« AnteriorContinuar »
I have seldom seen a place more quaint, pretty, calm, and pastoral, than this remote little Chur. What need have the inhabitants for walls and ramparts, except to build summerhouses, to trail vines, and hang clothes to dry on them ? No enemies approach the great moulding gates : only at morn and even the cows come lowing past them, the village maidens chatter merrily round the fountains, and babble like the evervoluble stream that flows under the old walls. The schoolboys, with book and satchel, in smart uniforms, march up to the gymnasium, and return thence at their stated time. There is one coffee-house in the town, and I see one old gentleman goes to it. There are shops with no customers seemingly, and the lazy tradesmen look out of their little windows at the single stranger sauntering by. There is a stall with baskets of queer little black grapes and apples, and a pretty brisk trade with half-a-dozen urchins standing rou:ad. But, beyond this, there is scarce any talk or movement in the street. There's nobody at the book-shop. “ If you will have the goodness to come again in an hour," says the banker, with his mouthful of dinner at one o'clock, “ you can have the money.” There is nobody at the hotel, save the good Jandlady, the kind waiters, the brisk young cook who ministers to you. Nobody is in the Protestant church-oh! strange sight, the two confessions are here at peace !)—nobody in the Catholic church : until the sacristan, from his snug abode in the cathedral close, espies the traveller eyeing the monsters and pillars before the old shark-toothed arch of his cathedral, and comes out (with a view to remuneration possibly) and opens the gate, and shows you the venerable church, and the queer old relics in the sacristy, and the ancient vestments (a black velvet cope, amongst other robes, as fresh as yesterday, and presented by that notorious "pervert," Henry of Navarre and France), and the statue of St. Lucius who built St. Peter's Church, on Cornhill.
What a quiet, kind, quaint, pleasant, pretty old town! Has it been asleep these hundreds and hundreds of years, and is the brisk young Prince of the Sidereal Realms in his screaming car drawn by his snorting steel elephant coming to waken it? Time was when there must have been life and bustle and com. merce here. Those vast, venerable walls were not made to keep out cows, but men-at-arms, led by fierce captains, who prowled about the gates, and robbed the traders as they passed in and out with their bales, their goods, their pack-horses, and their wains. Is the place so dead that even the clergy of the diflerent denominations can't quarrel ? Why, seven or eight, oi a dozen, or fifteen hundred years ago (they haven't the register at St. Peter's up to that remote period. I dare say it was burnt in the fire of London)--a dozen hundred years ago, when there was some life in the town, St. Lucius was stoned here on account of theological differences, aiter founding our church in Cornhill.
There was a sweet pretty river walk we used to take in the evening and mark the mountains round glooming with a deeper purple; the shades creeping up the golden walls; the river brawling, the cattle calling, the maids and chatterboxes round the fountains babbling and bawling; and several times in the course of our sober walks we overtook a lazy slouching boy, or hobbledehoy, with a rusty coat, and trousers not too long, and big fect trailing lazily one after the other, and large lazy hands dawdling from out the tight sleeves, and in the lazy hands, a little book, which my lad held up to his face, and which I dare say so charmed and ravished him, that he was blind to the beautiful sights around him ; unmindful, I would venture to lay any wager, of the lessons he had to learn for tomorrow; forgetful of mother waiting supper, and father preparing a scolding ; absorbed utterly and entirely in his book.
What was it that so fascinated the young student, as he stood by the river shore ? Not the Pons Asinorum, What book so delighted him, and blinded him to all the rest of the world, so that he did not care to see the apple-woman with her fruit, or (more tempting still to sons of Eve) the pretty girls with their apple cheeks, who laughed and prattled round the fountain ! What was the book? Do you suppose it was Livy, or the Greek grammar? No; it was a Novel that you were reading, you lazy, not very clean, good-for-nothing, sensible boy! It was D'Artagnan locking up General Monk in a box, or almost succeeding in keeping Charles the First's head on. It was the prisoner of the Château d'If cutting himself out of the sack fifty feet under water (I mention the novels I like best myself-novels without love or talking, or any of that sort of nonsense, but containing plenty of fighting, escaping, robbery, and rescuing)--cutting himself out of the sack, and swimming to the island of Monte Cristo. O Dumas! (thou brave, kind, gallant old Alexandre! I hereby offer thee homage, and give thee thanks for many pleasant hours. I have read thee (being sick in bed) for thirteen hours of a happy day, and had the ladies of the house fighting for the volumes. Be assured that lazy boy was reading Dumas (or I will go so far as to let the reader here pronounce the eulogium, or insert the name of his favorite author); and as for the anger, or it may be, the reverberations of his schoolmaster, or the remonstrances ot lis father, or the tender pleadings or his mother that he should not let the supper grow cold--I don't believe the scapegrace cared one fig. No! Figs are sweet, but fictions are sweeter.
Have you ever seen a score of white-bearded, white-robed warriors, or grave seniors of the city, seated at the gate of Jaffa or Beyrout, and listening to the story teller reciting his marvels out of “ Antar" or the - Arabian Nights?" I was once present when a young gentleman at table put a tart away from him, and said to his neighbor, the Younger Son (with rather a fatuous air), “ I never eat sweets."
“Not eat sweets ! and do you know why?” says T.
“Because I am past that kind of thing," says the young gentleman.
" Because you are a glutton and a sot!” cries the Elder (and Juvenis winces a little). * All people who have natural, healthy appetites, love sweets; all children, all women, all Eastern people, whose tastes are not corrupted by gluttony and strong drink.” And a plateful of raspberries and cream disappeared before the philosopher.
You take the allegory? Novels are sweets. All people with healthy literary appetites love them-almost all women ;-a vast number of clever, hard-headed men. Why, one of the most learned physicians in England said to me only yesterday, “ I have just read So-and-So for the second time” (naming one of Jones's exquisite fictions). Judges, bishops, chancellors, mathematicians, are notorious novel-readers ; as well as young boys and sweet girls, and their kind, tender mothers. Who has not read about Eldon, and how he cried over novels every night when he was not at whist?
As for that lazy naughty boy at Chur, I doubt whether he will like novels when he is thirty years of
He is taking too great a glut of them now. He is eating jelly until he will be sick. He will know most plots by the time he is twenty, so that he will never be surprised when the Stranger turns out to be the rightful earl,—when the old waterman, throwing off his beggarly gabardine, shows his stars and the collars of his various orders, and clasping Antonia to his bosom, proves himself to be the prince, her long-lost father. He will recognize the novelist's same characters, though they appear in red-heeled pumps and ailes-de-pigcon, or the garb of the nineteenth century. He will get weary of sweets, as boys of private schools grow (or used to grow, for I have done growing some little time myself,