Imatges de pÓgina
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-I am old enough to be affectionate to a lad of twenty,-I wish he had not made that confession that he had no English, for in this unfortunate way the chances are few that Maga will ever reach his benighted eyes. That afternoon, worn out by fatigue, and weary, my brother was ill, fit for nothing but bed or a sofa, filling us with anxiety lest the journey should prove too much for him, and for the moment totally prostrated. To see how our young companion contrived a couch for him-helped to cover him up, for it was excessively cold; and above all our wraps-not that it was necessary, only out of the exuberance of his good young heart-threw his own overcoat, a generous addition to the pile-brings tears to one's eyes even in recollection. When we came to Avignon, where the train stopped a little, and where our young friend left us, he stayed to help my brother tenderly out of the carriage, to give him his arm to the refreshment-room; and, last and crowning kindness of all, to send off a waiter flying for a chauffrette to put under the invalid's chilly feet. You may laugh-it is not very romantic; but Alice and I were much more like crying over that chauffrette. God bless the boy in his sunny southland country, and bring all the blossoms of his youth to fruit! I like all Frenchmen better for his sake.

Under these circumstances, it is not to be expected that we should have had much enjoyment of the road. I remember only glimpses of distant white peaks upon the skyof one point where again it was possible to see Mont Blanc, and where yet, of course, we did not see it-of the brown elbow of hill, where every clod is worth gold, the slopes of L'Hermitage of other stretches of steep and terraced ground, where other vineyards ought to be, and of the quiet Rhone, silently accompanying our steps, sometimes disappearing for an hour, only to come in sight fuller and calmer than before; a glimpse of Avignon over the shadowy plain, lying in a ghostly half-light under the hills, though the sky is still rosy over those dark heights, and full of a colourless, wistful, shining overhead, and round the opposite

horizon is the last of our daylight; after that-clang clang, throb throb -a feeble new moon palpitating over a half-seen peak, a wide undiscernible country, and nothing more to be seen or recognised till we come again to streets and lights; and Alice looks out with fear and trembling to see a faint breath of night-air stir the dry twigs of some trees before our hotel window, and calls it wind; and wonders if it will be calm tomorrow, when she means to trust her treasures to the sea.

Wind-a good fan in a vigorous hand could get up as brisk a gale incontinently; but don't be afraid, Alice! we are innocently intent upon getting to the steamer in good timesay half an hour before she sails next morning-as if she were a reasonable English boat, with no nonsense about her. And we were up in time; Harry much restored, a day so calm that not even Alice could suspect any wind abroad in it, and the courage of the whole party resolute for the voyage. To the steamer--" Have you take your place, sare?" says a grave commissionaire, who has come up-stairs on a voyage of discovery. "The bagage should have go two, tree hour before to the bureau-have you take your place? ?"

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"Taken our places? no-impossible! We only arrived last night," cried Harry. Never mind, we are not particular about our places; we will take what we can get let us go."

"But Monsieur is too late; it is impossible," said this solemn extinguisher of our hopes. "The place must be take in good time-say the day before-say thees morning. Le bagage must go to the bureau two, tree hours, as I tell you. It is too late; you can do nothing. The ship go to sail in an hour. No-impossible!"

We looked at each other with blank faces-such a day! the sun, exuberant in the heavens, diving down in arrows of light even into that little three-cornered Place before the windows; not a cloud upon the sky, nor a breath of wind-an ideal unbelievable day, when all the world would go to sea if it could. But there stood the commissionaire

holding his ground steadily upon the il faut of his impracticable country. Yes, to be sure, it was all system, order, regularity. Who but an illogical English savage would think of rushing down to a vessel half an hour before she sailed, thinking it all right so long as he got his luggage and himself on board? They do things differently in France-there everything must be ruled in delightful square lines, and nobody taken aback with an unforeseen arrival. Why, Monsieur le Capitaine might have been driven out of his reckoning by the unexpected advent of a bundle of passengers tumbling into his ship at the last moment! and Messieurs of the Bureau lost a night's rest and a week's temper in consequence of an attempt so daring. Heaven defend us from such fatal consequences of insular sauvagism! the barbarians must wait.

And so we had to do, and did, with an indescribable amount of grumbling. Such a day! Alice, who is the greatest coward that ever trembled on the verge of a voyage (I don't believe she really was very sorry in her heart), did not cease her regrets all day. After we had reconciled ourselves to our fate a little, we sallied out in a body, and climbing a height which it is orthodox to climb when one goes to Marseilles, saw spread out before us, for the first time, the blue Mediterranean - SO blue, so bright, so calm, its great surface rippled over like an inland lake, and the clouds which lie becalmed upon the sky resting equally unbroken upon that gigantic mirror; grey cliffs, greyer in the contrast with the wonderful blue of the sea and the brightness of the sunshine, falling off in the distance westward, and the little fort of the Chateau d'If perched on its island, breaking in an irregular point into the bay on the other side below; the harbour with its masts and quays, the old port and the new, with a long sweep between, where again those dead grey walls rise gloomy and unbroken, repelling the light; fortifications and defences, less disagreeable to contemplate here, with their faces turned towards the sea, than frowning over the labours of a manufacturing city.

By-and-by we descended to the port itself, to see the Sicilian Company's boat, which was to sail next day, and consider whether we could trust ourselves to her safe-keeping. Some of these Marseilles fortifications, seen close at hand, moated round by basins of sea-water, look impregnable; but Marseilles is not imposing as a seaport to people who have come from London, and know Liverpool. In these docks the vessels are packed like herrings end on, as the seafaring people say-bows and sterns pointing at the quay, but never even, it appeared, in the very act of loading or unloading, laid alongside this, I presume, by way of making these operations more troublesome, and giving greater scope to that French ingenuity which loves to overcome difficulties of its own making. One remarkable thing we all observed simultaneously-nobody was doing anything; everybody was at leisure to run into a crowd and gesticulate over some poor thief whom a gendarme had collared. Even the horses took a leisurely lunch out of their bags while they stood waiting. One could hear one's-self speak upon those sunny quays; the cranes hung high in the sun, the waggons waited, the ships bristled their bowsprits at us over the horses' heads, and nobody had the least appearance of doing anything, or of finding it necessary to do anything, though it was the height of the day; and I presume in such a seaport, judging by ordinary rules, there must have been something to do. Fancy the possibility of hearing any word addressed to you by a little five-year-old voice on one of the quays of Liverpool, not to say in the docks of St Katherine; but it is perfectly practicable yonder in the sunshine at La Joliette.

The Sicilian boat was little and dumpy, and unsatisfactory on the whole. Alice, who had escaped the legitimate steamer with so much éclat, and who had been very profuse in her regrets hitherto, became rather silent as we approached the vessel which was to sail to-morrow. I saw her look up furtively at the flag dangling from a mast-head, and knew by her eyes that she was quite convinced the wind was rising, and

that something dreadful would happen to-morrow to that "Marie Antoinette," which turned her black hull upon us so uninvitingly. But Alice was heroical, and would not say a word. We had decided in full family council that it was much better, both for the purse and the children, to go by sea. My brother, however, returned to us shaking his head, and the cloud lightened from his wife's face. Harry did not like the looks of the "Marie Antoinette," and we drove off, with sweet and universal satisfaction, to take our places in the diligence for Nice.

Yes, in the diligence-twenty-four hours we who had forgotten all about stage-coaches, and hitherto had thought a day in a railway carriage sufficiently fatiguing. But you understand we were not rich people, and could not afford to be carried by post-horses, and sleep three nights on the road. We were sanguine of the children sleeping all night, as people who travel by night say they do, poor little unfortunates; and boldly launched upon this journey in the interieur of a French diligence, which two strangers shared with us. We had to put Nurse in the rotonde behind, and take Johnnie between us— Alice and I. O the miseries of that night! We were stifled with rugs and shawls and wrappings, which the night was not cold enough to make necessary. We were so closely packed in, that Johnnie's little boot, once lost, was irrecoverable till we stopped. Our fellow-travellers sat like men of wood, immovable, resigning themselves to the discomforts of the journey with that total and passive submission which the Continental peoples always exhibit, contrary to our English custom of getting pleasure and comfort out of it at all risks. Johnnie did not comprehend it, poor little man! He twisted and cried, rubbed his unfortunate eyes out, and kicked his sturdy little feet against everything they encountered, in a vain attempt to enlarge the prison in which he found himself. Blessed interval of rest when he happened to fall asleep!-not giving in, but overpowered of a sudden. Fatal moment when he woke again, and scrambled from his mamma to my

arms, and from my arms back again to his mamma! - while little Mary, poor child, lay with her curls upon my shoulder, so fast and safe asleep that half-a-dozen changes during the night did not disturb her repose. At last, most blissful sight, the morning broke. By this time at last everybody had fallen asleep, even Johnnie, and only I saw the sun rising over trees in full leaf and a green country

a startling contrast to the landscape of yesterday. Trees in full leaf, and luxuriant, but not green-grey, ashy, not unlike the willow-trees at home, when the wind has ruffled their branches, and turned their white lining to the light. The sun rose above these trees into a sky entirely cloudless, which widened over his rim in circles and innumerable shades of colour, from burning orange to a tender pink, which by-and-by melted by soft gradations into the universal blue. In this light I had full opportunity of studying the physiognomies of the three gentlemen opposite; the head of our own household, upon whose chin (pardon, oh domestic authorities!) I could see the beard of a day growing fast; and the two slumbering Frenchmen, one of whom reposed within two great straps depending from the centre of the carriage, for the convenience of the unfortunates who sat in the middle. The Frenchmen were visibly father and son- the father middle-aged, fat, and good-humoured; the youth pale, heavy-eyed, and sickly. They had broad crape ribbons both on their white hats, and the lad's eyes were so swollen and heavy that I could not help making a history for them. They had lost the mother of their house, no doubt-and this was the mother's boy, the invalid son, whom the honest unsentimental father, who was not heartbroken, was taking somewhere for change and recovery. Of course I was wrong— that is to say, I did not ascertain that I was right. On the contrary, we heard quite another story to account for their journey; but still I think he must have just lost his mother, that sick boy with his heavy

eyes.

But it was the conscription-again the conscription! The father showed

us later in the day, with great pride, a gold medal won by his Eugene in Paris, for drawings from the life-he was an artist. He was besides, as it was very easy to see, of the most delicate frame, almost a positive invalid. Yet this lad had been drawn by the pitiless lot, and, unless his father could succeed by representation of the state of his health in freeing him, was actually a conscript! For this reason they were bound to the very extremity of France-to Antibes-to endeavour to procure the youth's exemption. I do not know why they were going there, of all places in the world-whether it was the old man's native town, or what reason there was for making that the place of appeal; but this was the object of their journey. The father had been a soldier in his day; he was a practical, cheery, matter-of-fact-looking Frenchman, proud of his boy, and anxious about him, though there were little intercourse of word between them. He hoped that his own services and his son's weakness together would save the youth from the necessity of serving; but that was still only a hope. Perhaps they were not rich enough to spend two thousand francs upon a substitute like our young friend of Beaucaire, and they went on their way heavily, the young man sitting motionless and despondent in his corner, turning his heavy eyes from the light, indifferent to everything, as it appeared. Poor boy! I wonder if they have let him go back to his art and his study. Surely nobody could be so cruel as to lay a musket on that feeble young shoulder, or send him into the crowd of a noisy caserne with those worn and heavy eyes.

When one thinks of a road along the coast, one imagines a placid level road in sight of the sea, with no great difference of altitude from one point to another. That is to say, I thought so, thinking of this road to Nice, which I promised myself wound snugly along the coast, finding out bays and headlands, under the sunshine, in a reasonable and moderate way. This, of course, only shows my ignorance; but I am thankful to believe that at home there are people of my standing who don't know every

thing. Of course, the young generation are all perfectly aware that one has to wind up and down among the Maritime Alps when one travels along the coast of the Mediterranean; but, for my own part, I did not anticipate this mountainous road. Here we go up, up-horses (six of them) labouring on in a toilsome walk -conducteur marching with shouts of encouragement, now on this side, now on the other-great shoulders of hills folding us in on all sides, with here and there a line of wall visible upon the heights above, which surely cannot mean the road which we have yet to reach? high cones and hill-tops overhead, of which, straining from the windows of the diligence, one can scarcely see the summit; and deep precipitous descents below, to which the rash vehicle approaches close enough to give one many a shudder. All green, green, and still more green, as one ascends higher, with the grey foliage of those trees through which the sun broke this morning, and which are olive trees-with the vegetation fresher and more verdant, of groves of cork -and greenest of all, with pine trees, fresh and luxuriant, which make a summer on the hills. Up, and still up, till on the landward side these vast green slopes open wide towards the more majestic hills, and show us, far away, the white peaks dipping into the clouds, the heights from which "Jura answers in her misty shroud;" and higher still, till we have gained the topmost ribbon of road which circles the highest head of all these leafy hills. To this ledgewhich is a good road when one reaches it, though it looks from below like a morsel of grey wall built into the face of the hill-comes up with flying leaps the telegraph which has travelled in our sight all the way-in our sight, but not beside us; striding, like some wonderful giant, over the precipices, drawing its daring bridge, like a spider's thread, from mount to mount, striking straight "as the crow flies," with an arbitrary directness which impresses the imagination most strangely, and with a total disregard of all obstacles, to the topmost height, towards which we, who are not giants

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and magi, but only some twenty helpless human creatures in a diligence, have been creeping and winding for an hour or two in a hopeless roundabout. Of course I have heard a great deal about the electric telegraph, like everybody else, and, heaven help us! like most other people, have heard news by it in my day sufficiently startling, sudden, and terrible; but I never before saw this big Ethiopian mute, and voiceless confidant of nations, show himself so like a weird spirit and geni of Arabian tales. He is a very humdrum person when he draws those big lines of his like a bit of manuscript prepared for a musician, though they are lines that thrill with many a dirge, and echo many a triumph, alongside of our peaceable railways; but when one sees those fairy threads scaling hills and crossing precipices, one gets startled into wonder and admiration. I confess, however, that after the first moment my thoughts were not sentimental ones, touching the private joys and calamities which could thus cross the hills so much more rapidly than we could-or philosophical, concerning this close union of far-off quarters and "annihilation of distance;" but that somehow there suddenly appeared before me a vision of those other lofty telegraph - wires which leap over everybody's head into the high windows of the Tuileries, and that my fancy consolidated itself into one thought of that mysterious person called Napoleon the Third. To be sure, it was nonsense-for the telegraph is the nineteenth century in impersonation, and enlightenment, and progress, and all the rest of it; yet I am obliged to confess, I thought of none of these things as I watched, with a little thrill of almost awe and wonder, how that big Spy of the Emperor marched, swifter than any fiery cross, to the edge of his domains, and in his progress scaled, as if they had been so many mole-heaps, the everlasting hills.

And then came the beautiful Mediterranean, blue, blue-I cannot say how blue-like the blue of eyesand Cannes on the beach, marketing and pleasuring-and the grey olives and the green pines standing out against the sea-and the sun sinking,

with no clouds to attend him, making once more, in lack of these, the steadfast sky itself gorgeous with those marvellous indescribable gradations of colour. I wonder what those priggish people mean who babble of complimentaries and primaries, and say there is no true harmony of colour but red and green. Was ever sweeter harmony than the young spring green of those pine branches, falling, without any help or intervention, upon the full blue of that sea? -did ever fairy combination show sweeter than that rosy pink, that angelic blush, which melts and melts into that other blue, the blue of the sky? Never mind-the theory of colour does famously for talk, which is something-Nature and we know better, and so there is no need of making a disturbance about it. Sleep, child, upon our knees, with the twilight on your face-with tiny roses on your cheeks, and some dim gold gleaming among the stray locks of your hair-thank heaven there is no green in your complexion to complete the harmony and now let the sea fall darkling in the midst of its beatitude-and welcome night.

Welcome night! and oh the delight, after a night-journey, of—one cannot pause for refined expressiongoing to bed! I trust nobody is shocked. Baths and bread-and-milk for the bairnies-and then that delicious rest, quickened by the knowledge that fragrant oranges grew under their windows, which their happy hands might pluck to-morrow. I think, if I were an invalid-which, alas! there seems little hope of-I should choose Nice for my winterquarters. It is not in the least interesting, my dear connoisseur! I do not believe there is a picture in the town, and the architecture is, as a Cockney tradesman would say, "beneath contempt;" but then there is that Mediterranean, that sea of suns, rippling as if it loved it on the peaceful beach-and the hills beyond, grey and dark and silent, relieving all this light; and something like an island lying on the water far off, which, after all, is only the point of San Ospizio, and showing against its solid darkness the misty glory of the sunbeams, and the transparence of

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