Imatges de pÓgina

I leant mine, pale and cold, beside,
And felt as if I could have died
To save that sleeper from one pang-
Ay, though the arch-fiend's summons rang.
A murmur from his closed lip came;
I listen'd-it was not my name :
Around his neck a ribbon clung,
Close to his heart a picture hung:
I saw the face-it was not mine;
I saw, too, a small dagger shine,
A curious toy-you know the rest.”
--Her forehead with her hand she press'd,
As if to still the burning pain
That throbb'd in every beating vein.
He took the cross, that holy man,
And kind and gentle words began;
She fiercely raised to his her eye,
As if such soothing to defy.
“I tell thee, father, 'tis in vain,

His life, mine own is not so dear,
Yet would I do that deed again,

And be again a prisoner here, Rather than know that he could be Loving and loved, yet not by me. Begun in guilt and closed in gloom, Our love's fit altar is the tomb!” She died as few can dare to die, With soul unquail'd and tearless eye: None soothed the culprit as she pass'd, With look grown kind, because the last, Or with affection's desperate toneShe died, unpitied and alone! And never told that priest her tale, But lip grew cold and cheek grew pale. The guilt of blood on one so young, Such haughty brow, such daring tongue, And such wild love; and some would weep, Some bear the image to their sleep, And start from feverish dream to see The moonlight close their phantasie, And eager count their beads, and pray To keep such evil from their way; Then while the warning in them wrought, Finding it food for serious thought, And marking how wild passions lead To wasted life and fearful deed, Pray, ere they sank to sleep again, Such tale might not be told in vain.

THE QUARANTINE. Very few travellers in the Mediterranean have escaped the purgatory of Quarantine; but as my wanderings have been chiefly on that sea and its shores, I have performed the journey between the hell of a country vessel and the heaven of an Italian or French city, no less than five times, and in different ways, and with an amusing variety of accommodations. Once—it was at Gallipoli, an oil-port at the extremity of the kingdom of Naples, where there is no Lazzaretto, and properly speaking, no port-I was shut up for thirty-eight days in a deserted church built on a rock without the town. My dormitory was the sacristy, where a tattered picture of the Madonna stood by the side of my bed, and a statue of Saint Nicholas, who had lost his head, at its foot; my promenade by night as by day was in the aisles of the church, in the vaults under which might lie some scores of worthy oil-shippers deaf to all the charms of "prezzi avanzati," and“ folla di bastimenti ;my look-out was a portal of the church, beside which were posted two grim-looking Gallipolitans whom I had to pay for keeping me in prison; and my salon d'audience was the church-portico, where my visitors were not permitted to approach within three yards of me, and my inflexible guardiani waved the long staves or wands they always held, in forbidding circles. But this Quarantine was long ago. Years, and the somewhat curious variety of events, and feelings, and passions that have filled them, have weakened its impressions on my mind. I see some of its features as “through a glass darkly," and to give a portrait of the monster “ Quarantine," I will take a recent one.

In the winter of 1828 I arrived from the Levant, which has so bad a reputation for plague that no civilized port in the Mediterranean will at any season admit a vessel thence, without subjecting it to the annoying ordeal. I came in an old Provençal ship which had well nigh played me a scurvy trick somewhere between Sicily and Sardinia, by drowning “ Cesar and his fortunes,” and our port was Mar. seilles. It was on a fine December morning, very like one of our finest mornings in June, that after sailing by the curious barren rocks, that are thrown, here and there, close before the coast, as if artificially done to form a rampart or out-work against the sea, which, in good sooth, does at times roll over from Africa with tremendous violence, we came to anchor at the quarantine ground. We arrived just in time ; for with one pump broken ever since the affair between Sicily and Sardinia, and with the very free ingress of the sea-water, and the still and still opening seams of our strained vessel, the probabilities were much against her surviving another gale of wind, or even of keeping her head above water in a calm, for four-and-twenty hours longer. This quarantine ground is an inlet or basin in a bare rocky islet, situated at the distance of about two miles from the shore and the city of Marseilles, a respectful distance certainly, even for those who might bring the plague with them.

Before we were well moored, among a number of other tradingvessels of various flags, but all from the “ Land of the East,” from Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, or the Barbary coast, two men from the

Quarantine office were put on board to watch that we had no communication with our fellow-prisoners, some of which had longer, some shorter periods than ourselves to perform. My satisfaction at having safely finished a perilous voyage, and the prospect of again treading terra firma, and tasting the pleasures of a civilized country after two years of abstinence from all such, were somewhat clouded by the information one of these men gave me, that in consequence of certain recent apprehensions entertained by the Board of Health, our Quarantine was likely to be lengthened beyond the usual term, which, Heaven knows! is long enough. Few things are perhaps less agreeable than this. When

you have made up your mind as to the extent of your sufferings or privations when you have settled the length of your imprisonment, and fixed the day of your liberation, the addition even of twenty-four hours seems to be insupportable! As our old ship, dreadfully impeded in her course by the leak and damages she had suffered, scarcely seemed to move over the waters, I would still keep up my spirits and hope to see the bold, bluff coast of Provence at last, and then twenty-five days' more confinement, and the Quarantine finished, I should be free as air, and running over the south of France towards Old England. And now, that one portion of my wishes were accomplished, that I was safe in harbour, and at the very gates of the Lazzaretto, to be told that I should have to sojourn in its cells half as long again as the time I had determined—'twas vexatious indeed! I had, however, recourse to the panacea, patience; and as an old traveller, familiar with all classes of men I may be thrown among, and disposed to make something even of the worst of them in the way of amusement or information, I betook myself to converse with the two guards, who had in my eyes, at least one point of superiority over the captain, and the mate, and the sailorsthey had not been cooped up with me for the best part of a dreary month, but were something new. After I had discussed with these honest Marseillais the blockade of Algiers, and the grand African expedition then preparing at the neighbouring port of Toulon, with a few other important subjects, and had taken up my Turkish pipe whose mild and fragrant contents had so often dissipated the fumes of ennui, one of the gardiens, with an expression of countenance meant to excite my interest, said—“ Do you see, Sir, that broken mast and that blackened fragment of the hulk of a vessel lying there among the rocks ?"

I nodded in the affirmative, and he continued—“ They remind us here of a dreadful event which happened a few weeks ago. That ship, · La belle Epouse,' of Marseilles, that was anchored in the very spot where we now are—yes, precisely where this brig is—her chain cable tawt to that pillar on shore, her hawsers cast off here, just as we are moored,—was blown into the air one fine morning.”

“ By what accident?" I inquired.

“ Oh, by no accident,” said my interlocutor; “it was coolly done by a Corsican. You know how revengeful Italians and Corsicans are," and he told with much emphasis, and a laudable proportion of repetition and rigmarole, the following dreadful anecdote, which was afterwards confirmed to me by many persons.

The master of the “ Belle Epouse" was the son of a respectable

merchant of Marseilles, and a handsome well-informed young man, far superior to the general run of commanders of trading-vessels in the Mediterranean. During two or three voyages to the Levant, he had had with him, as mate, a Corsican of about his own age, to whom he was much attached. A handsome youth and of superior manners like himself, the mate was treated at all times with respect, and in the Captain's cabin the distinctions of condition disappeared, and the Marseillois and the Corsican lived like friends. In their familiar intercourse these two young men were accustomed to pass jokes on each other; at times to proceed to practical wit, excusable perhaps to exuberantly-spirited youth, but which is always so dangerous where the blood is warm. On their last voyage, as they were returning from Alexandria, and gay and friendly as ever, the Corsican received a blow—a slap on the cheek—it was given in play by the Captain, but converted into deadly injury and insupportable insult by. the mate. From that moment the too susceptible islander never spoke to his captain save on duty; he brooded incessantly over the blow, and when they had come to anchor in the Quarantine ground of Marseilles, his feelings, whatever they were, resolved themselves into a most fearful deed. One morning, as the Captain was lying reading on a hen-coop on the quarter-deck, and two gardiens, (whose fate was very naturally most deplored by mine interlocutor,) were quietly smoking their short clay-pipes on the poop of the vessel, he went down to the cabin in which he had spent so many happy hours with his friend rather than master, and opening the sainte-barbe, or powder magazine, set fire to its contents. The magazine was well furnished, and the explosion, in consequence, terrible. To the dismay of the shipping, all moored at short distances from each other in the Quarantine ground, a white smoke, a whiter blaze burst from her, and in the next instant “ La Belle Epouse” flew high into the atmosphere with an astounding roar, dreadful as what accompanies the ejection of some huge mass from a volcano. When the disjointed members of the brig returned to their own element, and persons could approach, they found the dead bodies of the Corsican, the Captain, the two guards, and the cabin-boy, who was below at the time the deliberate incendiary opened the powder-magazine. The sailors to the number of seven or eight who were forward at the moment of the explosion, were picked up alive, but all more or less wounded and bruised. The dead were gathered together on a rock: they presented a horrid spectacle, but it was said by those who saw them, that whilst the faces of the murdered appeared calm or languid as those struck by lightning, the face of the murderer, though blackened as a coal from its close contact with the powder, wore an. expression of triumph, mixed with not-human hate and revenge. The bodies were afterwards carried for judicial examination and interment, to the Lazzaretto, where, in a small chamber, outside of its gloomy Bastille-looking gate, I was afterwards shown foul marks of their blood and brains-testimonials at once of the deed of horror, and of the cleanliness of the people employed on the Quarantine establishment. The verses of Homer himself may be indebted to the circumstances of time and locality, and the “ Tale of Troy divine" be a different thing on the plain between the Sigæum and Lectos

capes with the Scamander atwain, and the “ broad Hellespont" and the blue Ægean before, to what it is in a carpeted chamber, or under a clouded northern sky; and certainly my gardien's tale interested me deeply there, where the scene was all before me. It was well nigh worth a whole day's quarantine.

The morning after our arrival was Sunday morning. At a very early hour a priest from Marseilles arrived at the island, and was seen to walk up a rugged path to a chapel built on the top of the rock that overlooked the whole of the harbour. This chapel is not large, but kept very neat exteriorly; there is one bell, and before the door one large crucifix, which I confess I saw with pleasure after my long sojourn in the lands of the Moslem. The priest and his acolyte alone entered the chapel : the nearest approach allowed to those on board the vessels with the yellow flag, was the rocks round the sacred edifice, and the sailors for the most part contented themselves with kneeling on the decks of their respective ships, where they could hear the tinkling of the mass-bell, and catch the precise instant of the “ elevation" of the Host. And then it was impressive to see those crews of swarthy, boisterous men, now silent, subdued, and tranquil as infants, making simultaneously the sign of the cross on their breast, and moving their arms all together when the mass-bell rang, as if animated by one unseen, but potent agency. The Romish religion, which is undeniably on the decline throughout the rest of France, still seems to retain its hold in the south; in Provence, in Languedoc, in Rousillon, devout, or if you will, bigoted Catholics, are yet to be met with; and the French philosophy, which has overthrown Popery without (in my humble opinion, and with full allowance made for all the vices of that mode of faith) erecting any thing so good in its place, seems to be disregarded, or unknown to the mass of the people. The mariners on board our brig, who were all Provençaux, were, or appeared to be, warm in their devotion ; but they were luke-warm, or even frigid, compared to a crew of Sicilians close alongside of us. The dark expressive faces of those islanders—their eyes, which always seem to me to have an African character, reminding one of the copious mixture of Moorish blood in Sicily—were bent submissively on the deck, or the waves of the sea that flowed around the shipping with a most gentle ripple, and each time they marked the mystic sign of the cross with the open hand, their breasts returned a hollow, deep sound, as if struck violently. A mass, unless it be a “ Missa cantata,” does not last long. The priest and his acolyte left the chapel—its door was closed, and in less than five minutes the guitar, and the profane song, were heard on board the Sicilian polacca, whilst our sailors went hard to work about the ship. At about ten in the forenoon our captain returned from the shore, whither he had been to make his declarations to the Custom-house and the Board of Health ; and he brought with him the welcome intelligence that our Quarantine was not lengthened, and that I might go at once on shore to the Lazzaretto.

The Lazzaretto of Marseilles, which is the most extensive establishment of the kind I have anywhere seen, covers the whole of a bare rocky tongue of land, to the north of the city and port, from which it may be distant about half a mile. Its walls are high ; its

« AnteriorContinua »