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may ride the heavens in majesty - the water may be serene - and the heart
attuned to the night's beauty: - but from the _land_, if discernible - we
can rarely expect much addition to the charms of the scene, and can never
expect it to form its chief attraction. At Naples it is otherwise.

Our eyes turn to the Volcano, whose flame, crowning the mountain's summit,
crimsons the sky.

We watch with undiminished interest, its fitful action - now bursting out
brilliantly - now fading, as if about to be extinguished for ever. Seated
beside George, and thus gazing, what pleasure was Acmé's! We need not say
time flew swiftly. Never did happiness meet with more ardent votary than
in that young bride - or find a more ready mirror, on which to reflect her
beaming attributes - than on the features of that bride's husband.

Their swimming eyes would fill with tears - and their voices sink to the
lowest whisper.

Sir Henry rarely interrupted their converse; but leant his head on the
boat's side, and thoughtfully gazed on the placid waters, till he almost
deemed he saw reflected on its surface, the face of one, in whose society
_he_ felt he too might be blest.

But these fancies would not endure long. Delmé would quickly arouse
himself; and, warned by the lateness of the hour, and feeling the
necessity that existed, for his thinking for the all-engrossed pair, would
order the rowers to direct the boat's course homewards.

Returned to their hotel, it may be that orisons more heavenward, have
issued from hearts more pure.

Few prayers more full of gratitude, have been whispered by earthly
lips, than were breathed by George and his young wife in the solitude
of their chamber.

How often is such uncommon happiness as this the precursor of evil!

Chapter II.

The Doctor.

"Son port, son air de suffisance,
Marquent dans son savoir sa noble confiance.
Dans les doctes debats ferme et rempli de coeur,
Même après sa défaite il tient tête an vainqueur.
Voyez, pour gagner temps, quelles lenteurs savantes,
Prolongent de ses mots les syllabes traînantes!
Tout le monde l'admire, et ne peut concevoir
Que dans un cerveau seul loge tant de savoir."

It was soon after the excursion to Poestum, that a packet of letters
reached the travellers from Malta. These letters had been forwarded from
England, on the intelligence reaching Emily, of George's intended
marriage. They had been redirected to Naples, by Colonel Vavasour, and
were accompanied by a few lines from himself.

In Sir Henry's communication with his sister, he had prudently thrown a
veil, over the distressing part of George's story, and had dwelt warmly,
on the beauty and sweetness of temper of Acmé Frascati. He could hardly
hope that the proposed marriage, would meet with the entire approval of
those, to whom he addressed himself.

The letters in reply, however, only breathed the affectionate overflowings
of kind hearts. Mrs. Glenallan sent her motherly blessing to George; and
Emily, in addition to a long communication to her brother, wrote to Acmé
as to a beloved sister; begging her to hasten George's return to England,
that they might meet one, in whom they must henceforward feel the
liveliest interest.

"How kind they all are," said George. "I only wish we _were_ with them."

"And so do I," said Acmé. "How dearly I shall love them all."

"George!" said Sir Henry, abruptly, "do you know, I think it is quite time
we should move farther north. The weather is getting most oppressive; and
we have nearly exhausted the lions of Naples."

"With all my heart," replied George. "I am ready to leave it whenever
you please."

On Sir Henry's considering the best mode of conveyance, it occurred to
him, that some danger might arise from the malaria of the Pontine marshes;
and indeed, Rome and its environs were represented, at that time, as being
by no means free from this unwelcome visitant.

Sir Henry enquired if there were any English physicians resident in
Naples; and having heard a high eulogium passed by the waiter, on a Doctor
Pormont, "who attended the noble Consul, and my Lord Rimington," ventured
to enclose his card, with a note, stating that he would be glad of five
minutes' conversation with that gentleman.

In a short time, Doctor Pormont was introduced.

He was a tall man, with very marked features, and a deeply furrowed brow;
whose longitudinal folds, however, seemed rather the result of thought or
of study, than of age. The length of his nose was rivalled by the width of
his mouth. When he spoke, he displayed two rows of very clean and very
regular teeth, but which individually narrowed to a sharp point, and gave
his whole features a peculiarly unpleasing expression. His voice was
husky - his manners chilling - his converse that of a pedant.

Doctor Pormont was in many respects a singular man. From childhood, he had
been remarkable for stoicism of character. He possessed none of the weak
frailties, or gentle sympathies, which ordinarily belong to human nature.
His blood ran cold, like that of a fish. Never had he been known to lose
his equanimity of deportment.

A species of stern principle, however, governed his conduct; and his very
absence of feeling, made him an impartial physician, and one of the most
successful anatomists of the day.

What brought him to bustling, sunny Naples, was an unfathomed
mystery. Once there, he acquired wealth without anxiety, and patients
without friends.

Amongst the many anecdotes, current amongst his professional brethren, as
to the blunted feelings of Doctor Pormont, was one, - related of him when
he was lecturer at a popular London institution. A subject had been
placed on the anatomist's table, for the purpose of allowing the lecturer,
to elucidate to the young students, the advantages of a post mortem
examination, in the determination of diseases. The lecturer dissected as
he proceeded, and was particularly clear and luminous. He even threw light
on the previous habits of the deceased, and showed at what period of life,
the germ of decay was probably forming.

A friend casually enquired, as they left the lecture room, whether the
subject had been a patient of his own.

"No!" replied the learned lecturer, "the body is that of my cousin and
schoolfellow, Harry Welborne. I attended his funeral, at some little
distance from town, a couple of days ago. My servant must have given
information to the exhumer. It is clear the body was removed from the
vault on the same evening."

Sir Henry Delmé briefly explained to Doctor Pormont, his purpose in
sending for him. He stated that he was anxious to take his advice, as to
the best mode of proceeding to Rome, and also as to the best sleeping
place for the party; - that he had a wholesome dread of the malaria, but
that one of his party being a female, and another an invalid, he thought
it might be as well to sleep one night on the road. Regarding all this, he
deferred to the advice and superior judgment of the physician.

"Judgment," said Doctor Pormont, "is two-fold. It may be defined, either
as the faculty of arriving at the knowledge of things, which may be
effected by the synthetic or analytic method; or it may be considered as
the just perception of them, when they are fully indagated.

"Our problem seems to resolve itself into two cases.

"First: does malaria exist to an unusual and alarming extent, on the route
you purpose taking?

"Secondly: the existence conceded - what is the best method to escape the
evil effects that might attend its inhibition into the human system?

"Let us apply the synthetic method to our first case."

The Doctor prefaced his arguments, by a long statement, as to the gradual
commencement, and progress of malaria; - showed how the atmosphere,
polluted by exhalations of water, impregnated with decaying and putrified
vegetable matter, gave forth miasmata; which he described as being
particles of poison in a volatile state.

He alluded to the opinion held by many, that the disease owed its origin
to the ravages of the barbarians, who destroying the Roman farms and
villas, had made _desert_ what were _fertile_ regions.

He traced it from the time of the late Roman Emperors, to that of the
dominion of the Popes, whose legislative enactments to arrest the malady,
he failed not to comment on at length.

He explained the uncertainty which continued to exist, as to the
boundaries of the tract of country, in which the disease was rife; and
then plunged into his argument.

George, at this crisis, quietly took the opportunity of gliding from the
room. Sir Henry stretched his legs on an ottoman, and appeared immersed in
the study of a print - the Europa of Paul Veronese - which hung over the

"The Diario di Roma," continued the Doctor, "received this day, decidedly
states that malaria is fearfully raging on the Neapolitan road. Pray
forgive me, if I occasionally glide into the vulgar error, of confounding
the disease itself, with the causes of that disease.

"On the other hand, a young collegian, who arrived in Naples from Rome
yesterday evening, states that he smoked and slept the whole journey, and
suffered no inconvenience whatever.

"Here two considerations present themselves. While sleep has been
considered by the best authorities, as predisposing the human frame to
infection, by opening the pores, relaxing the integuments, and retarding
the circulation of the blood; I cannot overlook the virtues of tobacco,
narcotic - aromatic - disinfecting - as we must grant them to be.

"Here then may I place in juxta-position, the testimony of the Diario, and
that of a young gentleman, half of his time asleep - the other half, under
the influence of the fumes of tobacco.

"Synthetically, I opine, that we may conclude that malaria does exist, and
to a great degree, in the Campagna di Roma. Will you now allow me, to
submit the question under dispute, to the analytic process? By many, in
the present age, though not by me, it is considered the more philosophical
mode of reasoning."

"I am extremely obliged to you, Doctor," said Sir Henry, in a quiet tone
of voice, "but you have raised the synthetic structure so admirably,
that I think that in this instance we may dispense with your analysis.
Pray proceed!"

"Having already shown, then - although your kindness has allowed me to do
so but partially - that malaria does indeed exist, it becomes me to show,
which is the best mode of avoiding its baneful effects.

"Injurious as are the miasmata in general, and fatal as are the effects of
that peculiar form in this country, termed malaria; the diseases they
engender, I apprehend to be rather endemic than epidemic.

"It would be difficult to determine, to what part of the Campagna, the
disease is at present confined; but I should certainly not advise you, to
sleep within the bounds of contagion, for the predisposing effects of
sleep I have already hinted at.

"Rapid travelling is, in my opinion, the best prophylactic I can prescribe,
as besides a certain exhilarating effect on the spirits, the swift passage
through the air, will remove any spiculæ of the marsh miasmata, which may
be hovering near your persons. Air, cheerfulness, and exercise, however,
predispose to, and are the results of sleep: and to an invalid especially,
sleep is indispensable.

"In Mr. Delmé's case, therefore, I would recommend a temporary halt."

Dr. Pormont then gave an account of the length of the stages, the nature
of the post-house accommodations, and the probable degree of danger
attached to each site.

From all this, Delmé gathered, that malaria existed to some extent, on the
line of road they were to travel - that sleep would be necessary for
George - and that, on the whole, it would be most desirable to sleep at an
inn, situated at a hamlet between Molo di Gaetà and Terracina, somewhat
removed from the central point of danger.

But the truth is, that Sir Henry Delmé was disposed to consider Dr.
Pormont, with his pomposity, and wordy arguments, as a mere superficial
thinker; and he half laughed at himself, for having ever thought it
necessary to consult him. This class of men influence less than they
ought. Sensible persons are apt to set them down, as either fools or
pedants. Their very magniloquence condemns them; for, in the present day,
it seems an axiom, that simplicity and genius are invariably allied.

This rule, like most others, has its exceptions; and it would be well for
all of us, if we thought less of the manner, in which advice may be
delivered, and more of the matter which it may contain.

The Doctor rose to take leave, - Sir Henry witnessed his departure with
lively satisfaction; and, with the exception of enjoying a hearty laugh,
at his expense, with George and Acmé, ceased to recollect that such a
personage existed.

Delmé, however, had cause to remember that Doctor Pormont.

Were it not so, he would not have figured in these pages.

The last evening they were at Naples, they proceeded, as was their
custom, to the Mole; and there engaging a boat, directed it to be rowed
across the bay.

The volcano was more than usually brilliant, and the villages at its base,
appeared as clear as at noonday.

The water's surface was not ruffled by a ripple. A bridal party was
following in the wake of their boat - and nuptial music was floating past
them in subdued cadence.

A nameless regret filled their minds, as they thought of the journey on
the coming morrow. They had been so happy in Naples. Could they hope to be
happier elsewhere?

It was midnight, when they returned to the hotel. As they neared its
portico, the round cold moon fell on the forms of the lazzaroni, who were
lying in groups round the pillars.

One of the party sprang to his feet, alarming the slumberers. The whole
of them rose with admirable cheerfulness - took off their hats
respectfully - and made way for the forestieri.

During the momentary pause that ensued, Acmé turned to the volcano, and
playfully waved her hand in token of farewell.

Her eyes filled with tears, and she clung heavily to George's arm.

She was doomed never to look on that scene again.

Chapter III.

The Beginning of the End.

"Thou too, art gone! thou loved and lovely one,
Whom youth and youth's affections bound to me."

At an early hour, rich aureate hues yet streaking the east, our party were
duly seated in a roomy carriage of Angrasani's, on their way to Rome.

They had hopes of arriving at the capital, in time to witness that unique
sight, the illumination of Saint Peter's; a sight which few can remember,
without deeming its anticipation well worthy, to urge on the jaded
traveller, to his journey's termination.

Who can forget the play of the fountains in front of the Vatican, the
music of whose descending water is most distinctly audible, although
crowds throng the wide and noble space.

Breathless - silent all - is the assembled multitude, as the clock of Saint
Peter's gives its long expected signal.

Away! darkness is light! a fairy palace springs before us! its
beautiful proportions starting into life, until the giddy brain reels,
from the excess of that splendour, on which the eye suddenly and
delightedly feasts!

With the exception of a short halt, which afforded the travellers time for
an early dinner at the Albergo di Cicerone, which is about half a mile
from the Molo di Gaeta, they prosecuted their journey without
intermission, till arrived within sight of their resting place.

This bore the aspect of an extensive, but dilapidated mansion, evidently
designed for some other purpose.

Its proprietor had erected it, at a period, when malaria was either less
prevalent or less dreaded; and his descendants had quitted it, for some
more salubrious site.

The albergo itself, occupied but a small portion of the building,
immediately on the right and left of the porch.

The other apartments, which formed the wings, were either wholly
tenantless, or were fitted up as hay-lofts, granaries, or receptacles for
farming utensils.

In the upper rooms, the panes of glass were broken; and the whole aspect
of the place betokened desolation and decay.

As they drove to the door, a throng of mendicants and squalid peasants
came forth. Their faces had a cadaverous hue, which could not but be
remarked. Their eyes, too, seemed heavy, and deep set in the head; while
many had their throats bandaged, from the effects of glandular swellings,
brought on by the marshy exhalations.

Acmé threw some small pieces of Neapolitan money amongst them; and their
gratitude in consequence was boundless.

She sprang from the carriage like a young fawn.

"Come, come, Giorgio! look at that sweet sun-set - and at the blue clouds
edged with burnished gold! Would it not be a sin to remain in-doors on
such an evening? and besides," added she, in a whisper - "is it not a
pleasure to leave behind us these sickly faces, to muse on an Italian
landscape, and admire an Italian sky? Driver! will you order supper? We
will take a stroll while it is preparing.

"Come! Henry! come away! do not look so grave, or you will make me think
of your amusing friend - Dr. Pormont."

"Thompson!" said George, as the smiling bride bore off the brothers in
triumph, "do not forget your mistress' guitar case!"

The travellers passed a paved court, in rear of the building; whence a
wicket gate admitted them to a kitchen garden, well stocked with the
requisites for an Italian salad.

Behind this, enclosed with embankments, was a small vineyard. The vines
twined round long poles, these again being connected with thin cords,
which the tendrils were already clasping.

Thus far, there was nothing that seemed indicative of an unwholesome
situation. As they extended their walk, however, pursuing the
continuation of the path, that had led them through the vineyard, they
arrived at the edge of a dark sluggish stream, whose surface was nearly on
a level with them; and which, gradually becoming broader, at length
emptied itself into what might be styled a wide and luxuriant marsh, which
abounded with water-fowl. This was studded with small round lakes, and
with islets of an emerald verdure.

From the bosom of the marsh itself, rose bulrushes and pollard willows,
towered over by gigantic noisy reeds.

The stream was thickly strewn with the pure honours of the water lily.

If - as Eastern poets tell us - these snowy flowers bathe their charms,
when the sun is absent, but lift up their virgin heads, when he looks
down approvingly: - but that, sometimes deceived, on some peerless
damsel's approaching, they mistake her eye for their loved luminary, and
pay to her beauty an abrupt and involuntary homage: - _now_ might they
indeed gaze upward, to greet as fair a face as ever looked down on the
water they bedecked.

They approached the edge of the marsh, and discovered a rural arbour
of faded boughs - the work of children - placed around a couple of
willow trees.

Within it, was a rude seat; and some parasitical plant with a deep red
flower, had twined round the withered boughs, and mingled fantastically
with the dead leaves.

Below the arbour, was a small stone embankment, which prevented the
waters from encroaching, and made the immediate site comparatively free
from dampness.

Acme arranged her cloak - took one hand of each of the brothers in
hers - and in the exuberance of health and youth - commenced prattling in
that charming domestic strain, which only household intimacy can beget
or justify. George leant back in silence, but could have clasped her to
his heart.

Memory! memory! who that hath a soul, cannot conjure up one such gentle
being, - while the blood for one moment responds to thy call, and rolls
through the veins with the tide of earlier and of happier days?

At the extremity of the horizon, was a more extensive lake, than any near
them. Over this, the sun was setting; tinting its waters with a clear rich
amber, save in its centre, where, the lake serving as a halo to its glory,
a blood-red sun was vividly reflected.

As the sun descended, one slender ray of light, came quivering and
trembling through the leaves of the arbour.

This little incident gave rise to a thousand fanciful illustrations on the
part of Acmé. Her spirits were as buoyant as a child's; and her playful
mood soon communicated itself to her travelling companions.

They compared the solitary ray to virtue in loneliness - to the flickering
of a lamp in a tomb - to a star reflected on quicksilver - to the flash of a
sword cutting through a host of foes - and to the light of genius illuming
scenes of poverty and distress.

Thompson made his appearance, and announced the supper as being ready.

"This," said George, good-naturedly, "is an odd place, is it not,
Thompson? Is it anything like the Lincolnshire Fens?"

"Not exactly, your honour!" replied the domestic, with perfect gravity,
"but there ought to be capital snipe shooting here."

"Ah! che vero Inglese!" said the laughing Acmé.

They retraced their steps to the inn, and were ushered into the supper
room, which was neither more nor less than the kitchen, although formerly,
perhaps, the show room of the mansion. Around the deep-set fireplace,
watching the simmering of the cauldron, were grouped some peasants.

The supper table was laid in one corner of the room; and although neither
the accommodation nor the viands were very tempting, there was such a
disposition to be happy, that the meal was as much enjoyed as if served up
in a palace.

The repast concluded, Acmé rose; and observing a countryman with his arm
bound up, enquired if he had met with an accident; and patiently listened
to the prosy narrative of age.

An old bronzed husbandman, too, was smoking his short earthen pipe, near
the window sill.

"What a study for Lanfranc!" said the happy wife, as she took up a burnt
stick, and sketched his dried visage to the life.

The old man regarded his portrait on the wall, with intense satisfaction;
and commenced dilating on what he had been in youth.

How different, thought Sir Henry, is all this from the conduct of a well
bred English girl! yet how natural and amiable does it appear in Acmé!
With what an endearing manner - with what sweet frankness - does this young
foreigner wile away - what would otherwise have been - a tedious evening in
an uncomfortable inn!

As the night advanced, George brought out the guitar; and Acmé warbled to
its accompaniment like a fairy bird.

It was a late hour, before Delmé ventured to remind the songstress, that
they must prosecute their journey early on the following morning.

"I will take your hint," said Acmé, as she shook his hand, and tripped
out of the room; "buona sera! miei Signori."

"She is a dear creature!" said Delmé,

"She is indeed!" replied his brother, "and I am a fortunate man. Henry! I
think I shall be jealous of you, one of these days. I do believe she loves
you as well as she does me!"

The brothers retired.

Sir Henry's repose was unbroken, until morning dawned; when George entered
his room in the greatest agitation, and with a face as pale as death, told
him Acmé was ill.

Delmé arose immediately; and at George's earnest solicitation,
entered the room.

Her left cheek, suffused with hectic, rested on one small hand. The other
arm was thrown over the bed-clothes. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds. Her
lips murmured indistinctly - the mind was evidently wandering.

A man and horse were sent express to Naples. The whole of that weary day,
George Delmé was by Acmé's side, preparing cooling drinks, and vainly
endeavouring to be calm.

As the delirium continued, she seemed to be transported to the scenes of
her early youth,

As night wore on, the fever, if it were such, gradually increased.

George's state of mind bordered on distraction. Sir Henry became
exceedingly alarmed, and anxious for the presence of the medical

At about four o'clock the following morning, Doctor Pormont was announced,

Cold and forbidding as was his aspect, George hailed him as his tutelary
angel, and burst into tears, as he implored him to exert his skill to the

The physician approached the invalid, and in a moment saw that the case
was a critical one.

His patient was bled twice during the day, and strong opiates

Towards evening, she slept; and awoke with restored consciousness, but
with feelings keenly alive to her own danger.

The following night and day she lingered on, speaking but little.

During the whole of that time, even, when she slept, George's hand

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Online LibraryA BushmanA Love Story → online text (page 12 of 21)