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subject, in the Journal des Débats, only the other day, "Italy belongs to the Italians, they are at home : they are fighting for their homes
, their altars, and their firesides.” For them to intervene in this crisis is not only a legitimate but a necessary act, if their long-delayed independence is ever to be achieved. And whom do they oppose ? A scum of Austrians, Irish, Bavarians—the sweepings of Europe-foreigners, with a foreigner at their head
It is a pity for General Lamoricière, who had a name to lose. But he has been caught in a trap. Do you suppose, mon cher Alfred, that the disgrace which has fallen on his military reputation was not counted upon by him who always calculates de longue main ? Do you imagine that it was to a friend that the Emperor of the French accorded a tacit permission to accept the command of the Pope's army? Did nothing, think you, foreshadow in the Imperial mind the kind of con- . tretemps that might befal from this acceptance, with volcanic Italy heaving from one end of the peninsula to the other? Had General Lamoricière forgiven the coup d'état of the 2nd of December, that he should be so highly favoured? Believe rather in the proverb which says: “Qui cache son secret atteint son désir."
But, you will tell me, the proceeding on the part of Sardinia, which has ended in General Lamoricière's discomfiture, has been visited by the Emperor's reprobation. The French ambassador has been withdrawn from Turin, and the reproving Grandguillot announces that this step was taken to express the dissatisfaction felt by France. Whatever the departure of Baron Talleyrand may signify, as far as reproof goes it is impossible to administer one in milder terms, so much so that one has a difficulty in believing that it is Grandguillot who speaks. The disavowal, he says, is far from a rupture, adding-what nobody who reads between the lines feels at all inclined to doubt that “the interests of France and Sardinia always coincide.”
So well, indeed, do these interests coincide, that many incline to the opinion that Garibaldi's avowed hostility to Cavour arises not only from the cession of Nice and Savoy, but from his belief, or knowledge, that further cessions are contemplated, as a set-off to the consolidation under one sceptre of the whole of the Italian peninsula, so far as it can be acquired to Piedmont by popular vote or force of arms.
Look at the map of Italy and examine its western shore! Where lies Sardinia ? Scarcely a stone's throw from the southern extremity of Corsica. Is not Corsica 2 French department? How natural, then, to wish to make of the contiguous island another! If the northern slopes of the Alps were dangerous to France, how much more so the Strait of Bonifacio, which can be crossed in an hour! Italy may cease to be “a geographical expression,” but assuredly, under existing circumstances, Sardinia is one : her name, which is now given to a large continental kingdom, must soon be merged in that of “ All Italy,” and with her name why not her territory ? But this may not be all. Next to Nice in the affections of Garibaldi stands the city of his adoption-Genoa. This old republic, only incorporated with Sardinia at the period of the Treaty of Vienna, has no ancient tie to sever, and, moreover, once enjoyed the inestimable blessing of belonging to France, to whose extent, under the First Empire, she added three departments. In politics, as well as in affairs of the heart, “on revient toujours
à ses premiers amours," and the precedent of Savoy may well be quoted in favour of Genoa, and for this especial reason—that the acquisition of her noble port, and the pied-à-terre which she offers in the event of its being necessary for French troops again to enter Italy, are of so much greater value. To Garibaldi, who fights for liberty wherever the Italian tongue is spoken, how painful, then, the thought that diplomacy is at work to undo, to a certain extent, that which he effects by the sword!
Be this as it may, it is certain that Garibaldi has never forgiven the act by which his birthplace was transferred to France. Even within the last few days we find a letter of his in the Official Journal of Naples, in which he says : “Although I am quite disposed to sacrifice all personal feeling on the altar of the country, I could never be reconciled with men who have sold an Italian province !"
It is, however, upon the great question of annexation that the fate of Italy hangs. The Dictator remains unchanged in his determination to leave that measure in abeyance until his foot is once more planted within the walls of the Eternal City. What chance is there, at this moment, of his being able to accomplish that purpose ? Certainly none, so long as General Goyon remains in Rome-and his stay there is, at least, dependent on the presence of the Pope. If respect for the arms of France avail not to check the advance of Garibaldi -there is the material consideration of collision with the armies of Victor Emmanuel, the sovereiga to whom he ceases not to avow the most implicit obedience, the most devoted loyalty, and who durst not permit a hostile hand to be raised against his great ally, even if his inclination prompted him to do so. M. de Cavour has even declared that wherever a French soldier appears the Piedmontese army has orders to retire before him; and however great the prestige of Garibaldi's name, the Piedmontese generals must weigh well the terrible danger that impends before they fraternise with the Dictator for an object so impolitic as collision with France.
“ The situation,” then, remains thus : either the Pope must fly from Rome, leaving nothing for the French army to defend, or Garibaldi foregoes his intention of proclaiming the Italian Kingdom from the papal palace on Monte Cavallo. It is not the policy of the Emperor to permit the flight of the Pope, and a second proclamation to the Palermitans declares that the annexation to which the Dictator is vowed shall only be published within the walls of Rome. If this be so, Italy has no other prospect than complete political and moral anarchy.
But let me finish this serious letter by one line that is exhilarating. I have this moment read in a French journal the following announcement: “The Comte de Quatrebarbes, an old Legitimist officer, formerly in the Royal Guard, has gone to Rome to offer his sword to the Pope.” When the Gauls invaded pagan Rome, they were struck with admiration at each senator's solitary beard; how much greater must be the admiration of the Holy Conclave when they behold a Gaul with “four beards” entering Christian Rome with the design to save it!
Adieu, mon cher,
THE ADVENTURE OF BEL AND THE DRAGON.
BY DUDLEY COSTELLO.
ALTHOUGH the events related in the following story owe their origin, in a great degree, to the Apocrypha, they did not occur in the time of King Cyaxares, neither were they witnessed on the banks of the Euphrates.
On the contrary, they came to pass under the reign of our most gracious Lady, Queen Victoria, and within the confines of the county where the towers of Windsor overlook the Thames.
I have no difficulty, therefore, in fixing both time and place, and, with so much given, he must be very hard of belief-in these believing days who doubts the genuineness of the present narrative.
I can afford, however, to be even more particular, by naming the precise period and the exact locality of the occurrences about to be described: -the rest I leave to the reader's judgment, or to his generosity.
It happened, then, on one fine morning in the year 1838-as nearly as I can recollect, it was the 5th or 6th of July, at all events the day of the week was Friday--that the desire possessed me to throw labour aside and pass a few hours of idleness in the country. In recent conversation an acquaintance of mine had spoken in terms of rapture of the loveliness of the scenery above Maidenhead-bridge, which I had never seen, and thither I decided upon going.
At that time the Great Western Railway was only in progress. It was open from London to Slough, but a great gap unfinished lay beyond, consequently the distance between Slough and Maidenhead had to be performed on foot, or in one of Monsieur Dotesio's carriages. As I had elected for exercise in making holiday, I chose to be a pedestrian, and with a long day before me I had plenty of leisure for my purpose ; so I took my way through the fields that skirted the high road, and made for my destination. Not caring how the moments went, I gave a couple of hours to the journey, and when I rested on the parapet of Maidenheadbridge, and glanced at the descending river, I saw at once that my friend's description had not been exaggerated.
The river in summer-time is, indeed, one of remarkable beauty. On the right hand, beyond the sheltered village of Taplow, rises a lofty wooded ridge, curving gently westward, the height being crowned midway, by the noble mansion that occupies the place of “ Cliefden's proud alcove;" on the left lies a broad level of pastures and corn-fields, which lose themselves in the haze of a distant range of high blue hills; and directly in front extends the long reach of the Thames, apparently issuing from the Cliefden woods, and taking its course, half in deep shadow, half in bright sunshine, till, broken by weirs and mill-dams, and fretting at the osier beds which divide its waters, it sweeps in a free and glittering current beneath the grey arches of the bridge.
To my thinking there is no charm in Nature-though her attractions are countless—like that of a fast-flowing river, and I tested the pleasure which this beautiful stream afforded by loitering beside its banks for the
greater part of that pleasant summer's day; now watching the dragon-fly amongst the sedge, now following the track of a swan, as, without motion of its own, it floated out of sight; now listening to the carol of the lark, as it poised itself high in air ; now stopping to catch the murmuring note of the wood-pigeon in the opposite forest depths. There were persevering fishermen, of whom I asked many idle questions, as profitless as their own occupation; there were ferries, which I crossed and recrossed, to find variety even in this lovely scene; there were summer dwellings level with the river-woe-betide those who live in them in winter-on which I gazed with longing, lingering eyes; there were cool, shady spots, where I sat down; objects, in short, of every kind, self-created or presented, delayed me at every turn, and evening came stealing on before I was well aware of its approach.
But sentiment, however enjoyable, is not the only thing for which one lives, even when one chances to be a holiday maker. We may steep ourselves in poetical sensations, which shall endure, as young ladies say, “for ever so long,” but in the end there arise other sensations that gradually supersede those which have their source merely in the sublime or in the beautiful; and by the time I arrived at Cookham ferry an inward monitor, with fangs sharper than conscience, told me in the plainest terms that dinner would be a far more agreeable recreation than listening to the warbling larks or cooing wood-pigeons. In fact, I found that I was desperately hungry, and if larks or pigeons yet occupied my thoughts, it was more with reference to their merits as side-dishes than to their tuneful capabilities.
In this frame of mind I asked the ferryman if there was a good inn at Cookham where I could dine and sleep?
He answered readily in the affirmative. I might do very well at the Three Horseshoes, which was handy by the water-side, or, better still, up in the village at the Bel and the Dragon.
“ Bel and the Dragon !" I repeated; ~ that is a curious sort of sign." “Ah, 'tis curos," replied the ferryman; “ taken from Scriptur, they tell me; but it's a good house, and you'll be well accommodated."
Independently of the ferryman's recommendation, there was something in the sign of the inn which recommended itself. The scriptural legend was in the highest degree provocative of appetite; not that I needed any stimulus, but the provocation suggested fulfilment. I called to memory the words of the apocryphal writer: “Now the Babylonians had an idol, called Bel, and there were spent on him every day twelve great measures of fine flour, and forty sheep, and six vessels of wine." This passage, interpreted in the language of innkeepers, evidently signified good bread, capital mutton, and splendid sherry, or, at any rate, ale of the very best. It was impossible to lack food in such an establishment.
“ Bel and the Dragon for my money!” said I to the ferryman. 6 Which is the way?”
It could not be missed. I was to mount the flight of steps leading to the causeway, keep the church to the right, take the road to the left, turn sharp round the corner, and, on the opposite side to the Methodist chapel, there I should see the inn, in the main street of Cookham.
These instructions I carefully followed, and, when I did turn the corner,
the first thing I saw was a huge sign-board, bearing an inscription in letters of gold which indicated the whereabouts of Bel and the Dragon.
Cookham, once a market town, but now, by social revolution, deprived of that dignity, though it still rejoices—if it be matter for rejoicing-in being “the seat of a Poor-law union,” is more remarkable for the length and width of its chief-I may say of its only-street, than for the lofty architecture of the houses that line it. To say the truth, they are rather of the dumpy or compressed order, as if some tipsy giant (Bel, perhaps, when he first came into Berkshire; only he never drank that wine; the priests saved him the trouble) had made them his bed and squeezed them nearly fat, so narrow is the space between the eaves and the
pavement. Cookham, then, architecturally speaking, was a failure; but if I felt disappointed at its want of magnificence, the disappointment was nothing to what I experienced when my eye rested on the sign-board of its principal inn. Instead of the grand artistical display which I had looked for, nothing greeted my view but the aforesaid tame inscription. I felt myself, so to speak, pictorially swindled.
But this æsthetical feeling was not of long duration. After all, what did it signify to me whether the story of Bel and the Dragon were illustrated on a sign-post or not? Most likely, Cookham, evidently not famous in one branch of Art, was equally deficient in another : no incipient Martin flourished within its walls ; the painter had not yet been found to do justice to the subject,—though this kind of modesty, by-theby, is not always practised by painters. The real question for a hungry traveller, was the nature of the accommodation that awaited me inside.
Decorative attractions apart, the little inn at Cookham was exactly the sort of place I would have chosen had I not already been advised to go there by the ferryman. Entering by a low-browed door, I saw before me the most compact little Bar I think I have ever set eyes on, with a paraphernalia of shining tap-handles, glittering glass, and variegated china of the richest promise. Within the bar was a staid, quiet, elderly woman, the hostess, a picture of propriety and order, and whisking about in the passage a buxom waiting-maid-a picture, too, but neither staid, quiet, nor elderly.
To my inquiry for a private room, the hostess made answer in words, her attendant by deeds, and following the latter just three paces--there was room for no more-I was ushered into the parlour of the establishment.
It was a long and low apartment—so long that it ran entirely through the house, stretching from the window that looked on the street to the glass door that opened into the garden—and so low that I could touch the ceiling by raising my hand very little above my head. It boasted of many adornments : flowers were there in profusion, pictures and framed engravings hung on the walls, books were scattered about, and in every “coigne of vantage" stood some careful preparations of natural historya woodcock here, an owlet there, a fox's head under one glass, a weasel under another, and lording it over all, on a console by himself
, a pike of enormous dimensions, bright with fresh varnish, and seeming, though an effigy only, "greedy yet to kill," as if he had been still in his native millstream hard by. What pleased me, however, more than anything else in