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REPUBLIC OF LETTERS.
"BUY A BROOM?"*
One beautiful afternoon, about the beginning of the barley and wheat harvest, young Frederick Hume arose from his desk, where, for several hours, he had been plodding at his studies, and, to unbend himself a little, went to his window, which commanded a view of the neighbouring village of Holydean. A stillness almost like that of the Sabbath reigned over the hamlet, for the busy season had called the youngsters forth to the field, the sunburnt sickleman and his fair partner. Boys and girls were away to glean: and none were left but a few young children who were playing quietly on the green; two or three ancient grandames who sat spinning at their doors in the rich sunlight; and here and there a happy young mother, exempted by the duties of nurse from the harvest toils. A single frail octogenarian, who, in hobbling to the almost deserted smithy, had paused, with the curiosity of age, to look long beneath his upraised arm after the stranger horseman, who was just going out of sight at the extremity of the village, completed the picture of still and quiet life which our student was now contemplating. After raising the window, and setting open the door to win into his little apartment the liquid coolness which was nestling among the green fibrous leaves around the casement, he had resumed his station and was again looking towards the village, when, hearing a light foot approach the door of his study, he turned round, and a young female stranger was before him. On seeing him she paused at the threshold, made a sort of reverence, and seemed
* We have much satisfaction in being enabled to commence our fourth volume with this beautifully.passionate story. It is from the pen of Thomas Aird, Esq. and first appeared in .Blackwood's Magazine.
willing to retire. From her dark complexion, her peculiar dress, especially the head gear, which consisted merely of a spotted handkerchief wound round her black locks, Hume guessed at once that she was a foreigner; and he was confirmed in this supposition when, on his advancing and asking, " What do you wish, my good girl?" she held forward a light broom, and said, in the quick short pronunciation of a foreigner, "Buy a Broom?"—"Pray what is the use of it, my good lass?" said Frederick, in that mood in which a man, conscious that he has finished a dry lesson to some purpose, is very ready to indulge in a little badinage and light banter. "For beard-shaving," answered the girl quizzically, and stroking his chin once or twice with her broom, as if with a shaving brush. It might be she was conscious that he was not exactly the person to buy her broom: or perhaps she assumed this light mood for a moment, and gave way to the frank and natural feeling of youth, which by a fine free-masonry knows and answers to youth, despite of differences in language and manners,—despite of every thing. "Most literally an argumentum ad hominem, to make me buy," said the scholar; "so what is the price, fair stranger?" "No, no," said the girl, in quick reaction from her playful mood, whilst a tear started in her dark lustrous eye, "but they bid me come: they say you are a doctor: and if you will be kind and follow me to my poor brother, you shall have many brooms."
On inquiring distinctly what the girl meant, our student was given to understand, that her only brother, who had come with her as a harper to this country, had fallen sick at a gentleman's house about a mile off, and that she, on learning Mr Frederick Hume was the only person within many miles who could pretend to medical skill, had come herself to take him to her poor Antonio. After learning farther the symptoms of the lad's illness, the young surgeon took his lancets and some simple medicine, and readily followed the girl, who led the way to a neat villa, which, as Frederick had heard, was the residence of an Italian gentleman of the name of Romelli. He had been an officer in the French service, and had come to this country with other prisoners; but instead of returning home on an exchange being made, he chose to continue in Scotland with his only daughter, who had come over to him from Italy, and who, Frederick had heard, was a young lady of surpassing beauty. Following his conductress to Romelli's house, Hume was shown into a room, where, reclining upon a sofa, was a boy, apparently about sixteen years of age, the features of whose pale face instantly testified him to be brother to the maid with the broom. He was ministered to by a young and most beautiful < damsel, Signora Romelli herself, the daughter of the house, who I
seemed to be watching him with the softest care. At the head of the sofa stood the harp of the wandering boy. "I presumed, sir," said the lovely hostess, turning to Hume, "to hint that perhaps you might easily be found, and that certainly you would be very willing to take a little trouble in such a case as this. The affectionate sister has not been long in bringing you." "If the cause of humanity may be enforced by such kind and beautiful advocacy," returned Frederick, bowing, "the poor skill which you have thus honoured, young lady, is doubly bound, if necessary, to be most attentive in this instance.—What is the matter with you, my little fellow?" continued he, advancing to the patient. "Nothing," was the boy's answer: and immediately he rose up and went to the window, from which he gazed, heedless of every one in the apartment "I am afraid the boy is still very unwell," said Signora Romelli; "only look how pale he is, sir."
Hume first looked to the boy's sister, to assure himself what was the natural healthy hue of these swarthy strangers; then turning to the boy himself, he could not but observe how much the dead yellow of his face differed from the life-bloom which glowed in her dark brown cheek. His eye at the same time burned with arrowy tips of restless lustre, such as are kindled by hectic fever. He resisted, however, all advances on the part of our surgeon to inquire farther into his state of health, impatiently declaring that he was now quite well; then resuming his harp, and taking his sister by the hand, he seemed in haste to be gone. "My father is not at home," said the young lady of the house to Hume, "nevertheless they must abide here all night, for I can easily see that boy is unable to travel farther this evening: And besides, they are of my own native country. Use your prerogative, sir, and don't let him go."
In spite of the surgeon's persuasions, however, and heedless of Signora Romelli and his sister, who joined in the remonstrance against his departure, the boy would be gone, even though at the same time he declared there was no place elsewhere where he wished particularly to be. "He is a capricious boy, to reject your excellent kindness, Miss Romelli," said Frederick; "and I doubt not he will treat, in the same way, a proposal I have to make. With your leave, young lady, I shall try to win him, with his sister, to our house all night, lest he grow worse and need medical aid." From the unhappy appearance of the young musician, this proposal seemed so good, that it was readily acquiesced in by his sister, and by the kind lady of the house, provided the boy himself could be brought to accede to it, which, to their joyful surprise, he most readily did, so soon as it was signified to him. "With your permission, Miss Romelli," said Frederick, as he was about to depart, "I shall do justice to your benevolence, and walk down tomorrow forenoon to tell you how the poor lad is."
At this the fair Signora might, or might not, slightly blush, as the thing struck her, or the tone in which the offer was made, gave warrant. She did for a moment blush; but of course her answer was given very generally, "that she would be most happy to hear her young countryman was quite well on the morrow."
The affectionate sister gratefully kissed the hand of her kind hostess. As for the boy himself, with a look half of anger, he took the former by the hand and drew her hastily away, as if he grudged the expression of her gratitude. He had not moved, however, many paces forward, till, quitting his sister's hand, he turned, and taking Signora Romelli's, he kissed it fervently, with tears, and at the same time bade the Virgin Mother of Heaven bless her.
Struck with the remarkable manner of this boy, our student tried to engage him in conversation by the way, but he found him shy and taciturn in the extreme; and as he had already shown himself capricious, he now evinced an equal obstinacy in refusing to allow either of his companions to carry his harp, which being somewhat large, seemed not well proportioned to the condition of the bearer, who, besides being manifestly unwell, was also of a light small make. From the sister, who seemed of a frank and obliging temper, Frederick learned some particulars of their earlier history and present mode of life. Her name, she said, was Charlotte Cardo, and her brother's Antonio Cardo. They were twins, and the only surviving children of a clergyman in Italy, who had been dead for two years. Their mother died a few hours after giving them birth. "After the loss of our father," added the maiden, " we had no one to care much for us; yet I would have dwelt all the days of my life near their beloved graves, had not my brother, who is of a restless and unhappy temperament, resolved to wander in this country. How could I stay alone? How could I let him go alone? So a harp was bought for him; and now every day, from village to village, and up and down among the pleasant cots, he plays to the kind folk, and I follow him with my brooms. We have been a year in this country, and I know not when we shall return home, for Antonio says he cannot yet tell me." Hume having expressed his surprise that she could talk English so well on such a short residence in this ountry, she explained, by informing him, that both her brother and herself had been taught the language so carefully by their father, that they could talk it pretty fluently before they left Italy. During the brief narrative of his sister, the boy, Antonio, kept his