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*Luck to both of us !' Jules returned cheerfully. Fortune stops away for a very long time; but when she does come, let us cover her chair with bird-lime.' And away he went, humming the vivacious air of . J'ai du bon tabac dans ma tabatière.'
A fortnight afterwards the whole city of Mexico was thrown into a state of extreme perturbation and excitement by an occurrence to the truth of which a number of trustworthy persons could vouch. The excitement arose in this manner. An Indian pulque-seller related to his compadre-likewise a gentleman of Aztec lineage, who dispensed bananas and mangoes by retail in the Great Plaza-that, happening to pass at early dawn the shrine of Santa Isidra, at the corner of the calle of that name, he had distinctly seen the saint raise both her arms and extend her hands as in the act of bestowing a blessing. As the pulque-seller was somewhat disguised with his own liquor at the time he made this statement, but little attention was paid to what he said. He reiterated, however, when he was sober that which he had said when under the influence of the fermented juice of the Maguey; and the story of the miracle at the corner of the Calle Santa Isidra began to spread like wildfire among the superstitious market-people of the Plaza and the leperos of the Portal. It was next reported, that a gang of convicts coming from the Presidio to their daily task of street-sweeping had seen the miracle, and, struck with sudden contrition, had fallen on their knees, with a prodigious jangling of fetters, and solemnly promised never to do so any more—I mean, in the way of robbing the stagecoach and cutting people's throats. The Indian population more greedily received the story, since Santa Isidra was an Indian saint, hailing from Mirimichiquiti, in the state of Oajaca. But there are many more people besides Indians and half-castes in Mexico who are superstitious. All the devout old ladies, all the love-sick maidens, all the non-cloistered nuns, flocked to the corner of the Calle Santa Isidra. Fortunately the saint approved herself a thorough patriot and hero, for, in open day, she bestowed a blessing upon a regiment of national guards lately enrolled by Don Benito Juarez. From that moment the civil and military authorities and the governmental empleados began to patronise her. The Calle Santa Isidra was blocked up for the greater part of the day by pious crowds. The saint occasioned what, in England, would be termed a revival. Pilgrimages were made to her shrine. The grating in front of her niche was repaired and richly gilt. A bran-new nimbus of pure gold, a new kirtle of damask embroidered with seed-pearls, and a farthingale of pink satin, were provided for her; and over her head were suspended four lamps, always kept alight, of massive silver from the Rosario adit of the Real del Monte. So great was the pressure on Santa Isidra, that a military post was established close by, and sentinels were mounted to keep guard over the popular saint. She needed protection; for a splendid gold and jewelled bracelet was found thrust between the bars of her shrine one morning. It was an offering to the Beata of Mirimichiquiti, in the state of Oajaca.
Need I hint to those who are acquainted with the oddities of superstition that the cultus of a saint is of little avail without waxcandles, and plenty of them? Long sixes, short sixes, long fours, short fours, dips, and tapers were burnt all day and all night before the shrine. It was bruited about that the invocation of Santa Isidra was an infallible remedy for disease of the kidneys—para el mal de riñones—and all the valetudinarians in Mexico had little figures of Santa Isidra modelled in wax, and dressed them up in satin and spangles, and fitted up little toy chapels for them at their own houses, and burnt wax-candles before the images incessantly.
Where did they buy their candles? whence did the modellers procure their wax ? Where but from the old-established shop of José Jamon de la Ycarregua, the most politic wax - chandler in Mexico !
He drove a roaring trade again, and made plenty of money. Just before the allied forces landed at Vera Cruz, his daughter Pepita was married in the church of San Francisco to M. Jules Dubreuil, artist - musician. The allies squabbled among themselves. The French took the whole weight of the expedition on their shoulders ; Puebla was besieged and stormed; Don Benito Juarez ran away to Matamoras ; the unhappy Maximilian arrived, established his ephemeral empire, was defeated, captured, and murdered ; Don Benito Juarez came back again in triumph ; but José Jamon de la Ycarregua went on selling wax-candles and making money under the immediate patronage of Santa Isidra, sometime of Mirimichiquiti, in the state of Oajaca. He may be selling candles and pocketing gold ounces still, for superstition is stronger than bankruptcy or war or anarchy. It is as strong now in many parts of civilised England as it was when the Canterbury pilgrims set out from the Tabard at Southwark to worship at the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket.
Jules Dubreuil and his pretty bride have not got as far as the Ambigu Comique yet. The impudent Frenchman, when I last heard of him, was making a great deal of money in travelling about South America with a marionette theatre. The mechanical excellence of his puppets is said to be really astonishing; and one of his female marionettes raises her arms and extends her hands in an astonishingly life-like manner. You might think that she was bestowing a benediction on the audience.
WHITEHALL TO SOMERSET HOUSE
How little do we Londoners know of London !--as little, or perhaps a good deal less than many foreigners.
Such an assertion may seem paradoxical, but it is nevertheless true; and the reason is plain enough. Those who wish to learn something of foreign countries and foreign cities have to begin from the beginning, have to dive into books, digest histories, refer to manuscripts written in a strange language in a word, have to work hard for the desired information; a labour that necessarily implants all they acquire firmly in the memory
But it is far otherwise when we come to consider the history of the country in which we ourselves live. The most of us are content with that smattering of knowledge which we get in early youth drilled into our reluctant heads at school, or, what is worse still, that confused conglomeration of facts which we obtain in after years from hearsay evidence. This evil—for no doubt it is an evil—is happily growing less every day. The number of interesting works that are now written, the able papers that continually appear in our periodical publications, the facilities for reading offered to the lowest class amongst us, and last, but not least, the universal spread of education, are all tending to lessen this great anomaly. But more especially should we be ashamed of such ignorance, we who live in old London, the great metropolis of the greatest nation in the world, whose early history stretches far back into the past, and is so inseparably bound up with the gradual rise and expansion of our country's greatness. What stores of interest and knowledge lie hid under the stones we daily tread on! What stories of romance and chivalry, of sensation and horror, of self-devotion and piety, should not the old names we see so often before our unconscious eyes recall to our memories ! Nor is it only pleasure that we thus lose. History can teach us many a lesson that we should do well to lay to heart, and paints in faithful colours many a character we should do well to imitate or shun.
Such being the case, let us see how much historical interest can be gleaned from a short half-mile walk from Downing-street to Somerset House. We are passing Whitehall on our right, and for a moment we will escape from the eternal whirl of omnibuses, carts, and carriages that are surging down Parliament-street, and, standing in the courtyard behind the hall, try to rebuild in our imagination the ruins of the past. What a history is here! If the soil on which we tread could but speak, what scenes could it not tell of ! Scenes of splendour and magnificence, of vice and crime, royal banquets and masquerades, court intrigue, secret marriages, public executions, the rise of prosperity and the downfall of adversity. Here stood, 700 years ago, the palace of Hubert de Burgh, the persecuted justiciary of Henry the Third's reign. In 1248 it passed into the hands of Walter de Grey, archbishop of York, and from that year until Wolsey's fall it bore the name of York House. Here lived in princely grandeur successive prelates, and here reigned in royal state the mighty cardinal himself. On these stones was reared the stately hall where bluff King Harry honoured his favourite at many a banquet, and, as Shakespeare tells us, took part himself in the masquerade. Through these courts thronged lords and ladies, high dignitaries, foreign ambassadors, the poet, the author, and the statesman, all anxious to catch but for a moment the approving smile of the great king's greater subject. And here too, with impatient step, entered the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, the ready bearers of the great man's doom. Down here, a little to our left, on the morrow of all his splendour, passed Wolsey to his barge on the river, and looking back for a moment on the well-known scene, bade “Farewell—a long farewell—to all his greatness."
If we step into the late Lord Malmesbury's house, that now shuts us out from the Thames, we may still see the remains of what was once York House.
When Wolsey fell, King Henry seized the palace for his own use, and rechristened it Whitehall; as Shakespeare again reminds us in the following dialogue between two gentlemen, when Anne Boleyn was crowned at Westminster : “ Sec. Gent.
So she parted,
'Tis now the king's, and call’d Whitehall.” Again, other historic phantoms crowd upon the scene. We see up yonder staircase Ann Boleyn led in secret to the altar. We behold the great Hans Holbein from his silent studio, astonishing by his pencil an admiring world ; and here stands once more, rebuilt in our imagination, the great artist's entrance gateway, that towers in stately grandeur above the surrounding buildings. We wander through long corridors of rare paintings, the costly productions of living masters. We pass down the Boarded Gallery, the Shield Gallery, the Matted Gallery, and linger for a moment to gaze and wonder at Holbein's resplendent ceiling. From the pulpit in the royal chapel we hear Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, thunder forth his celebrated sermon on the real presence in the sacrament, whilst the outraged audience clamour around ; a sermon that cost the daring prelate the king's favour and his own liberty. And now, from the windows that look westward on the royal park, we can see Queen Mary in regal state, on her way to be crowned at Westminster. And a little later, when her short day had ended, we sit in the tilt-yard surrounded by England's fairest dames and noblest peers, and greet our virgin queen, as, with wrinkled face, red periwig, hooked nose, skinny lips, and black teeth, yet confident in her charms, she slowly passes with stately step through the admiring crowd. A grand tourney is to be fought to-day. The Duke of Anjou has arrived from France, the accepted lover of our queen, and Whitehall once more puts on the splendour of York House, to show all honour to fortune's favourite. Next to the royal throne, “the fortresse of perfect beautie,” we behold many a well-known face ; Leicester, Burleigh, and Essex, Sir Henry Lee, Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir Philip Sydney, former favourites and future aspirants, crowd thick and close around, or join in the strife below. Here on the south-west side, reared for the occasion, stands the former banquet-hall, a miracle of art, so soon to perish. And now the tourney is fought and won, the feast is over, and the guests are gone, and with them France's hope and England's fear. Elizabeth, fickle as the wind, has also passed away. Tenacious of life and power to the last, it was here, in her cabinet, she used to be found dancing, at the age of fifty-six, whenever the Scotch ambassador was announced, so anxious was she to let her successor know the little chance he had of succeeding to the crown. Here too, after her death, were found stored up 3,000 different costumes, with which she endeavoured to retain the admiration of her favourites.
But although the tourney is over, and Queen Bess no more, we still hear the clarion trump, and still see the festive crowd, and join the ringing cheer that proclaims, from Whitehall steps, James king of United Britain. And now we stand in the council-chamber before the assembled council. James sits fidgeting, anxious, and trembling in his chair of state ; every face is pale with fear, and every voice is hushed to a whisper. The guards are doubled at the entrance-gates, and messengers arrive and depart in hot haste. A great conspiracy has been discovered, and Guy Fawkes is to be questioned by the king himself. Bound hand and foot, he stands before the affrighted council and calmly defends his intended crime. “Desperate diseases need desperate remedies” was the only excuse he deigned to give for consigning king, lords, and commons to wholesale perdition. The trial is soon over, and down yonder steps to the river—the same path that Wolsey trod some years before, when he too had been condemned—the bold conspirator is led on his way to the Tower. Years pass away; the old palace gives place to newer buildings, doomed, while yet unfinished, to perish in the flames--a wide-spread destruction that spared only a few ruins of old York