Imatges de pÓgina

whom he had often seen at his father's court. Notes of explanation passed between the young Carrara and his deliverers, concealed in the fishes' stomachs, and many a plot was planned which was destined to fall to the ground.

It chanced one day, that whilst playing at ball in the court, as usual, it flew over the wall, and to regain it the door leading to the lake was thrown open.

Giacomo seized this opportunity, and dashed out of the court. He was by the water's side in an instant. The boat was near the shore, he sprang in, and the men plied their oars so vigorously that they soon gained the opposite side, where fleet horses were in readiness for them.

Giacomo and his father's servant mounted, and away they galloped to Castelbaldo. On Thursday, the 23rd of November, they reached Padua, and men, women, and children rushed out of their houses to bid the young lord welcome home again.

Not long after this happy return, preparations were made to celebrate his nuptials with Madonna Belfiore Costanza, daughter of Gentile da Camerino, Marquis of Marca.

This alliance had been arranged by Carrara, and was on the eve of taking place in June, when it was suddenly put a stop to by the defeat at Casalecchio and the capture of Giacomo.

A light, well-armed Venetian galley was sent to Camerino to convey the lady to Padua. She rested at Chiozza the first night, and embarking next evening, ascended the Fiume Vecchio, escorted by several vessels as far as Castel-Carro, where a fresh escort conducted her from Bovolenta to the bridge of Santo Nicolò, where she landed, and was greeted by the ladies Giliola and Alda. At the gate called Ponte Corbo, they found the corporations of the various trades, carrying musical instruments, drawn up to receive them. They were all dressed in rich costumes of diversecoloured flowered cendal. The bride wore a costly dress covered with pearls, said to have been worth 30,000 ducats. A circlet of gold studded with jewels bound her hair, and the palfrey which she mounted at the gate was trapped entirely in brilliant scarlet embroidered with gold. The animal was led by six of the chief captains and councillors of state, whilst over her was a canopy* of cloth of gold, lined with ermine, supported by eight of the famous doctors of Padua, all habited in bright scarlet robes, lined with vair. The rectors and their scholars walked on either side, clothed in white; whilst before and behind were the ambassadors of Venice, Milan, and Florence.

The Lady Belfiore dismounted beneath the balcony of the palace, and was tenderly embraced by the Signor Francesco and Lady Taddea.

The festivities occasioned by this marriage were kept up for fifteen successive days, and when they were over, the ambassadors of Milan remained to have several interviews with Carrara respecting a treaty of peace which they came to negotiate. We must now go back two months in our history, to narrate an important event which relieved Italy of a dangerous tyrant, and wholly changed the aspect of affairs in Milan.

* Probably the same that was used at the entry of the Emperor Robert into Padua.

† They were Nicolo da Este, Malatesta, lord of Pesaro, and Piero, lord of Ravenna.

Bologna had fallen into the hands of Visconti, and there seemed nothing to prevent his victorious army from pushing forward to the destruction of Florence, but he tarried ere he struck so decisive a blow, preferring to ruin the commerce of the brave republic by cutting off all communication by sea with the other parts of Italy. For ten long years Florence had struggled for her independence, and the resources of the republic were well-nigh exhausted. One ally alone remained to her, and that was the lord of Padua, whose desire to render aid far surpassed his slender means. Amidst all the vacillation and change of the courts around him Carrara had stood firm, never deviating from the line of policy he had marked out, ever fighting against Visconti, but yet desirous of preserving peace.

Sincere as was his friendship for the Florentine republic, still he could do little or nothing to stem the torrent that was now threatening to overwhelm her.

Florence was not to be overpowered, however; the last spark of Italian liberty was to be kept alight, and now that she was deserted by all, a mighty hand was stretched forth to save her from ruin. The plague once more showed itself in Lombardy, and the Duke of Milan, to avoid infection, left Pavia to shut himself up in the castle of Marignano.

To increase the universal panic, a comet made its appearance, which, Gataro tells us, was supposed to shake pestilence from its tail and to perplex nations. The dread of it was everywhere felt, but no one could escape its direful companion, the black death.

Marignano was a place whither Galeazzo's uncle had fled upon a similar occasion, and with success. This time, however, the contagion reached the castle, and Galeazzo feeling ill, believed that his end was approaching. For some days he was kept alive by “magical liquors," but at length his strength gave way, and, feeling that death was near, he sent for his attendants, who drew timidly round his couch.

“I thank God,” said the dying man, " for having placed this blazing star in the heavens to acquaint all men of His mindfulness of me.”

Galeazzo then gave instructions as to the manner of his interment, and having portioned out his territory amongst his children, breathed his last. Thus perished the bitter enemy of the House of Carrara, and with him the glory of the Visconti became extinct.


ONE fine morning in September last, I started from Catania on muleback, as usual; it is not necessary to say that the day was warm, for fine September weather in Sicily is unquestionably warm. Pursuing a road of sandy ashes, bounded by walls of lava-blocks, I was carried up a steady ascent through a district of lava to the village of Nicolosi—the nearest to the summit, and built of and on lava in the midst of a thoroughly volcanic locality. Mount Etna is one vast volcanic formation, measuring one hundred and eighty miles in circumference at the base, and nearly eleven thousand feet in perpendicular height.

At Nicolosi resides Dr. Gemellaro, the king of the mountain, to whom every traveller applies for advice and assistance, and to whose kind offices all bear willing testimony. Dr. Gemellaro is a scientific man, who, living upon the spot, has devoted his life to the study of Etna and its phenomena, and has written a work upon it, as yet unpublished. Etna is his pet; there are, in his opinion, no grapes, no wine, no figs, no olives, no productions equal to those of Etna. Through his exertions the funds for building the highest resting-place (called the Casa degli Inglese) were obtained, and by his care and cost it is maintained as a temporary rest in spite of fire and water, earth and air. He showed me his valuable collection of volcanic specimens, and promised to give the necessary orders, arranging for me to start at eight o'clock in the evening.

Meantime it was necessary to dine. My guide was a capital cook, and always carried plenty of provisions and cooking apparatus in his saddlebags, so that, no matter how miserable the locanda where we stopped for the night, I was enabled to dine with great satisfaction and a clean, napkin.

While thus pleasantly engaged, a sound of music arose in the outer room--a rural band, composed of two violins, a violoncello, and a shepherd's bagpipes. Thinking it a good opportunity of witnessing the Dative style of dancing, I despatched a messenger to collect the neighbours, and presently was informed that they waited without. Th having leisurely finished my dinner, the table was removed, I lighted a cigar, and, seating myself in a chair of state, directed the visitors to be admitted. The doors were thrown open, and in came the band making obeisance, and the public bobbing and bowing:

The scene was just such as one sees at the Opera when the Marquis returns to his ancestral estate after a long absence abroad, and the rustics, in holiday costume, come to welcome his return. Having so often wit. nessed such scenes at Her Majesty's Theatre and elsewhere, I felt quite prepared for the emergency, and believe that I acknowledged the salutes with a becoming mixture of condescension and affability, although it was my first public appearance in the character of the Marquis. The band struck up a lively air, and one of the gentlemen present commenced his steps, then another joined in, and soon afterwards each made his bow to a lady, when the dance came into full operation. First lady

pet of the

takes top, first gentleman bottom; second couple form sides. There was, however, nothing very remarkable or lively in the figure, which soon became tedious; the gentlemen did not spin round on one toe twenty-seven times and upwards without stopping, according to the established custom ; nor did the ladies exhibit their grace and ankles as might reasonably have been expected. Their costume, it must be admitted, was not very well adapted for the purpose. I may mention, in passing, the important fact that crinoline has not yet penetrated to this remote district; and their style of dancing was such as one would anticipate from a lively sack of corn. However, it was something to be able to say, without drawing upon my imagination, that I had seen the native dances; and, moreover, there was my

character to keep up. So, when the figure came to a natural conclusion, I was graciously pleased to applaud with a “Brava! bravi!” and directed the attendants to supply the villagers with bumpers of wine, in which they heartily drank to my excellency's health.

A cry for “Paolo “ was then raised, but Paolo was shy of exhibiting his skill in our august presence, and when dragged out of one corner, took refuge in another; but being pulled out and set upon his feet, he began a new figure, and soon becoming inspirited by the music, slipped out of his shoes, and then commenced a pas seul, which would have considerably astonished the habitués of the Opera, and which for agility, vigour, and perseverance, if not exactly elegance, would have made him ballet.”

Paolo's performance concluded with great éclat, and was followed by that of two little boys without shoes, who performed their part with thoroughly youthful enjoyment, and ended by throwing a summersault over each other's head. Then followed other dauces, while the servitors poured forth and handed round the flowing bowl, until at length the enthusiasm of the musicians raised them to their feet, and with violins, violoncello, bagpipes and all, they danced to their own music.

At the conclusion of this lively measure, the Marquis (myself), with condescending affability, acknowledged the attention of the villagers in thus celebrating his return, in the usual formula, “Grazie, amici !" The custom, occasionally followed, of kissing one of the prettiest of the dancers, was, in the present instance, omitted, in consequence of none of them being sufficiently pretty. His excellency now gracefully waved his hand in token of dismissal, the doors were thrown open, santry retired with respectful obeisance, vociferating tumultuous vivas.

Meanwhile time sped on, and the rest of the night was to be spent in a less lively and less dignified manner. At eight o'clock two mules and a guide (all three accustomed to the mountain) waited at the door. Mine host and family, and a dozen more, came out with lanterns, and matters being soon arranged, the guide and I mounted and rode forth into the black depths of night. My mule happened to be of an indolent turn of mind, so after a short time his halter was tied to the guide's mule, and nothing was left for me to do but to smoke an indefinite number of pipes and pocket my hands. At the halter's length, the guide's white nightcap was just visible to the naked

eye. We rode on through very fine ashes like sand, as I found on my return, and up rocky tracks, perpetually rising for two hours, till we

and the pea

reached a charcoal-burner's hut, where we halted half an hour to bait the mules: we dismounted, sat on a bench, and nodded to the glowing embers, while our host retired to his miserable bed and snored tranquilly. Then we set off again, and over the rocks and under the trees till we left them all behind, and reached the extremity of some lava-streams of past centuries, up which-the lava, not the centuries-our quadrupeds wound and climbed, until

, on surmounting them, we emerged upon ą plain of fine deep ashes, on as steep a slope as they would rest, and made tracks” until we arrived at the Casa Inglese, four hours distant from the charcoal-burner's hut. On reaching this plain the moon was pleased to appear, and, with her silvery light, made me fancy myself much colder than I really was ; a very unnecessary proceeding, for the temperature at that elevation in the small hours, and with a north wind, has a tendency to occasion a deficiency of caloric.

Here, then, we dismounted and effected an entrance ; but the guide had omitted to bring any charcoal, and the only available fuel consisted of some leaves and husks of Indian corn, and a couple of old baskets, which burned bravely; and if they evolved no great heat, the deficiency was compensated for by smoke, and compelling us to leave the door open, and also to weep. Thus we amused ourselves, till certain signs in the heavens announced the approach of day; whereupon we started again, and finished the remainder of the ascent-half an hour or so on foot. The fine ashes are here and there consolidated with moisture from the interior, and lie at an angle, so steep that a foothold can only be obtained with difficulty. In due time the summit was reached. Instead of being a tolerably level surface, with a steaming gulf in the centre, like Vesuvius, the steep sides end abruptly at the precipice, so that one might (but for the chance of its crumbling away) sit astride of the ridge, with one foot outside and one inside the crater. The huge cavity of the crater varies in dimensions from time to time, and, according to the estimate of different travellers, may be set down as something between a mile and a half and six miles in circumference; on looking down the perpendicular cliffs, yellow-stained with deposit from sulphurous smoke, no bottom was visible.

Ere long, the sun arose from the sea a little to the south of the Calabrian mainland ; arose slowly, and looking very pale and seedy, as though he had been making a night of it, and hadn't been to bed till very late, if at all. He was followed by his double; there they were, a brace of suns, looking equally pale and sleepy, and so precisely alike that I could not undertake to tell which was the original and which the imitation—which the new one, copied from the well-known antique with Chinese fidelity. Well, after all

, they proved to be both shams, for the genuine sun rose a few minutes later ; and though himself rather pale, yet his dazzling rays left no doubt of his authenticity: the other two maintained a respectful distance during between five and ten minutes, and then utterly disappeared.

The rays, now rapidly descending the exterior of the cone enclosing the crater and down the mountain-side, enveloped it in light, whilst the dazzling reflexion from the surface of the sea prevented so much as a glance in that direction; then the lower mountain-tops were illuminated;

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