« PreviousContinue »
The Bavarian peasantry then practically all wore their national costumes; the effect, however, was not invariably pleasing.
Costumes in a picture or on the stage are almost always pretty enough, but in real life they are sometimes garish. In Bavaria I remember the dress of the female peasantry was in some cases positively unattractive. Dirty, faded, tarnished, and worn by coarse sunburnt crones, these costumes had little charm, and when we saw scanty grey hairs torn back from ancient foreheads and painfully collected under the tinsel riegel-haube-the swallow-tail gold or silver head-dress of Munich-we all agreed that we much preferred the neatly parted heads of our own country girls, their black silk bonnets and red cloaks. These, alas! have now long been discarded to make way for cheap imitations of Paris fashions of the year before last.
Besides unlimited discomfort, considerable excitement and even danger attended journeys abroad in days before railways had entirely altered everything.
Going from Florence to Padua in July 1843 we were all nearly killed. In ascending the long hill beyond Caffuggiolo (the villa where the Grand Duke Franceso murdered his wife Eleanor of Toledo), the mules which drew the coach, maddened by the flies, grew restive, kicked, struggled, got entangled in the rope traces, and as nearly as possible overturned us at the edge of a steep bank. The loud braying of the animals, the tingling of their bells, and the
shouts of the drivers added to the confusion and alarm. How relieved we were when we arrived at Covigliajo, and how beautiful seemed the wavy summits of the Apennines in the sweet dawn of a summer morning.
It was terrible driving to Padua in the heat, indeed so unendurable and close was our conveyance that from time to time we were obliged to stop.
We were indefatigable sightseers, and on reaching Bologna, in spite of the burning atmosphere, spent a day in visiting the Pinacotheca, some churches, and the Palazzo Paciocchi belonging to the daughter of Elise Buonaparte. This palace was full of busts, statues, pictures, and other memorials of Napoleon's family. One cabinet was furnished with the needlework of Elise, another contained a mask of Napoleon taken after his death, and coloured bronze; oddly enough it was far from unpleasing.
The great hall contained busts and statues of every member of the family, and how handsome they were! Joseph, perhaps the least so-Pauline, of almost faultless beauty.
The only son of Elise and the Prince Paciocchi was killed by a fall from his horse at Rome at the age of nineteen, and so the palace passed to a race of another name.
We left Bologna at six in the evening to avoid the heat, and had an uninteresting journey of six hours to Ferrara, where we stopped at the "Tre Corone," an inn abounding in fleas.
We were too much oppressed by the heat to see anything of the town immortalized by Tasso and Ariosto, though we waited till six in the evening to make a night journey to Padua. It was beautiful watching the bright decline of one day and the soft dawn of another. A certain lovely lady was once compared to a July morning at three o'clock. The admirer returning from a London ball at that hour, who made the simile, probably hardly realized the high compliment he paid her.
In addition to danger and discomfort, English travellers were constantly fleeced by unscrupulous innkeepers, who, having an exaggerated idea of their wealth, not unnaturally perhaps looked upon them as fair game. Disputes with harpies of all kinds often completely disturbed the pleasures of fine surroundings and beautiful scenery.
My father was an Englishman of the old school, and, in spite of his having been in diplomacy, heartily despised all foreigners, most of whom he considered, I am pretty sure, as inferior and noxious beings.
Possessed of a thorough command of forcible language, he was constantly engaged in violent altercations with officials of every kind, whilst his rage at the rapacity of postilions and other folk of the same kind at times knew no bounds.
Warned, as he said, by many unpleasant experiences, when we set out to drive from Naples to Rome he determined to settle all expenses before
THE CAP OF SILENCE
starting, and thus ensure a peaceful and untroubled progress to the Eternal City.
King Bomba, of execrable memory, then ruled in Naples, which was entirely demoralized owing to his methods.
One of his favourite ways for suppressing inconvenient comment was the "Cap of Silence," which, in his distracted realm, was dropped over the heads of the turbulent. This very barbarous appliance, it may be added, was common enough in English prisons as late as the year 1818, when it was screwed on the head of one, Denis Haggerty by name, to prevent his singing "rollicking songs" in gaol.
When not employed in attempts to dragoon his subjects, King Bomba devoted a good deal of time to the pleasures of the table, his wants in this direction being supervised by his cook Beppo, who was a well-known character in Naples.
Beppo it was who devised one of the most wasteful and curious consommés ever invented.
A round of veal was introduced into a round of beef, which in its turn served as an envelope to a turkey. Inside the turkey lay a fowl, inside the fowl a pheasant, then a partridge, then a woodcock, then an ortolen, and last of all, just filling up the almost impossible small space, an anchovy! Here lay the great art, and Beppo was the individual whose special business it was to send up to the king, once a day, the phenomenal teacupful of gravy produced, as the above-mentioned cook of
cooks used to observe, "by an anchovy being encased in an ox."
My father, as I have said, resenting the gross rascality which then raged in this part of Italy, made elaborate preparations for our journey. First and foremost came the question of horses to drag our carriages and fourgons, and eventually an agreement was made with the Neapolitan postmaster, Pareti by name, who undertook to ensure our comfortable and easy progress to Rome.
Everything was paid for in advance, even to the buonamano or tip of the postilions. This, my father thought, would save trouble on the journey. It proved, however, a very unfortunate arrangement, increasing every annoyance it was intended to prevent, especially the grumbling of the drivers.
We left Naples amidst a storm of rain. At Capua we were beset with beggars, who then swarmed all over Italy, many of them, sad to say, blind.
Here national costumes were seen to the best advantage, the women being usually handsome, and adding to their charms by a picturesque head-dress of white muslin edged with lace; their petticoats were of bright crimson or blue.
Leaving Capua we were inconvenienced by heavy rain, while the bad consequences of Pareti's broken faith became more evident every minute. The horses of the coach and fourgon became restive, and about the middle of the stage from St. Agata one of the postilions came running up to the foremost carriage,