An Italian Anecdote
by J. M.
Naples, July 1.—This was one of the hottest
days of the season. I had long contemplated Fort St. Elmo, high on the crest
of the mountain which overhung Naples, as one of the objects
which I was bound to visit. I knew and felt that, like Vesuvius,
it was one of those sights which exercise a tyranny over every traveller,
not to be evaded, and which he must see, or hazard his
peace of mind for ever; but never yet had I been able to overcome
my natural indolence, and to proceed to explore it. On
this morning I rose with an alacrity and love of enterprise quite
unusual to me, and I at once determined to ascend to St. Elmo
to see the magnificent Certosini Convent, with the Chiesa di S.
Martino, to enjoy the extensive view which this summit presents,
and to hear the ascending buzz of the city and its numerous inhabitants.
I immediately sent to T——, to accompany me;
and, after eating a hearty breakfast, we took our departure.
Who that has ever mounted the steep, rugged, and never-ending
ascent, will not pity the middle-aged gentleman of indolent
habits, seeing sights for conscience sake, of no mean size, (for
such I am,) as he struggled with the difficulties before him, looking
up in dismay at the castle, inflating and distending his lungs
with an action to which they had long been unaccustomed, until
his face rivalled the sun in glowing crimson?
At length we reached our object. We saw the sights,—admired
the beauty of the church, and its beautiful pictures by
Spagnoletto,—exclaimed with rapture at the view, and heard
the buzz. With my conscience satisfied, and with my critical
observations on all we had seen, ready to be made upon the first
favourable opportunity, I lost no time in descending to whence
we came. By this time it was past meridian. The descent was
very trying upon legs of forty-five years' standing; and the tremulous
motion which it produced upon the muscles, only increased
the longing I felt, to find myself once more extended full
length on my sofa at the Vittoria.
I had taken off my coat, and, lazzaroni-like, had
thrown it over my shoulder; my neckcloth was thrust into my waistcoat
pocket, and my neck was bare. I carried my hat on my stick,
using it by way of parasol; and, thus accoutred, I determined
to make one desperate effort to brave the heat of the sun, that
was baking the pavement of Santa Lucia, and emitting a glare
that acted like a burning-glass upon my eyeballs. As we walked
through this ordeal, we passed close to an assembly of young
lazzaronis, basking in the sun, near to a stall; there they lay, in
the midst of fish-bones, orange-peels, and decayed melons. We
evidently excited their mirth; and I, in particular, felt myself
privileged to be laughed at,—for what could be more grotesque
than my appearance? One of the boys was standing. We
had scarcely turned our backs upon them, when I received a
blow on the head from a melon-rind;—I turned about, and
immediately the whole gang ran off laughing. I would have
followed; but, in truth, was too tired. I could scarcely move
but at a slow walk. The boys stopped, and looked at us. At
length, making a virtue of necessity, I called out to the boy who
had thrown the melon-rind, to come to me—he hesitated; I
called again—he was evidently puzzled, and suspicious of my
intention; I then showed him a carline. "Come here," said I,
"take this." "In the name of goodness!" exclaimed T——,
"what are you about?" "Never mind," said I; "stop and see."
The boy at length took courage, and came to me. "Here," said
I, "bravo! bravissimo! avete fatto bene! take this." Upon which,
in surprise, the boy, taking the piece of money out of my hand,
ran off in the greatest exultation, showing it to his little friends
as a prize fallen down from heaven.
"Now do tell me," said T——, "what demon of
madness can have possessed you? You ought to have broken every bone in
that young rascal's skin, instead of feeing him for insulting us."
"So I would," said I, "if I could; but to catch him is impossible.
By feeing him for his insolence, he will probably
throw another piece of melon at the first Englishman he sees,
who will, no doubt, give him the beating which I cannot." T——
laughed heartily at the ingenious turn which my indolence had
taken—administering a beating à ricochet, as he called it; and,
having reached my room, we laughed over our adventure, and
speculated upon the beating the youngster would get.
And, true enough, the next day, as we were seated
on one of the benches of the Villa Reale, we heard a sort of hue
and cry on the Chiaja, and shortly after, saw our carroty
and irascible friend W—— appear, foaming with rage, streaming
from every pore, owing to some recent exertion, and exploding
with bursts of execration. He came straight to us.—"Who
ever knew such an infernal country as this?" said he,
"D—them all for a beggarly set of villains. Did you ever
see the like? I gave it him well, however,—that's some comfort.
The young rascal won't forget me, for some time, I'll
warrant you!" T—— and I smiled at each other in anticipation
of the reason, which only made him more furious.
"Here," said he, "was I walking quietly along, when a young
rascal of a lazzaroni thought fit to shy half a water-melon at my
head;—you may laugh; but it was no laughing matter to me,
nor to him either, for I have half killed the young urchin; and
then, forsooth, I must have half the town of Naples upon me,
backed by all their carrion of old women." We allowed his rage
to expend itself, and said nothing, for fear of being implicated
in his wrath, inasmuch as I was the origin of his disaster; but,
truly, indolence was never so completely justified, as on this