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OR, THE RAILROAD OP LIFE.
TREATS OF A METAMORPHOSIS NOT DESCRIBED BY OVLD.
We must now request our readers to draw on tlie seveu-leagued boots of their imaginations, and, thus accoutred, to stride remorselessly over the space of two years. "lis soon done ;—a slight mental effort, an agile hop, skip, and jump of the fancy, and the gulf is passed—time is annihilated. Let us raise the curtain, and mark the changes the destroyer has wrought. The world goes round much the same as it did before; two years make little difference in the personal appearance of the fifty-cight-centuries-old planet—no lack of births, deaths and marriages, to regulate the average supply of the human race; if the cholera creates a deficiency one year, more poor curates marry, and starving Irishmen take unto l hemselves wives, the next, ami those *' beautiful" babies, who contrive to turn out such very plain adults, multiply upon the face of the earth, and the thiuued ranks arc replenished. And yet two years cause strange alterations, when we dive beneath the surface of society, and become cognisant of the fortunes of individuals;—smiles have given place to tears, and the grief of the mourner has turned to joy; poor men have grown riell, and rich men poor, and the bad (with but few, very few, exceptions to prove the rule) have become worse, and the good advanced in righteousness; and the mass of the half-hearted, clinging yot more closely to this earth of which they are so enamoured, where their grave is awaiting then), see heaven afar off, and wish feebly, and for a shorter time each seventh day, that they were good enough to reach it. Thus the passenger train, with its cargo of hopes, and fears, and wishes, speeds along the Railroad Of Life.
In a magnificent apartment in one of those Arabiannight-like edifices, a Venetian palazzo, which,—having belonged to one of the great historical families of the middle ages, whose chief was, by virtue of his position, a petty sovereign, was now let for the season to a wealthy Englishman,—lounged Charles Leicester, whose own surprise at the change of fortune which could render such a description of him appropriate, had not even yet ceased. On a sofa opposite sat his wife, on whose knee was perched a very young gentleman, to whom we could scarcely sooner have introduced our readers, for the excellent reason that he had not made his appearance at the Cradle Terminus of our Railroad when last we treated of his amiable parents. The present phase of this extremely young aristocrat was, so to speak, one of ex-babyhood; he was in the very act of ceasing to be " the most beautiful creature in the world," and, as yet, retained enough of his pristine loveliness to deserve the epithet
of a really pretty child. lie exhibited in his proper person an instance of that strange pha:nomenon which (why, we have either no idea, or, we hope, for the sake of morality, a tcrong one) always excites such extreme astonishment in the minds of all nurses, maiden aunts, and female acquaintance,—he was decidedly like his own proper papa and mamma. For the rest, when placed on the carpet, he preferred a quadrupedal to an erect method of progression,—had a strange habit of making the rashest experiments in gastronomy, by putting everything wrong and dangerous into his mouth, —never sat still for two minutes consecutively,—would, in the same breath, laugh heartily and bewail himself piteously, from exciting causes, which may be expected to remain a mystery throughout a:l time, and confined his conversation to two substantives and a colloquial hieroglyphic—viz. "Pap-pa," "Mam-ma," and "gib-Tarlcy," which last was believed to be an infantine-English compound of his proper name and the verb "to give," and signified an insatiable desire to render himself monarch of all he surveyed by a process of general self-appropriation. At the moment in which wc shall introduce the reader to the party thus assembled, a servant entered, bearing a packet of letters ou a silver waiter, and, handing them to Leicester, withdrew.
"Letters from England, by Jore!" exclaimed Charles, untying the string which encircled them.
"Any for me, Charley?" inquired Laura, who, in her position of wife and mother, looked the prettiest little matron conceivable.
"Two for mc, and one for you, from Annie Grant, if I may judge by the writing," replied her husband, as he rose to hand it to her.
"Gib-Tarley,pap-pa! gib-Tarley," vociferated that individual in the prettiest of infantine trebles, making insane plunges at the letters.
Laura, raising her hand above the curly pate of her acquisitive offspring, gained possession of the interesting missive, then, holding "Tarley" out at arm's length, she exclaimed:—
"Here, take your boy, papa, he is in a troublesome humour, and I wish to read my letter in peace."
Leicester meekly obeyed, muttering as he did so, "Wide-awake young woman, knows a thing or two, that mamma of yours, master Tarley :" then taking the child on his knee, he continued, "now Tarley means to be a good boy, and sit quite still, because papa is going to be busy with the affairs of the state."
The effect of this exhortation appeared to be to excite, on the part of the young gentleman to whom it was addressed, a sudden and violent determination there and then to convert his father into an extempore high-mettled racer, which equine transformation ho strove to accomplish by placing himself astride ou the paternal knee, clutching a fragile aud delicate watch-chain by way of bridle, kicking the sides of his fictitious Rosinante with immense juvenile vigour, and vociferating at the top of his small voice, "Pap-pa, gee-gee! pap-pa, gee gee I"
Charley cast an appealing plance at his wife; she appeared hopelessly immersed in her letter, so resigning himself to his fate, lie murmured faintly,—" The '.termomcter stands at 75° in the shade, that's all," and started at a brisk canter. The progress of the ride, however, served to exhilarate both horse and jockey to such a degree that, ere long, a violent suae at roinj>3 was established, which ended in papa's perching his youthful son on his shoulder, and, still iifinenced by the equestrian hypothesis, galloping round the room with him, and clearing the sofa at a thing leap iu the course of their rapid career, to Laura's undisguised terror.
"There, my dear Charles, that will do, you will break the child's neck and your own also, to a certainty if you do sucli wild things; now ring for nurse to take him, I want to talk to you about this letter."
"Tarley," however, by no means approving of this arrangement, and insisting strenuously upon a prolongation of his ride, his father, who it must be confessed rather spoiled him than otherwise, complied mil his demand for "Gee-gee more!" by again dashing round the room witli him, and continuing his headlong course till he had deposited his rider within the august precincts of the nursery, where the precocious Ducrow, falling under the baleful glance of an autocratic nurse, subsided into a state of infantine | depression, and was heard no more.
Leicester, having returned to the apartment in i which, he had left his wife, flung himself, in a state of ippsretit exhaustion, upon the sofa he had lately jumped oxer, exclaiming—"That child will be the | deathof me, I'm certain of it; where he can get all this ; dreadful energy of character from I can't conceive: it mast came from the Peyton side, for I'm certain tbst even at his early age, I had a much more clearly ■Mined idea of the dalce far niente than that unnatural little essence of quicksilver possesses; by Jove if he should turn out as fast when he grows up as be appears now before he has begun growing at all, it will be an awful look out for our grey hairs."
"Nonsense, Charley, you've energy enough when 7n care to exert it; in fact it is all your own doing, }rM know you delight to excite the child. But now be sensible, and sit up and listen to me, for I really Tait to consult you about this letter."
"As to listening to you, my love, I'm only too Isappy to do so at all times and seasons, and I'll promise to be as sensible as is compatible with my general mental capacity, but in regard to the sitting up, you really must excuse me. I have a strong idea I -nraiiu-d something in jumping over this sofa just J5-, my back or my shin, I forget the precise spot, 'jat I can assure you it requires rest."
"Oh, you idle man," was the laughing answer,
bow incorrigible you arc!" and as Laura pronounced ibis condemnation she seated herself on a footstool by h«r hatband's side, drew out her letter and handing it to him, said, "They have consented to my plan, and are coming here in the course of the next fortnight; but I do not like the tone of Annie's note, she must fee aroch more really ill than I was at all aware of,
and there appears throughout a spirit of depression, which is so completely foreign to her nature,—i cannot understand it."
"I have a despatch from the General," began Leicester, leisurely breaking the seal, "perhaps that may tend to elucidate the mystery; what a fist the old fellow writes; the letters all hold up their heads j as if they were a regiment of soldiers, and his signature bristles like a stand of bayonets. Oh! he ' hopes to be in Venice by Friday week, if his daughter's health, which has given him some little uneasiness , lately, should permit them to travel with the degree of swiftness and punctuality which has appeared to him expedient in laying out their intended route.' I'm very sorry dear Annie is ill, what can be the matter with her, thiuk you?"
"Who is your other letter from?" inquired Laura, avoiding his last question.
"Erom BelleQeld," returned Leicester, opening it; "he can't come with the Grants, but he'll follow them before long, lie has backed the Dodona eolt for the Derby, and has got a heavier book on the race than he likes ; he was hit hard at the last Newmarket meeting, and if anything were to go wrong with the colt, and he not on the spot to hedge, on the first hint, the consequences might be more unpleasant than people in general are aware of. Well! thank heaven, with all my follies I always contrived to keep clear of the betting ring. I don't like that note of Belle's; he'll get into some awful scrape if he does not take care."
"For which I shall not. pity him one bit," rejoined Laura; "born to a high position, gifted with n princely fortune; if he chooses to disgrace the one, and squander the other by gambling with a set of blacklegs, he deserves whatever he may meet with. I hope I have not pained you, Charley dearest," she continued, observing a slight shade of annoyance on her husband's good-humoured face; "but truth is truth; I cannot like that man; I wish he were not your brother, and, oh! how I wish he were not to be the husband of our darling Annie. I say, Charley, how came it you never fell in love with her yourself? do you know—don't be conceited now—I think I was very lucky to get you under the circumstances?"
A gay laughing answer rose to the lips of Charles Leicester, and then the memory of the empty heartless life he had led before his marriage, and the deep true happiness he had enjoyed since, came across him, and drawing his wife towards him, he imprinted a kiss oc her smooth forehead as he replied, "If I am, indeed, worthy of your affection, darling, it is you alone who have rendered mc so, for before I knew you, I was a mere conceited, idle, frivolous butterfly, spoiled by the world, and with just sense enough (like most spoilt children,) to despise my spoiler, without sufficient manliness of nature to free myself from its trammels by any unassisted efforts of my own."
"What reply Laura made to this speech, if indeed she made any, we do not feel ourselves called upon to chronicle; suffice it to say that she did not, by word, look, or deed, evince the smallest symptom of having repented of licr bargain. A pause ensued, which was broken by Leicester, who exclaimed,
"By Jove! I was very nearly forgetting all about it—what's o'clock?" then drawing out a small enamelled watch, one of the relics of former days of dandyism, he continued, "half-past three; there is just time. I have procured an order to see the pictures Cardinal d'Ancona was telling you about last, week."
"Oh, the two paintings from Lord Byron's Giaour, by the young artist about whom no one knows anything, and who is said to be a genius? I'm so glad; when shall we go?" inquired Laura.
"Why, it's a case of Hobson's choice," returned Leicester, "for it seems the painter was so tormented by idle people coming to his studio, that he has been forced to lay down a rule only to admit visitors on two days in the week, from three till five; but the oddest part of the business is that he chooses to be absent on these occasions, leaving an old attendant to play cicerone—in fact, there appears to be some kind of mystery about the man; however, to-day is the day, so the sooner we're off .the better, more especially as I must be with the Consul by half-past four."
"I shall be ready in less than five minutes," rejoined Laura, "so order round the carriage, and let us prosecute this wondrous adventure by all means—a mystery is such a rarity in these matter-of-fact days, that even so small a one as that of a man who prefers avoiding one's notice instead of seeking to obtrude himself upon it, is interesting."
"When will women cease to be carious?" soliloquised Leicester, elongating his body in order to reach the bell-rope without the trouble of rising.—Another quarter of an hour saw them en route.
In obedience to Leicester's directions the carriage stopped at the door of a small house, at the corner of a street turning out of the square of St. Mark's. On presenting the order, an old man with grey hair came forward, and ushered .the visitors into a room lighted by a sky-light, beneath which were arranged various pictures, some finished, others in a less forward state of preparation. After examining several of the smaller sketches, which displayed unusual talent, both Leicester and his wife paused with one accord before a large painting. The old cicerone approached them, "That is the picture," he said in Italian, "about which every one is talking; it is very grand, but the companion picture is finer; the Siguore has refused 800 guineas for the pair. They are taken from your Lord Byron's poem the Giaour; here is the passage, ecco lo .'"—As he spoke he pointed to the following stanzas:—
"With sabre shivcr*d to the hilt,
A Btain on every bush that bore
A fragment of his palampore,
His breast with wounds unnumber'd riven,
His back to earth, his face to heaven,
Fall'n Hassan lies—his unclosed eye
Yet lowering on his enemy,
As if the hour that seal'd his fate
Surviving left his quenchless hate;
And o'er him bends that foe with brow,
As dark as his that bled below."
The artist had, indeed, well represented the fearful tragedy; the principal light in the painting fell upon the figure, and especially the face of the prostrate Hassan, which, convulsed by the death agony, yet glanced with an expression of " quenchless hate" upon his destroyer. The features of the Giaour, owing to the position in which he stood, with one foot planted on the breast of hisfalleu enemj-, were not. visible, but his figure was tall and commanding, and bis attitude in the highest degree expressive of triumphant power. Leaning against the same easel stood the companion picture— it contained but a single figure, but it was one which having seen, it was scarcely possible to forget, such a living embodiment did it present of hopeless despair. The stony eye, the sunken cheek, the stern yet spiritless mouth,—all spoke of one who had indeed " nothing left to love or hate," all realized the painful description of "the vacant bosom's wilderness," that paralysis of the soul in which
"The keenest pangs the wretched find
In this painting, also, the features of the Giaour were partially concealed by the hood of a monk's frock, which threw a deep shade across them, and the drooping nerveless figure served in great degree to tell the tale. The two pictures were entitled "Revenge and its fruits." Laura and her husband gazed at them long and silently; at length Leicester observed, with the air of a man who tries to dissipate a sentiment akin to superstitious fear, by listening to the sound of his own voice,—
"Ton my word, they are very extraordinary pictures; there's I don't know what about them—a kind of uncomfortable fascination—they 're very horrible, but they 're very clever, eh?"
"Oh! they are most wonderful," returned Laura, in a subdued voice, as if she almost feared to trust herself to speak; "particularly the second. I never saw anything express such utter hopelessness as that face and attitude; one feels that active pain even would be a relief to the mouotony of that dull despair. What on uncommon person the artist must be; the execution is good, but it is the mind in the pictures that is so extraordinary."
Leicester, who, during this speech, had been attentively examining the face of the prostrate Hassan, suddenly exclaimed, "Yes! of course, now I see who it is ; look here, Laura, do you perceive a likeness to anybody you know in the face of this floored individual?"
Thus accosted, Laura, after a moment's scrutiny, replied, "It is like your brother."
"Just what struck me," returned Leicester; "what i quaint coincidence! I've seen some one somewhere, of wlioiu the other fellow reminds me too."
"The figure bears a shadowy resemblance to the Signor Luigi himself, Eccelenza," observed the old attendant; " at least I have always thought so."
"He must be rather an alarming, sanguinary kind of personage, at that rate; he has not flattered himself, I must, say."
"The Signore is tall and dark, but handsome as the Belridere Apollo—he is not sanguinary as you sav, Signore, but of a kindness which touches the ieart. I am bound to love him, for he saved me from ruin."
''How was that?" tell me, asked Laura in a tone of interest.
"ily dear Laura, I am grieved to prevent your tearing this worthy man's recital, but unfortunately it oaly wants five minutes of the time at which I promised to be with the Consul."
"How long shall you be obliged to stay with him?" inquired his wife.
"Less than half an hour, perhaps twenty minutes would suffice," was the reply; "shall I leave you here ami come back for you before five o'clock?"
"There are several pictures the Signorahas not yet
c-imined," suggested the old man. Thus urged, Laura
I consented to remain: an idea which she would not
confess even to her husband, so wild and fanciful did
she feel it to be, had taken possession of her, and
'w curiosity in regard to the mysterious artist had
I iwtmc redoubled.
"fa were going to tell me some anecdote," she oksemd, as Leicester quitted the studio. , Tie Cicerone, who was a venerable looking old man wit grey hair, and a thoroughly Italian cast of features, placed a chair for the lady before a view in Venice, at which she had not yet looked, and then resumed— !"Fmrisca di sederti la prego Signora. I was going to relate how the Signore, whom I serve, generous!; rescued me from ruin; but to do so I must trouble the Ecccllenza with a few particulars of my vn history. I was originally educated as a painter, tat although I was a correct copyist, and possessed sine skill in mixing colours, I had not the afflatus, ■ & inexplicable, the divine gift of genius, which 'saot be acquired. Look at these pictures," he continual, warming into enthusiasm as he pointed to the Filings from the Giaour; "in my prime I could tteeute better than that, my colouring was richer and smoother, my shades less hard and abrupt, though to Kquire that skill had cost me fifteen years constant •tody; but alas! the miud was wanting. I could eiecute but I could not conceive—my pictures would *Ter have entranced any one as you were entranced Wore those great soul-creations '." He paused, sighed teeply, then resumed, "So I grew poor, I had a Bife and children to support, and I bent my pride to hewme a scene painter at the Fenice Theatre. I *orked there twenty long years, and then from over »•« my eyesight grew dim, and they discarded mc. ■■'■'■a that I was employed by the great painter of the
day, Signore B elii, to prepare canvass and mix
colours for the young artists whom he instructed. A year aud a half ago a pupil came to study with him— he was a stranger—"
"Of what country P" inquired Laura, eagerly.
"I cannot inform the signora. He speaks French, German, Italian, and very rarely English, equally well, but I think he is not a fellow countryman of mine.
The other young artists, who frequented B elli's
studio, would often tease me for sport, but the Signore was always kind, and would not permit them to do so when he was present. One day a pupil who was finishing the drapery of a Madonna and child, of which picture all the more important parts had been
painted by B elii himself, called to me to bring
him some particular colour which he required—in my haste I stumbled, and overthrew a flask of oil, which fell upon the not yet dry painting, entirely obliterating the features of the Madonna. Irritated at the difficulty into which I had plunged both him and myself, the student sprang up and seized mc by the throat; in a moment the Signore Luigi interfered, and compressing the youth's arm in his powerful grasp, forced him to release me.
"' Remember, Carlo,' he said, gently, 'Antonelli is an old man.'
"'He has ruined himself and mc!' exclaimed the
other, clasping his hands in despair; 'B elii will
discharge him without doubt, and me he will refuse to instruct any longer.'
"'Perhaps there is yet an alternative,' urged the Signore Luigi; 'B elii will not return till tomorrow morning; much may be done in eighteen hours; I will strive to restore the face.'
"He immediately set to work; fortunately he paints with as much quickness as skill. When night drew near he dismissed us; through the long hours of darkness he laboured incessantly, pausing neither for sleep nor refreshment. With the earliest ray of dawn I was again at the studio; he was painting still, calm, earnest, grave, as is his wont, only appearing a little paler than usual; but such a work of art had grown beneath his hand, such a marvellous creation! the Madonna herself could not have appeared more lovely than was that heavenly face. It was completed ere B elii arrived; when he beheld it lie was amazed.
"'What inspired hand has traced those features?' he demanded.
"The history was related to him. He once more examined the picture, then turning to the Signore, who stood near, with folded arms, gazing on the other's excitement with an air of cold indifference, he exclaimed, in a tone of mingled admiration and rage, 'Go, I can teach thee no longer; it is thou shouldst be the master.'
"The Signore took him at his word. He engaged
these painting rooms, arranged with B elii that
I should accompany him, and is now the first painter in Italy as to talent, and when his execution is a little more perfected,—ah! se nesapra qualche cosa, we shall see men will talk of him!"
"And the head was very lovely, was it? what style of fuce was it?" inquired Laura.
"How can I tell you? it was perfection, ci bisngnara tederla," was the enthusiastic reply. "Slay," he continued, glancing at the clock, which now wanted only ten minutes of five; "I have an idea; there is yet time, but you must never say that you have seen it. Here, follow me ;" and drawing out a key, he unlocked a door leading inlo a small apartment, comfortably though simply furnished, and lilted up with bookshelves somewhat after the fashion of an English study; "Ecco.'" resumed Antonclli, "he has again sketched tho head, but the subject is dilfcretit. lie will not allow me to place this picture in the studio, though it is such a gem I could sell it for a large price."
As he spoke, he drew back a curtain, and the light fell upon a small picture, painted with greater care, and more elaborately finished than any which Laura had yet seen. It represented a girl of exquisite beauty, in a kneeling altitude, with her amis Hung sportively around the ueck of a magnificent dog, her golden tresses falling over and mingling with the waves of 11is shaggy coat.
As Laura gazed, her colour went and came quickly and her eyes seemed to grow to the canvass: both girl and dog were portraits done to the life, and she recognised each of them immediately—her wild conjecture was then the truth !—her determination was instantly taken. Seating herself, as if to examine the picture more nearly, she contrived by one or two artful questions, to set the garrulous old man talking again; and, forgetful of the flight of moments, drew him on to relate to her how the Signorc had discovered that his youngest born, the son of his old age, possessed a talent for painting, and how the Signore was giving him lessons, and the talent was daily developing under such favourable circumstances, until the old man had begun to hope that the boy might succeed better than his father had done, and retrieve the shipwrecked fortunes of the Antonellis.
While he was yet in ihe midst of his recital the clock struck five, and almost at the same moment a quick active footstep was heard bounding up the staircase, and the deep tones of a man's voice exclaimed:— ," Antonelli, Antonclli, dove lei buon' amico?"
With a horror-stricken glance at his companion, the old man was about to rush precipitately out of the room, when Laura, quietly laying her hand upon his nrm said:—
"There is nothing to be alarmed about! bkogna ch'io gli parli,—tc\[ the Signorc that an old friend is waiting to see him."
As she spoke a tall graceful figure appeared at the door of the study, and stopped iu amazement on perceiving how it was tenanted. In no way embarrassed by the situation in which she found herself, Laura rose from her seat with the same degree of quiet, courteous, self-possession, with which she would have received a guest in her own drawing-room, and advancing towards the new comer, said, holding out her hand:—
"Your kindness will pardon the little stratagem hy which I have sought to verify my conjecture that in Signor Luigi I should have the pleasure of recognising an old friend."
"Leave us, Antonelli," exclaimed his employer sternly; then carefidly closing the door, he turned towards his guest, and, bowing coldly, inquired, "To what am I indebted for the honour of a visit from Mrs. Leicester?"
"To the fact that I was vain enough to fancy the pleasure I feel in meeting an old friend might be mutual; and that Mr. Arundel would not resent the liberty I have taken in disregarding the regulations of the famous Signor Luigi: if lam so unfortunate as to have committed a mistake, it is soon remedied," she continued quickly, finding that Lewis (as we have not intended any but the most transparent mystification in regard to the identity of the painter and our hero, we may as well call him by his proper name,) remained silent,—as she spoke she rose and advanced towards the door. Her look and words recalled Lewis's wandering thoughts; he took her hand, reconducted her to her seat, and then, in a tone of deep feeling, said :—
"Forgive me! but you do not, can not know the train of overpowering memories your sudden appearance called up; iudeed I am glad again to look upon the face of an old friend, since you accord me the privilege of so considering you, glad as a twoyears' exile from all who ever knew or cared for him, can make n man."
- "Is it so long since you quitted England?" inquired Laura.
"It is," was the reply. Lewis paused, and then continued, "I left England under circumstances which caused me great mental suffering—suffering, which time and a complete change of scene could alone render less bitter. I travelled for five months, passing through Greece and visiting Constantinople; at tho expiration of that period I wandered thither, my vigour of mind and body in great measure restored. The wonders of this country revived my enthusiasm for art; this, and the necessity of following some profession, led me to the idea of adopting the career of a painter. For a year I worked for ten
hours daily in tho studio of Signore B elli, at
the end of that period I quitted him and commenced painting on my own account; hitherto my success has surpassed my most sanguine expectations, so that I trust I have at last hit upon my true vocation."
"I am so delighted to hear it!" exclaimed Laura, warmly; "but how is it we have seen nothing of you before—did you not hear of our arrival? we have been here more than a month!"
Lewis coloured, bit his lip, and then replied, "My recollections of England were so painful that I resolved, partly for that reason, partly that I might keep my miud free from any anxieties which could interfere with my devoting my faculties fully and entirely to art, to avoid the society of the few English who were likely to come in my way; indeed, my only associates have been the young artists with whom I became ac