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the eye fierce and glaring. He began to mutter indistinctly to himself, to whisper mysteriously to those be met, to rave incoherently to crowds of such as were similarly affected : and his talk was full of strange and unconnected words, -- liberty and social order, retrenchment and revolution, the debt and the pope ; dangers he had not anticipated, blessings he had not dreamed of, till now. Fire does not spread more rapidly from rafter to rafter, than did the fearful contagion from man to man. The huge letters of a placard, the discordant echo of a song, the touching of a ribbon, the tasting of a cup, were sufficient to communicate its fury. No age, no sex, escaped ; the maiden sickened in her minuet, and the matron at her whist; in the frenzy of the fever, the octagenarian broke his crutches, and overturned his easy chair; and when you asked his grandson the subject of his morning's lesson,-“the cause” quoth the urchin, “for which Hampden bled on the field, and Sidney perished on the scaffold !”
On Saturday evening, Lady Olivia's conversazione was attended by only seven of its fair frequenters. The president herself, her three nieces, Marguerita, Medora, and Sybilla, and their three bosom friends, Leonora, Laura, and Ruth, looked disconsolately at the long saloon and its vacant sofas, and turned away in weariness from the stuffed kingfishers, and the cabinet of conchology, the portfolio of prints, and the drowsy poodle.
“I had expected," said Lady Olivia,“ Professor Bellows, with a Lecture on the Steam-engine, and Dr. Macklin with an Exposition of the Kantian Philosophy: Mr. Merrywether was to have administered his Laughing Gas, and dear Lucerida had promised her charming Ode on the Success of the Missions in Newfoundland. But you see how we are deserted. Since, then, we are afflicted by a worse than Boccaccio's plague, let us adopt Boccaccio's remedy: let us retire to some sequestered spot, where we may wander among shady groves and purling streams, the bleating of sheep and the warbling of birds, pitying the calamities of those whom we leave to the drums and the dinners, the speeches and the cockades; and beguiling our long summer afternoons with pleasant stories, which, when this season shall have passed by, we will give to the world, in emulation of the fame of the Decamerone.”
The proposal was received without a dissentient voice. Nevertheless, Medora hinted at the tea-table what Filomena suggested in the church, — that the company of two or three cavaliers, if any could be found, neither orange nor blue, in their neighbourhood, would help in no slight degree towards the cheating of time, and the banishing of ennui: and Fortune favoured the wish ere it was uttered; for General Shakerly was announced, and Sergeant Ambigu, and Frank Melvil, all ready to fly from the scene of action— the General, because he would support no party; and the Lawyer, because he had promised to support both; and the Johnian, because he had no means of supporting either. Every necessary arrangement was presently planned. Chateau Shakerly was to be prepared for the reception of the beauteous recluses, and the various pavilions and arbours with which its grounds were decorated, were to be carefully stored with books and chess-boards, sweetmeats and guitars. A sovereign was to be elected daily, for the direction of the next day's pastimes; and all were to pay implicit obedience to the commands of their ruler. On Monday morning, while the sheriff was proceeding with his trumpets and his criers, to open the poll for the election of a knight of the shire, Lady Olivia, the queen for the first day, assembled her little court, under the canopy of a magnificent old beech; and, after the example of her Florentine predecessors, issued orders for the proceedings of the household, and gave audience to the seneschal and the tire-women.
The day passed pleasantly enough. They strolled, as their author suggested, and their queen allowed, through the exquisite scenes of as lovely a spot as ever opulence furnished for the dwelling of taste. They admired the stuffed hermit, and the wooden nymph, and the gothic ruin, and the Chinese pagoda. They praised the sculpture of the monument, which was erected to the memory of nobody; and studied the tablet, which invited them
Sleep and dream,
while their host promised them that the fountain, though out of order to-day, would discourse most eloquent music to-morrow. Their dinner was served in the conservatory; and after they had banqueted, as a translator of their Italian model would have said, “with all the elegance imaginable,” the queen called upon Frank to relate the first of those narratives which were in after time to drive the Decamerone from the Temple of Fame. Frank was a thin, sallow young man, who had won a gold medal at Cambridge, and filled all the albums in the county with sighs and songs. The listeners, therefore, were hushed into mute attention, when he set down his glass of claret, and began.
FIRST TALE. It was late on a tempestuous evening, at that season of the year when winter treads closely on the footsteps of autumn. Thick clouds gathered over the face of heaven as the sun went down, and sudden blasts of wind whistling through the almost leafless trees, gave token of the approaching storm. The peasant sought shelter for his flock, and the rich merchant thought of his argosies and trembled.
Mine host of the Black Hound, -it was the only tolerable inn in the little village of Barbadillo---exulted at the pattering of the rain-drops and the distant growling of the thunder. “Trust me,” he said to the guests, whose flagon he was sharing — Master Tomaso, the notary; Dr. Bartolo, the physician; and a holy priest, of the order of St. Francis,'trust me, my friends, a night like this, though it may be ill-regarded by delicate damsel or silk-clad cavalier, is a night of bounty and blessing to us of the spit and spigot. Little inquisition is made at such a time, whether the omelet be fresh or the capon tender, or the wine of the right growth. Give him but a floor under foot, and a roof over head, and a dry cloak, and an extra log upon the hearth, and Lucifer himself will scarcely turn aside from the platter, or look thrice at the seal of the flask.”
While he yet spoke, the heavy sound of horses' feet, advancing, as it seemed, at a long and regular trot, roused him from his seat, and in a moment a vehement ringing at the bell announced the approach of some visitor, to whom it seemed those common comforts, of which the good man spoke, were indeed matters of interest. Mine host of the Black Hound found at his gate a cavalier, mounted on a powerful grey horse. “In good time thou art come, my master," he said, as he ushered his worshipful guest into the gayest apartment of his hostelrie ; "there is such a storm toward, as there hath not been since that in which the holy abbot Olivarez - blessed be his memory!-- was drowned in the Dauro. Doubtless my honoured guest will be for supper, and that presently. Capons have we, and dried kid, and eggs and milk, and such a draught of wine as a cardinal might give thanks for.”