Willis the Pilot by Johanna Spyri
Herbert and Cecilia--The little Angels--A Catastrophe--The Departure--Marriage of the Doge with the Adriatic--Sovereigns of the Sea--Dante and Beatrix--Eleonora and Tasso--Laura and Petrarch--The Return--Surprises--What one finds in Turbots--A Horror--The Price of Crime--Ballooning--Philipson and the Cholera--A Metamorphosis--Adventure of the Chimpanzee--Are you Rich?
Next day the sky was shrouded in dense masses of cloud, some grey as lead, some livid as copper, and some black as ink. Towards evening the two families, as usual, resolved themselves into a talking party, and Wolston, requesting them to listen, began as follows:--
"There were two rich merchants in Bristol, between whom a very close intimacy had for a long time existed. One of them, whom I shall call Henry Foster, had a daughter; and the other, Nicholas Philipson, had a son, and the two fathers had destined these children for one another. The boy was a little older than the girl, and their tastes, habits, and dispositions seemed to fit them admirably for each other, and so to ratify the decision of the parents. Little Herbert and Cecilia were almost constantly together. They had a purse in common, into which they put all the pieces of bright gold they received as presents on birthdays and other festive occasions. In summer, when the two families retired to a retreat that one of them had in the country, the children were permitted to visit the cottagers, and to assist the distressed, if they chose, out of their own funds--a permission which they availed themselves of so liberally that they were called by the country people the two little angels."
"What a pity there are no poor people here!" said Sophia, dolefully.
"Why?" inquired her mother.
"Because we might assist them, mamma."
"It is much better, however, as it is, my child; our assistance might mitigate the evils of poverty, but might not be sufficient to remove them."
This reasoning did not seem conclusive to Sophia, who shook her head and commenced plying her wheel with redoubled energy.
"When Herbert Philipson was twelve years of age he was sent off to school, and Cecilia was confided to the care of a governess, who, under the direction of Mrs. Foster, was to undertake her education. But neither music nor drawing, needlework, grammars nor exercises, could make little Cecilia forget her absent companion. Absence, that cools older friendships, had a contrary effect on her heart; the months, weeks, days, and hours that were to elapse before Herbert returned for the holidays, were counted and recounted. When that period--so anxiously desired--at length arrived, there was no end of rejoicing: she told Herbert of all the little boys and little girls she had clothed and fed, of the old people she had relieved, of the tears she had shed over tales of woe and misery, how she had carried every week a little basket covered with a white napkin to widow Robson, how often she had gone into the damp and dismal cottage of the dying miner, and how happy she always made his wife and their nine pitiful looking children."
"That is a way of conquering human hearts," remarked Mrs. Becker, "often more effective than those referred to the other day."
"Once, when Herbert was at home for the holidays, he accompanied Cecilia on her charitable visits, and was greatly surprised to find that blessings were showered upon his own head wherever they went; people, whom he had never seen before, insisted upon his being their benefactor. This he could not make out. At last, by an accident, he discovered the secret--Cecilia had been distributing her gifts in his name! He remonstrated warmly against this, declaring that he had no wish to be praised and blessed for doing things that he had no hand in. Finding that his protestations were of no avail, he determined, on the eve of his returning to school, to have his revenge."
"He did not buy Cecilia a doll, did he?" inquired Jack.
"No; he collected all the eatables, clothing, blankets, and money he could obtain; went amongst the poorest of the cottages, and distributed the whole in Cecilia's name."
"Ah," remarked Mrs. Becker, "it is a pity we could not all remain at the age of these children, with the same purity, the same innocence, and the same freshness of sensation; the world would then be a veritable Paradise."
"For some years this state of things continued, the affection between the young people strengthened as they grew older, the occasional holiday time was always the happiest of their lives. Herbert, in due course, was transferred from school to college, where he obtained a degree, and rapidly verged into manhood. Cecilia from the girl at length bloomed into the young lady. A day was finally fixed when they were to be bound together by the holy ties of the church; everything was prepared for their union, when the commercial world was startled by the announcement that Philipson was a ruined man. A ship in which he had embarked a valuable freight had been wrecked, and an agent to whom he had entrusted a large sum of money had suddenly disappeared."
"How deplorable!" cried Fritz.
"Not so very unfortunate, after all," remarked Mary.
"What makes you think so?"
"Because nothing had occurred to interrupt the marriage; only one of the families was ruined, and there was still enough left for both."
"But," said Fritz, "even admitting that the friendship between the two families continued uninterrupted, and that the father of Cecilia was willing to share his property with the father of Herbert, still the young man, in the parlance of society, was a beggar; and it is always hard for a man to owe his position to a woman, and to become, as it were, the protege of her whom he ought rather to protect."
"If that is the view you take, Master Fritz, then I agree with you that the misfortune was deplorable," said Mary, bending at the same time to hide her blushes, under pretence of mending a broken thread.
"And what if Cecilia's father had been ruined instead of Herbert's?" inquired Jack.
"I should say," replied Sophia, "that we have as much right to be proud and dignified as you have."
"The best way in such a case," observed Willis, laughing, "would be for both parties to get ruined together."
"Herbert," continued Wolston, "was a youth of resolution and energy. He entertained the same opinion as Fritz; and instead of wasting his time in idle despondency, got together some articles of merchandise, and sailed for the Indian Archipelago, promising his friends that he would return to his native land in two years."
"Two years is a long time," remarked Mary; "but sometimes it passes away very quickly."
"Ah!" observed Sophia, Cecilia, in the meantime, would redouble her charities and her prayers."
"The two years passed away, then a third, and then a fourth, but not a single word had either been heard of or from the absentee. Cecilia was rich, and her hand was sought by many wealthy suitors, but hitherto she had rejected them all."
"The dear, good Cecilia," cried Sophia.
"Up till this period the family had permitted her to have her own way. But as it is necessary for authority to prevent excesses of all kinds, they thought it time now to interfere; they could not allow her to sacrifice her whole life for a shadow. Her parents, therefore, insisted upon her making a choice of one or other of the suitors for her hand. She requested grace for one year more, which was granted."
"Come back, truant, quick; come back, Master Herbert!" cried Sophia.
"There now, Willis," cried Jack, "you see the effect of your new world; people go away there, and never come back again."
"Oh, but you must bring him back in time, father; you must indeed," urged Sophia.
"If it were only a romance I were relating to you, Sophia, I could very easily bring him back; but the narrative I am giving you is a matter of fact, which I cannot alter at will. There would be no difficulty in bringing a richly-laden East Indiaman, commanded by Captain Philipson, into the Severn, and making Herbert and Cecilia conclude the story in each other's arms, but it would not be true."
"Then if I had been Cecilia, I should have become a nun," said Mary, timidly.
"Exaggeration, my daughter, is an enemy to truth. It is easy to say, 'I would become a nun,' and in Roman Catholic countries it is quite as easy to become one; but, though it may be sublime to retire in this way from the world, it is frightful when a woman has afterwards to regret the inconsiderate step she has taken, and which is often the case with these poor creatures."
"As you said of myself," remarked Willis, "it is a crime to go down with a sinking ship so long as there is a straw to cling to."
"I presume," continued Wolston, "that during this year poor Cecilia prayed fervently for the return of her old playfellow; but her prayers were all in vain, the year expired, and still no news of the young man; at last she despaired of ever seeing him again, and, after a severe struggle with herself, she decided upon complying with the desire of her parents and her friends. A few months after the expiring of the year of grace, she was the affianced bride of a highly respectable, well-to-do, middle-aged gentleman. John Lindsey, her intended husband, could not boast of his good looks; he was little, rather stout, was deeply pitted in the face with the small-pox, and had a very red nose, but he was considered by the ladies of Bristol as a very good match for all that."
"Oh, Cecilia, how ridiculous!" exclaimed Sophia.
"Better, at all events, than turning nun," said Jack.
"The family this season had gone to pass the summer at the sea-coast; and one day that Cecilia and her intended were taking their accustomed walk along the shore--"
"Holloa!" cried Jack, "the truant is going to appear, after all."
"John Lindsey, observing a ring of some value upon Cecilia's finger, politely asked her if she had any objections to tell him its history. She replied that she had none, and told him it was a gift of young Philipson's. 'I am well acquainted with your story,' said Lindsey, 'and do not blame the constancy with which you have treasured the memory of that young man; on the contrary, I respect you for it--in fact, it was the knowledge of your self-sacrifice to this affection and all its attendant circumstances, that led me to solicit the honor of your hand; for, said I to myself, one who has evinced so much devotion for a mere sentiment, is never likely to prove unfaithful to sacred vows pledged at the altar,' 'Come what may, you may at least rely upon that, sir,' she answered. 'Then,' continued Lindsey, 'as an eternal barrier is about to be placed between yourself and your past affections, perhaps you will pardon my desire to separate you, as much as possible, from everything that is likely to recal them to your mind.' Saying that, he gently drew the ring from her finger, and threw it into the sea."
It was strongly suspected that Mary shed a tear at this point of the recital.
"It is all over with you now, Herbert," cried Fritz.
"You had better make a bonfire of your ships, like Fernando Cortez in Mexico; or, if you are on your way home, better pray for a hurricane to swallow you up, than have all your bright hopes dashed to atoms, when you arrive in port."
"I am only a little girl," said Sophia; "but I know what I should have said, if the gentleman had done the same thing to me."
"And what would you have said, child?" inquired her mother.
"I should have said, that I was not the Doge of Venice, and had no intention of marrying the British Channel."
"Can you describe the ceremony to which you refer?"
"Yes; but it would interrupt papa's story, and Jack would laugh at me."
"Never mind my story," replied her father, "there is plenty of time to finish that."
"And as for me," said Jack, "though I do not wear a cocked hat and knee breeches, and though, in other respects, my tailor has rather neglected my outward man, still I know what is due to a lady and a queen."
"There, he begins already!" said Sophia.
"Never mind him, child; go on with your account of the marriage."
"Well," began Sophia, "for a long time, there had been disputes between the states of Bologna, Ancona, and Venice, as to which possessed the sovereignty of the Adriatic."
"If it had been a dispute about the Sovereignty of the ocean in general," remarked Willis, "there would have been another competitor."
"Venice," continued Sophia, "carried the day, and about 1275 or 76 she resolved to celebrate her victory by an annual ceremony. For this purpose, a magnificent galley was built, encrusted with gold, silver, and precious stones. This floating bijou was called the Bucentaure, was guarded in the arsenal, whence it was removed on the eve of the Ascension. Next day the Doge, the patriarch, and the Council of Ten embarked, and the galley was towed out to the open sea, but not far from the shore. There, in the presence of the foreign ambassadors, whilst the clergy chanted the marriage service, the Doge advanced majestically to the front of the galley, and there formally wedded the sea."
"He might have done worse," observed Willis.
"The ceremony," continued Sophia, "consisted in the Doge throwing a ring into the sea, saying, 'We wed thee, O sea! to mark the real and perpetual dominion we possess over thee.'"
"And it may be added," observed Becker, "that the history of Venice shows how religiously the spouses of the Adriatic kept their vows."
"Now," said Sophia, "that I have told my tale, let us hear what became of Cecilia."
"Well, the marriage took place the morning after Herbert's ring had been thrown to the fishes. Whilst the bride, bridegroom, and their friends were congratulating each other over the wedding breakfast, as is usual in England on such occasions, Cecilia's father was called out of the room."
"Too late," remarked Fritz.
"Herbert Philipson had arrived that same morning; but, as Fritz observes, he was just an hour too late. He had acquired a fortune, but his long-cherished hopes of happiness were completely blasted."
"Why did he stay away five years without writing?" inquired Mrs. Wolston.
"He had written several times, but at that time no regular post had been established, and his letters had never reached their destination."
"When did he find out that Cecilia was married?"
"Well, some people think it more humane to kill a man by inches rather than by a single blow of the axe. Not so with Herbert's friends; the first news that greeted him on landing were, that his ever-remembered Cecilia was probably at that moment before the altar pledging her vows to another."
"I should rather have had a chimney-pot tumble on my head," remarked Willis.
"Herbert was a man in every sense of the word--the mode of his departure proves that. On hearing this painful intelligence, he simply covered his face with his hands, and, after a moment's thought, resolved to see his lost bride at least once more."
"Poor Herbert!" sighed Mary.
"Foster was thunderstruck when the stranger declared himself to be the son of his old friend; and, after cordially bidding him welcome, sorrowfully asked him what he meant to do. 'I should wish to see Mrs. Lindsey in presence of her husband,' he replied, 'providing you have no objections to introduce me to the company.'"
"Bravo!" ejaculated Willis.
"Foster could not refuse this favor to an unfortunate, who had just been disinherited of his dearest hopes. He, therefore, took Herbert by the hand and led him into the room. Nobody recognized him. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' said he, 'permit me to introduce Mr. Herbert Philipson, who has just arrived from Sumatra.' You may readily conceive the dismay this unexpected announcement called up into the countenances of the guests. There was only one person in the room who was calm, tranquil, and unmoved--that person was Cecilia herself. She rose courteously, bade him welcome, hoped he was well, coolly asked him why he had not written to his friends, and politely asked him to take a seat beside herself and husband, just, for all the world, as if he had been some country cousin or poor relation to whom she wished to show a little attention."
"I would rather have been at the bottom of the sea than in her place, for all that," said Mary.
"Why? She had nothing to reproach herself with. Had she not waited long enough for him?"
"Young heads," remarked Becker, "are not always stored with sense. A foolish pledge, given in a moment of thoughtlessness is often obstinately adhered to in spite of reason and argument. The young idea delights in miraculous instances of fidelity. What more charming to a young and ardent mind than the loves of Dante and Beatrix, of Eleonora and Tasso, of Petrarch and Laura, of Abelard and Heloise, or of Dean Swift and Stella? Young people do not reflect that most of these stories are apocryphal, and that the men who figure in them sought to add to their renown the prestige of originality; they put on a passion as ordinary mortals put on a new dress, they yielded to imagination and not to the law of the heart, and almost all of them paid by a life of wretchedness the penalty of their dreams."
"That is, I presume," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "you do not object to any reasonable amount of constancy, but you object to its being carried to an unwarrantable excess."
"Exactly so, madam," replied Becker; "constancy, like every thing else when reasonable limits are exceeded, becomes a vice."
"The merriments of the marriage breakfast," continued Wolston "slightly interrupted by the arrival of the new guest, were resumed. Fresh dishes were brought in, and, amongst others, a fine turbot was placed on the table. The gentleman who was engaged in carving the turbot struck the fish-knife against a hard substance."
"I know what!" exclaimed two or three voices.
"I rather think not," said Wolston, drily.
"Oh, yes, the ring! the ring!"
"No, it was merely the bone that runs from the head to the tail of the fish."
"Oh, father," cried Sophia, "how can you tease us so?"
"If they had found the ring," replied Wolston, laughing, "I should have no motive for concealing it. Fruit was afterwards placed before Herbert, and, when nobody was looking, he pulled a clasped dagger out of his pocket."
Here Sophia pressed her hands closely on her ears, in order to avoid hearing what followed.
"It was a very beautiful poignard," continued Wolston, "and rather a bijou than a weapon; and, as the servants had neglected to hand him a fruit-knife, he made use of it in paring an apple."
"Is it all over?" inquired Sophia, removing a hand from one ear.
"Alas! yes!" said Jack, lugubriously, "he has been and done it."
"O the monster!"
"Travelling carriages having arrived at the door for the bridal party, Herbert quietly departed."
"What!" exclaimed Sophia, "did they not arrest and drag him to prison?"
"Oh," replied Jack, "the crime was not so atrocious as it appears."
"No; you must bear in mind that young Philipson had passed the preceding five years of his life amongst demi-savages, whose manners and customs he had, to a certain extent, necessarily contracted. In some countries, what we call crimes are only regarded as peccadillos. In France, for example, till very lately, there existed what was called the law of combette, by right of which pardon might be obtained for any misdeed on payment of a certain sum of money. There was a fixed price for every imaginable crime. A man might consequently be a Blue Beard if he liked, it was only necessary to consult the tariff in the first instance, and see to what extent his means would enable him to indulge his fancy for horrors."
"On quitting the house," continued Wolston, "Herbert Philipson bent his way to the shore, and shortly after was observed to plunge into the sea."
"So much the better," exclaimed Sophia; "it saved his friends a more dreadful spectacle."
"The weather being fine and the water warm, Herbert enjoyed his bath immensely; he then returned to his hotel, went early to bed, and slept soundly till next morning."
"The wretch!" cried Sophia, "to sleep soundly after assassinating his old playfellow, who had suffered so much on his account."
"It is pretty certain," continued Wolston, "that, if Philipson had been left entirely to himself, he would always have shown the same degree of moderation he had hitherto displayed."
"Oh, yes, moderation!" said Sophia.
"But his friends began to prate to him about the shameful way he had been jilted by Cecilia, and, by constantly reiterating the same thing, they at last succeeded in persuading him that he was an ill-used man. His self-esteem being roused by this silly chatter, he began to affect a ridiculous desolation, and to perpetrate all manner of outrageous extravagances."
"Bad friends," remarked Willis, "are like sinking ships; they drag you down to their own level."
"The first absurd thing he did was to purchase a yacht, and when a storm arose that forced the hardy fishermen to take shelter in port, he went out to sea, and it is quite a miracle that he escaped drowning. Then, if there were a doubtful scheme afloat, he was sure to take shares in it. Nothing delighted him more than to go up in a balloon; he would have gladly swung himself on the car outside if the proprietor had allowed him."
"I have often seen balloons in the air," remarked Willis, "but I could never make out their dead reckoning."
"A balloon," replied Ernest, "is nothing more than an artificial cloud, and its power of ascension depends upon the volume of air it displaces.
"Very good, Master Ernest, so far as the balloon itself is concerned; but then there is the weight of the car, passengers, provisions, and apparatus to account for."
"Hydrogen gas, used in the inflation of balloons, is forty times lighter than air. If a balloon is made large enough, the weight of the car and all that it contains, added to that of the gas, will fall considerably short of the weight of the air displaced by the machine."
"I suppose it rises in the air just as an empty bottle well corked rises in the water?"
"Very nearly. Air is lighter than water; consequently, any vessel filled with the one will rise to the surface of the other. So in the case of balloons. The gas, in the first place, must be inclosed in an envelope through which it cannot escape. Silk prepared with India-rubber is the material usually employed. As the balloon rises, the gas in the interior distends, because the air becomes lighter the less it is condensed by its superincumbent masses; hence it is requisite to leave a margin for this increase in the volume of the gas, otherwise the balloon would burst in the air."
"If a balloon were allowed to ascend without hindrance where would it stop?"
"It would continue ascending till it reached a layer of air as light as the gas; beyond that point it could not go."
"And if the voyagers do not wish to go quite so far?"
"Then there is a valve by which the gas may be allowed to escape, till the weight of the machine and its volume of air are equal, when it ceases to ascend. If a little more is permitted to escape, the balloon descends."
"And should it land on the roof of a house or the top of a tree, the voyagers have their necks broken."
"That can only happen to bunglers; there is not the least necessity for landing where danger is to be apprehended. When the aeronaut is near the ground, and sees that the spot is unfavorable for debarkation, he drops a little ballast, the balloon mounts, and he comes down again somewhere else."
"The fellow that made the first voyage must have been very daring."
"The first ascent was made by Montgolfier in 1782, and he was followed by Rosiers and d'Arlandes."
"With your permission, father," said Ernest, "I will claim priority in aerial travelling for Icarus, Doedalus, and Phaeton."
"Certainly; you are justified in doing so. Gay-Lussac, a philosophic Frenchman, rose, in 1804, to the height of seven thousand yards."
"He must have felt a little giddy," remarked Jack.
"Most of the functions of the body were affected, more or less, by the extreme rarity of the air at that height. Its dryness caused wet parchment to crisp. He observed that the action of the magnetic needle diminished as he ascended, sounds gradually ceased to reach his ear, and the wind itself ceased to be felt."
"That, of course," remarked Ernest, "was when he was travelling in the same direction and at the same speed."
"Well," said Jack, "we can find materials here for a balloon; the ladies have silk dresses, there is plenty of India-rubber--we used to make boots and shoes of it; hydrogen gas can be obtained from a variety of substances. What, then, is to prevent us paying a visit to some of Ernest's friends in the skies?"
"Unfortunately for your project, Jack, no one has discovered the art of guiding a balloon; consequently, instead of finding yourself at Cassiope, you might land at Sirius, where your reception would be somewhat cool."
"But what became of Herbert?" inquired one of the ladies.
"Singularly enough, he escaped all the dangers he so recklessly braved, and all the bad speculations he embarked in turned out good. Somehow or other, the moment he took part in a desperate scheme it became profitable."
"Ah!" exclaimed Sophia, "his victim, like a guardian angel, continued to watch over him."
"When the cholera appeared in England, he was sure to be found where the cases were most numerous. He followed up the pest with so much pertinacity and publicity, that it was no unusual thing to find it announced in the newspapers that Philipson and the cholera had arrived in such and such a town."
"The bane and the antidote," remarked Jack.
"If Cecilia had been one of those women who delight in horse-racing, fox-hunting, opera-boxes, and public executions, she would have been highly amused to see her old friend's name constantly turning up under such extraordinary circumstances."
"Is she not dead, then?" inquired Sophia, with astonishment,
"It appears that her wounds were not mortal," quietly replied her mother.
"Besides," observed Jack, "there are human frames so constituted that they can bear an immense amount of cutting and slashing. So in the case of animals; there, for instance, is the fresh-water polypus--if you cut this creature lengthwise straight through the middle, a right side will grow on the one half and a left side on the other, so that there will be two polypi instead of one. The same thing occurs if you cut one through the middle crosswise, a head grows on the one half and a tail on the other, so that you have two entire polypi either way."
"And you may add," observed Ernest, "since so interesting a subject is on the tapis, that if two of these polypi happen to quarrel over their prey, the largest generally swallows the smallest, in order to get it out of the way; and the latter, with the exception of being a little cramped for space, is not in the slightest degree injured by the operation."
"And does that state of matters continue any length of time?"
"The polypus that is inside the other may probably get tired of confinement, in which case it makes its exit by the same route it entered; but, if too lazy to do that, it makes a hole in the body of its antagonist and gets out that way. But, what is most curious of all, these processes do not appear to put either of the creatures to the slightest inconvenience."
"I am quite at a loss to make you all out," said Sophia.
"Well, my child," replied her mother, "you should not close up your ears in the middle of a story."
"Cecilia, or rather Mrs. Lindsey, however," continued Wolston, "was a pious, painstaking, simple-minded woman, who devoted her whole attention to her domestic duties. Notwithstanding her fortune, she did not neglect the humblest affairs of the household, and thought only of making her husband pleased with his home. When she was told of the vagaries of Philipson, she prayed in private that he might be led from his evil ways, and could not help thanking Providence that she was not the wife of such a dreadful scapegrace."
"I should think so," remarked Mrs. Becker.
"At last, Herbert Philipson astonished even his own companions by a crowning act of folly. There was then a young woman in Bristol, of good parentage, but an unmitigated virago; her family were thoroughly ashamed of her temper and her exploits. They allowed her to have her own way, simply for fear that, through contradiction, she might plunge herself into even worse courses than those she now habitually followed. In short, she was the talk and jest of the whole town."
"What a charming creature!" remarked Mrs. Becker.
"No servant of her own sex could put up with her for two days together; she styled everybody that came near her fools and asses, and did not hesitate to strike them if they ventured to contradict her. She got on, however, tolerably well with ostlers, stable-boys, cabmen, and such like, because they could treat her in her own style, and were not ruffled by her abuse."
"How amiable!" exclaimed Mrs. Wolston.
"Herbert heard of this young person, and, through a fast friend of his own, obtained an introduction to her, and on the very first interview he offered her his hand. He was known still to be a wealthy man, so neither the lady herself nor anybody connected with her made the slightest objection to the match, thinking probably that, if there were six of the one, there were at least half a dozen of the other."
"They ought to have gone to Bedlam, instead of to church," said Willis; "that is my idea."
"Nevertheless, they went to church; and, after the marriage, Cecilia sought and obtained an introduction to the lady, and, whether by entreaties or by her good example, I cannot say; be this as it may, the unpromising personage in question became one of the best wives and the best mothers that ever graced a domestic circle--in this respect even excelling the pattern Cecilia herself; and, what is still more to the purpose, she succeeded in completely reforming her husband. When I left England there was not a more prosperous merchant, nor a more estimable man in the whole city of Bristol, than Herbert Philipson."
"From which we may conclude," remarked Mrs. Becker, "it is always advisable to have angels for friends."
"We may also conclude," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "that when a stroke of adversity, or any other misfortune, overturns the edifice of happiness we had erected for the future, we may build a new structure with fresh material, which may prove more durable than the first."
"Talking of having angels for friends," said Becker, "puts me in mind of the association of Saint Louis Gonzaga, at Rome. On the anniversary of this saint, the young and merry phalanx forming the association march in procession to one of the public gardens. In the centre of this garden a magnificent altar has been previously erected, on which is placed a chafing-dish filled with burning coals. The procession forms itself into an immense ring round the altar, broken here and there by a band of music. These bands play hymns in honor of the saints, and other morceaux of a sacred character. Each member of the association holds a letter inclosed in an embossed and highly ornamented envelope, bound round with gay-colored ribbons and threads of gold. These letters are messages from the young correspondents to their friends in heaven, and are addressed to 'Il Santo Giovane Luigi Gonzaga, in Paradiso.' At a given signal, the letters, in the midst of profound silence, are placed on the chafing-dish. This done, the music resounds on all sides, and the assembly burst out into loud acclamations, during which the letters are supposed to be carried up into heaven by the angels."
"A curious and interesting ceremony," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "and one that may possibly do good, inasmuch as it may induce the young people composing the association to persevere in generous resolutions."
The two families again separated for the night. And whilst the young men were escorting the Wolstons to their tree, Sophia went towards Jack. "Will you tell me," inquired she, "what happened whilst I had my ears closed up, Jack?"
"Yes, with all my heart, if you will tell me first what the chimpanzee had been about during our absence."
"Well, he got up into our tree when we were out of the way. After soaping his chin, he had taken one of papa's razors, and just as he was beginning to shave himself, some one entered and caught him."
"Oh, is that all? What I have to tell you is a great deal more appalling than that."
"Well, then, be quick."
"But I am afraid you will be shocked."
"Is it very dreadful?"
"More so than you would imagine. If you dream about it during the night, you will not be angry with me for telling you?"
"No, I will be courageous, and am prepared to hear the worst."
"What was your father saying when you shut up your ears?"
"Herbert had just pulled out a dagger."
"And when you took your hands away?"
"All was then over; Herbert had done some dreadful thing with the dagger, and I want to know what it was."
"He pared an apple with it," replied Jack, bursting into a roar of laughter, and, running off, he left Sophia to her reflections.
A few seconds after he returned. This time he had almost a solemn air, the laughter had vanished from his visage, like breath from polished steel.
"Miss Sophia," inquired he gravely, "are you rich?"
"I don't know, Master Jack; are you?"
"Well, I have not the slightest idea either."