The World's Greatest Books, Vol. I
Part 1 out of 7
THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS, VOL. I
Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J. A. HAMMERTON
Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
Table of Contents
King of the Mountains
Tower of London
The Golden Ass
AUCASSIN AND NICOLETTE
On the Height
Sense and Sensibility
Pride and Prejudice
BALZAC, HONORE DE
Quest of the Absolute
History of the Caliph Vathek
BERGERAC, CYRANO DE
Voyage to the Moon
In God's Way
Daughter of Heth
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end
of Volume XX.
An enterprise such as THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS is to be judged from
two different standpoints. It may be judged with respect to its specific
achievement--the material of which it consists; or it may be judged with
regard to its general utility in the scheme of literature to which it
In an age which is sometimes ironically called "remarkable" for its
commercialism, nothing has been more truly remarkable than the
advancement in learning as well as in material progress; and of all the
instruments that have contributed to this end, none has been more
effective, perhaps, than the practical popularisation of literature.
In THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS an attempt has been made to effect a
_compendium_ of the world's best literature in a form that shall be at
once _accessible_ to every one and still _faithful_ to its originals;
or, in other words, it has been sought to allow the original author to
tell his own story over again in his own language, but in the shortest
Such a method differs entirely from all those in which an author is
represented, either by one or more _extracts_ from his work, or else by
a formal summary or criticism of it in a language not his own. And,
since the style and language of an original is what often constitutes
the wings upon which alone its thought will fly, to have access to its
thought without its form is too often to possess a skeleton without the
spirit which alone could animate it.
Notwithstanding this, however, we are aware that even THE WORLD'S
GREATEST BOOKS will not escape the criticism of a small class of people
who will profess to object to this, as to any kind of interference with
an author's original--in reply to which it can only be said that such
objections are seldom, if ever, made in the true interests of learning,
or in a genuine spirit of inquiry, and too often only proceed from a
knowledge of books or love of them which goes no deeper than their
For better than all books are the truths which books contain, and to
condense those truths into a form that makes them available is not only
to invest them with new powers and an enlarged range of usefulness, but
is also not necessarily to interfere with any of those essential
qualities that make up the exquisite literary flavor of a fine original.
The selections in THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS have been collected, and
are alphabetically arranged, in ten different divisions,--namely,
Fiction, Lives and Letters, History, Religion, Philosophy, Economics,
Science, Poetry and Drama, Travel and Adventure and Miscellaneous
An important additional feature of the work is _the brief, yet highly
critical biographical and bibliographical note_ which accompanies every
author and every selection throughout the twenty volumes. To this must
be also added the not less important _Introductories_, and other
explanations written by experts, which often accompany the selections in
the text--cardinal examples of which will be found in particular in the
section of Religion of this work, in the articles dealing with such
subjects as the Book of the Dead, Brahmanism, Confucianism, the Koran,
With respect to the selections themselves, it may be added that, even
where they are derived from foreign originals, they have often been
prepared from those originals rather than from any existing translations
of them, as in the fine translation of Catullus by Professor Wight Duff,
or the condensations from Euripides, Corneille, Kant, Tacitus, and very
many more. In other cases, again, the selections have been _specially
prepared for_ THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS _by their authors_ or their
agents, such as the two selections by Major Martin Hume in History, by
Dr. Bramwell and Sir Francis Galton in Science, by Mr. Robert Hichens in
Fiction, etc. From this, and still more from the list of authors itself,
it will be found, we hope, that besides a completely modern aim, a
distinctly proper proportion of modern literature has found a place in
the work, and that the best of French, German, Scandinavian, Russian,
and other authors take rank in it with American and English, as do the
best of the ancients with the best among the moderns.
As the aim of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS has been directed first of all
towards those forms of literature which were in the most need of
condensation to make them readily available, it will not be expected
that the Poetry section of the work will contain the shorter kind of
poems. Moreover, even if the shortness of such poems and their general
accessibility in present-day anthologies did not render their inclusion
here a work of supererogation, it was felt that their place could be far
better filled in a work like the present by the world's best _dramatic_
literature,--as has been done. This does not apply, however, to
translations from the shorter poems of ancient classical literature,
which, however short they may be, cannot be said to be already generally
available for everyday reading.
Throughout, the claims of literature proper, or of fine writing, have
been intimately considered in conjunction with the claims of pure
learning, or of information, with the result, it is hoped, that to the
authority of the world's best thinkers is added the picturesqueness of
their fine writing. Plato, Spencer, Newton; Darwin, Haeckel, Virchow;
AEschylus, Shelley, Ibsen; Burton, Mandeville, Loti; or Brandes, Matthew
Arnold, and Demosthenes--from old and from modern times they yield up
The notion of finality, or of an utter inclusiveness, for such a work as
THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS may be readily disclaimed. To set it up even
would seem ridiculous to any one acquainted with the enormous range of
the subject. Not so ridiculous, however, may seem the claim to have
established a standard and a form of achievement new in the annals of
literary production; and one, moreover, _whose importance as an
educative factor,_ no less than as a test of the special needs of the
era wherein we are living, may be as valid in its own way and in its own
time as some of those other contributions which have helped along the
revival of learning and of letters, from that first awakening of the
Renascence humanists down to our own day.
* * * * *
The King of the Mountains
Edmond About was the son of a grocer at Dieuze, in Lorraine,
France, where he was born Feb. 14, 1828. Even in childhood he
displayed the vivacity of mind and the irreverent spirit which
were to make him the most entertaining anti-clerical writer of
his period. His tales have the qualities of the best writing
of the eighteenth century, enhanced by the modern interest of
his own century. "The King of the Mountains" is the best-known
of his novels, as it is also the best. In 1854 About was
working as a poor archaeologist at the French School at
Athens, where he noticed there was a curious understanding
between the brigands and the police of modern Hellas.
Brigandage was becoming a safe and almost a respectable Greek
industry. "Why not make it quite respectable and regular?"
said About. "Why does not some brigand chief, with a good
connection, convert his business into a properly registered
joint-stock company?" So he produced, in 1856, one of the most
delightful of satirical novels, "The King of the Mountains."
Edmond About died on January 17, 1885, shortly after his
election to the French Academy.
_I.--The Brigand and His Business_
I am no coward; still, I have some regard for my life. It is a present I
received from my parents, and I wish to preserve it as long as possible
in remembrance of them. So, on my arrival at Athens, in April, 1856, I
refrained from going into the country.
Had the director of the Hamburg Botanical Gardens said to me when I left
Germany: "My dear Hermann Schultz, I want you to go to Greece and draw
up a report on the remarkable system of brigandage obtaining in that
land," I might bravely have begun by going for a ride outside Athens, as
my American friends, John Harris and William Lobster, did. But I had
merely been sent, at a salary of L10 a month, to collect the rarer
specimens of the flora of Greece. I therefore began by studying the
native plants in the royal gardens; and put off the work of searching
for new species and varieties.
John Harris and William Lobster, who lodged with me at the shop of the
pastry cook, Christodulos, in Hermes Street, were persons of a more
adventurous temperament. Borrowing the only two horses that Christodulos
possessed, they rode out into the country. But they had scarcely gone a
mile when they were stopped by a band of brigands, and urgently invited
to pay a visit to the King of the Mountains. The Americans refused to
go, as the King of the Mountains had an unkindly way of holding his
visitors to large ransoms, and killing them if the money were not
quickly paid. But the brigands--there were fourteen of them--insisted,
and got out ropes and began to bind their captives. Neither Harris nor
Lobster was made of the kind of wood of which faggots are composed. They
drew their revolvers, and used them with astonishing effect. They lost
the horses, but got safely back to Athens.
"I suppose I mustn't grumble over two horses," said Christodulos. "I
served under Hadgi Stavros, the King of the Mountains, in the War of
Independence, and earned enough money to set up in business."
Then, over a bottle of Santorin wine, Christodulos related the story of
the great brigand chief. Hadgi Stavros was by far the most popular
leader among the insurgent Greeks. His hatred of the Turks did not blind
him to such a point that he passed through a Greek village without
plundering it. A vigorous impartiality enabled him to advance his fame
by increasing his wealth. Lord Byron dedicated an ode to him, and
sympathisers with the Greek cause throughout Europe sent him subsidies.
The result was that when Greece was at last liberated from the Turks,
Hadgi Stavros returned to his old trade with a large capital, and a
genius for organisation which enabled him to revolutionise the business
of brigandage. He entered into arrangements with army officers and
politicians, and saw to it that his allies were entrusted with the
government of his free, enlightened and progressive country.
"But the pity of it is," continued our honest host, "that poor Hadgi
Stavros is growing very old and has no son to succeed him. For the sake
of his only daughter, he is investing all his wealth in foreign stocks
and shares, instead of using it to extend his business."
"I say, I should be glad of an introduction to Miss Stavros," said John
Harris. "I wouldn't mind throwing up my job as captain of the _Fancy_,
now lying at the Piraeus, in order to marry the richest heiress in
Greece. Do you think it is worth getting captured for the sake of
As Christodulos was about to reply, the shop-bell rang, and a young lady
entered. Like nine out of ten Athenian girls, she had plain features.
Her teeth were white and even, and her hair was beautiful; but that was
all. Happily, in this world of ours, the ugliest little goose generally
finds some honest gander to admire her. Dimitri, the son of the pastry
cook, ran forward with a cry of delight, exclaiming, "It's Photini!"
"Gentlemen, let us talk of something else," whispered Christodulos. "We
must not alarm this charming girl with tales about brigands."
He then introduced Photini to us. She was, it appeared, the daughter of
one of his old companions-in-arms, Colonel John. Colonel John was
apparently a man of means, for Photini was very fashionably dressed, and
she was being educated at the best boarding-school in Athens. Her father
had asked his old friend to allow Photini to come and chat with us, and
improve Her knowledge of French and German. The girl, however, was too
timid to enter into conversation, and, to judge by the direction of her
glances, it was not French or German that she would have liked to speak
if she could, but English.
John Harris, I admit, is a very good-looking man; but the way Photini
began to devour him with her eyes, astonished me. I was sitting next to
her at table; but she did not utter a word till the end of the meal.
Then she asked if he were married.
"No, he isn't," I replied, adding with a touch of malice, "I think he
would be glad of an introduction to you."
For something had occurred which made me suspect that she was the
richest heiress in Greece. During the meal, Dimitri came running in with
a newspaper, and looking far from happy.
"Hadgi Stavros has been defeated," he cried. "The troops have burnt his
camp and broken up his army, and pursued him to the marshes of
"It's a lie!" shouted Christodulos, his face red with anger. "The King
of the Mountains could take Athens if he wanted to, and cut the throat
of every man in it."
This, I thought, was strange language from an honest pastry cook, who
was also a lieutenant in the militia. I was still more surprised when I
turned to Photini, and saw that her face was wet with tears.
"You see, my dear Harris," I said, when he and Lobster and I were
talking the matter over in my bedroom, "you have soon got the
introduction you wanted."
"That ugly little over-dressed thing!" exclaimed Harris. "I wouldn't
marry her to save my life."
"Well, at all events," I said, "I shall be able to begin my botanical
researches to-morrow, now that her excellent father has retired to his
_II.--The King of the Mountains Company, Limited_
The next morning, I strapped on my collecting-case, and explored Mount
Parnassus. There I came upon Dimitri and two ladies.
"The old woman is Mrs. Simons, English, very rich," said Dimitri to me.
"The pretty girl is her daughter. I'm their guide. I chose this
excursion in the hope of meeting you. But whatever is the matter with
They shrieked, and stared, horror-stricken, at a clump of bushes. I
looked in the same direction, and perceived half a dozen gun-barrels
gleaming among the leaves. Then eight ruffians appeared; and I saw that
the only difference between devils and brigands is that devils are less
black than is said, and brigands much dirtier than is supposed. They
took all our money and jewelery, and then allowed Dimitri to depart--I
guessed why--and led the two ladies and myself down the hill, and up a
winding path on to a high plateau, where Hadgi Stavros and his band were
The King of the Mountains was sitting, cross-legged, on a square carpet
beneath a pine-tree, a little way from his noisy, crowded camp. Four
secretaries were writing on their knees to his dictation. He was
undoubtedly a man of majestic appearance. He had a fine figure--tall,
supple, and marvelously preserved--and calm, noble features. The only
indications of old age were his long white hair and long white
moustaches. His dress was very simple--a jacket of black cloth, immense
blue cotton trousers, large boots of Russian leather, and a loose red
cap. A jeweled belt was the only costly thing he wore.
He raised his head at our approach.
"You are very welcome," he said with great gravity. "Please sit down
while I finish dictating my letters."
His servant brought us refreshments, consisting of coffee, Turkish
delight, and preserved fruit. Having put us at our ease, the king went
on with his correspondence.
"This," he said, "is to Messrs. Barley and Co., 31 Cavendish Square,
"Excuse me, sire," said his secretary, bending over and whispering in
"What does it matter?" said the king in a haughty tone. "I've done
nothing wrong. Let all the world come and listen if they want to. Now,
take this down."
And he dictated the following letter:
"GENTLEMEN,--I observe by your note of April 5 that I now
have L22,750 on current account. Please invest half of this
sum in 3 per cent. Consols and half in bearer bonds before the
coupons are detached. I shall be obliged if you will sell my
shares in the Bank of England, and put the proceeds in London
omnibuses. That will be a safe investment and, I think, a
profitable one. Your obedient servant,
"P. S. Oblige me by sending a hundred guineas to Messrs. Ralli
Brothers as my subscription towards the Hellenic School at
Mrs. Simons, who, like her daughter, did not speak Greek, leaned towards
"Mr. Schultz, is he dictating the terms of our ransom?" she asked.
"No, madam," I replied. "He is writing to his bankers."
Mrs. Simons turned to the box of Turkish delight. I found more pleasure
in listening to the king's business correspondence. It was
The next letter was addressed to George Micrommati, Secretary of the
King of the Mountains Co., Ltd., the Courts of Justice, Athens.
"I am sorry to say," Hadgi Stavros dictated, "that the company's
operations have been much restricted owing to the bad harvest and to the
occupation of a part of our beloved land by foreign troops.
"Our gross receipts from May 1, 1855, to April 30, 1856, amount only to:
"While our expenses come to 135,482
"Leaving fr. 126,000
Which I propose to divide as follows:
One-third of the profits payable to me as managing
Amount added to reserve fund at Bank of Athens 6,000
Amount available for dividend 80,000
"Total fr. 126,000
"This comes to about 70 per cent, on our present capital of 120,000
francs. It is, I know, the lowest dividend we have paid since the
company was formed fourteen years ago. But the shareholders must
consider the difficulties we have had to struggle against. Our business
is so closely connected with the interests of the country that it can
only flourish in times of general prosperity. From those who have
nothing we can take nothing, or very little. The tourist season,
however, has opened very favourably, and the affairs of the company
will, I think, soon improve. I will send you a detailed statement in the
course of a few days. I am too busy now."
The king read over the letters, and affixed his seal to them. Then, with
royal courtesy, instead of having us brought before him on the carpet,
he came and sat down by our side. Mrs. Simons at once began to talk at
him in English. I offered to act as interpreter with a view to
protecting her from herself. The king, however, thanked me coldly, and
called to one of his brigands who knew English.
As I had foreseen, Mrs. Simons spoke very largely about her great wealth
and her high position. The result was that the king fixed her ransom and
that of Mary Ann at L4,000. I was determined that he should not
over-estimate my resources.
"It's no good putting a ransom on me," I exclaimed. "My father is a poor
German innkeeper who has been ruined by the railway. I've been forced to
leave home and come to Greece, where I earn a beggarly L10 a month."
"If that is so," said the king, very kindly, "you can return to Athens
at once, or stay here for a few days."
"I shall be happy to stay," I replied, "if you will return the
collecting-case your men took from me. I want to go botanising."
"What! You are a man of science!" cried the king joyfully. "Ah, how I
admire knowledge! Who sent you here to collect our plants? Some famous
university, I'll be bound."
"I'm collecting on behalf of the Hamburg Botanical Gardens," I answered.
"And do you think, my dear friend," said the king, "that a great
institution like the Hamburg Botanical Gardens would let a man of your
worth perish rather than pay his ransom of L600? Happy young man! You
now see the value of a sound, scientific education. Had you been an
utter ignoramus as I am, I wouldn't have asked the ransom of a penny."
The king listened neither to my objections nor to the cries of Mrs.
Simons. He rose up and departed; and one of his secretaries led us to a
plot of green sward, where a meal had been laid for us.
"The king has ordered everything to be done to make your sojourn as
pleasant as possible," he said. "He is sorry that his men were so
ill-mannered as to rob persons of your importance. Everything they took
will be returned to you. You have thirty days in which to pay your
ransom. Write to your friends without delay, as the king never grants an
extension of time."
"But if I can't get the money?" I asked.
"You will be killed," said the secretary.
I did not know what to do. I knew nobody with L100, much less L600. Then
I thought of John Harris.
"Tell Christodulos," I wrote, "that Hadgi Stavros won't let me go. If he
will not intercede for me, I leave myself, dear friend, in your hands. I
know you are a man of courage and imagination. You will find a way to
get me out of this fix."
All the same, I had very little hope; and Hadgi Stavros came up and
found me looking very gloomy.
"Courage, my boy," he said.
"You know I can't raise L600," I exclaimed. "It's simply murder."
"You're a young fool," said the King of the Mountains. "Were I in your
place, my ransom would be paid in two days. Don't you understand? Here
you have an opportunity of winning a charming wife and an immense
Mary Ann was sitting with her mother outside one of the caves in the
rocky enclosure, which were to serve as bedrooms. Close at hand was a
stream, which ran through a hole in the rocks, and went tumbling down
the precipitous side of the plateau. I saw that the stretch of green
sward between the rocks had been a lake. This suggested to me a way of
"Suppose," I said to Mary Ann, "that I closed up the hole in the rocks
with turf, and let the water run into this hollow ground, do you think
we would be able to climb down by the empty river bed?"
She got on the rocks and gazed over the precipice. "I could do it if you
would help me."
"But I couldn't," said Mrs. Simons, very snappishly. "The whole thing's
utterly ridiculous. I've written to the British Ambassador, and we shall
be rescued by the royal troops in two days at the latest."
I then told her of the "King of the Mountains Co., Ltd."
"No doubt," I said, "many of the gallant officers IN the Greek Army have
shares in it."
_III.--A Way of Escape_
And so it proved. Two days afterwards the king was explaining to me his
scheme for transforming brigandage into a peaceful orderly system of
taxation, when four shots were fired in the distance.
"Get out the Aegean wine," he said. "Pericles is coming with some
Sixty soldiers came marching into the camp. Captain Pericles, whose
figure I had often admired at Athens, ran up to Hadgi Stavros, and
"Good news, my dear godfather! The paymaster-general is sending L1,000
to Argos this morning by the path near the Scironian Rocks," said the
"Splendid, my boy!" said the king. "I'll go with all my men at once.
Guard the camp, and write out the report of our battle. Defeat me if you
like, but leave ten of your best troops dead on the field. I am in need
of recruits. Look after the three prisoners. They're worth L4,600."
As Hadgi Stavros marched out at the head of his men, they sang a song
composed by their king when he knew Lord Byron:
Down the winding valleys a hillsman went his way;
His eyes were black and flaming, his gun was clean and bright
He cried unto the vultures: "Oh, follow me to-day,
And you shall have my foeman to feed upon to-night!"
When Mrs. Simons saw that the brigands had gone, and the troops had
arrived, she was wild with excitement. I told her of the real state of
affairs; but she wouldn't believe me, and gave Pericles her money and
jewels when asked for them. In the evening the king returned with his
men, and the troops departed. Mrs. Simons then broke down.
"If you were an Englishman, you would rescue us, and marry my daughter,"
she exclaimed. "I suppose I must write to Barley & Co., and get Edward
to send our ransom."
"Barley & Co. of Cavendish Square?"
"Yes," said Mary Ann. "Didn't you know my mother and my uncle were
"Then I have found a way of escape," I exclaimed. "Hadgi Stavros banks
with your firm. Do you remember the letter he was dictating when we
arrived? That was to Barley & Co. about an investment."
"I see. I must explain the position at once to him," said Mrs. Simons.
"And he will want half a million or more ransom," I said. "No! Write at
once to your agents in Athens to send you L4,600. Pay Hadgi Stavros;
make him give you a receipt. Enclose this in the next letter from
Messrs. Barley & Co., with the note--'Item. L4,600 personally remitted
by our partner, Mrs. Simons, as per enclosed receipt.'"
I raised my head, and saw the sweet brown eyes of Mary Ann looking at
me, radiant with joy. I then went to Hadgi Stavros, and explained that
the L4,600 would be paid into his account at the Bank of Athens on the
production of his receipt for that amount. He refused at first to give a
receipt. He had never done such a thing. Then I took him on his weak
side, and said that perhaps it was more prudent not to give one. If ever
he were captured it might be used against him. This touched him.
"I will not give one receipt," he cried. "I will give two--one for Mrs.
and Miss Simons, one for Hermann Schultz."
Alas! from my point of view the result was deplorable. The ransom of the
two ladies was paid, and they were set free. But as Messrs. Barley & Co.
could not recover any money on a receipt given to me, their agent
refused to pay my ransom.
"It doesn't matter," said Mrs. Simons, as she and Mary Ann departed.
"You can escape by the way down the cascade. Your first plan was
impossible with two women, but now you are alone, it is admirable. Come
and see us as soon as you get away."
That night I made friends with the ruffian set to watch over me, and I
plied him with wine until he fell on the grass and was unable to rise. I
then dammed the stream, and climbed down its empty bed. It was difficult
work, as the rocks were wet and the night was very dark. I was covered
with bruises when I reached a platform of rock about ten feet from the
bottom of the precipice. Just as I was about to jump down, a white form
appeared below, and a savage growl came from it. I had forgotten the
pack of fierce dogs, which, as the King of the Mountains had told me,
were the best of all his sentries. Happily, I carried my collecting
case, and in it was a packet of arsenic which I used for stuffing birds.
I put some of the powder on a piece of bread, and threw the poisoned
food to the dog; but arsenic takes a long time to act. In about half an
hour's time the creature began to howl in a frightful manner, and it did
not expire until daybreak. It also succeeded in arousing the camp, and I
was recaptured and brought before the king.
"I don't mind your trying to escape," he said, with a terrible look;
"but in your wild prank you have, drowned the man I set to watch over
you. Were I to give way to my feelings I would have you killed. But I
will be merciful. You will merely be bastinadoed to prevent you from
wandering out of bounds until your ransom is paid."
I received twenty strokes on my feet. At the third I began to bleed. At
the fourth I began to howl. At the tenth I was insensible to pain. When
I came to I was in such an agony that I would have given my soul to kill
Hadgi Stavros. I tried to, but failed. But I would hurt him, though I
knew I should die for it. So, with a torrent of invectives, I explained
how I tricked him over the ransom of Mrs. Simons and her daughter.
"She's a partner in Barley's Bank, you fool, you ass!" I shrieked. "She
will get back all the L4,000 on your receipt."
Hadgi Stavros turned pale and trembled.
"No," he said, very slowly; "I will not kill you. You have not suffered
enough. Four thousand pounds! It is a fortune. You have stolen my
daughter's fortune. What can I do to you? Find me, you brutes," he
cried, turning to his men, "a torture of L4,000."
Then he left me in their hands.
"Treat him gently," he said. "I don't want him to get so exhausted that
he dies before I begin to play with him."
As a beginning, they stripped me to the waist, and their cook put me
close to a great fierce fire, where some lambs were being fried. The red
cinders fell about me, and the heat was unsupportable. I dragged myself
away on my hands--I could not use my feet--but the ruffian kicked me
back. Then he left me for a moment to get some salt and pepper. I
remembered that I had put the arsenic in my trousers pocket. With a
supreme effort I rose up and scattered the powder over the meat.
"What are you doing?" said the cook. "Trying to cast a spell on our
He had only seen, from a distance, the motion of my hand. I was avenged!
Suddenly I heard a cry: "The king! Where is the king?" And Dimitri, the
son of Christodulos, came running up.
"Good God!" he said when he saw me. "The poor girl!"
The cook was so astonished that he forgot me for a minute; and I managed
to crawl away and lay on the cold grass. Then Hadgi Stavros appeared.
With a cry of anguish he took me gently in his arms, and carried me to
the cave among the rocks.
"Poor boy!" he said. "How you have suffered! But you will soon be well.
I once had sixty strokes of the bastinado, and two days afterwards I was
dancing the Romaika. It was this ointment that cured me."
"But what has happened?" I murmured.
"Read that!" he cried, throwing me a letter. "What a pirate! What an
assassin! If I only had you and your friend, one in each hand! Oh, he
won't do it! Will he?"
The letter was from John Harris. It ran:
"Hadgi Stavros,--Photini is now on my ship, the _Fancy_,
which carries four guns. She remains a hostage as long as
Hermann Schultz remains a prisoner. As you treat my friend, so
I will treat your daughter. She shall pay hair for hair, tooth
for tooth, head for head. Answer at once, or I will come and
see you.--JOHN HARRIS."
"I know Photini," I said to the king, "and I swear that she will not be
harmed. But I must return to Athens at once. Get four of your men to
carry me down the mountains in a litter."
The king rose up, and then groaned and staggered. I remembered the
arsenic. He must have eaten some of the meat. I tickled the inside of
his throat, and he brought up most of the poison. Soon afterwards the
other brigands came up to the enclosure, screaming with pain, and wanted
to murder me. I had cast a spell over their meat, and it was torturing
them, they cried. I must be killed at once, and then the spell would be
removed. The king commanded them to withdraw. They resisted. He drew his
saber, and cut down two of the ringleaders. The rest seized their guns
and began to shoot. There were about sixty of them, all suffering, more
or less, from the effects of arsenic poisoning. We were only twelve in
number, but our men had the steadier aim; and the king fought like a
hero, though his hands and feet were swelling painfully.
The fact was that he had eaten some time before his men, and I could not
therefore get the poison completely out of his system. But it was the
arsenic that saved his life. He had at last to come and lie down beside
me. We heard the sound of rapid firing in the distance; and suddenly two
men entered our enclosure, with revolvers in each hand, and shot down
our defenders with an extraordinary quickness of aim. They were Harris
"Hermann, where are you?" Harris yelled at last, with all his strength,
as he turned and found nothing more to shoot at.
"Here," I replied. "The men you've just killed have been fighting for
me. There has been civil war in the camp."
"Well, we've stamped it out!" said Harris. "What's the matter with the
old scoundrel lying beside you?"
"It's Hadgi Stavros," I said. "He and his men have been eating some
arsenic I had in my collecting case."
My friends managed to carry me down the mountain, and at the first
village we came to they got a carriage and took me to Athens. The
ointment used by Hadgi Stavros was, as he had said, marvelous; and in
two days I could walk as well as ever. I at once called on Mrs. and Miss
"They departed yesterday for Trieste," said the servant, "on their way
As I was returning to Hermes Street I met Hadgi Stavros and Photini.
"How is it that the King of the Mountains is found walking in the
streets of Athens?" I said.
"What can I do in the mountains now?" he replied. "All my men are
killed, wounded or fled. I might get others. But look at my swollen
hands. How can I use a sword? No; let some one younger now take my
place. But I defy him to equal me in fame or fortune. And I have not
done yet. Before six months are gone, you will see Hadgi Stavros, Prime
Minister of Greece. Oh, there are more ways of making money than one!"
And that was the last I saw of the King of the Mountains. On the advice
of Harris, I at once returned to Hamburg, lest some of the remaining
brigands found me out, and take vengeance for the spell I had cast on
their meat. But some day I hope to go to London, and call at 31,
* * * * *
Tower of London
William Harrison Ainsworth, born at Manchester, England, Feb.
4, 1805, was a popular rather than a great writer. A
solicitor's son, he was himself trained in the law, but some
adventures in journalism led him finally to the literary life,
his first success as a writer of romance being scored with
"Rookwood" in 1834. "Tower of London" was the fourth work of
the novelist, and, according to Ainsworth himself, it was
written chiefly with the aim of interesting his
fellow-countrymen in the historical associations of the Tower.
From the popularity of the romance it is reasonable to suppose
that it fulfilled its author's hopes in this respect, though
it must be confessed its history leaves a good deal to be
desired. Here is not the place to discuss the rights and
wrongs of Ainsworth's bold liberties in respect to the
historical personages he introduces; but there is no doubt
that the romance is told with vigour and dramatic movement,
and it is an excellent example of the novelist's spirited
style of narrative, though, judged on purely literary merits,
like his other works, the "Tower of London" will not bear
comparison with the masterpieces of Sir Walter Scott in the
field of historical romance. Ainsworth died at Reigate on
January 3, 1882.
_I.--Prisoners in the Tower_
Edward VI. was dead, poisoned, it was rumoured, by the Duke of
Northumberland, Grandmaster of the Realm. For three days had an attempt
been made to keep his death secret, so that the proud and ambitious duke
might seize the persons of the Princess Mary and the Princess Elizabeth.
But the former, warned in time, had escaped the snare; and the Duke of
Northumberland, finding further dissimulation useless, boldly proclaimed
his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, queen.
On July 10, 1553, Queen Jane, the wisest and most beautiful woman in the
kingdom, though only sixteen years of age, was conducted in state to the
Tower, where it was the custom for the monarchs of England to spend the
first few days of their reign.
But the crowds who watched her departure from Durham House, in the
Strand, were silent and sullen. Her youthful beauty and grace might win
an involuntary cry of admiration, but the heart of the people was not
hers. They recognised that she was but the tool of her father-in-law,
whom, because of his overweening ambition, they hated.
All the pride and pomp of silken banners and cloth of gold could not
mask the gloomy presage of the young queen's reign. The very heavens
thundered; and owing to the press of boats that surrounded the
procession, many small craft were overturned and their occupants thrown
into the water. And if further signs of portending evil were wanted,
they could be discerned in the uneasy whisperings of those lords of the
Privy Council who were present, or in the sinister face of the Spaniard,
Simon Renard, ambassador to the Emperor Charles V.
"This farce will not last long," he said to De Noailles, the French
ambassador. "The Privy Council are the duke's secret enemies, and
through them I shall strike the scepter from Jane's grasp and place it
in the hand of Mary."
Elsewhere in the procession, Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, uttered
in a low voice to Ridley, Bishop of London, his fears for the future;
while certain lords of the Privy Council, who had planned the
assassination of the Duke of Northumberland, and were aware that their
plot had been discovered, approached the portals of the Tower in fear
But there was one man at least who did not share the general depression
and uneasiness. Cuthbert Cholmondeley, esquire to Lord Guildford Dudley,
husband of Queen Jane, found much to interest him in the scene. The
reception of her Majesty by Og, Gog, and Magog had already driven away
the sense of portending evil from his mind when he caught sight of a
girl's face in the crowd. It was only for a moment that he had sight of
it; but it left such a deep impression on his mind that for the rest of
the day he burned with impatience to discover who the girl might be.
Much had to happen before he could satisfy his curiosity. Once in the
Tower, plots against Queen Jane and the Duke of Northumberland began to
thicken. At a meeting of the Privy Council the duke compelled the lords,
under threat of imprisonment, to sign a proclamation declaring Princess
Mary illegitimate. Renard lost no time in turning to his own advantage
the bad impression created by these tactics.
"Do you consent to Northumberland's assassination?" he whispered to
"I do," replied the Earl of Pembroke. "But who will strike the blow?"
"I will find the man."
This sinister fragment of conversation fell upon the ears of Cuthbert.
He at once sent a warning missive to his master, telling him of the plot
against the duke's life. Then, this duty performed, he set out to try
and find the girl whose face had so impressed him. From the giant
warders he learnt that she was the adopted daughter of Dame Potentia
Trusbut, wife of Peter, the pantler of the Tower. A mystery surrounded
her birth. Her mother had been imprisoned in the Tower by Henry VIII.,
and in her dungeon had given birth to Cicely--such was the name of the
Magog, seeing Cuthbert's interest, good-naturedly carried him off with
him to the pantler's quarters. Here a gargantuan feast was in progress,
to which the three giants did full justice, devouring whole joints and
pasties and quaffing vast flagons of wine, to the great delight of the
pantler and his wife. But Cuthbert had no eyes except for Cicely. He was
not content until he was by her side and was able to hear her voice. The
attraction between them was mutual, and it was not long before they were
whispering the first words of love into one another's ears.
While all was merriment, Renard and Pembroke made their appearance
unobserved. They had intercepted Cuthbert's letter, and were anxious to
satisfy themselves as to the identity of the rash youth who had dared to
cross their path.
"Though we have intercepted his missive to Lord Dudley," whispered
Renard, "he may yet betray us. He must not return to the palace."
"He shall never return, my lords," said a tall, dark man, advancing
towards them, "if you will entrust his detention to me."
"Who are you?" demanded Renard, eyeing him suspiciously.
"Lawrence Nightgall, the chief gaoler."
"What is your motive for this offer?"
"Look there!" returned Nightgall. "I love that damsel. He has supplanted
me, but he shall not profit by his good fortune."
"You are the very man I want!" cried Renard, rubbing his hands
gleefully. "Lead me where we can speak more freely."
The three withdrew unobserved. Half an hour later Cuthbert dragged
himself unwillingly from Cicely's side and passed into the open air. As
he did so he received a blow on the back of his head which stretched him
unconscious on the ground.
When he came to his senses he found himself bound by a chain in a gloomy
dungeon, a ghastly, dreadful place, but a few feet in height. His first
instinct was to try to loosen his bonds, but after vainly lacerating his
hands he sank down exhausted.
Terrible recollections flashed upon his mind of the pitiless sufferings
he had heard that the miserable wretches immured in these dungeons
endured before death.
For a time these mental tortures were acute; but at last nature asserted
herself, and he sank exhausted into sleep. He was awakened by a cry, and
perceived the tall, skeleton figure of a woman standing by him. She
placed a thin and bony hand upon his shoulder. He shrank back as far as
his chain would permit, horror-stricken. The figure pursued him,
shrieking, "My child! My child! You have taken my child!"
Suddenly she stopped and stood erect. A distant footstep was heard.
"He comes! He comes!" she cried, and with a loud shriek dashed from the
dungeon and disappeared.
In another second Nightgall stood before him. The gaoler made no attempt
to disguise the motives which prompted him to imprison the young
esquire. No threats that Cuthbert could use had the least effect on him.
He quailed before the charge that Cuthbert made at random--that he had
murdered the child of the unfortunate wretch who had disappeared at his
coming, but on the question of his release he was obdurate. If Cuthbert
would agree to give up Cicely he should be released; otherwise he should
meet with a secret death at the hands of Mauger, the executioner.
At this juncture, Cicely, who had been directed by the dwarf, Xit,
appeared. To save the man she loved she boldly declared that she would
wed Nightgall, provided that he would conduct his prisoner outside the
walls of the Tower.
"Bring me back some token that you have done so, and I am yours," she
Nightgall consented, and agreed to withdraw while Cuthbert and Cicely
arranged privately what the token should be.
Hurriedly Cuthbert gave her a ring to send to Lord Dudley, who, he knew,
would at once effect his release. Then, accompanied by Nightgall, Cicely
withdrew from the gloomy dungeon.
Unable to deliver the ring herself to Lord Dudley, Cicely entrusted that
task to Xit. But the vanity of the dwarf prevented the execution of the
plan. As he was exhibiting the ring to Og, Nightgall suddenly
approached, and snatched it from him, and, without taking any notice of
the little man's threats, made his way to Cicely. When he displayed the
ring as the token that her lover had been set free, Cicely, shrieking
"Lost! Lost!" fell senseless on the floor.
_II.--The Twelfth Day Queen_
While Renard's intrigues were maturing, and the Duke of Northumberland
had left the Tower on a campaign against the Princess Mary, Cuthbert
Cholmondeley was kept languishing in his terrible dungeon.
At long intervals Nightgall visited him, and once the wretched prisoner,
whom the gaoler called Alexia, came to him, entreating his help against
At last Cuthbert decided upon a daring plan of escape. After several
days' imprisonment he feigned to be dead. Nightgall, seeing him
stretched on the ground, apparently lifeless, chuckled with delight,
and, releasing the chain that bound his leg, bent over him with the
intention of carrying his body into the burial vault near the moat. But
a suspicion crossed his mind, and he drew his dagger, determined to make
sure that his prisoner had passed away. As he did so, the young esquire
sprang to his feet, and wrested the poniard from his grasp. In another
second Nightgall was lying chained to the floor, where his prisoner had
been a moment before.
Despite the gaoler's threats, Cuthbert set out, determined to liberate
Alexia and made good his own escape. He wandered through the terrible
torture chambers, released an old man confined in a cell called Little
Ease, a cell so low and so contrived that the wretched inmate could not
stand, walk, sit, or lie at full length within, and then, unable to
discover the whereabouts of the ill-fated Alexia, returned to the
gaoler, and, possessing himself of his keys and cloak, started forth
once more. After wandering for a long time, chance at last brought him
to a secret door, which led into St. John's Chapel in the White Tower.
While these events were in progress Cicely, despairing of her lover's
safety, sought an audience of Queen Jane, and poured out her story.
Moved by compassion, the queen gave directions for a search to be made,
and, delighted by the grace and charm of Cicely, appointed her one of
her attendants. Lord Guildford Dudley, procuring the assistance of
Magog, burst open the door leading to the subterranean dungeons beneath
the Devilin Tower, and eventually discovered Nightgall, who made a full
confession of his crime as the price of his release.
Cholmondeley's arrival in St. John's Chapel was opportune. Renard, with
Pembroke by his side, had just demanded the resignation of the crown by
Queen Jane, and the queen, helpless but courageous, had ordered Lord
Pembroke to arrest the Spaniard. Pembroke had refused to move, and at
this juncture Cholmondeley stepped forward, and, advancing towards the
ambassador, said, "M. Simon Renard, you are the queen's prisoner."
The Spaniard drew his sword, and, with the assistance of the Earl of
Pembroke, kept Cuthbert at bay until they were both able to slip through
the secret door.
Next day, Queen Jane was forced by the Privy Council to resign her
crown, and that same night, accompanied by Cuthbert and Cicely, she
escaped by a secret passage from the Tower, and, taking a boat, made her
way to Sion House. Here, the following day, she and her husband were
arrested, and learnt the news that the Duke of Northumberland was in
captivity, and that Queen Mary had ascended the throne. Once more Lady
Jane was led back to the Tower, and as she entered by the Traitors' Gate
she saw Renard standing hard by, with a smile of bitter mockery in his
"So," he said, "Epiphany is over. The Twelfth Day Queen has played her
_III.--The Price of Pardon_
Simon Renard's influence was now for the time supreme. At his
instigation the Duke of Northumberland was tricked into a confession of
the Roman Catholic faith on the scaffold, and then executed. Ambitious
that Mary should marry Philip of Spain, he contrived by intrigue to kill
her affection for Courtenay, the young Earl of Devon, and succeeded so
successfully that Courtenay was placed under arrest, and the Princess
Elizabeth, with whom the earl had fallen in love, became the victim of
her sister's jealousy. Cuthbert, though not confined in a cell, was kept
prisoner in the Tower, and occupied quarters in the pantler's house.
Cicely had disappeared, and nothing had been heard of her since the
arrest of Lady Jane Grey at Sion House.
Consumed with anxiety for the safety of the girl he loved, the esquire
began to suspect that she had been kidnapped by Nightgall. He determined
to find her at all cost, and getting Xit to steal the gaoler's keys, he
once more made his way to the subterranean dungeons.
Cell after cell he searched, but nowhere could he find a trace of his
beloved Cicely. All that he discovered was the dead body of Alexia. He
made haste to return to his quarters, and had almost reached them when
Nightgall appeared, and at once placed him under arrest for stealing his
His enemy was now at his mercy, and Nightgall, after burying the body of
Alexia, sought out Cicely, whom be had kept for several weeks a close
prisoner in the Salt Tower. He told her that he was about to remove her
to another prison in the Tower leading to the Iron Gate.
"I will never go thither of my own accord," replied Cicely, shrinking
terrified from him. "Release me, villain; I will die sooner than become
"We shall see that," growled the gaoler, seizing hold of her. "You shall
never be set free unless you consent to be mine."
He carried her, shrieking and struggling in his arms, out of the room,
and dragged her by main force down the secret staircase. She continued
her screams, until her head, striking against the stones, she was
stunned by the blow and became insensible. Nightgall raised her, and
carried her quickly to the dark cell he had already prepared. Here she
would have languished for months without seeing anybody save Nightgall,
except for a curious chain of circumstances.
Renard's plan of marrying Mary to Philip of Spain, to which end he had
had Courtenay and the Princess Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower, was
bitterly opposed by De Noailles. The French ambassador determined to
prevent the Spaniard's plans, and, by means of Xit, sent a communication
to the princess just as she was leaving her prison for Ashbridge.
Further, the little mannikin managed to creep, by way of the chimney,
into the chamber where Courtenay was confined, and arrange a plan by
which the Earl was able to escape. His share in these events, however,
was discovered, and, much to his amazement, he was arrested and taken to
the torture chamber. Though none of the instruments were small enough to
inflict much pain upon him, he was so terrified that he answered every
question that Renard asked him, giving those answers that he thought the
Spaniard would approve. The examination over he was placed in a cell.
Here he was visited by Nightgall, from whose girdle he managed to cut,
unobserved, the bunch of keys.
Unlocking his own door, he hurried out into the labyrinth of passages
and cells, and in his wanderings in search of an exit lighted upon the
cell in which Cicely was confined. He was not able to effect her escape,
for as they were setting out Nightgall appeared, and put an end to their
Cuthbert had meanwhile been released, together with Lady Jane and her
husband. For a time they lived together quietly in Sion House, but De
Noailles' plan to prevent the Spanish marriage at all costs dragged them
once more into the whirlpool.
Under the leadership of Sir Thomas Wyatt, an insurrection took place,
having for its nominal object the prevention of Mary's marriage with
Philip of Spain; but it was joined by all the forces opposed to the
crown. Courtenay shared in it because he hoped to wed Elizabeth, who
would be made Queen on the deposition of Mary. Lord Guildford Dudley
joined in it in the anticipation that his wife might once more mount the
At first Wyatt carried everything before him. Mary was actually besieged
in the Tower, which it was attempted to carry by force. Supported by
Cuthbert, Lord Guildford led the assault, shouting, "Long live Queen
Jane! Down with Renard and the See of Rome!" The attack had almost
succeeded, when Dudley was struck from behind by Renard and taken
Cuthbert only escaped by forcing himself through an aperture, and
dropping into the moat, from where he managed to swim ashore. He made
his way at once to Lady Jane, and related to her how the insurrection
had collapsed, and how her husband had been taken prisoner. For her own
safety Jane had no thought. She at once determined to seek out the
queen, and beseech her to spare her husband.
Accompanied by Cuthbert, she presented herself at the Tower, and,
obtaining an audience with Mary, flung herself at her feet.
"I am come to submit myself to your highness's mercy," she said, as soon
as she could find utterance.
"Mercy?" exclaimed Mary scornfully. "You shall receive justice, but no
"I do not sue for myself," rejoined Jane, "but for my husband. I have
come to offer myself for him. If your highness has any pity for me,
extend it to him, and heap his faults on my head."
Queen Mary was deeply moved. Had not Gardiner intervened, she would
undoubtedly have granted the request; but Gardiner suggested that the
price of the pardon should be the public reconciliation of Lady Jane and
her husband with the Church of Rome.
"I cannot," said Jane. "I will die for him, but I cannot destroy my soul
_IV.--The Torture Chamber and the Block_
After a week's imprisonment, Cuthbert was closely questioned, and his
answers being deemed unsatisfactory, he was ordered to be examined under
torture. With fiendish delight Nightgall took him to the horrible
chamber. There, the first thing that he saw was the tortured, mangled
figure of Lord Dudley, covered from head to foot by a blood-coloured
"You here?" cried the ghastly, distorted figure. "Where is Jane? Has she
fled? Has she escaped?"
"She has surrendered herself," replied Cholmondeley, "in the hope of
obtaining your pardon."
"False hope! Delusive expectation!" exclaimed Dudley, in tones of
anguish, as he was carried from the room. "She will share my fate. Oh
God! I am her destroyer!"
Cholmondeley, as soon as his master had been borne away, was seized by
the torturers and placed on the rack. He determined that not a sound
should escape him, and though his whole frame seemed rent asunder, he
bravely kept his resolve.
"Go on," cried Nightgall, as the torturers paused. "Turn the roller
Even as he spoke Cholmondeley fainted, and, finding that no answers
could be extracted from him, he was taken back to his cell and flung
upon a heap of straw. As he lay there, Nightgall, with diabolical
cruelty, brought Cicely to his side, and bade her look on his nerveless
arms and crippled limbs, and mockingly offered to set him free if Cicely
would marry him of her own free will. When at Cuthbert's instigation she
refused, he forced her away, shrieking for help.
Cuthbert sank once more into insensibility. He came to his senses again
to find that men were chafing his limbs and bathing his temples, and
that Renard was in his cell. At the Spaniard's order he was given a cup
of wine, and the rest having withdrawn, Renard questioned him further.
While this examination was going on the cell door opened softly, and a
masked figure appeared. It was Nightgall, who, bribed by De Noailles,
had come to assassinate Renard. He flung himself on his intended victim,
and was about to dispatch him with his poniard, when Cuthbert, summoning
up all his strength, intervened.
Finding that he had two men to deal with instead of one, the gaoler
sprang to his feet, and rushed from the dungeon. Renard followed him,
furious with rage, and Cuthbert at once took advantage of the
opportunity to escape.
After some search he discovered the whereabouts of Cicely, and together
the lovers, happy once more at being united, if only for a short time,
succeeded in finding their way out of the dungeons. As soon as they
emerged into the open air they were arrested by the warders, and taken
to the guard-room in the White Tower, where Cicely received a warm
welcome from the three giants. There was no time to relate their
adventures before Renard appeared, walking before a litter upon which
was borne the mangled body of Nightgall, who, in his attempt to escape
the Spaniard's sword, had been forced to jump from an embrasure of the
The wretch was dying; but with his last breath he attempted to make some
amends for all the evil he had done in his life. Bidding Cicely come to
his side, he told her that she was the daughter of Alexia, whose real
name was Lady Mountjoy, and he gave her papers, proving her right to the
estates of her father, Sir Alberic Mountjoy, who had incurred the
vengeance of Henry VIII.
Renard, grateful to Cholmondeley for saving his life, secured his
Cicely also returned to the side of Lady Jane Grey, and watched the
splendid fortitude and unswerving courage with which her unfortunate
mistress prepared for the scaffold. The day before her death her wish
that Cicely and Cuthbert should be united was granted, and they were
married in her presence by Master John Bradford, Prebendary of St.
At last Monday, the twelfth of February, 1544, dawned, and Lady Jane
Grey was led out to the scaffold. On the way she passed the headless
corpse of Lord Guildford, being borne to the grave. Cicely accompanied
the beautiful girl to the last. It was her hands that helped her to
remove her attire and that tied the handkerchief over those eyes which
were never to look on the world again.
Blindfolded, Jane groped for the block, crying, "What shall I do? Where
She was guided to the place, and, laying her head on the block, cried,
"Lord--into Thy hands I commend my spirit!"
The axe then fell, and one of the fairest and wisest heads that ever sat
on human shoulders fell also.
* * * * *
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
Hans Christian Andersen was born at Odense, in Denmark, on
April 2, 1805, the son of a poor bootmaker. His life was full
of exciting incidents; his early years in particular
constitute a record of hard struggle, poverty and lack of
recognition. When nine he tried his hand at tragedy and
comedy, and was sent, after his father's death in 1819, to
Copenhagen, where he engaged in various occupations with
little success, until his talents attracted the attention of a
few influential personages, who provided him with the means
for continuing his studies. He won considerable reputation
with some early poems, and was quite well known to the public
before he entered the university in 1828. He next published a
satirical story, and after a journey in Italy, his famous
novel, "The Improvisatore," which gave him an opportunity for
a brilliant series of word-pictures describing the life and
character of the parts of Italy he had visited. Apart from his
world-famous fairy tales, by which he set no great store,
being ambitious of fame as a novelist, he wrote several
successful plays, epic poems and novels. His fairy tales have
been translated practically into every language. Hans Andersen
died at the age of seventy, in Copenhagen, on August 4, 1875.
_I.--A Boyhood in Rome_
My earliest recollections take me back to my tender youth, when I lived
with my widowed mother in a little garret in a Roman square. She
supported us by sewing and by the rent of a larger room, sublet to a
young painter. On the house opposite there was an image of the Virgin,
before which, when the evening bells rang, I and the neighbours'
children used to kneel and sing in honour of the Mother of God and the
Child Jesus. Once an English family stopped to listen; and the gentleman
gave me a silver coin, "because of my fine voice," as my mother told me.
My mother's confessor, Fra Martino, always showed great kindness to me;
and I spent many hours with him at the convent. It was through him that
I became chorister in the Capuchin church, and was allowed to carry the
Before I was nine, I was chosen as one of the boys and girls who were to
preach between Christmas and the New Year in the church of Ara Croeli,
before the image of Jesus. I had no fear, and it seemed decided that I,
of all children, gave most delight; but after me came a little girl of
exquisitely delicate form, bright countenance, and so melodious a voice
that even my mother, with all her pride of me, awarded her the palm, and
declared that she was just like an angel. But I had often to repeat my
speech at home, and then made up a new one describing the festival in
the church, which was considered just as good.
One moonlit evening, on returning with my mother from a visit in
Trastevere, we found a crowd in the Piazza di Trevi, listening to a man
singing to a guitar--not songs like those which I had so often heard,
but about things around him, of what we saw and heard, and we ourselves
were in the song. My mother told me he was an improvisatore; and
Federigo, our artist lodger, told me I should also improvise, for I was
really a poet. And I tried it forthwith--singing about the foodshop over
the way, with its attractively set out window and the haggling
customers. I gained much applause; and from this time forth I turned
everything into song.
My first visit to the country ended in a sad event, which was to shape
the whole course of my life. It was in June, and my mother and her
friend Mariuccia took me to see the famous flower fete at Genzano. We
stayed the night at an inn, and in the morning joined the dense holiday
crowd that moved over the carpet of flowers on the pavement of the main
street. Suddenly there was a piercing cry--a pair of unmanageable horses
rushed through. I was thrown down, and all was blackness. When I awoke,
Mother of God, I lay with my head on Mariuccia's lap, beside the
lifeless form of my mother, crushed by the carriage wheel! The occupant
of the carriage, a gentleman of the Borghese family, had escaped with a
shaking, and sent a servant in rich livery with a purse containing
twenty scudi for the motherless child.
Mariuccia took me back to Rome; it was decided that her parents, who
kept flocks in the Campagna--honest people to whom my twenty scudi would
be wealth--should take charge of me. Thus, in the dreary Campagna, with
honest Benedetto and kindly Domenica, I spent the summer and the early
autumn in the ancient tomb which they had transformed into a hut. The
first week it rained incessantly; then, with the sun, came the
insufferable heat, increasing in intensity from day to day, from week to
week. Even the buffaloes lay like dead masses upon the burnt-up grass,
unless, excited to madness by the poison-stings of myriads of flies,
that covered them as if they were carrion, they rushed in mad career to
the Tiber to roll themselves in the yellow water.
One day, towards sunset, I was just opening the door to leave the hut,
when a man darted in so suddenly that I was thrown down. With lightning
speed he shut the door, and in a distressed tone uttered the name of the
Madonna, when a violent blow shattered the door, and the whole opening
was filled with the head of a fierce buffalo, whose body was tightly
squeezed into the doorway. The stranger seized a gun from the wall, took
aim, and shot the beast. The danger over, he lifted me from the ground,
and said: "Blessed be Madonna! You have saved my life." He inquired
about me. I was made to show him my abominable sketches upon bits of
paper and to sing to him, and caused him astonishment at my improvising
about the Madonna and himself and the buffalo. He finally asked Domenica
to bring me next morning to see him at the Borghese Palace. He was the
powerful prince himself, who had unwittingly been the cause of my poor
_II.--In the School of Life_
The prince, his daughter Francesca, and her fiance Fabiani, overwhelmed
me with kindness. The visit had to be frequently repeated; and I became
quite accustomed to the splendours of the palazzo. Finally, Eccellenza
decided to have me educated in the Jesuits' school; and I had to bid
farewell to good Domenica and to enter upon my school life. New
occupations engrossed me; new acquaintances presented themselves; the
dramatic portion of my life began to unfold itself. Here years compress
I became particularly attached to one of my school-fellows, Bernardo, a
gay, almost dissolute son of a Roman senator. When he suddenly left
school to join the Papal Guard the whole world seemed to me empty and
deserted. One day I saw him pass my window on a prancing horse. I rushed
out, but ran across the porter's wife of the Borghese Palace, who
informed me that the young Eccellenza and her husband had just arrived.
Would I not come to give them welcome? To the palace I went, was
graciously received by Fabiani and Francesca, who brought me their
little daughter Flaminia, the "little abbess," as she was called, having
been destined from her birth for the life of a nun. The child had
wonderfully bright eyes, and came towards me as though we were old
acquaintances, laughing and chattering, and showing me her toys.
On my way back, early in the evening, as luck would have it, I almost
ran into the arms of Bernardo. He was delighted to see me, told me of
his merry life and adventures, and wanted to drag me into an artists'
tavern to drink a bottle of wine. That was impossible for me, a Jesuits'
pupil. I refused. As we walked on we met a crowd hustling an old Jew. A
thick-set brute of a fellow wanted to force him to jump over a long
stick, and everybody shouted, "Leap, Jew!" Bernardo sprang forth,
snatched the stick out of the fellow's hand, brandished his sword, and
cried in a strong, manly voice, "Leap yourself, or I shall cleave your
head!" He made him jump, and jump again, and struck him lightly with the
flat of his sword. The crowd veered round at once, laughed and
applauded, the old Jew meanwhile making his escape. "Come," said I, when
we were out of the crowd, "come! Let them say what they may, I will
drink a bottle of wine with you. May we always be friends!"
I met Bernardo again some time after at the Vatican. His joy equalled
mine, and he immediately plunged into confidences. One day, when
straying into the Ghetto, he had encountered the old Jew of our
adventure, bowing and scraping, and requesting the honour of receiving,
him in his house. They entered; wine was brought to him by a dark Jewish
maiden, of such beauty as to set his whole blood on fire. Since then he
had vainly tried to see her. He visited the Jew's house on all sorts of
pretexts, but his charmer remained invisible. He now made the amazing
proposition that I should take up the study of Hebrew with the old Jew,
and thus help him in this affair. I explained the utter impossibility of
aiding him in a project of this nature. He was obviously offended; and
when we parted he returned my warmth with chilly politeness.
We met but rarely after this meeting; Bernardo was always jovial and
friendly, though not confidential, until, on the occasion of a dance at
the Borghese Palace, when I asked him about the handsome Jewish maiden,
he laughed. "I have found," he said, "another and tamer little golden
bird. The other has flown out of the Ghetto--nay, even out of Rome!"
My patron's family left Rome; and I had to throw myself into the study
for the examination that was to bring me the title of an abbe. With the
advent of the carnival I had assumed the black dress and the short silk
coat of an abbate, and had become a new and happier person. For the
first time I took part in the jollities of the carnival, and at the end
of the first day again came across Bernardo, who insisted upon taking me
to the opera to hear a new prima donna who had turned everybody's heart
at Naples. Rumour had not belied her. Her appearance was greeted with
rapturous applause. Bernardo seized my arm; he had recognised in her his
Jewish maiden, just as I was about to exclaim, "It is she!"--the lovely
child who had preached that Christmas at Ara Coeli. There were endless
calls for "Annunciata" when the curtain fell; flowers and garlands were
thrown at her feet, and among them a little poem which I had written
under the inspiration of her exquisite voice. With a crowd of
enthusiasts, we hurried to the stage-door, took the horses from her
carriage, and conducted her in triumph to her apartments.
Bernardo, who, bolder than I, had called on Annunciata, brought me to
her the next day. She was friendly, brilliant in her conversation, and
appeared deeply impressed with my improvisation on "Immortality"--the
immortality first of eternal Rome, and then of the fair singer's art--to
which I was pressed when Bernardo let out the secret of my gift.
"You have given me the sincerest pleasure," she said, and looked
confidingly into my eyes. I ventured to kiss her hand. After that I saw
her every day during the gay carnival, and was more and more captivated
by her charm.
Annunciata left Rome on Ash Wednesday, and with her the brightness
seemed to have gone completely out of my life, my only pleasure being
the recollection of those happy days of the carnival.
_III.--Love and Adventure in Rome_
I saw Annunciata again when Rome had begun to fill with Easter visitors,
and had the happiness of dining with her the same day. She told me that,
although born in Spain, she had been, as a child, in Rome; that it was
she who preached that day at Ara Coeli, "an orphan, who would have
perished of hunger had not a despised Jew given it shelter and food
until it could flutter forth over the wild, restless sea." Next day I
showed her over the Borghese gallery; and on the day before Easter we
drove out to see the procession which initiated the Easter festival, and
in the evening to Monte Mario to see the illuminations of St. Peter's--
an unforgettable sight!
As I went into the little inn to fetch some refreshment I found myself
in the narrow passage face to face with Bernardo, pale, and with glowing
eyes. He wildly seized my hand, and said: "I am not an assassin,
Antonio; but fight with me you shall, or I shall become your murderer!"
I tried to calm him, but he forced a pistol into my hand. "She loves
you," he whispered; "and you, in your vanity, will parade it before all
the Roman people--before me!" He threw himself upon me. I thrust him
back. I heard a report; my hand trembled. Bernardo lay before me in his
blood. The people of the house rushed in, and with them Annunciata. I
wanted to fling myself, in despair, upon Bernardo's body; but Annunciata
lay on her knees beside him, trying to staunch the blood. "Save
yourself!" she cried. But I, overcome by anguish, exclaimed: "I am
innocent; the pistol went off by accident. Yes, Annunciata, we loved
you. I would die for you, like he! Which of us was the dearer to you?
Tell me whether you love me, and then I will escape." She bowed her head
down to the dead. I heard her weeping, and saw her press her lips to
Bernardo's brow. Then I heard voices shout "Fly, fly!" and, as by
invisible hands, I was torn out of the house.
Like a madman I rushed through bushes and underwood until I reached the
Tiber. Among the ruins of a tomb I came across three men sitting around
a fire, to whom I explained that I wanted a boat to cross the river.
They agreed to take me across; but I had better give them my money to
keep for safety. I realised that I had fallen into the hands of robbers,
gave them all I had, was tied on to a horse, and taken across the river,
riding all night, until at dawn we reached a wild part of the mountains.
They wanted to keep me for ransom, and dispatched one of their number to
Rome to find out all he could about me. The man returned; and with a
thankful heart I heard that Bernardo was only wounded and on the way to
My rough hosts having found out my gift, I was asked to sing to them;
and once more my power of improvisation stood me in good stead. When I
had finished, a wrinkled old woman, who seemed to be held in great
reverence by the robbers, came towards me. "Thou hast sung thy ransom!"
she exclaimed. "The sound of music is stronger than gold!" Yet I was
detained six days, during which there were mysterious comings and
goings. The old witch herself, who had made me write on a piece of paper
the words "I travel to Naples" and my name, disappeared for a day, and
came back with a letter, which she commanded me not to read then.
Finally, in the midst of night, she led me out of the robbers' den and
took me across a rocky path to a dumb peasant with an ass, which I was
made to mount. She kissed my forehead and departed. When daylight broke
I opened the letter, which contained a passport in my name, an order for
five hundred scudi on a Naples bank, and the words "Bernardo is out of
danger, but do not return to Rome for some months."
When I joined the high-road, I took carriage for Naples. Among my
travelling companions was a portly, handsome, Neapolitan lady, with whom
I became very friendly, and who invited me to her house. She was the
wife of a Professor Maretti, and her name was Santa. The professor
himself was a little half-famished looking man, full of learning, by the
show of which he was in the habit of boring everybody who came near him.
Santa made up for this by her liveliness and her warm interest in my
affairs. Amid music and laughter I spent many happy hours in her house,
made friends, and was encouraged to make my debut as an improvisatore. I
had written to Eccellenza a true account of the reason of my departure,
and informed him of my future intentions; but his reply, which arrived
after long delay, was a stunning blow to me. He was exceedingly annoyed,
washed his hands of me, and wished me not on any account to connect his
name with my public life.
_IV.--On the Road to Fame_
The bitterness of my misery was brought home to me with new force when I
saw Bernardo at a gambling saloon in the company of a handsome woman of
doubtful reputation. That Annunciata should have preferred this fickle
man to me! My debut at San Carlo aroused great enthusiasm, and Santa,
whom I saw next day in her snug heavily curtained room, seemed radiant
with happiness at my success. She made me sit on a soft silken sofa,
stroked my head, and spoke of my future. I kissed her hand, and looked
into her dark eyes with a purity of soul and thought. She was greatly
excited. I saw her bosom heave violently; she loosened a scarf to
breathe more freely. "You are deserving of love," said she. "Soul and
beauty are deserving of any woman's love!" She drew me towards her; her
lips were like fire that flowed into my very soul!
Eternal Mother of God! The holy image, at that moment, fell down from
the wall. It was no mere accident. "No, no!" I exclaimed, starting up.
"Antonio," cried she, "kill me! kill me! but do not leave me!" But I
rushed out of the house, determined never to set eyes upon Santa again.
The sea air would cool me. I took a boat to Torre del Annunciata; and
happiness gradually returned to me as I realised what danger I had
escaped by the grace of the Virgin.
I joined the crowd watching the fiery stream of lava slowly descending
towards the sea, when I heard somebody calling my name. It was Fabiani,
who insisted on taking me at once to see Francesca. The welcome was
hearty. There were no recriminations, although I resented for a while
the tone of benevolent patronage adopted by my benefactors. I learnt
that Bernardo had entered the King of Naples' service, and that
Annunciata was shortly expected. An expedition was arranged to Paestum
and Capri; and Fabiani insisted upon my joining the party. He also
undertook to write to his father-in-law on my behalf....
At Paestum we found the abundance and luxuriance of Sicilian landscape;
its Grecian temples and its poverty. We were surrounded by crowds of
half-naked beggars. One young girl there was, a little away from the
others, scarcely more than eleven years old, but lovely as the goddess
of beauty. Modesty, soul, and a deep expression of suffering were
expressed in her countenance. She was blind! I gave her a scudo. Her
cheeks burned. She kissed my hand; and the touch seemed to go through my
blood. The guide told us afterwards that her name was Lara, and that she
generally sat in the Temple of Neptune.
The ruined temple made a mighty impression upon us; I was requested to
improvise in these romantic surroundings. Deeply moved by my thoughts of
the blind girl, I sang of the glories of Nature and art, and of the poor
maiden from whom all this magnificence was concealed. When we left the
temple, I lagged behind, and, looking around, I saw Lara on her knees,
her hands clasped together. She had heard my song! It smote me to the
soul. I saw her pressing my scudo to her lips and smile; I grew quite
warm at the sight of it, and pressed a hot kiss upon her forehead. With
a thrilling cry she sprang up like a terrified deer, and was gone. I
felt as if I had committed a sin, and sadly joined my party.
Amalfi, Capri--I drank the intoxicating beauty of it all. Then I was
prevailed upon to return to Rome with Fabiani and Francesca. We spent a
day at Naples, where I found two letters waiting for me. The first was a
brief note to this effect: "A faithful heart, which intends honourably
and kindly towards you, expects you this evening." It gave an address,
but no name--merely "Your old friend." The second was from the same
hand, and read: "Come, Antonio! The terror of the last unfortunate
moment of our parting is now well over. Come quickly! Delay not a moment
in coming!" The letters were obviously from Santa.
My mind was made up not to see her again. We left for Rome....
The Palazzo Borghese was now my home. Eccellenza received me with the
greatest kindness, but all the family continued to use the old teaching
tone and depreciating mode of treatment. Thus six years went by; but
somehow my protectors did not realise that I was no longer a boy, and my
dependence gave them the right to make them let me feel the bitterness
of my position. Even my talent as poet and improvisatore was by no means
taken seriously at the palace.
Happiness was brought into my life once more by Flaminia, "the little
abbess," who came home to have her last glimpse of the world before
taking the veil. She had grown tall and pale of complexion, with an
expression of wonderful gentleness in her features. She recalled our
early friendship, when she used to sit on my knee and make me draw
pictures for her and tell her stories. From her, at any rate, I suffered
no humiliation, and from day to day our friendship grew closer. I told
her about Bernardo and Annunciata, and about Lara, who became
inexpressibly dear to her. I also endeavoured to make her reconsider her
decision to take the veil and immure herself for life; but her whole
education and inclination tended towards that goal. At last the day
itself came--a day of great solemnity and state. Flaminia was dead and
buried--and Elizabeth the nun, the bride of Heaven, arose from the bier!
_V.--The Sorrowful Wayfarer_
In my sadness of heart I thought of my childhood and old Domenica, whom
I had not seen for many months. I went out to the Campagna. Domenica had
died six months back! When I returned I was seized by a violent fever,
from which I recovered but slowly. It was six months after Flaminia had
taken the veil that the doctor allowed me to go out.
My first walk was to the grey convent where she now passed her
monotonous days. Every evening I returned, and often I stood gazing at
her prison and thinking of Flaminia as I used to know her. One evening
Fabiani found me thus, and made me follow him home. He spoke to me with
unusual solemnity in his voice, but with great kindness. I was ill.
Travelling, change of scene, would do me good. I was to move about for a
year, and then return to show what the world had made of me.
I went to Venice. Dreary, sad and quiet seemed to me the Queen of the
Adriatic. In the gently swaying gondola I thought with bitterness of
Annunciata. I felt a grudge even against innocent, pious Flaminia, who
preferred the convent to my strong, brotherly love. Then my thoughts
floated between Lara, the image of beauty, and Santa, the daughter of
One day I took a boat to the Lido to breathe the fresh air of the sea.
On the beach I came across Poggio, a young Venetian nobleman with whom I
had made friends; and as a storm hung threatening in the sky I decided
to accept his invitation for dinner. We watched the fury of the storm
from the window, and then joined a crowd of women and children anxiously
watching a fishing boat out at sea. Before our very eyes the boat was
swallowed by the waves, and with aching hearts we witnessed the prayers,
shrieks, and despair of the anxious watchers whose husbands and fathers
perished thus within their sight.
Next evening there was a reception at my banker's. The storm became a
topic of conversation; and Poggio related the death of the fishermen,
trying to enlist sympathy for the poor survivors. But nobody seemed to
understand his intention. Then I was asked to improvise. I was quickly
determined. "I know of an emotion," I exclaimed, "which awakens supreme
happiness in everybody, and I have the power of exciting it in every
heart. But this art cannot be given, it must be purchased. He who gives
most will be most deeply initiated." Money and jewels were quickly
forthcoming; and I began to sing of the proud sea and the bold mariners
and fishermen. I described what I had seen; and my art succeeded where
Poggio's words had failed. A tumult of applause arose. A young lady sank
at my feet, seized my hand, and with her beautiful, tear-filled eyes
gave me a look of intense gratitude, which agitated me in strange
fashion. Then she withdrew as if in horror at what she had done.
Poggio afterwards told me that she was the queen of beauty in Venice,
the podesta's niece, adored by everybody, but known by few, since the
podesta's house was most exclusive, and received but few guests. He
accounted me the luckiest of mortals when he heard that I had received
an invitation from the podesta, and would have a chance of improving my
acquaintance with Maria, his beautiful niece. I was received as if I had
been a beloved relative. Something in Maria's expression recalled to me
the blind beggar-girl Lara; but Maria had eyes with a singularly dark
glance of fire. I became a daily visitor at the podesta's house, and
spent many happy hours in Maria's company. Her intellect and charm of
character captivated me as much as her beauty.
_VI.--A Marriage in Venice_
One evening I strayed into a wretched little theatre, where one of
Mercadante's operas was being performed. How can I describe my feelings
when in one of the singers--a slight, ordinary figure, with a thin,
sharp countenance and deeply sunken eyes, in a poor dress, and with a
poorer voice, but still with surprising grace of manner--I recognised
Annunciata? With aching heart I left the theatre, and ascertained
Annunciata's address. She lived in a miserable garret. She turned
deathly pale when she recognised me, and implored me to leave her. "I
come as a friend, as a brother," I said. "You have been ill,
Annunciata!" Then she told me of her illness, four years back, which
robbed her of her youth, her voice, her money, her friends. She implored
me, with a pitiful voice, to leave her. I could not speak. I pressed her
hand to my lips, stammered, "I come--I come again!" and left her.
Next day I called again, and found Annunciata had left, no one knew
It was a month later that Maria handed me a letter, which had been given
to her for me by a dying person who had sent for her. The letter was
from Annunciata, who was no more. It told me of her happiness at having
seen me once more--told me that she had always loved me; that her pain
at having to part from me had made her conceal her face on what she then
believed to be Bernardo's dead body; told me that it was she who had
sent me those two letters in Naples, who had believed my love was dead,
since I left for Rome without sending her a reply. It told me of her
illness, her years of poverty, and her undying love. And then she wished
me happiness with, as she had been told, the most beautiful and the
noblest maid in Venice for my bride! ...
In travel I sought forgetfulness and consolation. I went to Padua,
Verona, Milan; but heaviness did not leave my heart. Then came an
irrepressible longing to be back in Venice, to see Maria--a foreboding
of some new misfortune. I hastened back to Venice. The podesta received
me kindly; but when I inquired after Maria, he seemed to me to become
grave, as he told me she had gone to Padua on a short visit. During
supper I fell into a swoon, followed by a violent fever in which I had
visions of Maria dead, laid out before an altar. Then it was Lara I saw
on the bier, and I loudly called her by name. Then everything became
bright; a hand passed softly over my head. I awoke, and found Maria and
her aunt by my bedside.
"Lara, Maria, hear me!" I cried. "It is no dream. You have heard my
voice at Paestum. You know it again! I feel it. I love you; I have always
"I have loved you, too," she said, kneeling by my side and seizing my
hand. "I have loved you from the day when the sun burnt your kiss into
my forehead--loved you with the intuition of the blind!"
I then learnt that Maria--my Lara--had been cured of her blindness by a
great specialist in Naples, the podesta's brother, who, touched by her
beauty and purity, had her educated, and adopted her as his own child.
On his death his sister took her to Venice, where she found a new home
in the podesta's palace.
* * * * *
The Golden Ass
Apuleius was born about 125 A.D., at Madaura, in Africa.
After studying at Athens, he practised as an advocate at Rome,
and then wandered about Northern Africa, lecturing on
philosophy and rhetoric. At Tripoli he was charged with having
won by witchcraft the love of a rich widow who had left him
her wealth. But he was acquitted after delivering an
interesting defence, included among his extant works. He then
settled in Carthage, where he died at an advanced age. Poor
Apuleius! His good fame was darkened by the success of an
amusing romance, "The Golden Ass," which he wrote, by way of
recreation, at Rome. He related the story of the adventures
which befell a young Greek nobleman who, by an extreme
curiosity in regard to witchcraft, got changed into a donkey.
It was an age of wild superstition and foolish credulity; and
his readers confused the author of "The Golden Ass" with the
hero of it. Apuleius was credited with a series of impossible
exploits, which he had not even invented. For his work is
merely a Latin adaptation of a lost Greek romance by Lucius of
Patras. But Apuleius deserves our gratitude for preserving a
unique specimen of the lighter literature of the ancient
Greeks, together with the beautiful folk-tale of Cupid and
_I.--Lucius Sets Out on His Wonderful Adventures_
I set out from Corinth in a fever of excitement and expectation, riding
my horse so hard that it fell lame; so I had to do the remainder of the
journey on foot. My heart was filled with joy and terror as I entered
the town of Hypata.
"Here I am, at last," I cried, "in Thessaly! Thessaly, the land of magic
and witchcraft, famous through the world for its marvels and
Carried away by my desire after strange and mystic knowledge, I gazed
around with wonder and disquietude. Nothing in this marvellous city, I
thought to myself, is really what it seems to be. The stones I stumbled
over appeared to be living creatures petrified by magic. I fancied that
the trees in the gardens and the birds that sang in their branches were
men that had been transformed by Thessalian witches. The very statues
seemed as if they were about to walk; every wall had ears; and I looked
up into the blue, cloudless sky, expecting to hear oracles.
Entering the market place, I passed close to a noble lady who was
walking with a crowd of servants in her train.
"By Hercules!" she cried. "It's Lucius!" I hung back, confused and
blushing, and Byrrhena, for it was she, said to one of her companions:
"It's Salvia's boy! Isn't he the image of his modest, beautiful mother?
Young, tall and fair, with just her bright, grey-blue eyes, and her
alert glance. A Plutarch every bit of him! Lucius, don't you remember
your kinswoman, Byrrhena? Why, I brought you up with my own hands!"
I remembered Byrrhena very well, and loved her. But I did not want to
meet her just then. However, I went with her to her house, a beautiful
building of fine marble, containing some exquisite statuary.
"You will stay here, my dear Lucius, won't you?" she said.
I then told her that I had come to Hypata to see Milo and his wife
Pamphila. My friend Demeas of Corinth had given me a letter of
"Don't you know that Pamphila is a witch?" she cried. "Do not go near
her, my child, or she will practise her wicked arts on you. It is just
handsome young men like you that she enchants and destroys."
Far from being terrified by Byrrhena's warning, I was delighted with it.
I longed to become an apprentice to a witch as powerful as Pamphila.
With a hasty excuse I left the house and set out to find Milo. Neither
he nor Pamphila was in when I called. But their maid who opened the
door, was such a pretty wench that I did not regret their absence.
Fotis, as she was called, was a graceful, sprightly little thing, with
the loveliest hair I ever saw. I liked the way it fell in soft puffs on
her neck, and rested on her neat linen tunic.
It was a case of love at first sight with both of us. But before I began
to ask her about Pamphila, Milo returned. He welcomed me very warmly,
and put the best room in his house at my disposal, and desired me to
stay to dinner. But in spite of my ardent curiosity, I was, I must
confess, rather afraid of meeting his wife. So I said that my kinswoman
Byrrhena had already engaged me to dine with her.
On arriving at Byrrhena's mansion I was surprised to find that a
splendid banquet had been prepared, and that all the best people in
Hypata were present. We reclined on couches of ivory, covered with
golden drapery, and a throng of lovely girls served us with exquisite
dishes; while pretty curly-headed boys brought the wine round in goblets
of gold and amber.
When the lights were brought in, the talk became freer and gayer;
everybody was bent on laughing and making his neighbours laugh.
"We are, you see, preparing for the great festival to-morrow," Byrrhena
said to me. "Hypata is the only city that keeps the feast of the god of
laughter. You must come, and invent some pleasantry to propitiate the
merriest of all deities."
"By Hercules!" I replied. "If the laughing god will only lend me
inspiration to-night, I will do my best to entertain the townspeople
_II.--The Feast of the God of Laughter_
It was the jolliest banquet I was ever at. Even in Corinth we did not do
the thing so well. It was not until I got into the open air, and set out
for Milo's house, that I knew how much wine I had taken. But though I
was rather unsteady on my feet, I retained my presence of mind. I
reached the house, and suddenly three great burly fellows sprang up, and
battered furiously at the door. They were clearly robbers of the most
desperate type, and I drew my sword, and, as they came at me one by one,
I plunged it swiftly into their bodies. Fotis was aroused, and opened
the door, and I entered, utterly worn out by the struggle, and went at
once to bed and to sleep.
Early in the morning I was awakened by a great clamour. A throng of
people burst into my bedroom, and two lictors arrested me, and dragged
me to the forum. But as they took me through the streets and squares,
everybody turned out to see me, and the crowd grew so great that the
forum was not large enough to hold the people, and I was led to the
There the lictors pushed me down through the proscenium, as though I
were a victim for sacrifice, and put me in the centre of the orchestra.
"Citizens," said the prefect of the watch, "as I was going on my rounds
late last night, I saw this ferocious young foreigner, sword in hand,
slashing and stabbing three inoffensive creatures. When I arrived they
were lying dead upon the ground. Their murderer, overwhelmed by his
terrible crime, fled into a house, and hid there, hoping, no doubt, to
escape in the morning. Men of Hypata, you do not allow your own
fellow-townsmen to commit murder with impunity. Shall, then, this
savage, brutal alien avoid the consequences of his fearful crime?"
For some time I could not reply. The suddenness of the whole thing
terrified me, and it was with a voice broken with sobs that I at last
managed to make my defence.
"They were robbers," I cried, "robbers of the most desperate and vilest
character! I caught them breaking into the house of my friend Milo, your
esteemed fellowtownsman, oh, citizens of Hypata! There were three of
them--three great, rough, burly rascals, each more than a match for a
mere boy like myself. Yet I managed to kill them; and I think I deserve
praise at your hands, and not censure, for my public-spirited action."
Here I stopped, for I saw that all the vast multitude of people was
laughing at me. And what grieved me most was to see my kinswoman
Byrrhena and my host Milo among my mockers. The senior magistrate
ordered the wheel and other instruments of torture to be brought forth.
"I cannot believe a mere boy like this could have slain three great
strong men single-handed," he said. "He must have had accomplices, and
we must torture him until he reveals the names of his partners in this
most dastardly crime. But, first of all, let him look upon the bodies of
the men he has foully murdered. Perhaps that will melt his hard, savage
The lictors then led me to the bier, and forced me to uncover the
bodies. Ye gods! The corpses were merely three inflated wine-skins, and
I observed that they were cut in the very spots in which I thought I had
wounded the robbers. I had, indeed, invented a pleasantry for the
festival of the god of laughter! The townspeople laughed with the
inextinguishable laughter of the Olympian deities. They climbed up to
the roof to get a good look at me; they swarmed up the pillars; they
clung to the statues; they hung from the windows at the risk of their
lives; all shouting at me in wild jollity.
"Sir Lucius," the magistrate then said to me, "we are not ignorant of
your dignity and your rank. The noble family to which you belong is
famous throughout Greece. So do not take this pleasantry in honour of
the joyful god of laughter as an insult. In return for your excellent
services at this great festival, the city of Hypata has decreed that
your statue shall be cast in bronze and erected in a place of honour."
By this time I had recovered somewhat of my good humour. But knowing how
mercilessly I should be teased at the banquet Byrrhena wished to give in
celebration of my exploits, I went quickly home with Milo, and after
supping with him, retired at a very early hour to my bed-chamber.
_III.--Lucius Becomes an Ass_
In the middle of the night I heard a knock at my door. I opened it, and
in came pretty Fotis, looking a picture of misery.
"I can't sleep without telling you everything," she said. "I was the
cause of all the trouble that befell you to-day. As my mistress was
coming from the baths yesterday, she saw a handsome young gentleman
having his hair cut by a barber. Seized with a wild passion for him, she
ordered me to get some of his hair. But the barber saw me and drove me
away. I knew I should get a cruel whipping if I returned empty-handed.
Close by was a man shaving some wine-bags of goat-skin; the hair was
soft and yellow like the young gentleman's, so I took some of it to
Pamphila. You know my mistress is a terrible witch, so you can guess
what happened. She rose up in the night, and burnt the hair in her magic
cauldron. As it burnt, the wine-bags from which it was taken felt the
compulsion of the spell. They became like human beings. Rushing out into
the street, they hurled themselves against the door of our house, as
Pamphila expected the young gentleman would do. You came up--just a
little intoxicated, eh?--and committed the horrible crime of
"Now, don't make fun of me, Fotis," I said. "This is a serious matter,
this witchcraft. What is Pamphila doing to-night? I have come here to
learn magic, and I am very anxious to see her practising her strange
"Come, then, and look," said Fotis.
We crept to the room where Pamphila was, and peeped through a chink in
the door. The witch undressed herself, and then took some boxes of
ointment out of a casket, and opened one box and smeared herself with
the stuff it contained. In the twinkling of an eye, feathers sprouted
out of her skin, and she changed into an owl, and flew out of the
"She has gone after that handsome young gentleman," said Fotis. "I have
to wait here all night until she returns, and then give her a lotion of
aniseed and laurel-leaves to restore her to her proper shape."
"Why, my dear Fotis," I exclaimed, in intense admiration, "you know as
much about witchcraft as your mistress! Come, practise on me! Get me
some of that ointment and change me into a bird. Oh, how I should like
After some hesitation she entered the room, and took a box out of the
casket. I stripped myself and smeared the ointment over my body. But
never a feather appeared! Every hair on me changed into a bristle; my
hands turned into hoofed forefeet; a tail grew out of my backbone; my
face lengthened; and I found, to my horror, that I had become an ass.
"Oh, ye gods," said Fotis, "I've taken the wrong box! But no great
harm's done, dear Lucius. I know the antidote. I'll get you some roses
to crunch, and you will be restored to your proper shape."
Fotis, however, dared not go at once into the garden, lest Pamphila
should suddenly return and find me. So she told me to go and wait in the
stable until daybreak, and then she would gather some roses for me. But
when I got into the stable I wished I had waited outside. My own horse
and an ass belonging to Milo conceived a strange dislike to me. They
fell upon me with great fury, and bit me and kicked me, and made such a
clamour that the groom came to see whatever was the matter. He found me
standing on my hind legs trying to reach the garland of roses which he
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