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ANNO DOMINI, most fashionable of all the complaints that affect frail human nature, unsurmountable, inextirpable fate of the unloved of the gods! we may try to disguise you, we may temporarily delude ourselves and others into fancying that you have not touched us yet, but in our heart of hearts we are painfully conscious of your presence all the same. And even if the freshness of the spring of the year giving us a new lease of animal spirits, or the warmth of the summer sun relaxing our stiffened joints, cause us to forget your existence for a while, the 'World'—"this," as Mr Slurk would say, "is popularity"-or, worse degradation, the 'Sportsman,' not only wishes us many happy returns of the day, but with brutal and unnecessary candour blazons forth the intelligence that we were born on such and such a day of a very remote year.
Of course we fully recognise the fact that Anno Domini is essentially a masculine complaint. Any man with his wits about him knows more or less accurately how old each one of his male associates is. There are so many obvious ways of finding out, and friends are so cordially frank in the matter of betraying what they know, that for a male being to lie about his age is simply futile. But only women, or here and there a man to whom nature has imparted some of the foibles of the weaker sex, take the trouble to search
out the ages of their sisters in Debrett; and when by any chance one of the fair sex does SO far commit herself as to inscribe the year of her birth in our child's birthday-book, we accept the statement rather as a figure of speech than as a matter of fact. Even old-world Solomon, not at all times nor in all matters wholly complimentary to the fair sex, is careful to attribute that mortality "which befalleth beasts to the sons rather than to the daughters of men. We can well believe that the great sage, as husband of seven hundred wives, had learnt to measure his words on the delicate question of the age of womankind. From a more modern source we have, however, been given to know that woman, "lovely woman, " has a chartered right to be inaccurate, if it so pleases her, in statements as regards her age. For have we not been informed on the best authority in the worldthat, we mean, of the lady who for some years past has kindly poured out our tea in the morning-that when an expectant cook writes herself down as thirty years old, she really means that she is on the shady side of forty?
'But," we meekly inquired, "how old are they really, when they call themselves forty?"
"Oh, they never do that," was the answer, "or if they do, it means any age between fifty and a hundred."
We quite understood; for "forty" we must read "aged," and must handicap accordingly. We cannot for the moment recall whether sixty or seventy was Anthony Trollope's "Fixed Period" for retirement into his necropolis; but clearly thirty is the fixed period for self-respecting cooks and other domestic
In the absence of any incriminating evidence to the contrary, a slight inaccuracy as to dates may be held excusable, and, after all, curiosity on the part of a male being as to the number of years during which his fair vis-à-vis at the dinnertable may have graced the world with her presence is wholly impertinent and almost savours of sacrilege. Let the over - curious wight recall the fate of Peeping Tom, and the ignominy that pursued the intruder of the wrong sex who attempted to penetrate the mystery that shrouded the worship of Bona Dea.
"Women, gentlemen," said the enthusiastic Mr Snodgrass, are the great props and comforts of our existence." The right-minded man will echo the Pickwickian's sentiments, and think of woman as possessing many of the attributes of Anacreon's cicala, as "honoured by mortals, loved by the gods, shrill-voiced, unaffected by age, untouched by pain, almost divine."
Let it be prefaced, then, that in our remarks about Anno Domini we shall in no way refer to the fair sex, whom we prefer to regard as enjoying an
absolute immunity from such a reproach.
But how does Anno Domini affect those of our own sex? In ways sundry and divers! Some of us accept the inevitable with a good grace, others again resentfully. Men we have met who, wishing to be old men long, have in demeanour and all outward semblance become old men so early in life that they would almost have us imagine that they have realised Nicodemus's suggestion, and were born into the world at a mature age. Others are so preternaturally juvenile in their tastes, habits, and conversation, that we are sorely tempted to believe that grey hair is covering an infantile brain. "In much wisdom," the Preacher tells us, "is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."
If, as in all charity we will hope, the converse of these propositions holds good, then in what an elysium of their own creation must a fair proportion of our elderly neighbours have been living! It would be difficult to imagine that Angelo Cyrus Bantam, "a charming young man of not much more than fifty, whose features were contracted into a perpetual smile,' had ever burnt the midnight oil in the pursuit of scientific discovery. "If," as a great thinker once said, "the wisest of our race often reserve the average stock of folly to be all expended upon some one flagrant absurdity," there are others who seem con
- it came undoubtedly from the outside its door. The ladies of heart of the Lady through her the litters were in the room smile. For smile she did, as upon their knees; the knights sweetly, as tenderly, as a break- of the horses, their great heling cloud. The sun of her smile mets on their backs, knelt in was like a clean breath in the the kennel praying devoutly. stivy den ; and, behold, she took The wail of “Dies Iræ" went Robaccia by the hand and lifted down the Corso and up again, her up, she encircled her with a “Salve Regina” wavered over mothering arm, and drew her the sunny spaces of the Brà. In close to her own breast. Her the amphitheatre, after an openlips touched the bad girl's air mass, the cardinal legate cheek, lingered for a moment solemnly exposed the relics of there, wistfully withdrew; and last night's miracle, and a bodyMadonna of the Peach-tree, guard of twenty noble youths, none staying her now, went out six chaplains, and a Benedictine into the dead street, and was abbot went to the suburb to seen no more of that company. escort into the city the curate
The sun at noon looked down with the Peach-stone. It was a upon Verona at peace, upon her glorious day, never to be forcitizens at their prayers. Never gotten in the annals of Verona. was such a scene in the stormy Charity and the open heart went little city before. All the bells side by side with compunction of all the churches pealed all and the searching of the heart. day—with no lack of arms to Tears were shed and kissed pull them. Men and women
away; kisses induced the fall ran to and fro kissing whom of gentler tears. It might be they met, with a “Save you, stoutly questioned whether Verbrother!' “ Save
sister ! ona held one unshriven soul, well met, well met!” The Grey one sin unspoken, or one solace Brethren, the Black Brethren, unawarded. the White Brethren of Carmel, It might be reasonably quesheld hands, and confessed to tioned, yet it must be denied. each other as many sins as they Within the walls of the friars had time to remember. Can of Mount Carmel were two unGrande went unarmed about easy spirits. Fra Sulpicio, the his own city, Bevilacqua un- fat prior, was extended face
, barred his door, Giusti married downwards before the high his mistress, the bishop said his altar; Fra Battista, the eloprayers. The cripples at the quent preacher, chewed his church doors had no need to thumb in his cell. The pittanwhine. As for the tavern of ciar, on the other hand, was of the Golden Fish, it smelt of the common mind.
He was lavender and musk and berga- ambling down the Via Leoni mot the day through. At one with Brother Patricio of the time there were eight litters Capuchinson
and with their bearers, eleven stal- Brother Martino of the Dominilions, trapped and emblazoned, cans on the other, singing “In held by eleven grooms in livery, Exitu Israel” like a choir-boy.
But the prior, who had half be- and Fra Battista was losing lieved before, was sobbing his faith in himself, the only faith contrition into the pavement, he had.
VII. —LAST CONSIDERATIONS OF CAN GRANDE II.
You are not to suppose that Did you ever hear a man with the spectacle of Verona garbed a broken limb attribute his misin a gown of innocence, singing hap to other than Domeneddio? hymns and weaving chaplets of However drunk he may have lilies, was to go unnoticed by been, however absurdly in a the ruling power. Can Grande hurry -- act of God! If it II. was lord of Verona, a most thunder and lighten of a sumatrocious rascal, and
mer night, if it turn the milkmany; but, like his famous an- a judgment! Luckily Monsigcestor and namesake, he had a nore has broad shoulders by all gibing tongue, which was evid- accounts; per Bacco! He had ence of a scrutiny tolerably cool need. Now then, look at this of the shifts of human nature.
A belated woman with a Human nature, he had observed, baby stumbles upon a company must needs account to itself for of shepherds all in the twittering itself. If it met with what it dark. Hearts jump to mouths, did not understand, it flesh creeps, hairs stand tiptoe prompt to state the problem in - Madonna, of course! whom a phrase which it could not ex- else could they call her, pray? plain. The simplicity of the They don't know the woman: plan was as little to be denied name her they must. Well ! as its convenience was obvious. Who is there they don't know It was thus that Can Grande whose name comes readiest to II. understood the emotions of the tongue? Madonna, of course. Verona ; it was thus, indeed, Good : Ecco Madonna !” that he himself, confronted with
very eloquently statements and an explanation reasoned, but the bishop shook which did not satisfy him, ac
his head. “It was not a brace counted to himself like any of goat-herds last night, Excelmother's son of his lieges. He lency, but a roomful of brigexplained their explanation, but ands and their trulls in the only by another inexplicable for- Golden Fish. The worst commula. The energy with which pany in Verona, Excellencyhe expounded his own view to the most brazen, the most casethose about him betrayed, per- hardened. But the story is the haps, a lurking uneasiness in same from their mouths as from the burly tyrant.
the lads’; not a detail is want“Pooh, my good lord,” said ing; not one point gives the he to the bishop, who had come lie to another. Excellency, I full of the day's doings and would bow to your wit in any night's report, don't you know case but this. The affair is inyour own flock better than this? explicable short of a miracle.”
Can Grande knit his black like the house razed and the brows; he objected to be crossed, church washed out with holy and the more so when he had a water, or Fra Battista's blood sneaking thought that he was —the latter for choice. Now, rightly crossed. “I should like I cannot pull down religious to see my Lady this night with houses, lord of Verona though I my own eyes, bishop,” said he. be, because a herd of frightened
“Hey, Excellency,” cried the rascals have gone capering over other," there are many devout the city singing, "Salve festa souls in the same case.”
dies.' I must really do the Can Grande pished. “De- parties the honour of an intervout jellyfish,” he grunted ; and view before I draw the sword.
; then—“She seems to haunt one Let me be sure which back I quarter, eh?”
am going to score before I be“It is so, Excellency, save gin to carve. You had better that yesterday she must have bring the prior and Fra Lancilpassed through the Porta San lotto-Battista to me, and if you Zeno unseen of the guard." can collect the young woman
“Have you interrogated the and her brat, so much the guard ?” asked the tyrant, better.” sharply.
“ Alas! Excellency, I fear the “It was done, Highness. No- young woman is in pieces,” said thing entered between Compline the bishop. “ She has never and Prime but a couple of bul- been heard of since the day of lock-carts and a cavalcade of her expulsion." merchants from Brescia.”
The advice, however, was good, “What was in the bullock- the judgment good enough; but carts, bishop ?”
before it could be followed a Birch-bark, Excellency, for stroke more telling than any the yards."
Can Grande's sword could have “H’m !” was all Can Grande made was wrought by Madonna had to say to this.
of the Peach-tree. He changed the conversation. On the night of that same “I have had the warden of the day Can Grande was sitting in Minorites and the provincial of the palace with two chosen the Dominicans here this morn- companions, as dare - devil as ing,” he said, “about that ac- himself, waiting the hour of an cursed business of the ragpick- assignation. It was about ten er's wife. It is another example o'clock: at half-past the hour of what I told you just now, they were to go out cloaked inthat these people attribute what to the streets, bent upon the they cannot understand to per- lifting of a decent burgess's wife sons they can only dream about. from her bed. Hence they were They put down the whole of not in the castle, which is near your miracles to a special re- San Zeno, but in the Della ward for their zeal in hounding Scala Palace, in the very heart down the Carmelite and his of the city. The two accommistress. They want the order plices were Ubaldino Baldinexpelled; I think they would anza, a grey villain, and young
VOL. CLXV.-NO. M.