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And still to love, though press'd with ill,
But ah! by constant heed I know,
And should my future lot be cast
THE SOWER'S SONG.
Now yarely and soft, my boys,
Old earth has put on, you see,
As years that are past have been.
Old mother, receive this corn,
The son of six thousand golden sires;All these on thy kindly breast were born—
Now lightly and soft again,
LA BELLA TABACCAIA.
I msH this tale had more of the romantic, or was more akin to the every day occurrences of domestic life. As it is, it may chance to please nobody. There are none of these wonderful incidents, which, without the aid of genii and fairies, prove that the tighter we stretch the chord of possibility, the more it vibrates to our extraordinary hopes and fears. Nor has it any thing like a misdirected letter, creating a volume of dilemmas, and then lost, and then getting, in worse hands, worse and worse interpreted ; or a lady not at home on that unfortunate Monday, when affairs might have been set on a right footing; or the feeing of a loyal servant-maid, quite by mistake, with a bad sovereign; or the doubts, deliberations, and delays of lawyers over a plain, straightforward last will and testament; or an amorous gentleman blundering on the aunt's name for the niece's; or a husband seeing his wife embrace a long-lost brother, and calling to Thomas for pistols for three;—alas! I can offer nothing of this interesting nature. It is merely one of those tales, the best parts of which, for the honour of human nature, ought to happen oftener; and perhaps they may be in fashion when men and women grow a great deal wiser. The utmost I can say in its praise is, that it is as true as affidavits and a court of justice can make it. By the bye, being somewhat allied to the favourite Newgate Calendar, it strikes me it may be twisted, with considerable additions, into a tolerable melo-drama, and that is no mean recommendation. Let Drury and Covent-Garden look to it. They can get it crammed full of " good sentiments," so palpable, a child may pen them down. And if at a loss for a title, to prepare the audience for a stronger dose than usual, why not call it " The Queen of Hearts?" Besides, they can introduce an Italian vineyard, the best that can be had in London.
Nina was an orphan, and, at the age of fifteen, mistress of a snuff and tobacco shop in Pisa, under the discreet guidance of an aunt, who boarded and lodged with her by virtue of her experience. The stock in trade, a little ready money, and two houses in the suburbs of Leghorn, were her patrimony. She had the fairest complexion with the darkest ringlets that ever were formed together; and though no one ever criticised her lips as rather too full, yet some fastidious admirers objected to the largeness of her eyes—but they could not have remarked their lustre and expression, nor the beautiful jet lashes which shaded them. She was called La Sella Tabuccaia, The students of the university, as they returned from lecture, always peeped into the shop, to see if Nina was behind the counter; and, if she was, nine out of ten walked in and asked for cigars. There they lighted them one after the other at the pan of charcoal, and by turns, puffing awhile for invention, ventured on some gallant compliments. If these were received with a smile, as they generally were, and often more roguishly than would be considered within the rules of a bench of old English ladies, then away they went to strut on the Lung'arno with a much gayer notion of themselves. The grave ones of the neighbourhood thought it a pity she could encourage such idle talk; and the aunt constantly advised her to go into the inner room, whenever those wild young fellows made their appearance. But Nina had all the vivacity, the joyousness of youth, almost of childhood, and defended herself by saying, " La! aunt, there can be no harm in their merriment; for my mother used to tell me, young men with serious faces were the only dangerous ones." And the moiher's authority never failed in silencing the aunt. Late one evening, a student entered while Nina was alone in the shop. After a single glance, he sat down by the side of the counter, took up a knife that lay there, and began seemingly to play with it, but with a countenance that betrayed the most violent agitation. The poor girl, never having witnessed any thing like despair, imagined he was intoxicated; and, as the safest means of avoiding insult, remained firmly in her place. On a sudden, the youth, grasping the knife in his hand, seized her by the hair, and threatened death if she did not immediately, and without a word or a scream, give him her money. Instead of complying, quietly and on the instant, in her fright she shrieked for help, and struggled with him. Had not the youth felt a touch of pity, even in that moment of frenzy, she would have been destroyed. For her struggles were in vain, and the knife was at her bosom, when some passengers, hearing her cries, together with the neighbours from the adjoining houses, ran in and seized him. Without further question, they placed him in the hands of the Sbirri, who led him directly to the police, and Nina was required to follow. Her evidence was written down, and she was ordered to sign the paper. To this she complied, with no other thought than that she had not been guilty of the slightest exaggeration. As she laid down the pen, the officer assured her she might rely on the utmost redress for such an outrage; as her evidence was not only the clearest, but it completely tallied with the prisoner's confession; and ended with—" Be under no apprehension, my good girl, for you will shortly see him in yellow," alluding to the colour which those convicts wear who are.sentenced to hard labour for life. It was not till these words were uttered that she, still trembling in her fears, had once reflected on the punishment; when, starting as she heard them, she looked piteously in the officer's face, and said, " I hope not, sir; he has not robbed me—not hurt me—not in the least. Pray let me have that paper again; and I—I am sorry I came here—indeed I am!" She was told he was now in the hands of the law, and it was neither in her power, nor in theirs, to release him; and that as it was the law, not the individual, that punished a criminal, she need not accuse herself, in the slightest degree, of severity, whatever his sentence might be. Incapable of replying to this argument, she could do nothing but repeat her request for the paper, when she was answered by a smile, and told she was quite a child. "Do, do give me that paper," she continued; "let nothing more happen; if I can pardon him, why cannot you?" At this she was called a silly child. Nina looked round for the prisoner; but he had been led to his dungeon. "O God!" she cried, "how unhappy does this make me! I know, sir, I am, as you say, a child; but can you make a child so miserable?" The officer then spoke with greater kindness, reasoning on the impossibility of his yielding, and thus she was dismissed.
The aunt was waiting at home in a thousand ecstacies at so providential an escape from a robber and a murderer; to all which Nina scarcely replied, but went to her pillow weeping, "and pity, like a naked new-born babe," lay in her bosom. Thus in two short hours was the laughing gaiety of this young creature gone for ever. She was the means, it mattered not how innocently, of driving a fellowbeing into wretchedness and infamy. That her sorrow was unreasonable, few, perhaps, will deny. However, Nina had never learned to take enlarged views of the duties of citizenship: nor did it once enter her head to ask herself whether she was right or wrong. Before sunrise the old lady was surprised at being wakened by her niece, and to see her hastily dressing herself to go once more to the police. This created a long discussion. "Well, well," said the niece, " I will go alone; but then I can have little hope. You, aunt, that know the world, may find some method of softening the hearts of these cruel officers. I have but one friend, now that both my parents are dead ; and sure she will not refuse the first earnest prayer I make!" This appeal could not be withstood. Nina ran to the looking-glass, to put on her bonnet, when she perceived several bruises on her neck, the marks of his rude hands,—they would be observed, and could not be mistaken. Instantly inquiring if it was not rather chilly that morning, she at the same time, without waiting for an answer, took up a large shawl, pinned it close under her chin, and then waited, in the mildest manner in the world, for her friend.
At a very early hour, the convicts employed to clean the streets begin their labour. When Nina arrived at the corner of the Bargo, she heard the clanking of their chains; and clinging with both hands on her aunt's arm, remained motionless while they slowly passed. Though accustomed to the sight from her infancy, she now, for the first time, regarded them attentively. They were accompanied, as usual, by their guards, armed with muskets and cutlasses, and came heavily chained together in couples; the two first with brooms, followed by those who drag on a cart, and then two others with their shovels. One was clothed in yellow; the girl looked at him with tears in her eyes. "I never thought," said she, "these men were so wretched!" "Santa Maria!" exclaimed the aunt, "and what did you think? Would you have them as comfortable as good christians like ourselves? You will see, as I told you before, the gentlemen of the police will call me a simpleton for going to them on such an errand." In this she was mistaken; nobody noticed her. Nina's earnestness astonished the officers. They had never seen or heard of any thing of the like, and could not understand it. That she should be in love with the prisoner was out of the question, as it appeared in her evidence his person was unknown to her until the evening before; and a young woman never makes a present of her heart (so they argued) to a ruffian who comes to take it with a knife. In the absence, therefore, of this suspicion, she seemed of a more human, if not a more heavenly nature, than any saint in the calendar. And as they sympathized in her distress—for how could they help it?—their compassion was startled into something favourable to all sorts of criminals. The worst was, they could not grant her request.
It is high time to talk of our student—poor Gaetano in his dungeon! He had been noted by the professors for his application at the university, and endeared to his companions by his never-failing cheerfulness and good temper. What a dreary change! And he was the favourite of his father, who, though not rich, still represented, with some attempts at dignity, an ancient family in Pistoia. Young Gaetano's story, I am sorry to own it, is a very bad one; as it bears a resemblance to that doleful tragedy, George Barnwell. Italians, to their praise be it spoken, seldom put faith in that love which is to be purchased by costly presents—they know better; yet when guilty of such folly, their extravagance is often boundless. It was so with this youth. After having, on every possible pretence, obtained money from his father, and lavished it on his Milwood, she began to put on her cold looks; then, in a short time, her door was closed against a pennyless suitor. Why he attacked Nina seemed inexplicable. Had Pisa no respected Signor, with a heart full of