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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 130.djvu/447

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A LADY'S VISIT TO THE HERZEGOVINIAN INSURGENTS.

movements, a thoroughly uncivilized Slav; the other, mechanical, with everything that drill can do for him. After the lottery was over, the peasants again went to fetch their flags, and, proceeding down the main street, repeated the salutation of the morning with even more vigor and impetuosity, owing greatly, we imagined, to a certain amount of stimulant imbibed during the day. The festivities were not over yet, however. There was to be a grand national dance in the theatre, where we had taken a box.

As we arrived at eight o'clock, it was just beginning. Upon the stage sat two musicians, each armed with a one-stringed violin, from which they managed to extract a most wonderful amount of sound, aided enormously by their feet; sometimes indeed, when their hands, utterly wearied, refused to play any longer, they kept the dancers going by stamping energetically. They certainly were the most untiring votaries of Terpsichore I have ever seen. Round and round they went, like dervishes, clapping their hands and shouting, sometimes seizing one another round the waist, at others round the neck. It made one perfectly dizzy to look at them, and an hour of the heat and noise was enough. As we came out, we saw the poor refugees clustered round the doorway, for they could not afford the entrance to the theatre on ten soldi a day, and so had to be content with looking on from the outside.

There is a great deal of the old-fashioned ways and manners of their Italian ancestors surviving amongst the Ragusans. It is still the habit for all the politicians and principal men to meet, either at the banker's, barber's, or chemist's, to discuss the political news of the day. It was at first strange to hear a magistrate, or dignitary of the law, talk upon, the most solemn subjects while undergoing the operation of shaving; but we soon conquered this feeling, and made a point of turning into the worthy barber's every morning to hear the last news from the seat of war.

From there we usually went to the bankers on the market-place, where, very often, we met some of the insurgent chiefs, who came in to buy food and get money. Sometimes all business was forgotten in the excitement of listening to an account of the battle just fought. It was impossible not to enter into the spirit of the situation, and very often the necessity of such sublunary matters as getting change for our circular notes was ignored whilst we sat listening to the excited babel of tongues.

There are many pretty expeditions to be made in the neighborhood of Ragusa. The first in interest is to the island of La Croma, formerly the home of the ill-fated emperor Maximilian and his wife, which lies about half a mile from the entrance to the harbor. Originally it belonged to a monastery founded by our king, Richard Cœur de Lion, who, being overtaken by storms in the Adriatic on his way home from the Holy Land, took refuge in the island of La Croma, and built this monastery and likewise the cathedral in the town. The monks were gradually scattered, and the place eventually bought by Maximilian, who, by utilizing the old cloister, and building a new wing, succeeded in making a most comfortable country-house. It was very sad to wander through the rooms once tenanted by him and the empress Charlotte.

The whole island and house have just been purchased by a gentleman from Trieste for the small sum of 4,000l. He has left everything exactly as it was when Maximilian occupied it. There was the blotting-book on the table in the study, with the ink dry in the bottle; whilst above, on the wall, hung a large map of Mexico. Often, I daresay, did he study it, little dreaming of the sad fate that awaited him and his wife amongst the treacherous inhabitants of that western land. The grounds are very prettily laid out, and one can hardly understand his preferring the uncertainties of an imperial crown to the peace and quiet of this lovely spot.

Another object well repaying a visit are the mills at Ombla. Our road towards Gravosa (the bay that forms the entrance to the Ombla) lay through a country bright with almond and orange trees in full blossom. One crop, of which we saw many fields, excited our particular curiosity. It consisted of a yellow flower, creeping thickly and closely over the ground; and we were told that this constituted the principal article of commerce of Ragusa, and was the far-famed "Persian insect-destroying powder" (the botanical name we were never able to ascertain), which we in England imagine comes from the East, but which in reality is principally grown on the shores of Dalmatia. It can be purchased at wholesale prices, and requires to be used in wholesale quantities if you travel in the interior. A boat was waiting at the entrance of the river, and we were soon enjoying the indolent pleasure of being rowed along through the loveliest scenery. The green and fertile