« AnteriorContinuar »
silver and coral; next
to be told. As La Testolina portentous pins, shining globes (who blazed the story abroad) like prickly pears; a coral and is reported to have said, you bells for Master Niccolà, and might have drummed the a scaldino of pierced brass for guard out with her heartthe adornment of the house. beats. Vanna, by way of “Thank you, Baldassare," said weaning her baby, it seems, Vanna to her blinking old was tempting him with gobmaster; then she kissed him. bets of peach from a wineBefore she knew where she glass. She bit a corner from was, before she could
she could say the peach and tendered it in “Già !” he put his arm round her lips to the youngster on her and whispered in her ear. her lap. The baby (a vigorThen she clung to him, sob- ous child) made a snap at it bing, laughing, breathing short; like a trout at a fly, and a and the rest it were profanation gulp so as he had it. to report.
The peach was hard, the morVerona rubbed its eyes as sel had many corners,—went it came out yawning to its down bristling, it daily work.
There the Cola had his first stomachopen shop, ever the first in ache, was hurt, was miserable, the street; there the padrone; prepared to howl.
At that mothere, by the manger of Beth- ment La Testolina happened to lehem, were the padrona and look at him : she stared, she the baby whom they had gasped, she reeled against the last seen huddling from their door-post. stones. Vanna wore her col- “Hey, Mother of Jesus !" she ours that morning ; she was cried; “look at the baby!” rosy like the dawn, she was “It was a corner-piece, I'm smiling, she had very bright afraid," said Vanna, with great eyes. But there was a happy calmness ; 66 but the natural greeting for man or wife who juices will thaw it." looked her way; and when "No, no, no! It is not that, La Testolina came peering to woman,
" her friend went on, behold the discomfiture of feverishly - "it is not that! Baldassare, Vanna's gay looks Look at his face, look at his found her out, and “ Buon' face!” giorno, La Testolina," came as Vanna looked. cheerfully from her as it had “Well,” she asked, “what of come from her husband on the his face ?" bridge. All the little woman The bambino, to express his could do was to squat upon agony, was grinning from ear the threshold at her friend's to ear. feet and pretend that she was This was the last miracle troubled with palpitations. wrought by Madonna of the
The crowning proof remains Peach-tree.
Anno DOMINI, most fashion- out the ages of their sisters in able of all the complaints that Debrett; and when by any affect frail human nature, un- chance one of the fair sex does surmountable, inextirpable fate far commit herself as to of the unloved of the gods! we inscribe the year of her birth in may try to disguise you, we may our child's birthday-book, we temporarily delude ourselves and accept the statement rather as a others into fancying that you figure of speech than as a matter have not touched us yet, but in of fact. Even old-world Soloour heart of hearts we are pain- mon, not at all times nor in all fully conscious of your presence matters wholly complimentary all the same.
And even if the to the fair sex, is careful to freshness of the spring of the attribute that mortality "which year giving us a new lease of befalleth beasts” to the sons animal spirits, or the warmth of rather than to the daughters of the summer sun relaxing our men. We can well believe that stiffened joints, cause us to for- the great sage, as husband of get your existence for a while, the seven hundred wives, had learnt · World'“this," as Mr Slurk to measure his words on the would say, " is popularity”—or, delicate question of the age of worse degradation, the Sports- womankind. From man,' not only wishes us many modern source we have, howhappy returns of the day, but ever, been given to know that with brutal and unnecessary woman, “lovely woman,” has a candour blazons forth the in- chartered right to be inaccurate, telligence that we were born on if it so pleases her, in statements such and such a day of a very as regards her age. For have remote year.
we not been informed on the Of course we fully recognise best authority in the worldthe fact that Anno Domini is that, we mean, of the lady who essentially a masculine com- for some years past has kindly plaint. Any man with his wits poured out our tea in the mornabout him knows more or less ing—that when an expectant accurately how old each one of cook writes herself down as his male associates is. There thirty years old, she really are so many obvious ways
means that she is on the shady finding out, and friends are so side of forty? cordially frank in the matter of “But,” we meekly inquired, betraying what they know, that “how old are they really, for a male being to lie about his when
they call themselves age is simply futile. But only forty ?” women, or here and there a man “Oh, they never do that," to whom nature has imparted was the answer, “ or if they do, some of the foibles of the weaker it means any age between fifty sex, take the trouble to search and a hundred,"
We quite understood; for absolute immunity from such a “forty” we must read “aged," reproach. and must handicap accordingly. But how does Anno Domini We cannot for the moment affect those of our recall whether sixty or seventy In ways sundry and divers ! was Anthony Trollope's "Fixed Some of us accept the inPeriod " for retirement into his evitable with a good grace, necropolis ; but clearly thirty is others again resentfully. Men the fixed period for self-respect- we have met who, wishing to ing cooks and other domestic be old men long, have in deservants.
outward In the absence of any in- semblance become old men so criminating evidence to the early in life that they would contrary, a slight inaccuracy as almost have us imagine that to dates may be held excusable, they have realised Nicodemus's and, after all
, curiosity on the suggestion, and were born into part of a male being as to the the world at a mature age. number of years during which Others are so preternaturally his fair vis-à-vis at the dinner- juvenile in their tastes, habits, table may have graced the and conversation, that we are world with her presence is sorely tempted to believe that wholly impertinent and almost grey hair is covering an insavours of sacrilege. Let the fantile brain. “In much wisover - curious wight recall the dom," the Preacher tells us, fate of Peeping Tom, and the “is much grief; and he that ignominy that pursued the in- increaseth knowledge increastruder of the wrong sex who eth sorrow.” attempted to penetrate the If, as in all charity we will mystery that shrouded
shrouded the hope, the converse of these worship of Bona Dea.
propositions holds good, then “Women, gentlemen,' said in what an elysium of their the enthusiastic Mr Snodgrass, own creation must a fair
proare the great props and com- portion of our elderly neighforts of our existence." The bours have been living! It right-minded man will echo would be difficult to imagine the Pickwickian's sentiments, that Angelo Cyrus Bantam, "a and think of woman as pos- charming young man of not sessing many of the attri- much more than fifty, whose butes of Anacreon's cicala, as features were contracted into “honoured by mortals, loved a perpetual smile," had ever by the gods, shrill-voiced, un- burnt the midnight oil in the affected by age, untouched by pursuit of scientific discovery. pain, almost divine."
"If,” as a great thinker once Let it be prefaced, then, that said, “the wisest of our race in our remarks about Anno often reserve the average stock Domini we shall in no way of folly to be all expended upon refer to the fair sex, whom we someone flagrant absurdity, ” prefer to regard as enjoying an there are others who seem con
tent to play the buffoon on and fiction alone and see how life's stage from the cradle to far the presence of Anno Domini
affects the comfort of ourselves, “You are old, Father William,' the and of our friends and acquaintyoung man said,
But whereas we shrink * And your hair it is getting quite from inflicting upon the readers white;
of 'Maga'a And yet you incessantly stand on your Annals of an Uneventful Life,
new series of headDo you think at your age it is right?' and acquit them of any desire
to wade through a description 'In the days of my youth,' Father William replied,
of our personal relations with 'I was told it would injure my brain;
our cousins and our aunts, we But now that I'm perfectly certain I've will try to be as little egotisnone,
tical as possible. So then of Why, I do it again and again.'”
ourselves we will briefly say But we need not borrow in- that if we were not exactly stances of these apparent in- born either in the consulship of consistencies from the pages of Plancus or before the battle of fiction. In the history of our Waterloo, we plead guilty to own country there have been baldness, unaccompanied, many men in high places who trust, by unseemly juvenility; have lived their lives and done and that while young enough their work before Anno Domini to enjoy a walk after partridges had got a fair grip of them. or a cricket-match, we are old Others, again, whose oppor- enough to feel unconscionably tunity has come at the eleventh stiff in the evening afterwards, hour, have shown qualities of yet foolish enough to repeat the statesmanship, or generalship, experiment on the following for which not even their most day if the chance is given to intimate friends would have Disclaiming the idea that given them credit. If, on the
we may be stigmatised like one hand, it is almost impos- Falstaff as a “ Veteran Vice," sible to realise the fact that
a "Grey Iniquity,” we still the younger Pitt was
think that "an occasional jolly “whining schoolboy,” much less bout, if not carried to excess, an infant at all, the marvellous improves society," and still feel vitality and the exuberant en- that we, like other men, are thusiasm of late eminent “put into good humour by it,” statesman would have seemed and that “when the good wine to preclude the idea that he does its office, the song, the jest, was really and truly born when the speech has a better effect”; George III. was king, and was and if on the following morning sent to school about the time we wake with the suspicion of that Maga' was short-coated. a headache, we will not un
But now, with all due defer- gratefully charge the ence to the false quantity,“Paullo wholly to the account of Anno minora canamus,” or, in plain Domini. English, let us leave history Few of us, we fancy, regard
Anno Domini from what we and comforting reflection that may call a subjective or purely our great-great-grandfather is personal point of view. We to be held accountable because cannot, for example, picture to he would drink that extra ourselves a male being who will bottle of port night after night. deliberately and out of malice And when the dentist pulls a prepense go up-stairs, lock his long face over the condition of dressing-room door, and sitting our teeth, we feel sure that our down in front of his looking- great-great-grandmother either glass study his features in the indulged in too many sweetglass and note the havoc which meats or habitually over-ate length of days has wrought on herself. We do not in the least a countenance once, in some- degree in the world wish to body's eyes at all events, pleas- convey the idea that we grudge ing to behold. Beau Brummell the old folk their port wine or may, for all we know or care their sweetmeats; on the conto know to the contrary, have trary, we hope that they endone something of the sort; but joyed them at the time, and we think of Beau Brummell
never haunted by the rather as a “very, very pajock," thought that their self-indulthan a man of bones and sinews. gences would be visited on the Even when we quarrel with heads of an unborn posterity. nature and resent the fact that But it is manifestly unfair to our hair and teeth do not last credit our dear friend Anno out our time, we do not saddle Domini with the disasters which Anno Domini with the respon- ancestral gluttony has inflicted sibility.
on modern generations.
We have been assured, and “ Delicta majorum immeritus lues.”
here again our authority is While we may not regard our good, that when some old vildoctor as invariably and on all lage gossip tells us—she means points infallible, we thank him it for a compliment—that we for teaching us the thought are looking very poorly, she that in the matter of scanty really wishes us to understand locks and decayed teeth we are that we are looking very old. the innocent victims of the ex- And probably there are cesses of our ancestors, rather days on which we both look than sufferers for
and feel older than on others. works and deservings, or even But if left wholly to our own own ages.
On occasions reflections—setting aside, that when our hairdresser, who ap- is, other people's personal reparently persists in mistaking marks—we shall decline to enus for Tittlebat Titmouse and tertain the idea that there is expects us to buy his infallible any fixed law of nature that hair-restorer, favours us with shall compel us to feel one whit the old stereotyped remark, older when April Fool's Day “Hair getting a little thin on comes round again than the top, sir,” it is a wholesome do now on these Calends of