Page images
PDF
EPUB

They thought that no one would be so readily listened to at Rome as Regulus, and they therefore sent him there with their envoys, having first made him swear that he would come back to his prison if there should neither be peace, nor an exchange of prisoners. They little knew how much more a true-hearted Roman cared for his city than for himself, for his word than his life.

Worn and dejected, he came to the outside of the gates of his own city, and there paused, refusing to enter. "I am no longer a Roman citizen," he said; “I am but the barbarian's slave, and the senate may not give audience to strangers within the walls.". When they came outside, he said, “ Conscript fathers, being a slave to the Carthaginians, I come on the part of my masters to treat with you concerning peace and an exchange of prisoners. Then he turned to go away with the ambassadors, but his old friends made him stay and give his opinion as a senator.

Then he spoke. He told the senators to persevere in the war. He said he had seen the distress of Carthage, and that a peace would only be to her advantage, not to that of Rome, and therefore he strongly advised that the war should continue. He insisted also that no exchange of prisoners should take place, because the Carthaginian generals who were in the hands of the Romans were in full health and strength, whilst he himself was too much broken down to be fit for service again.

It was wonderful even to Romans to hear a man thus pleading against himself, and their chief priest came forward and declared that, as his oath had been wrested from him by force, he was not bound by it to return to captivity. But Regulus was too noble to listen to this for a moment. “Have you resolved to dishonour me?” he said. “ I am not ignorant that death and the extremest tortures are preparing for me; but what are these to the shame of an infamous action. Slave as I am to Carthage, I have still the spirit of a Roman. I have sworn to return; it is my duty to go. Let the gods take care of the rest.”

The senate decided to follow the advice of Regulus, though they bitterly regretted his sacrifice. His wife wept, and entreated in vain that they would detain him, they could merely repeat their permission to him to remain. But nothing could prevail with him to break his word; he turned back to the chains and death he expected as calmly as if he had been returning to his home. This was 249 years before Christ.

Adapted from A Book of Golden Deeds.

39.-GENOA,

se-dan
lan-thorn
per-spect-ive

ves-tib-ules
ed-i-fice
vault-ed

ob-tru-sive
moul-der-ing
vo-lup-tu-ous

The great majority of the streets in Genoa are as narrow as any thoroughfare can well be, being mere lanes, with here and there a kind of well, or breathing-place. The houses are immensely high, painted in all sorts of colours, and in every stage and state of damage, dirt, and lack of repair. They are commonly let off in floors or flats, like the houses in the Old Town of Edinburgh, or many houses in Paris. There are few street doors. The entrance-halls are, for the most part, looked on as public property. As it is impossible for coaches to penetrate into these streets, there are sedan chairs, gilded and otherwise, for hire in divers places. A great many private chairs are also kept amongst the nobility and gentry, and at night these are trotted to and fro in all directions, preceded by bearers of great lanthorns made of linen stretched upon a frame.

When shall I forget the streets of palaces—the Strada Nuova, and the Strada Balbi—or how the former looked one summer day, when I first saw it underneath the brightest and most intensely blue of summer skies, which its narrow perspective of immense mansions reduced to a tapering and most precious strip of brightness, looking down upon the heavy shade below?

The endless details of these rich palaces, the walls of some of them within, alive with masterpieces by Vandyke—the great heavy stone balconies, one above another, and tier above tier, with here and there, one larger than the rest towering high up—a huge marble platform, the doorless vestibules, massively barred lower windows, immense public staircases, thick marble pillars, strong dungeon-like arches, and dreary,

dreaming, echoing, vaulted chambers, among which the eye wanders again, again, and again, as every palace is succeeded by another the terrace gardens between house and house, with green arches of the vine, and groves of orange trees, and blushing oleander in full bloom, twenty, thirty, forty feet above the street—the painted walls mouldering and blotting and rotting in the damp corners, and still shining out in beautiful colours and voluptuous designs when the walls are dry—the faded figures on the outside of the houses, holding wreaths and crowns, and flying upward and downward, and standing in niches, and here and there looking fainter and more feeble than elsewhere by contrast with some fresh little cupids. The steep, steep, uphill streets of small palaces, with marble terraces looking into close byways -- the magnificent and innumerable churches, and the rapid passage from a street of stately edifices into a maze of the vilest squalor, steaming with unwholesome smells, and swarning with half-naked children, and whole worlds of dirty people—make up altogether such a scene of wonder, so lively, and yet so dead, 80 noisy, and yet so quiet, so obtrusive, and yet so shy and lowering, so wide awake, and yet so fast asleep, that it is a sort of intoxication to a stranger to walk on, and on, and on, and look about him.

C. Dickens.

40.-THE FOX AND THE CAT.

thirst-ing
mor-al

re-gale a-ghast

pul-let rey-nard

The fox and the cat, as they travelled one day, With moral discourses cut shorter the way; " 'Tis great,” said the fox, “ to make Justice our

guide! How godlike is mercy !” Grimalkin replied. Whilst thus they proceeded, a wolf from the

wood, Impatient of hunger, and thirsting for blood, Rushed forth, as he saw the dull shepherd asleep, And seized for his supper an innocent sheep. “In vain, wretched victim, for mercy you bleat, When mutton 's at hand,” said the wolf, “I must

eat." Grimalkin 's astonished ! the fox stood aghast, To see the fell beast at his bloody repast. “What a wretch !” says the cat. 66 'Tis the vilest

of brutes; Does he feed upon flesh when there's herbage and

roots ?” Cries the fox, “ While our oaks give us acorns so

good, What a tyrant is this to spill innocent blood I” Well, onward they marched, and they moralised

still, Till they came where some poultry picked chaff by

a mill.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »