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them what they were going to do at Rome, he espied

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ing matter.

Does it talk?"

"this is no jok

Parrots sometimes use very improper

language-seditious words, even."

Interrogate the bird then," was the answer.

The official accordingly endeavoured to make it speak, but not a word would it utter, perhaps because it was fatigued, or did not understand Italian. At last the head official said

"Well, there is only one way of arranging this business, you must write down the phrases your parrot can say, and declare on your own responsibility that it says nothing else. That done, I will give you a pass for it."

There was no alternative, so the gentleman made the declaration required, and went his way.

The passports which all travellers used to be required to carry were a most worrying nuisance, for most of the officials were very brusque and rude.

The French were perhaps better than other nations. Witness the way the famous singer, Madame Sontag, was once treated in Paris.

Applying for a passport at the police office in Paris, the chief, instead of filling out the personal description under the separate heads, gazed a few

A CAT'S RETREAT

59

moments at her with respectful admiration, and drawing a line down the column of particulars, wrote "angelique" (angelic) against them all.

The most impolite customs officers, I think, were to be found in Italy, besides which they were very cruel where animals were concerned-indeed, the Italian people seem lacking in feelings of humanity towards dumb animals.

Curiously enough, in spite of this, there formerly existed at Florence a curious house of refuge for cats in a cloister at the side of the Church of St. Lorenzo. One had only to go there to find a complete assortment of tabbies, tortoise-shells, blacks, whites, greys, and every other colour usual to the race of cats. There might be seen old cats, middleaged cats, and cats just budding into youth-Angoras and Persians as well as the common species; in short, every variety of cat was plentiful in that unique institution.

Travelling abroad in old days was a terribly uncomfortable affair. Even now I can recall the inconveniences of a tour on the Continent on which I was taken by my father and mother some seventy years ago—and this notwithstanding that we took our own saddle horses, carriages, servants, including a cook, together with numberless things, even "travelling beds," in order to make our trip as enjoyable and easy as possible.

Like many other travellers of the pre-railway era, we wandered to all sorts of out-of-the-way places, now

scarcely visited at all. Who now goes to Pistoia, that old Tuscan town, situated amid a fertile country, at the base of the beautiful Apennines? To-day little is heard of it, but at one time people used to extol its carved cathedral of snowy Carrara marble, its convents and hospitals, its quaint streets of the Middle Ages, its old and crumbling walls, built by the last King of the Lombards, and the clear blue waters of the Ombrone, bordered by chestnut groves, and lands teeming with corn, wine, and oil, all reddened in the setting sun. In those days, of course, Pistoia had an Austrian garrison, and the inhabitants regarded the eagle which floated above their ancient fortress as a blot and a blight.

Some of the old Italian cities contained curious relics of the quarrels once so frequent between the different states.

Very curious was the bucket enclosed in an iron cage which was exhibited on the tower of the Cathedral of Modena-a proof, if ever there was one, of the old adage that "it is much easier to get into a quarrel than to get out of it." In the year 1005, some soldier of the Commonwealth of Modena ran away with a bucket from a public well belonging to the State of Bologna. This implement might be worth a shilling, but it produced a quarrel which was worked up into a long and bloody war. Henry, the King of Sardinia, assisted the Modenese to keep possession of the bucket, and in one of the battles he was made prisoner. His father, the Emperor,

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IL CONTE HULME

61

offered a chain of gold that would encircle Bologna, which is seven miles in compass, for his son's ransom, but in vain. After twenty-two years' imprisonment he pined away, and was buried in the church of the Dominicans.

Fifty or sixty years ago, English people travelling on the Continent were, for the most part, taken for millionaires, and trusted to any extent.

Owing to this great reputation for wealth and liberality, unscrupulous swindlers often made great coups. One of the most daring of these was John William Hume, called Il Conte Hulme in Italy, who arrived at Milan soon after the victory of Magenta, and with a French lady whom he introduced as his wife, and a girl of fourteen, her child by a former husband, took up his lodgings at the Albergo del Marino, where he began to victimize the local tradesmen in a grand and generous style. Before three months were past, a milliner had supplied her ladyship with silks and satins to the value of 11,000 francs; another person for articles of dress had a claim of 29,000 francs; whilst the jeweller, the silversmith, and sundry other eager purveyors of aristocratic luxuries, had all become eager creditors of this magnificent Count. Meanwhile donations to the soldiers' hospital, with loud professions of zeal for the relief of the wounded and for the triumph of the French and Italian arms, covered a multitude of pecuniary obligations. The summer was hot, and in August the Countess, exhausted

by patriotic emotions, was taken rather unwell. The couple then retired to a villa, on the shores of Como, which had been hired for 120,000 francs. Here they indulged, as before, in all sorts of costly entertainments, in balls, concerts, and excursions on the lake. Before quitting Milan the Count had given his note of hand, payable at two or three months, to every Milanese creditor for the amount which he owed. The Milanese were satisfied with the paper till the date came at which the payment fell due. They went or sent to Como, and discovered, to their consternation, that the wealthy foreigners were gone to Switzerland for a short autumnal trip. The course of false rogues, however, does not always run quite smooth, and so it happened that the vagrant family were stopped at Coire. The lady, Madame Julie Girardeau, was consigned to the French consul, to answer some previous accusation in her own land. The gentleman, who was also charged with the offence of wearing false decorations, and who styled himself a Cavalier of St. Sylvester, after a trial of three days was sentenced to a couple of years' imprisonment by the Criminal Court of Milan.

On the whole, however, the innkeepers and tradesmen on the Continent reaped a rich harvest from visitors from across the Channel, who, in return for their money, got very little indeed.

The accommodation was usually execrable. Owing to the discomforts they had to suffer, visitors were generally glad to go to bed early; another reason being

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