Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/87

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Jan. 9, 1864.]

quite as ready to twit you good-naturedly on the subject of Kossuth and others.

On the whole, I know of no people who are pleasanter and more friendly at home than the Austrians. They are essentially a pleasure-loving, impulsive, vivacious race, with the faults that belong to all three qualities. I should say that the national fault is an overweening haughtiness to inferiors; but even this will soon cease to be so absolute a fact as formerly. Already the educated classes are getting tired of the constant hand-kissing of servants, and content themselves with a verbal submission from them, namely, “Ich küst die Hand;” whilst only here and there you see children raising the fingers of uncles and aunts to their lips. The love of titles and distinctions is strong as ever. I once saw a letter directed to my housemaid, “To her well-born Caroline Tinke”—wohl-geboren being a common adjective, and having no equivalent in English but Esquire, which we don’t apply to ladies, however highly descended they may be. A stranger will always address you as “Gnädiger Herr” in correspondence; and if you write to your washerwoman for her bill, you commence the letter “gracious lady.” It is curious that such formalities should hold their ground among a nation eminently sociable and warm-hearted.

Perhaps I cannot conclude this sketch better than by simply describing a gala day, as spent by an Austrian family. In the morning, mass (for the gala days are generally fêtes in the church calendar), with the gorgeous ceremonies and grand services of their religion; then a lunch of ices and sweet cakes at a confectioner’s, followed by a stroll through a picture gallery or on the glacis, which would fill up the time till dinner; after dinner, a carriage or omnibus to Schönbrun to feed the monkeys and sit under the shade, or to Döbling to climb the Rahlenberg and look at the prospect; next a biscuit, bought by the way, or coffee in one of the pretty tents on the Graben, and a hurried rush to the opera, or the Prater—the latter preferred if fireworks happen to form an extra inducement on the night in question. I might write an entire chapter on the Prater,—it is Hyde Park, Cremorne Gardens, Epping Forest, and Richmond, all in one,—but I forbear. Space is not permitted me to dilate further on the amusements of a people who live more than any other pour s’amuser. Those who would do the same must go to Vienna. They will find the task an easy one.





Almost all the habitations that formed the little village of Santa Lucia were grouped together, apparently according to no other plan than such as chance and caprice had dictated, around an irregularly-shaped little piazza, on the lower or valley side of the church. On the other side of it—the side which looked towards the Apennine—were the churchyard, the Cura, or parsonage, and a half-ruined tower, the only remains of a small castle that had existed here in the days when the possessors of the soil lived on their land and in strong castles; the days before social progress turned them from rebels into courtiers. There were the landmarks of the old social arrangements still in their normal places: the lord’s castle on the highest, most prominent, and defensible point of the ground; the dwellings of the peasantry, his serfs and vassals, huddled together on the lower ground at its foot; and the church and the priest between the two.

The old tower was thus the last building of any sort towards the hills. There were, it is true, one or two other villages higher up, before the open ground of the mountain range was reached; and the little bridle-paths which were the only roads above Santa Lucia, meandered from one of these to the other in succession. But it was easy for anybody who had a general knowledge of the country, to reach the open hill-side without passing through these. It might have been rather difficult for one having no such knowledge to do so, for the country was broken into a labyrinth of little valleys, each with its small stream, ready to become a scarcely passable torrent after a little rain; and although it appeared easy enough to a wayfarer to steer his course directly for the high tops to the westward and northward of him when he stood at the top of any one of the lower hills, no sooner had he descended into the intervening valley, and plunged among the woods with which most of these valleys are more or less clothed, than he found himself wholly at a loss as to his direction and bearings. It was a difficult region, in short, for “going across country;” and a stranger under the necessity of traversing it, soon found that his most advisable plan