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concern I beheld the Graces bound at the foot of the throne, and obliged to officiate, as handmaids, under the direction of these two officers.
SAME SUBJECT CONCLUDED.
I now began to inquire by what laws this queen governed her subjects, but soon found her administration was that of the most arbitrary tyrant ever known. Her laws are exactly the reverse of those of the Medes and Persians; for they are changed every day, and every hour: and what makes the matter still more perplexing, they are in no written code, nor even made public by proclamation : they are only promulgated by whispers, an obscure sign, or turn of the eye, which those only who have the happiness to stand near the queen, can catch with any degree of precision : yet the smallest transgression of the laws is severely punished; not indeed by fines or imprisonment, but by a sort of interdict similar to that which, in superstitious times, was laid by the Pope on disobedient princes, and which operated in such a manner that no one would eat, drink, or associate with the forlorn culprit; and he was almost deprived of the use of fire and water.
This difficulty of discovering the will of the goddess, occasioned so much crowding to be near the throne, - such jostling and elbowing of one another, - that I was glad to retire and observe what I could among the scattered crowd: and the first thing I took notice of, was various instruments of torture which everywhere met my eyes. Torture has, in most other governments of Europe, been abolished by the mild spirit of the times; but it reigns here in full force and terror. I saw officers of this cruel court employed in boring holes with redhot wires, in the ears, nose, and various parts of the body, and then distending them with the weight of metal chains, or stones, cut into a variety of shapes : some had invented a contrivance for cramping the feet in such a manner that many are lamed by it for their whole lives. Others I saw, slender and delicate in their form, and naturally nimble as the young antelope, who were obliged to carry constantly about with them a cumbrous unwieldy ma chine, of a pyramidal form, several ells in circuinference.
But the most common and one of the worst instruments of torture, was a small machine armed with fishbone and ribs of steel, wide at top but extremely small at bottom. In this detestable invention the queen orders the bodies of her female subjects to be enclosed; it is then, by means of silk cords, drawn closer and closer at intervals, until the unhappy victims can scarcely breathe, and have found the exact point that can be borne without fainting, — which, however, not unfrequently happens. The flesh is often excoriated, and the very ribs bent, by this cruel process. Yet, — what astonished me more than all the rest, —these sufferings are borne with a degree of fortitude which, in a better cause, would immortalize a hero, or canonize a saint. The Spartan who suffered the fox to eat into his vitals, did not bear pain with greater resolution; and as the Spartan mothers brought their children to be scourged at the altar of Diana, so do the mothers here bring their children, — and chiefly those whose tender sex, one would suppose, excused them from such exertions, — and early inure them to this cruel discipline. But neither Spartan, nor Dervise, nor Bonze, nor Carthusian monk, ever exercised more unrelenting severities over their bodies, than these young zealots : indeed, the first lesson they are taught, is a surrender of their own inclinations, and an implicit obedience to the commands of the Goddess.
But they have, besides, a more solemn kind of dedication, something similar to the rite of confirmation. When a young woman approaches the marriageable age, she is led to the altar : her hair, which before fell loosely about her shoulders, is tied up in a tress; sweet oils drawn from roses and spices. are poured upon it; she is involved in a cloud of scented dust, and invested with ornaments under which she can scarcely move. After this solemn ceremony, which is generally concluded by a dance round the altar, the damsel is obliged to a still stricter conformity than before to the laws and customs of the court; and any deviation from them is severely punished.
The courtiers of Alexander, it is said, flattered him by carrying their heads on one side, because he had the misfortune to have a wry neck; but all adulation is poor, compared to what is practised in this court. Sometimes the queen will lisp and stammer ; — and then none of her attend
ants can “speak plain :” sometimes she chooses to totter as she walks ; — and then they are seized with sudden lameness. According as she appears half-undressed, or veiled from head to foot, her subjects become a procession of nuns, or a troop of Bacchanalian nymphs. I could not help observing, however, that those who stood at the greatest distance from the throne, were the most extravagant in their imitation.
USE OF AN INTERJECTION.
(An example of graphic humour. This piece should be read with all
the vivid effect of expressive tone and playful manner. The voice, in this case, should be indulged in full scope in graphic and dramatic style, in which it is always natural to indulge, when we are excited by humorous expression, and risible situations or deportment. The tone then partakes of the sportive character of the scene, and unconsciously paints the whole by vivid and dramatic variations.]
WANDERING about the meadows, one morning in May, absorbed in the pastoral beauty of the season and the scenery, - I was overtaken by a heavy shower, just as I passed old Mrs. Matthews's great farm-house, and forced to run for shelter to her hospitable porch.
The sort of bustle which my reception had caused, having subsided, I found great amusement in watching my hospitable hostess, and listening to a dialogue, - if so it may be called,
- between her pretty granddaughter and herself, which at once let me into a little love-secret, and gave me an opportunity of observing one, of whose occasional oddities I had, all my life, heard a great deal.
Mrs. Matthews was one of the most remarkable persons in these parts; a capital farmer, a most intelligent parish-officer, and in her domestic government not a little resembling the widow Goe, one of the finest sketches which Mr. Crabbe's graphical pen ever produced. Great power of body and mind was visible in her robust person and massive counteQance; and there was both humour and intelligence in her acute smile, and in the keen gray eye that glanced from under her spectacles. All that she said bore the stamp of sense; but, at this time, she was in no talking mood, and, on my begging that I might cause no interruption, resumed her seat and her labours, in silent composure.
She sat at a little table, mending a fustian jacket belonging to one of her sons, - a sort of masculine job, which suited her much better than a more delicate piece of seamstress-ship would have done. Indeed, the tailor's needle, which she brandished with great skill, the whity-brown thread, tied round her neck, and the huge dull-looking shears, (one can't make up one's mind to call such a huge masculine thing scissors,) which, in company with an enormous pin-cushion, dangled from her apron-string, figuring as the pendant to a most formidable bunch of keys, formed altogether such a working apparatus as shall hardly be matched in these days of polished cutlery and cobwebby cotton thread.
On the other side of a little table, sat her pretty granddaughter Patty, - a black-eyed young woman, with a bright complexion, a neat, trim figure, and a general air of gentility, considerably above her station. She was trimming a very smart straw-hat with pink ribands; - trimming and untrimming; for the bows were tied and untied, taken off and put on, and taken off again, with a look of impatience and discontent, not common to a damsel of seventeen, when contemplating a new piece of finery. The poor little lass was evidently out of sorts. She sighed, and quirked, and fidgetted, and seemed ready to cry; whilst her grandmother just glanced at her from under her spectacles, pursed up her mouth, and contrived with some difficulty not to laugh.
Patty. Now, grandmother, you will let me go to Chapelrow revel this afternoon, won't you?
Mrs. Matthews. Humph!
Mrs. M. Humph! [opening the prodigious shears with which she was amputating, so to say, a button, and directing the rounded end significantly towards my wet shawl, whilst the sharp point was reverted towards the dripping honeysuckle.] Humph!
Patty. There's no dirt to signify!
Mrs. M. Humph! [pointing to the draggled skirt of my white gown.] Patty. At all events, it's going to clear.
Mrs. M. Humph! Humph! [points to the clouds, and to the barometer.]
Patty. It's only seven miles; and if the horses are wanted, I can walk.
Mrs. M. Humph!
Patty. And if a person is coming here on business, what can I be wanted for, if you are at home, grandmother ?
Mrs. M. Humph!
Patty. And I half promised my cousin William — poor William !
Mrs. M. Humph!
Patty. Poor William ! Oh! grandmother, do let me go! And I've got my new hat and all, — just such a hat as William likes! Poor William! You will let me go, grandmother ?
Mrs. M. Humph!
Susan, (Patty's younger sister.) Who is this riding up the meadow, — all through the rain ? Look ! — see!—I do think, - no, it can't be, — yes, it is - it is certainly, my cousin William Ellis! Look grandmother! Mrs. M. Humph! Susan. What can cousin William be coming for? Mrs. M. Humph!
Susan. Oh! I know!- I know! (clapping her hands,] I know! I know ! Mrs. M. Humph! Patty. For shame, Susan! Pray don't, grandmother!
Susan. For shame! Why, I did not say he was coming to court sister Patty! Did I, grandmother ? :
Mrs. M. And I take this good lady to witness, that I have said nothing of any sort. Get along with you, Patty! you have spoiled your pink trimming. But I think you are likely to want white ribands next; and, if you put me in mind, I'll buy them for you!