness the feeling of hatred and resentment that was
raised by the practice of this despotic power, more especially among
those who felt that their foreign birth ought at least to have insured
them immunity from the abuse, in order fully to appreciate what might so
readily become its consequences. Ithuel Bolt, the seaman just mentioned,
was a proof, in a small way, of the harm that even an insignificant
individual can effect, when his mind is fully and wholly bent on
revenge. Ghita knew him well; and, although she little liked either his
character or his appearance, she had often been obliged to smile at the
narrative of the deceptions he practised on the English, and of the
thousand low inventions he had devised to do them injury. She was not
slow, now, to imagine that his agency had not been trifling in carrying
on the present fraud.
"You do not openly call your lugger le Feu-Follet, Raoul," she answered,
after a minute's pause; "that would be a dangerous name to utter, even
in Porto Ferrajo. It is not a week since I heard a mariner dwelling on
her misdeeds, and the reasons that all good Italians have to detest her.
It is fortunate the man is away, or he could not fail to know you."
"Of that I am not so certain, Ghita. We alter our paint often, and, at
need, can alter our rig. You may be certain, however, that we hide our
Jack-o'-Lantern, and sail under another name. The lugger, now she is in
the English service, is called the 'Ving-and-Ving.'"
"I heard the answer given to the hail from the shore, but it sounded
different from this."
"Non--Ving-and-Ving. Ithuel answered for us, and you may be sure he can
speak his own tongue. Ving-and-Ving is the word, and he pronounces it
as I do."
"Ving-y-Ving!" repeated Ghita, in her pretty Italian tones, dropping
naturally into the vice-governatore's fault of pronunciation--"it is an
odd name, and I like it less than Feu-Follet."
"I wish, dearest Ghita, I could persuade you to like the name of Yvard,"
rejoined the young man, in a half-reproachful, half-tender manner, "and
I should care nothing for any other. You accuse me of disrespect for
priests; but no son could ever kneel to a father for his blessing, half
so readily or half so devoutly, as I could kneel with thee before any
friar in Italy, to receive that nuptial benediction which I have so
often asked at your hand, but which you have so constantly and so
"I am afraid the name would not then be Feu-Follet, but Ghita-Folie,"
said the girl, laughing, though she felt a bitter pang at the heart,
that cost her an effort to control; "no more of this now, Raoul; we may
be observed and watched; it is necessary that we separate."
A hurried conversation, of more interest to the young couple themselves
than it would prove to the reader, though it might not have been wholly
without the latter, but which it would be premature to relate, now
followed, when Ghita left Raoul on the hill, insisting that she knew the
town too well to have any apprehensions about threading its narrow and
steep streets, at any hour, by herself. This much, in sooth, must be
said in favor of Andrea Barrofaldi's administration of justice; he had
made it safe for the gentle, the feeble, and the poor, equally, to move
about the island by day or by night; it seldom happening that so great
an enemy to peace and tranquillity appeared among his simple dependants,
as was the fact at this precise moment.
In the mean time, there was not quite as much tranquillity in Porto
Ferrajo as the profound silence which reigned in the place might have
induced a stranger to imagine. Tommaso Tonti was a man of influence,
within his sphere, as well, as the vice-governatore; and having parted
from Vito Viti, as has been related, he sought the little _clientelle _
of padroni and piloti, who were in the habit of listening to his
opinions as if they were oracles. The usual place of resort of this set,
after dark, was a certain house kept by a widow of the name of Benedetta
Galopo, the uses of which were plainly enough indicated by a small bush
that hung dangling from a short pole, fastened above the door. If
Benedetta knew anything of the proverb that "good wine needs no bush,"
she had not sufficient faith in the contents of her own casks to trust
to their reputation; for this bush of hers was as regularly renewed as
its withering leaves required. Indeed, it was a common remark among her
customers, that her bush was always as fresh as her face, and that the
latter was one of the most comely that was to be met with on the island;
a circumstance that aided much indifferent wine in finding a market.
Benedetta bore a reasonably good name, nevertheless, though it was
oftener felt, perhaps, than said, that she was a confirmed coquette. She
tolerated 'Maso principally on two accounts; because, if he were old and
unattractive in his own person, many of his followers were among the
smartest seamen of the port, and because he not only drank his full
proportion, but paid with punctuality. These inducements rendered the
pilot always a welcome guest at La Santa Maria degli Venti, as the house
was called, though it had no other sign than the often-renewed bush
At the very moment, then, when Raoul Yvard and Ghita parted on the hill,
'Maso was seated in his usual place at the table in Benedetta's upper
room, the windows of which commanded as full a view of the lugger as the
hour permitted; that craft being anchored about a cable's length
distant, and, as a sailor might have expressed it, just abeam. On this
occasion he had selected the upper room, and but three companions,
because it was his wish that as few should enter into his counsels as at
all comported with the love of homage to his own experience. The party
had been assembled a quarter of an hour, and there had been time to
cause the tide to ebb materially in the flask, which, it may be well to
tell the reader at once, contained very little less than half a gallon
of liquor, such as it was.
"I have told it all to the podesta," said 'Maso, with an important
manner, as he put down his glass, after potation the second, which
quite equalled potation the first in quantity; "yes, I have told it all
to Vito Viti, and no doubt he has told it to Il Signor Vice-governatore,
who now knows as much about the whole matter as either of us four.
Cospetto!--to think such a thing dare happen in a haven like Porto
Ferrajo! Had it come to pass over on the other side of the island, at
Porto Longone, one wouldn't think so much of it, for _they_ are never
much on the lookout: but to take place here, in the very capital of
Elba, I should as soon have expected it in Livorno!"
"But, 'Maso," put in Daniele Bruno, in the manner of one who was a
little sceptical, "I have often seen the pavilion of the Inglese, and
this is as much like that which all their frigates and corvettes wear,
as one of our feluccas is like another. The flag, at least, is right."
"What signifies a flag, Daniele, when a French hand can hoist an English
ensign as easily as the king of Inghilterra himself? If that lugger was
not built by the Francese, you were not built by an Italian father and
mother. But I should not think so much of the hull, for that may have
been captured, as the English take many of their enemies on the high
seas; but look at the rigging and sails--Santa Maria! I could go to the
shop of the very sailmaker, in Marseilles, who made that foresail! His
name is Pierre Benoit, and a very good workman he is, as all will allow
who have had occasion to employ him."
This particularity greatly aided the argument; common minds being seldom
above yielding to the circumstances which are so often made to
corroborate imaginary facts. Tommaso Tonti, though so near the truth as
to his main point--the character of the visitor--was singularly out as
to the sail, notwithstanding; le Feu-Follet having been built, equipped,
and manned at Nantes, and Pierre Benoit never having seen her or her
foresail either; but it mattered not, in the way of discussion and
assertion, one sailmaker being as good as another, provided he
"And have you mentioned t his to the podesta?" inquired Benedetta, who
stood with the empty flask in her hand, listening to the discourse; "I
should think that sail would open his eyes."
"I cannot say I have; but then I told him so many other things more to
the point, that he cannot do less than believe this, when he hears it.
Signor Viti promised to meet me here, after he has had a conversation
with the vice-governatore; and we may now expect him every minute."
"Il Signor Podesta will be welcome," said Benedetta, wiping off a spare
table, and bustling round the room to make things look a little smarter
than they ordinarily did; "he may frequent grander wine-houses than
this, but he will hardly find better liquor."
"Poverina!--Don't think that the podesta comes here on any such errand;
he comes to meet _me,_" answered 'Maso, with an indulgent smile; "he
takes his wine too often on the heights, to wish to come as low as this
after a glass. Friends of mine _(amigi mii),_ there is wine up at that
house, that, when the oil is once out of the neck of the flask, goes
down a man's throat as smoothly as if it were all oil itself! I could
drink a flask of it without once stopping to take breath. It is that
liquor which makes the nobles so light and airy."
 It is a practice in Tuscany to put a few drops of oil in the neck of
each flask of the more delicate wines, to exclude the air.
"I know the washy stuff," put in Benedetta, with more warmth than she
was used to betray to her customers; "well may you call it smooth, a
good spring running near each of the wine-presses that have made it. I
have seen some of it that even oil would not float on!"
This assertion was a fair counterpoise to that of the sail, being about
as true. But Benedetta had too much experience in the inconstancy of
men, not to be aware that if the three or four customers who were
present should seriously take up the notion that the island contained
any better liquor than that she habitually placed before them, her
value might be sensibly diminished in their eyes. As became a woman who
had to struggle singly with the world, too, her native shrewdness taught
her, that the best moment to refute a calumny was to stop it as soon as
it began to circulate, and her answer was as warm in manner as it was
positive in terms. This was an excellent opening for an animated
discussion, and one would have been very likely to occur, had there not
fortunately been steps heard without, that induced 'Maso to expect the
podesta. Sure enough, the door opened, and Vito Viti appeared, followed,
to the astonishment of all the guests, and to the absolute awe of
Benedetta, by the vice-governatore himself.
The solution of this unexpected visit is very easily given. After the
departure of the Capitano Smees, Vito Viti returned to the subject of
'Maso's suspicions, and by suggesting certain little circumstances in
the mariner's manner, that he had noted during the interview, he so far
succeeded in making an impression on himself, that, in the end, his own
distrust revived, and with it that of the deputy-governor. Neither,
however, could be said to be more than uneasy, and the podesta happening
to mention his appointment with the pilot, Andrea determined to
accompany him, in order to reconnoitre the strange craft in person. Both
the functionaries wore their cloaks, by no means an unusual thing in the
cool night air of the coast, even in midsummer, which served them for
all the disguise that circumstances required.
"Il Signor Vice-governatore!" almost gasped Benedetta, dusting a chair,
and then the table, and disposing the former near the latter by a sort
of mechanical process, as if only one errand could ever bring a guest
within her doors; "your eccellenza is most welcome; and it is an honor I
could oftener ask. We are humble people down here at the water side, but
I hope we are just as good Christians as if we lived upon the hill."
"Doubt it not, worthy Bettina--"
"My name is Benedetta, at your eccellenza's command-Benedittina if it
please the vice-governatore; but not Bettina. We think much of our
names, down here at the water side, eccellenza."
"Let it be so, then, good Benedetta, and I make no doubt you are
excellent Christians.--A flask of your wine, if it be convenient."
The woman dropped a curtsey that was full of gratitude; and the glance
of triumph that she cast at her other guests may be said to have
terminated the discussion that was about to commence, as the dignitaries
appeared. It disposed of the question of the wine at once, and for ever
silenced cavilling. If the vice-governatore could drink her liquor, what
mariner would henceforth dare calumniate it!
"Eccellenza, with a thousand welcomes," Benedetta continued, as she
placed the flask on the table, after having carefully removed the cotton
and the oil with her own plump hand; this being one of half a dozen
flasks of really sound, well-flavored, Tuscan liquor, that she kept for
especial occasions; as she well might, the cost being only a paul, or
ten cents for near half a gallon; "Eccellenza, a million times welcome.
This is an honor that don't befall the Santa Maria degli Venti more than
once in a century; and you, too, Signor Podesta, once before only have
you ever had leisure to darken my poor door."
"We bachelors"--the podesta, as well as the vice-governor, belonged to
the fraternity--"we bachelors are afraid to trust ourselves too often in
the company of a sprightly widow like yourself, whose beauty has rather
improved than lessened by a few years."
This brought a coquettish answer, during which time Andrea Barrofaldi,
having first satisfied himself that the wine might be swallowed with
impunity, was occupied in surveying the party of silent and humble
mariners, who were seated at the other table. His object was to
ascertain how far he might have committed himself, by appearing in such
a place, when his visit could not well be attributed to more than one
motive. 'Maso he knew, as the oldest pilot of the place, and he had also
some knowledge of Daniele Bruno; but the three other seamen were
strangers to him.
"Inquire if we are among friends, here, and worthy subjects of the Grand
Duke, all," observed Andrea to Vito Viti, in a low voice.
"Thou hearest, 'Maso," observed the podesta; "canst thou answer for all
of thy companions?"
"Every one of them, Signore: this is Daniele Bruno, whose father was
killed in a battle with the Algerines, and whose mother was the daughter
of a mariner, as well known in Elba as--"
"Never mind the particulars, Tommaso Tonti," interrupted the
vice-governatore--"it is sufficient that thou knowest all thy companions
to be honest men, and faithful servants of the _sovrano_. You all know,
most probably, the errand which has brought the Signor Viti and myself
to this house, to-night?"
The men looked at each other, as the ill-instructed are apt to do, when
it becomes necessary to answer a question that concerns many; assisting
the workings of their minds, as it might be, with the aid of the senses;
and then Daniele Bruno took on himself the office of spokesman.
"Signore, vostro eccellenza, we think we do," answered the man. "Our
fellow, 'Maso here, has given us to understand that he suspects the
Inglese that is anchored in the bay to be no Inglese at all, but either
a pirate or a Frenchman. The blessed Maria preserve us! but in these
troubled times it does not make much difference which."
"I will not say as much as that, friend--for one would be an outcast
among all people, while the other would have the rights which shield the
servants of civilized nations," returned the scrupulous and just-minded
functionary. "The time was when His Imperial Majesty, the emperor, and
his illustrious brother, our sovereign, the Grand Duke, did not allow
that the republican government of France was a lawful government; but
the fortune of war removed his scruples, and a treaty of peace has
allowed the contrary. Since the late alliance, it is our duty to
consider all Frenchmen as enemies, though it by no means follows that we
are to consider them as pirates."
"But their corsairs seize all our craft, Signore, and treat their people
as if they were no better than dogs; then, they tell me that they are
not Christians--no, not even Luterani or heretics!"
"That religion does not flourish among them, is true," answered Andrea,
who loved so well to discourse on such subjects, that he would have
stopped to reason on religion or manners with the beggar to whom he gave
a pittance, did he only meet with encouragement; "but it is not as bad
in France, on this important head, as it has been; and we may hope that
there will be further improvement in due time."
"But, Signor Vice-governatore," put in 'Maso, "these people have treated
the holy father and his states in a way that one would not treat an
Infidel or a Turk!"
"Aye, that is it, Signori," observed Benedetta--"a poor woman cannot go
to mass without having her mind disturbed by the thoughts of the wrongs
done the head of the church. Had these things come from Luterani, it
might have been borne; but they say the Francese were once all good
"So were the Luterani, bella Benedetta, to their chief schismatic and
leader, the German monk himself."
This piece of information caused great surprise, even the podesta
himself turning an inquiring glance at his superior, as much as to
acknowledge his own wonder that a Protestant should ever have been
anything but a Protestant--or rather, a Lutheran anything but a
Lutheran--the word Protestant being too significant to be in favor among
those who deny there were any just grounds for a protest at all. That
Luther had ever been a Romanist was perfectly wonderful, even in the
eyes of Vito Viti.
"Signore, you would hardly mislead these honest people, in a matter as
grave as this!" exclaimed the podesta.
"I do but tell you truth; and one of these days you shall hear the whole
story, neighbor Viti. 'Tis worth an hour of leisure to any man, and is
very consoling and useful to a Christian. But whom have you below,
Benedetta--I hear steps on the stairs, and wish not to be seen."
The widow stepped promptly forward to meet her new guests, and to show
them into a commoner room, below stairs, when her movement was
anticipated by the door's opening, and a man's standing on the
threshold. It was now too late to prevent the intrusion, and a little
surprise at the appearance of the new-comer held all mute and observant
for a minute.
The person who had followed his ears, and thus reached the sanctum
sanctorum of Benedetta, was no other than Ithuel Bolt, the American
seaman, already named in the earlier part of this chapter. He was backed
by a Genoese, who had come in the double capacity of interpreter and
boon companion. That the reader may the better understand the character
he has to deal with, however, it may be necessary to digress, by giving
a short account of the history, appearance, and peculiarities of the
Ithuel Bolt was a native of what, in this great Union, is called the
Granite State, Notwithstanding he was not absolutely made of the stone
in question, there was an absence of the ordinary symptoms of natural
feeling about him, that had induced many of his French acquaintances in
particular to affirm that there was a good deal more of marble in his
moral temperament, at least, than usually fell to the lot of human
beings. He had the outline of a good frame, but it was miserably
deficient in the filling up. The bone predominated; the sinews came next
in consideration, nor was the man without a proper share of muscle; but
this last was so disposed of as to present nothing but angles, whichever
way he was viewed. Even his thumbs and fingers were nearer square than
round; and his very neck, which was bare, though a black silk kerchief
was tied loosely round the throat, had a sort of pentagon look about it,
that defied all symmetry or grace. His stature was just six feet and an
inch, when he straightened himself; as he did from time to time,
seemingly with a desire to relieve a very inveterate stoop in his
shoulders; though it was an inch or two less in the position he most
affected. His hair was dark, and his skin had got several coats of
confirmed brown on it, by exposure, though originally rather fair; while
the features were good, the forehead being broad and full, and the mouth
positively handsome. This singular countenance was illuminated by two
keen, restless, whitish eyes, that resembled, not spots on the sun, but
rather suns on a spot.
Ithuel had gone through all the ordinary vicissitudes of an American
life, beneath those pursuits which are commonly thought to be confined
to the class of gentlemen. He had been farmer's boy, printer's devil,
schoolmaster, stage-driver, and tin-pedlar, before he ever saw the sea.
In the way of what he called "chores," too, he had practised all the
known devices of rustic domestic economy; having assisted even in the
washing and house-cleaning, besides having passed the evenings of an
entire winter in making brooms.
Ithuel had reached his thirtieth year before he dreamed of going to sea.
An accident, then, put preferment in this form before his eyes, and he
engaged as the mate of a small coaster, for his very first voyage.
Fortunately, the master never found out his deficiencies, for Ithuel had
a self-possessed, confident way with him, that prevented discovery,
until they were outside of the port from which they sailed, when the
former was knocked overboard by the main boom, and drowned. Most men, so
circumstanced, would have returned, but Bolt never laid his hand to the
plough and looked back. Besides, one course was quite easy to him as
another. Whatever he undertook he usually completed, in some fashion or
other, though it were often much better had it never been attempted.
Fortunately it was summer, the wind was fair, and the crew wanted little
ordering; and as it was quite a matter of course to steer in the right
direction, until the schooner was carried safely into her proper port,
she arrived safely; her people swearing that the new mate was the
easiest and _cleverest_ officer they had ever sailed with. And well they
might, for Ithuel took care not to issue an order until he had heard it
suggested in terms by one of the hands; and then he never failed to
repeat it, word for word, as if it were a suggestion of his own. As for
the reputation of "cleverest" officer, which he so easily obtained, it
will be understood, of course, that the term was used in the provincial
signification that is so common in the part of the world from which
Ithuel came. He was "clever" in this sense, precisely in proportion as
he was ignorant. His success, on this occasion, gained him friends, and
he was immediately sent out again as the regular master of the craft, in
which he had so unexpectedly received his promotion. He now threw all
the duty on the mate; but so ready was he in acquiring, that by the end
of six months he was a much better sailor than most Europeans would have
made in three years. As the pitcher that goes too often to the well is
finally broken, so did Ithuel meet with shipwreck, at last, in
consequence of gross ignorance on the subject of navigation. This
induced him to try a long voyage, in a more subordinate situation, until
in the course of time he was impressed by the commander of an English
frigate, who had lost so many of his men by the yellow fever that he
seized upon all he could lay his hands on, to supply their places, even
Ithuel being acceptable in such a strait.
"The ship is here put in,
A Veronese; Michael Cassio,
Lieutenant to the warlike Moor Othello,
Is come on shore."
The glance which Ithuel cast around him was brief, but comprehensive. He
saw that two of the party in the room were much superior to the other
four, and that the last were common Mediterranean mariners. The position
which Benedetta occupied in the household could not be mistaken, for she
proclaimed herself its mistress by her very air; whether it were in the
upper or in the lower room.
"Vino," said Ithuel, with a flourish of the hand, to help along his
Italian, this and one or two more being the only words of the language
he ventured to use directly, or without calling in the assistance of his
interpreter; "vino--vino, vino, Signora."
"Si, si, si, Signore," answered Benedetta, laughing, and this with her
meaning eyes so keenly riveted on the person of her new guest, as to
make it very questionable whether she were amused by anything but his
appearance; "your eccellenza shall be served; but whether at a paul or a
half-paul the flask, depends on your own pleasure. We keep wine at both
prices, and," glancing toward the table of Andrea Barrofaldi, "usually
serve the first to signori of rank and distinction."
"What does the woman say?" growled Ithuel to his interpreter, a Genoese,
who, from having served several years in the British navy, spoke English
with a very tolerable facility; "you know what we want, and just tell
her to hand it over, and I will fork out her St. Paul without more
words. What a desperate liking your folks have for saints,
Philip-o"--for so Ithuel pronounced Filippo, the name of his
companion--"what a desperate liking your folks have for saints,
Philip-o, that they must even call their money after them."
"It not so in America, Signor Bolto?" asked the Genoese, after he had
explained his wishes to Benedetta, in Italian; "It no ze fashion in your
country to honor ze saints?"
"Honor the saints!" repeated Ithuel, looking curiously round him, as he
took a seat at a third table, shoving aside the glasses at the same
time, and otherwise disposing of everything within reach of his hand, so
as to suit his own notions of order, and then leaning back on his chair
until the two ends of the uprights dug into the plaster behind him,
while the legs on which the fabric was poised cracked with his weight;
"honor the saints! we should be much more like to dishonor them! What
does any one want to honor a saint for? A saint is but a human--a man
like you and me, after all the fuss you make about 'em. Saints abound in
my country, if you'd believe people's account of themselves."
"Not quite so, Signor Bolto. You and me no great saint. Italian honor
saint because he holy and good."
By this time Ithuel had got his two feet on the round of his seat, his
knees spread so as to occupy as much space as an unusual length of leg
would permit, and his arms extended on the tops of two chairs, one on
each side of him, in a way to resemble what is termed a spread eagle.
Andrea Barrofaldi regarded all this with wonder. It is true, he expected
to meet with no great refinement in a wine-house like that of Benedetta;
but he was unaccustomed to see such nonchalance of manner in a man of
the stranger's class, or, indeed, of any class; the Italian mariners
present occupying their chairs in simple and respectful attitudes, as if
each man had the wish to be as little obtrusive as possible. Still he
let no sign of his surprise escape him, noting all that passed in a
grave but attentive silence. Perhaps he saw traces of national
peculiarities, if not of national history, in the circumstances.
"Honor saint because he holy and good!" said Ithuel, with a very
ill-concealed disdain--"why, that is the very reason why we _don't_
honor 'em. When you honor a holy man, mankind may consait you do it on