Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 7/Under the lemons

UNDER THE LEMONS.

 

 

I doubt if it be in the power of the untravelled British mind to conceive the intense, intolerable heat we have been enduring ever since we left England, here at B——, in the Province of Brescia, Italy. It is only since last week, when we had a noble thunderstorm, that I have been able to hold up my head, or to guide a pen. Until then I was one fra quegli sciagurati, ch’ hanno perduti il ben dell’ intelletto, and a letter, had I had the strength to write one, could only have afflicted my friends by revealing the hopeless state of dripping imbecility into which I had sunk. The journey from London to Milan was performed in sixty-three hours of dusty horror, in company with a Milanese nobleman, who informed us at the end thereof that he had not washed himself once during all that time: peretie nov valeva la pena (it was not worth the trouble). The observation was, however, gratuitous, as the fact spoke loudly for itself to several of our senses at once.

We could not breathe in Milan; even the natives faintly gasped that the heat was truly stravagante; so feeling that our only chance of ever returning to England as solid bodies was to get to the mountains at once, on one fatal night we jumped—per train—out of the frying-pan of Milan, into the fire of Brescia; a city which, whatever the Chronicles may say to the contrary, must in fact have been founded by the distinguished firm of Shadrach, Abednego, and Co., and the present inhabitants must be the worthy descendants of those respectable old “parties.” But as they were “no kind a relation of ours,” as the Yorkshire farmer said of George IV., when expected to go into mourning for him, we had made arrangements for flying from the fiery furnace at three in the morning, and were sitting at past midnight with the friend who was to drive us on an exploring expedition to the Lago d’Idro, when, to our astonishment, a waiter, with a very disturbed countenance, opened the door and announced—La Polizia! In strutted an ugly little Commissioner of Police, followed by two satellites, who stationed themselves in what they evidently considered an imposing manner, at the door. The commissioner demanded, in a very haughty and insolent tone, to see my husband’s papers, and on being shown his commission, and the certificate of his having resigned it himself, both signed by the Minister of War, he appeared really annoyed to find everything perfectly en régle, and somewhat embarrassed as to what to do next. He therefore thought proper to relieve his mind and beguile the time by asking an infinity of impertinent questions, first of C——, and then, by way of variety, of me; amongst others, whether I was really C——’s wife, or only “his companion.”

Hereupon, however, my husband grew very angry, and the small Commissioner, not liking the expression of his countenance, retreated in a nervous manner to the door, and said to his satellites, “Pronti coi revolvers” (Be ready with your revolvers). This proceeding to an unarmed man and a woman is a pleasing instance of what Constitutional Government is under the Piedmontese system. To the unenlightened British mind, it looks strangely like despotism. After stopping two mortal hours, wearying us with useless and insolent questions, the Commissioner would not go away without exacting a promise from C—— that he would present himself the next morning before the Questore. This he did, and found the said Questore a very insolent personage, too. He desired C—— to start at once for Turin to obtain a passport (highly constitutional this, a passport for an Italian in Italy!). C—— refused, of course, and demanded to see the Governor of Brescia.

The Governor of Brescia sang the same song in a still louder key, and said that the police had acted in entire pursuance of an express order dall’ alto. C——, however, stoutly refused to go back to Turin, saying he would not be treated like a criminal in his own country, that if there were any charge against him he had a right to know of what he was accused, and that unless they sent gendarmes to conduct us by force to Turin, to Turin he would not go. The governor replied that if we did not start that night, he would send us by force. Meanwhile, however, our friend had gone about the town talking of this fresh instance of governmental oppression of the emigration, and angry groups began to collect around the police-office, and the ugly commissioner was hissed and hustled “when he took his walks abroad,” and grew uneasy in his small mind. So the next morning he re-appeared in a very conciliatory and deferential mood, saying he had merely called as a friend to request C—— to go quietly to Turin, so as not to create a scandalo. C——, however, replied that the scandalo was not of his making, and repeated, that unless he were dragged to Turin by force, he would not stir a step. An hour after there came a polite message from the Questore, who would be obliged if C—— would “favour” him with a call. The Questore was meek and amiable this time, and asked where we wanted to go. C—— replied, “wherever we liked;” and on his adding that we intended to start that night for the Val, the Questore politely handed him a carta di permanenza buona per la Val, and we departed with flying colours, having triumphe dover these bullies. I should tell you, however, that the Governor of Brescia sent a Segrettissima circular to the Sindaco of the first town we stayed at, desiring him to watch over all our doings, and contrive to find out, through our correspondence, what we did, and with whom we were in communication, as we were “personal friends of Mazzini.” The Sindaco, being an honest man, was disgusted: he sent a message to the governor that he was not accustomed to play the spy, and then despatched the Segrettissima circular to us, to warn us what we might expect in other places with less conscientious officials than himself.

But enough of the paltry doings of these paltry souls. We left them behind that night, and after visiting the lovely Lago d’Idro, we came here, to this queer village of B——, on the Lake of Garda. As we arrived in our friend’s open carriage with two horses, we produced a prodigious excitement in the place. The population did their very best to immolate themselves before the Juggernaut in which we travelled; and even the most aged women and smallest babies followed in the wondering procession that accompanied us to the door of a friend of C——’s, by whom we were “to be taken in and done for” while we looked about for a local habitation. Our friend, Signor C——u, told us that this would be a very difficult thing to find, unless indeed we could persuade the proprietor of a dilapidated palace formerly belonging to the great G—— family, to allow us to fit up two or three rooms therein. This palace was, they told us, uninhabited—that is to say, non v’era che il Sordo (there was no one in it but the deaf man), who appeared to be considered of no more importance than if he had been one of the numerous bats we disturbed on our first entry. Having obtained the proprietor’s permission to inhabit any of the rooms we chose, I confess to a moment of blank despair when first the shutters were opened and the blinding sunlight produced a rush among whole armies of bats, scorpions, beetles, and spiders. After seeing the whole palace, the only three rooms in which it appeared to me possible, even by dint of scrubbing and whitewashing, ever to encamp, were precisely those inhabited by il Sordo. Oh! that was of no consequence: the Sordo should be told to turn out, and fix himself in another wing. In spite of my protestations at this singular and somewhat unjust proposal, Madame C——u, who alone in all B—— appears to have the privilege of making the Sordo hear, descended at once into a gloomy kitchen where he was supposed to be cooking his humble dinner of polenta, and while she was gone her husband explained to us the mystery of the poor Sordo’s presence here.

It appears that this Casa G—— passed from the possession of the G—— family into the hands of a rich family named B——, to whom it had belonged for upwards of a hundred years; and, indeed, there is a plate in the wall commemorating the restoration of the house by one F. B., in the year 1736.

The B—— family were very rich and very pious, and there is still a chapel in the house wherein mass was said every day when the Sordo, who is the last of the B——s, was a boy. But the family fell into trouble, and, like Dogberry, “had losses;” yet, though they sank lower and lower, the last relic of their grandeur, the daily mass in their own chapel, was still celebrated, even when they had to dine on bare polenta, like the peasants round them, in order to pay the priests. Finally, the Sordo’s mother was compelled to sell the house and its lemon-garden to a wealthy parvenu relation, as fat and vulgar as a parvenu relation, under such circumstances, is bound, for the credit of the story, to be. And what did that foolish mother do with the money thus obtained but leave it all, except mille zwanzigers (about £35), to a daughter who had married a rich man and did not want it? The mother even seems, like everyone else, to have considered that her son was “only il Sordo;” and so mille zwanzigers were his portion, and on the interest of that noble sum he contrives to exist. No wonder he cooks his own wretched dinner alone in the dark kitchen of the mansion where he was born, and where, on sufferance, he is allowed to remain until his rich relation, who is now pulling down and improving the out-buildings, shall want to do the same with the house itself. It cannot be a cheerful sight to him to see F——, the fat proprietor, lording it over the masons and workmen who are knocking the place about his deaf ears, poor soul!

We had scarcely heard this mournful little story when Madame C——u reappeared, accompanied by the very leanest specimen of a Sordo I ever beheld, dressed in a suit of such very threadbare black, and of so very antique a cut, with so short a waist to his coat, and such very tight trousers over his long thin legs, that he looked as if one of a larger species than usual of the spider tribe had been brushed down from the walls. Nevertheless, he took off his hat with the air of a gentleman, and stood bending down his grey head in a polite manner, while Madame C——u screamed forth the agreeable information that he was to take up his bed and walk into a still more decayed wing of the house. I could not help declaring that I would not consent to this, and on my protest being screamed into his ear, he made me a grateful bow, but declared that all the rooms were alike to him, and that it was always a pleasure to oblige a foreigner and a lady, with a flourish of his arm that was meant to be extremely elegant, but revealed a sad rent in his garment. We, however, still objected; but Madame C——u said we should only set the proprietor against him by refusing, and suggested that as we could not offer the Sordo a present, we might yet make the matter advantageous to him by offering to hire of him some wretched chairs and tables he possessed, and paying for them about five times more than they were worth. And so we did, and all parties were satisfied, and the Sordo returned to his eternal silence in the dark kitchen, and we set some stalwart peasants to scrub and whitewash our strange abode. This done, we also scrubbed the Sordo’s furniture, a proceeding which he regarded with the air of a man too polite to interfere even with mad people.

So here we have dwelt for two whole months, during which time I have grown quite attached to our tumble-down dwelling, which is on the edge of the lake, having a lovely view over to the Monte Baldo, on the opposite Tyrolese shore, and a terrace behind, looking over the lemon gardens that cover the mountains nearly half-way up. The male population of B—— are nearly all gardeners or fishermen. I say gardeners, because the wealth of the place consists almost entirely of its lemon gardens. The lemons are grown for exportation, and require great care and skill in their cultivation. The plants, or rather trees, rise to the immense height of eight metri (the metro here is a little longer than our yard) in about forty or fifty years, and there are some here said to be two centuries old.

They blossom all the year round, but most luxuriantly in May, and the lemons are gathered every month, for every month some portion of the golden store is ripe. The gardeners dig carefully round, and manure the trees twice a year, and they are abundantly watered every fortnight during the summer months. This is a very picturesque and laborious performance. To the gardens that can be so reached, the water is carried in queer shaped carts, such as they use here for wine, resembling an immense barrel set upon wheels, and drawn by the magnificent oxen of these parts. Where the gardens are only to be reached by narrow, precipitous footpaths, two men carry the water barrels slung between two poles, the ends of which they take upon their shoulders, and it is a painful sight to see them staggering, with bare feet, over the sharp stones and rocky pathways, under their heavy loads.

Huge square stone pillars are built at intervals of from six to eight feet along the terraced lemon gardens; into these are driven strong iron fastenings, to which are attached immense wooden shutters, by which the plants are closed in during the short winter. The majority of these shutters are of wood, so that the gardens are quite dark when they are closed; but a few of the richer lemon growers are now using glass. The gardens are closed towards the end of November, and opened again in the beginning of May; but there are very few days during the winter when they are not partially open from sun-rise to sun-down. In very cold nights, which are exceedingly rare on this shore, they light fires inside these temporary greenhouses, made of the small, well-dried wood of the olive. The simple thermometer used in these gardens is a cup of water placed near the tree roots; the gardeners watch this water, and if they see symptoms of freezing, they at once light their fires. This primitive method has the disadvantage of being very dangerous; the greatest care is required to prevent the trees themselves catching, and in spite of the watchfulness of the gardeners, who sit up all night on these occasions, some fearful catastrophes do occur; and a few strong-minded proprietors are beginning to introduce stoves, against which the gardeners entertain a very strong and, as it appears, unfounded prejudice.

They have even fancied, though I believe without reason, that these stoves have been the cause of a disease, similar to the vine disease, which during the last four or five years has caused a fearful destruction of property among the lemon gardens. The disease first shows itself in the roots, and no certain remedy has as yet been found, though many believe that sulphur, already successful in some few instances, may prove such when universally applied.

The lemons from the Lake of Garda are considered the best in Italy for purposes of exportation, as they can bear even the longest voyage without injury. The best are sent to Germany and Russia, and are sold at from seven to eight francs a hundred; the second class lemons are sold in Lombardy and Venetia; and the third class (those which fall from the tree) have always been regarded as the lawful property of the women of the families, who sell them at the low price of fifty or sixty centerimi a hundred, and consider the profits their pin-money. The lemons that are packed for exportation are wrapped one by one in clean paper, before being put in the cases prepared to receive them.

It is a pretty sight to see the women doing this: sometimes twenty or thirty together, sitting on low chairs in large rooms with myriads of lemons forming a golden carpet all round them. They wrap them completely and effectually with a clever twist of the soft paper in an instant, and sing in chorus as they sit at work. Garibaldi’s Hymn was always the favourite tune; one heard it from every house when packing was going on. I used to wonder how they could sing, for the smell of the fresh lemons, so delightful in a small quantity, is dreadfully oppressive when they are gathered together by thousands, in hot weather. Each case, packed for exportation, generally contains about 4500; they are sent across the lake to the Tyrol, to proceed, to proceed, viâ Austria, to their destination.

Since the emancipation of Lombardy from Austrian rule, all lemons passing through Austria pay a duty of two Austrian lire (one franc, ninety centimes) a hundred, even those which are only in transit. Hence they are sometimes smuggled, but not very generally, for the smugglers find they gain far more by smuggling sugar and coffee; and the large cases in which the lemons are packed are inconvenient to stow away in an emergency, as all squeezing destroys the value of their contents.

The so-called fishermen, whose trade in fish is not very large or lucrative, are the smugglers. Their boats are large and heavy, as they are obliged to be built to resist the sudden and violent storms to which the lake is subject. A good boat’s load is about 1440 kilos (metrical measure), and four strong men generally man the boat on these occasions. The transport to the opposite shore takes place by night, and they reckon their ordinary rowing in such cases at four geographical miles an hour. When seen and followed by the Austrian coast guards, who have better boats and more men, the smugglers put out all their strength, and row at the astonishing rate of eight geographical miles an hour. They very rarely attempt to return the Austrian fire; worse armed than their enemies, and always fewer in number, such a course would be fatal: they trust entirely to their herculean sinews, and almost always with success.

On the Austrian shore they have troops of spies and friends who have a perfect telegraphic system of torches and fires, of which the key (constantly changed) is known only to the initiated, to give warning of danger, and indicate safe spots for unloading. As soon as the boat touches the Austrian shore, those who lighted the signal fires appear by miracle as if out of the ground, in numerous, strong and active groups; each man seizes as much as he can carry of the cargo on his own shoulders, and often without a word spoken on either side, it disappears up the rocky paths or in caverns known only to the smugglers, as if by enchantment. The boatmen instantly put off again, often giving themselves no concern as to the disposition of the cargo, for that matter has all been arranged before in safety. Moreover the smugglers are seldom the proprietors of the goods, but are employed by the merchants themselves, who pay them so much a hundred-weight for their risk and labour. When surprised, for without a surprise they may be said to be never overtaken by the coast guard, the smugglers instantly abandon their boat, and fling themselves into the lake, and swim for their lives beneath a rain of rifle balls. On these occasions the loss of the boat is always made good to the smugglers by the owners of the cargo, and such confidence have they in the indomitable strength and courage of these fine fellows, that it hardly ever happens that such a claim is disputed.

The female population appear to have but one sole absorbing occupation, the eternal washing of everything washable; children, clothes, plates, dishes, silk-worm cocoons, beds, and even chairs and tables, in the lake. Indeed, the lake is the soul of the place, and every transaction of life among the peasants appears to take place on its sloping shore. When we first came, everybody bathed in it, some few in the perfectly unsophisticated and unembarrassed costume of our first parents, but the majority in night-gowns, petticoats, old dressing-gowns, sheets, or anything else that came to hand; while many sat in the lake, like the Great Mogul, “for company’s sake, under a huge umbrella.” But the funniest thing was to see ancient peasant crones, when work was done, calmly gather up their scanty garments above their venerable knees, and walk into the lake, chair or stool in hand, to a convenient distance, and there, after planting their chairs firmly in the stones at the bottom, sit to gossip and cool down for the night. The first old party I saw perform this feat I believed to be insane; but when others followed, I grew calmer, and now that I know it to be “their custom always of an afternoon,” I regard the proceeding with as much indifference as the natives themselves.

I have no doubt that if you were to look in Murray, you would find it stated that the chief productions of B—— are lemons, olives, and, of late years, silk; but that is only Mr. Murray’s gammon. Believe the statement of a sufferer that the chief products of B—— are scorpions, mosquitoes, ants, beetles, and spiders,—the black beetles especially being of an uncommonly fine race, remarkable for having a passion for sleeping in boots, and being gifted with extraordinary swiftness of foot. The ants do not present themselves, as a rule, until either a beetle or a scorpion has been squashed, when they suddenly appear in thousands, by miracle, Heaven only knows how or from whence, and endeavour, by labouring together with an organisation du travail which would delight Louis Blanc, to possess themselves of the corpse. The scorpions walk into one’s bed-room with the air of persons who “know their rights, and knowing dare maintain,” and having selected a sunny spot favourable to slumber, they curl themselves up into a mysterious black mass, which when touched with a cautious stick, unfolds into an attitude of menace calculated to appal the stoutest heart.

Our first trouble here was the search after a servant, but Madame C—— brought to us a barelegged maiden built like a female Hercules, who professed to be able to wash, draw water, cut wood, and cook polenta, besides being willing to learn to do more. This being the case, C——, who like most soldiers can do a little of everything, and is a very respectable cook, undertook to teach Barelegs her duties. We make our kitchen, by the way, in the old reception hall, in which there is such an enormously tall, wide fireplace, that our small fire, and smaller cooking (achieved in one corner on the ground thereof), looks as if some elfin people had stolen in to cook their tiny meals in some old giant’s castle. When C—— went into this improvised kitchen to instruct Barelegs in the noble arts of boiling and roasting, she found the proceeding dull, and left him to cook while she retreated to the window, where, lolling comfortably out, she conversed with her numerous acquaintance in the square beneath, and pelted some of them with potato peelings, &c. Remonstrance proved useless, and one day, when the potato peelings began to be answered by pebbles from the piazza below, C—— lost all patience, and dismissed her then and there; whereupon, far from being abashed, she joined her friends outside, and laughed at us! This, you will admit, was irritating, and we were so exasperated that we declared we would do without a servant altogether. C—— was to be the cook, and I the housemaid; a worthy old lady, with a yellow pocket handkerchief on her head, a red jacket of no particular shape, and a fabulously short blue grown, came every morning to wash up; and a friendly smuggler occupied his leisure moments in drawing water and cutting wood for us, which occupation he began at four in the morning, whistling Garibaldi’s hymn all the while with distracting shrillness, and marvellous power of lungs, the sound being cheerful no doubt, but by no means conducive to slumber. We were, however, thoroughly tired of this primitive mode of life before a week was over: C—— had grown excessively red in the face in the performance of his functions, and I was very nearly bent double by the imperfect execution of mine. So we have ventured on another Barelegs, who has the additional attraction of a goître, and who appears as careful and willing a body as well can be. She calls us poveri forestieri, with an air of encouraging patronage highly gratifying to our feelings.

I wish I could give you an idea how utterly different everything is here to our life in England. From the break of day, when we rise to shut the shutters and exclude the blinding sun, to the last moment at night, when, having set all doors and windows open, we cautiously creep within our mosquito curtains, everything is un-English and strange. Some things, such as the appearance of C——’s gardener with a huge basket of golden figs on his head, the fresh sound of the lake, which behaves like a small sea, and foams up in a most refreshing manner on the shingly shore, the delicious smell of the lemons that are being shipped away from the port, the pleasant rows on the lake in the moonlight, &c., are very delightful; but there are other things which are, to say the least of it, trying.

It is trying to see one’s well-known shirts, nightgowns, &c., being washed in the lake close in front of one’s own door, and handled and carefully examined by the entire population of B——, while they make audible comments on the cut and colour of those garments. It is trying to be obliged to buy meat for all the week on Saturday, which is killing day, or to go without; trying to live in a land that looks fertility itself, and know that all vegetables have been burned up by the heat, so that even an occasional potato is a marvel and a treat; and to have to accept as a luxury a poor flabby little fresh-water fishling, who might as well have remained for ever in his native element for any sustenance to be obtained from his small body; trying, when one has ordered a fowl for dinner, to see the said fowl shortly after, sitting in a very nervous attitude with one leg tied to the table in the reception hall, alias kitchen, with his head cocked excessively on one side, as he watches the movements of Barelegs in an anxious manner, as if he had a horrid prevision of his coming fate. It is trying to live in a place not lighted at night, so that if one attempt a cheerful evening walk, one is certain to walk into heaps of nameless filth always thrown in the very centre of the narrow streets, or to stumble over the aged inhabitants who are cooling unseen on their doorsteps.

We have no books except the “Siege de la Rochelle,” by way of the last novelty; and our chief excitement is the arrival of the daily papers from Milan, for the first reading of which we quarrel in an unseemly manner every morning; and the coming, on three nights of the week, of the diligence from Brescia, which brings our letters.

The last three or four miles of road between Brescia and B—— are a rather rapid descent: part of the road is very narow, between the high walls of lemon gardens on each hand; and at distances of about a quarter of a mile there are little openings, into which mule carts and, at night, even foot passengers are obliged to retire, to prevent being squashed. The diligence always starts off at the beginning of the descent in a fast trot, which soon becomes a gallop, and a great whip-cracking is maintained the whole time, to warn the unwary that they must run for it. Now, as B—— is even of smaller importance than G—— (the Capo luogo of the district), the people of B—— have to endure the ignominy of seeing their friends, parcels, and letters rush by them to G——, where the village magnates descend, and waste a great deal of time in getting out their luggage and quarrelling about the fare, and the buona manu to the conductor, during which time the B——ites have to sit in patient anguish, and are then rewarded by being humbly re-conducted to B—— by the slow efforts of one horse. We find the excitement of awaiting this return so very bad for our digestions and tempers, that we generally go forth about a mile on the road, and stand on a rock above the road, in a menacing attitude, waving our mantles, like Gray’s Bard, denouncing “ruin on the ruthless king.” The driver knows what the wild-looking performance means, and as he gallops by he shouts out our fate. “Nothing for you, Signori miei!” or “Si Signori! letters for you!” as the case may be.

A little while ago C—— had to go to Brescia on business, and I took the opportunity of having our one setting-room whitewashed, for the broken and battered old frescoes afforded a lurking-place for many an unsightly insect. The operation of whitewashing was performed by an exceedingly aged and profoundly deaf old gentleman, with a very short ladder, a tiny pot of whitewash about the size of the domestic jam-pot of the period, and a brush such as one might use to wash in the sky in a moderate-sized water-colour drawing. As the jam-pot stood on the ground, and the respectable old gentleman had to descend to it, breathing very hard all the while, every time his small brush was dry, you can easily understand why the performance was of very long duration.

I wished to suggest various simple improvements, but finding that it was impossible to make the old gentleman hear, and that I had to poke at him with a stick every time I wanted to converse, I soon gave up the attempt in despair. One day—one fatal day—it occurred to me that I would give renewed vigour to his aged arm, so I carried in a tumbler of a nameless acid they called wine in these parts, and poked vigorously at the ancient Muratore till I made him understand that the said tumbler of acid was for his private and particular drinking. He descended with unusual alacrity, and his eye brightened so much after quaffing the noble beverage, that I returned to my room delighted with my success. I am sorry to say that, on going back in about an hour to see how the charm had worked, I found my old friend curled up in a corner, slumbering peacefully, and with such an expression of beatitude on his wrinkled face that I had not the heart to disturb him.

Barelegs and I have since been occupied in cleaning the scanty furniture, mercilessly bespattered with whitewash during the Muratore’s labours, and while so employed, Barelegs made me this painful confidence:

“I don’t know what ails that old man down there” (meaning the unfortunate Sordo in the dark kitchen), “but, when I go in the kitchen, I continually find him crying, and when I ask him what is the matter, he says he has a cold!”

She appeared exceedingly outraged at the pity I evinced, and concluded, in a hard tone of voice:

“Ma Signora!—a man to cry! He may have his troubles; but anyhow it is a great weakness!”

Poor old Sordo! if this be the measure of sympathy he generally meets, no wonder he says he has a cold. No doubt it is “a great weakness” to cry by himself in the dark, but it is a dreary weakness to think of, and it casts a very considerable shadow over the sun-light of my terrace above him, when I do so.

When we first came, the Sordo had two companions who used to sit with him by the side of the huge fireplace in the dark kitchen, taking a languid interest in the boiling of his little pot of polenta. These two companions were a very limp and exhausted kitten, and an exceedingly dejected fowl, guiltless of eggs. By dint of carrying him up on to our sunny terrace, and giving him first milk, and then stronger food, we have transformed the exhausted kitten into an excessively vulgar and forward cat; and, I grieve to say, the very first use he made of his increase of vigour was to make a savage onslaught on his former ally, the dejected fowl, whom he deprived entirely of a flabby tail he had, before Barelegs came to the rescue. Only yesterday he was guilty of a worse crime still. Some one had presented the Sordo with a piece of liver, which he had stowed away on a high shelf, to be eaten this day. Alas! this morning early, while the Sordo was at mass, the vulgar cat not only climbed up and demolished the liver, but added insult to injury by going to sleep in the dish.

Thus have we, by the rash introduction of the luxuries of city life, demoralised the primitive innocence of at least one of the natives of the village of B——, in the district of G——, in the province of Brescia, Lombardy, Italy.