Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

when, on another occasion, the queen had induced Snowdrop to put on a poisoned comb. A poisoned apple, which the queen brought on a third occasion, proved, however, too much for them. Snowdrop was not to be restored by any available means, and the beneficent dwarfs placed her body in a glass coffin, which each of them guarded in turn, and on which was stated, in golden letters, that she was the daughter of a king. A prince accidentally coming to the spot, became enamoured of the deceased beauty, and persuaded the dwarfs to make him a present of the coffin. This was carried on the shoulders of his servants, who happened. to stumble, and a poisoned apple-pip falling from the lips of Snowdrop, she was at once restored to life, and, of course, married the prince. The wicked queen was invited to the wedding-feast, and forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes till she died."

"And that is the whole story?" said Edgar. "Well, there is a sort of resemblance between the resuscitation of Snowdrop and the waking of the Sleeping Beauty, but when we consider what a family likeness there is among a vast number of popular stories, I can hardly see the identity which you profess to have discovered." "You have not as yet heard the premisses by which I arrive at my conclusion,' returned Maximilian. "To obtain these you must go all the way to Sicily, or, at any rate, to the collection of Sicilian stories made by Laura Gonzenbach."

[ocr errors]

"Can't you be our guide?" asked Lau

rence.

"I foresee that these wretched sisters will not be grateful," observed Edgar.

"Of course they were nothing of the kind," replied Maximilian. "They hated Maruzzedda more than ever for her generosity, and prevailed on their father to adopt the old expedient of taking Maruzzedda to a wood, and there leaving her. Finding herself alone at sunset in the dismal forest, Maruzzedda wandered about till she came to a magnificent castle, which she entered without obstacle. The chambers through which she walked were superbly furnished, and in one of them was a well-appointed table and a bier, on which lay the body of a lovely female. Other inhabitants there were none, so Maruzzedda, unbidden, refreshed herself at the table, and then went to sleep in a handsome bed.'

66

[ocr errors]

Considering the lovely deceased as nobody ?" asked Edgar.

66

When she had resided for some time in the castle," continued Maximilian, "she chanced, looking out of window, to see her father. Informing him that she could not give him admittance, she desired him to remember her kindly to her sisters, who, when they had heard the news, rewarded her good wishes by sending their father to the castle with a poisoned cake. Then, on the night before his arrival, Maruzzedda dreamed that the dead lady called her by name, and advised her to try the coming cake upon the cat. The advice was followed, and when the father had come and gone, having been rewarded with a little money, a piece of cake was given to the cat, which perished accordingly. Another visit to the castle enabled the cobbler to report that Maruzzedda was still living; and he was now sent by her sisters with a hat which had the power of suspending animation. She was warned in a dream by the dead lady not to put it on, but when she received it she deposited it in a chest, to be worn on some future occasion, whereas, of course, she ought to have destroyed it."

"Certainly," replied Maximilian; "and I will begin by telling you the tale of Maruzzedda, a name, by the way, which is a Sicilian diminutive for Maria. This Maruzzedda was the youngest and most beautiful daughter of a poor cobbler, hated, like Cinderella, by her two sisters. Going out one day in search of work, he took with him his eldest girl, and as he found a job, which brought him a trifling sum, he and his daughter expended half "I don't see that, when she had not the treasure by refreshing themselves in been counselled so to do," objected Edgar. the next house, and took the other half" Was there no other convenient animal home. A similar operation was performed that could have answered the purpose of on the following day, when double the first the unfortunate cat ?" sum was earned by the cobbler, and his second daughter was his companion. But on the third day, when his gains were trebled, Maruzzedda, who was 66 now his companion, persuaded him not to spend half upon the road, but to take home the whole and share it with her sisters."

"Perhaps the poisoned bonnet points a moral against female vanity," suggested Laurence.

After a lapse of time," proceeded Maximilian, "the dead lady was received into heaven. Before her departure she appeared to Maruzzedda for the last time, and be

"Good," said Laurence. "Now I plainly perceive we have a story which is essentially that of Snowdrop, with a termination which is essentially that of the Sleeping Beauty." I am much struck," remarked Edgar,

queathed to her the castle, with all the treasures it contained. Left alone with her wealth, Maruzzedda amused herself by rummaging over her old chest, and lighted on the fatal hat, which she heedlessly put on, and became insensible in a moment." by the dead lady, about whom no explaThe dead lady, descending in the night, nation is given, and who performs the office placed the lifeless body on the bier which she of the seven dwarfs. She seems almost like had left vacant, and there it lay perfectly a second Snowdrop invented for the rescue motionless, but neither pale nor cold. More of the first." time elapsed, and the king of the country, sporting near the castle, shot a bird, which fell into Maruzzedda's room. Every door was locked, but two of the king's followers entered the room through the window, and, struck with admiration, called the king to join them, and view the beautiful corpse. Suspecting that Maruzzedda was merely asleep, he removed the hat, and animation immediately resulted. Now pay particular attention. The king married Maruzzedda, but kept his marriage secret, and contented himself with visiting her at the castle, because he feared his mother, who was a sorceress. In the course of three years the young wife gave birth to as many sons, the first of whom she named 'I love thee' (T'amo), the second I loved thee' (T'amai), and the third 'I shall love thee' (T'amero)."

"I see whither we are going," said Laurence; and Edgar nodded assent.

"Now there is another Sicilian story," proceeded Maximilian, "about one Maria, who was lost in a wood by her father at the instigation of a wicked step-mother, and wandered about till she came to a small house kept by seven robbers, on whom she waited, and who afforded her protection. The step-mother, discovering her retreat, sent her a magic ring, which apparently deprived her of life, and the robbers, placing her body, with many treasures, in a handsome coffin, had it drawn to the king's castle by oxen, and deposited it in one of the royal stables. The king, hearing of the arrival of the coffin, had it placed in his own chamber, where it was opened, and revealed its living contents. Four wax candles were solemnly lighted, and the king, dismissing his attendants, knelt alone by the coffin, weeping. His mother, missing him at meal-time, and coming to his room, saw him through the key-hole, and caused the door to be broken open. She, too, was moved with compassion, and taking Maria's hand, drew off the ring, thinking that such a precious jewel should not be consigned to the grave. Maria revived, and the king married her with his mother's consent."

"The old queen," continued Maximilian, "at length discovered her son's marriage, and sending a message to Maruzzedda, with kindly words persuaded her to intrust the three children to their grandmother. When they were all in her power, she ordered her cook to kill them, but the compassionate man concealed them in his 'Ah, now we get back to Snowdrop's house, and deceived her by providing the seven protectors, who appear in less rehearts of three young goats. In the mean-spectable shape, and we lose the wicked step-mother," exclaimed Edgar.

while the king had fallen ill, and his mother availed herself of the occasion to invite Maruzzedda to visit her. Having put on three dresses, the deluded lady proceeded to the royal palace, and found in the court a large fire, into which the queen ordered her to be cast. She asked leave to take off her dresses, and as she threw them aside, one after another, she successively uttered the significant names of her three children. Musicians had been placed at the door of the king's chamber to deaden the sound of his wife's voice, but the names reached his ear, and on hearing the last he sprang from his bed to rescue Maruzzedda, and to put his mother in her place. The children, of course, reappeared, and the cook was rewarded."

[ocr errors]

"There is still another Sicilian story about the Fair Anna, which belongs to our subject," resumed Maximilian. "In this we have three sisters, who lived together without father or mother, and the elder two of whom hated Anna, the youngest, because she was most admired by the king's son as he passed their window. Anna was purposely lost in the wood by her eldest sister, and came to a fine house inhabited by an ogre, who was so touched by her beauty that, instead of eating her, he afforded her shelter, and she not only lived very happily with him and his wife, but became owner of the house and its contents after their speedy decease. Here she was discovered by her sisters, who

poisoned her with a bunch of grapes, and left her for dead on the terrace. The king's son found her, restored her, married her, concealed his marriage on account of his wicked mother, and became father of a son and daughter, named Sun and Moon. The story goes on like that of Maruzzedda. While the king is ill, Anna is about to be thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, and takes off three dresses, respectively decorated with silver, gold, and diamond bells. She is, of course, saved, and the old queen suffers in her stead. Thus you have the last of my premisses."

"Give us your conclusion in detail," said Laurence.

"Note, then,” replied Maximilian ; we have gone through five stories, and in three of them we find that the marriage of a prince with a lady awakened from a trance is followed by the persecution of his wife and children by his wicked mother. The connexion, therefore, between the two parts of the Sleeping Beauty is not accidental. Note again; the elements of all the stories are continued in the Sicilian tale of Maruzzedda. She is obviously Snowdrop; and if you expand the indefinite period of her trance into one hundred years, she becomes the Sleeping Beauty of Charles Perrault." "Capital," cried Edgar. Snowdrop and the Sleeping Beauty being both Maruzzedda, the Sleeping Beauty is Snowdrop. Q.E.D.”

[ocr errors]

And look here," exclaimed Laurence. "Does not Maruzzedda, living in the castle with that mysterious protectress, and persecuted by her sisters, remind you somewhat of the position of Psyche in Cupid's palace, described in the immortal romance of Apuleius ?"

SIR PETER'S MONUMENT.

66

CHAPTER I.

YOUNG Oliver Kempe, who called himself a statuary," and was the tenant of a rather confined studio in George-yard, King's-square (since called Soho-square), Oxford-road, wrote home to his anxious relatives in Lincolnshire something as follows:

"I have triumphed. The gold medal of the Royal Academy is mine. I received it from Sir Joshua's own hands. My name is to be engraven round its edge. I long to show it you. The president complimented me most warmly on the merits of my design. He is no less good than he is great. You can't think how my heart

beat when the secretary called my name and I struggled through the crowd to the president's chair. My model is to be carried to Buckingham House to be inspected by their most gracious majesties the king and queen. I have received compliments and congratulations on all sides. Many maintain that mine is the best historical design that has been produced in England for years. The subject, as I have already told you, is the Continence of Scipio.

"The Academy, you know, is in Somerset House, formerly a palace. Lectures are given every Monday night by Hunter on anatomy, Wall on perspective, Sandby on architecture, and Sir Joshua on painting. In the life school the model sits two hours every night. I have seen two men hanged, and one with his breast cut open at Surgeons' Hall. The other being a fine subject, they took him to the Royal Academy and covered him with plaster-ofparis, after they had put him in the position of the Dying Gladiator. I neglect no opportunity of improving myself in drawing, modelling, and anatomy.

"I have already one or two commissions for portrait bustos, and have great hopes of being chosen to carve the monument of the late Sir Peter Bembridge, parliament man and East India merchant, to be erected by his widow in New Marylebone Church. Meanwhile, materials are so costly, and living here in the most moderate way runs away with so much money, that if you could spare me a few guineas I should be very glad. I am rather in debt, but not gravely so. Some urgent claims upon me I must find means to discharge shortly, however. With deepest affection," &c.

To another of his correspondents-not a member of his family-Mr. Kempe wrote to this effect:

"I have won the medal. How I wish that you were near that I might hang it round your soft, sweet, white neck! my adorable Phillis! I think of thee without ceasing, and always, be sure, with the tenderest love. I have still-need I say it?the golden tress you clipped from your fair head one night moved by my beseeching, and bestowed upon me out in the meadow of the Dairy Farm beyond the mill-stream. You remember? Surely you missed it not, nor any one else. My dear mistress is so rich in golden locks. How many might she be rifled of and yet none be the wiser: not even herself! I wear it, as I said I would, next my heart ever, wrapped in that same little blue silken case your deft

fingers sewed for it. It is to me an amulet, shielding me from evil, assuring me of future bliss. I had need of some such magic charm, for this London is a big, wicked, cruel giant of a place. Tis hard to wrest a living from it; how much harder to bring it to my feet and force it to pay me homage! But I'll not despair, if my Phillis will but be true to me. I've won the medal, that's something. I'm proud of it, I own, because I think it may make my Phillis, if ever so little, proud also. But I mean to do greater things. I intend to succeed. For success means fame, fortune, and best of all, the right to call Phillis really and truly mine for ever.

"I have been ailing a little, from overwork, I think, and at times feel myself despondent somewhat, and inclined to lose heart. I am but one, and I have to strive against so many. My life is very, very lonely. I have but few friends outside my studio, and my friends here are made for the most part of clay, plaster, and stone. They are cold and dumb. Yet let me not blame them; they've been true to me. And if I am faithful to them and to my art, shall I not in time reap reward?

"One friend I have forgotten. It is the love of my Phillis. May I hope that that is with me ever? That my kind mistress, in spirit, tends me and hovers near me like a guardian angel always? At least, let me believe so, for the thought brightens and cheers me as the sun the flowers. But I must end.

"Good-night, sweet Phillis! Heaven preserve and bless you, and make you love me, and me worthy of your love. I have kissed the paper just where I am writing. Please kiss there too, Phillis," &c.

CHAPTER II.

his long and it might be perilous journey. All were glad to see him set forth in such good spirits. His kindred especially rejoiced thereat, or said they did, their looks most rueful and woebegone the while. In truth, the parting was very grievous to them. He, their loved one, seemed to have taken all hope with him, and left them only fear.

He looked elated, sanguine, occupied with the future, full of faith in himself and his plans. But perhaps beneath all this moved a stronger under-current of sadness than they could give him credit for. Yet the yearnings that were so painfully restless within him, try hard as he might to still and subdue them, were not solely for those of his own house. There was affection for his kin, but there was love for a stranger in blood. He wore suspended from his neck, swinging down towards his heart, the amulet, as he called it in the letter quoted above, bestowed upon him by a certain damsel of his neighbourhood-Phillis Blair, the schoolmaster's daughter. Of her precious gift none knew save only he and she. The twain had interchanged most tender speeches, most ardent vows. Their leave-taking had been very trying to both. She had wept piteously, and striving to stay her tears he had but unlocked the flood-gates of his own grief. He besought her, not wholly in vain, to share his high hopes and expectations. Soon he was to return famous and prosper ous to claim her hand and make her his wife. Their union otherwise was not pos sible. They must venture if they were to win. Cupid was ever a gamester. They staked their present happiness to win greater by-and-bye. Meantime, of course, they must consent to be wretched: for they must part. She could not suggest the possibility of failure, of their losing both the present and the future. To doubt her suitor's success was to question his merits. She could not do that. She loved him.

The last farewell spoken, the last kiss given, she felt herself the most miserable of maidens. Beside her love she had nothing. He had action, ambition, deeds to do, a name to make. Thoughts of these, perhaps more than they should, lightened his heart. Hers was heavy indeed.

If it was with a light purse that Oliver Kempe had quitted his native village for London, it was with a light heart also. He came of worthy, honest folk of yeoman condition, who had not much money wherewith to endow him; of what they possessed, however, his family gave him generously; his father cautions and counsel, his mother tears and prayers, his sisters sobs and kisses. Then he had his own stout health, fresh youth, and abundant hopes. Further, he was furnished with the blessings and He was a likely-looking young good wishes of quite a host of friends and enough, lithe of figure, quick of moveneighbours who assembled at the cross-ment, with his mother's large, tender, roads to see him meet and mount into the waggon which was to carry him laboriously to London, and to bid him good speed upon

fellow

brown eyes, and his father's breadth of brow and shapeliness of feature. His thick dark hair was neatly combed from his face and

tied into a club at the back of his head. He was simply clad in blue broadcloth, with grey worsted stockings; and bright pewter buckles decked his shoes. He had served his apprenticeship to a wood-carver. Then he had tried his hand upon stone, and gained credit by his marble mantelpieces. He had executed a bust or two for certain provincial patrons, and won prizes for his drawings and models from the Society of Arts in the Strand. His ambition grew. He longed for a larger public. The world in which he moved was not big enough for him or for his art. He must go to London, of course. He did not credit that its streets were paved with gold as some asserted; silver would do. Surely he should there find reward for his toil, recognition of his capacity, and, in due time, fame and prosperity. He was a genius as he believed; he would try and make the world believe so too. He had a future before him; it behoved him to go forth and meet it.

His letters did not tell the whole truth. What letters ever do? He had suffered more than he cared should be known. He had met with care, sickness, disappointment he had even undergone privation. His small stock of money was exhausted.

But he could not-he was too brave or too proud-tell of these things. It would have broken his mother's heart to know all her son had endured. He only wrote when he had good tidings to tell. His letters necessarily had not been so frequent as his friends could have wished. But they forgave his neglect or seeming neglect of them. They felt so sure that he was most busily occupied making his fortune. Poor lad! It was all he could do to earn bread.

Still it was something to say that he had won the gold medal of the Royal Academy. How rejoiced they were! how proud of him! They had quite settled that the precious token should remain ever as an heir-loom in the family. Just at that moment he was weighing it in the palm of his hand, considering how much his friend the pawnbroker-with whom he had had many previous transactions-would advance him upon a deposit of it.

But if he might regard the medal as the turning-point in his fortune! It really seemed now that the clouds were lifting his prospects brightening. He had a reasonable chance of a commission to execute Sir Peter Bembridge's monument. The "portrait bustos" he had mentioned in his letters home were not likely to be very

remunerative works. They were merely models in clay of the heads of certain of his fellow-students, whose pockets were little better supplied than were his own, and who pretended in no way to be patrons of art, but rather professors.

There was a noise without the statuary's studio. The grating of wheels upon the roadway, the clatter of carriage steps, the voices of footmen. "My Lady Bembridge" was announced. Oliver rose to receive her. He opened wide the door as she swept majestically into the room. He bowed and blushed, muttered acknowledgments of his sense of the honour conferred upon him, and placed a chair for her ladyship. She waved her hand; she did not care to sit.

CHAPTER III.

HE had been day-dreaming, sitting with his hands before his eyes, leaning forward with one arm on each knee. He rose up a trifle dazzled and confused. The scent of musk her ladyship brought with her into the studio seemed to him rather overpowering. And her ladyship's presence was sufficiently disturbing. How much depended upon his winning her favour!

He

She was attired in deep mourning, for Sir Peter's demise was of recent date. had been what the world then called "a nabob," who had returned late in life from the East, possessed of a good fortune and a bad liver, to marry a young wife and leave a rich widow. Something of the bloom of youth Lady Bembridge had now lost; still her charms had not yet attained the full glow of maturity-the ripeness that immediately precedes decay. For a widow she was certainly young, whatever she might have been otherwise accounted. And she was very handsome. No doubt her beauty suffered from the restrictions of costume unavoidable under the circumstances. Her dress was as intensely mournful, indeed, as milliner could make it. Wits at the chocolate - houses had likened her to the fifth act of a tragedy. She had even abandoned the use of rouge, while she had thickly coated her complexion with white paint. sighs were frequent, and she bore in her hand her cambric kerchief, in constant readiness to stanch any sudden overflow of tears she might be visited with. Yet neither in face nor figure was she quite acceptable as a personification of Niobe. Her graces were rather of a Bacchante type, although just now, perhaps, a Bacchante afflicted by the fact that grapes

Her

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »