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"All this I heard, at the time, Signore, and my uncle proba bly could tell you more—how we all felt at the tidings !"
"Well, that is all over now, and the French are in Egypt. Your uncle, Ghita, has gone upon the main, I hear?" this was said inquiringly, and it was intended to be said care. lessly; but the podestâ could not prevent a glance of suspicion from accompanying the question.
Signore, I believe he has; but I know little of his affairs. The time has come, however, when I ought to expect him. See, Eccellenza," a title that never failed to mollify the magistrate, and turn his attention from others entirely to himself, "the lugger really appears disposed to look into your bay, if not actually to enter it!"
This sufficed to change the discourse. Nor was it said altogether without reason; the lugger, which by this time had passed the western promontory, actually appearing disposed to do as Ghita conjectured. She had jibed her mainsail - brought both sheets of canvass on her larboard side, and luffed a little, so as to cause her head to look towards the opposite side of the bay, instead of standing in, as before, in the direction of the canal. This change in the lugger's course produced a general movement in the crowd, which began to quit the heights, hastening to descend the terraced streets, in order to reach the haven. 'Maso and the podestâ led the van, in this descent; and the girls, with Ghita in their midst, followed with equal curiosity, but with eager steps. By the time the throng was assembled on the quays, in the streets, on the decks of feluccas, or at other points that commanded the view, the stranger was seen gliding past, in the centre of the wide and deep bay, with his jigger hauled out, and his sheets aft, looking up nearly into the wind's eye, if that could be called wind, which was still little more than the sighing of the classical zephyr. His motion was necessarily slow, but it continued light, easy, and graceful. After passing the entrance of the port a mile or more, he tacked and looked up towards the haven. By this time, however, he had got so near in to the western cliffs, that their lee deprived him of all air; and after keeping his canvass open half an hour in the little roads, it was all suddenly drawn to the yards, and the lugger anchored.
"His stock, a few French phrases, got by heart,
It was now nearly dark, and the crowd, having satisfied its idle curiosity, began slowly to disperse. The Signor Viti remained till the last, conceiving it to be his duty to be on the alert, in such troubled times; but with all his bustling activity, it escaped his vigilance and means of observation to detect the circumstance that the stranger, who, while he steered into the bay with so much confidence, had contrived to bring up at a point where not a single gun from the batteries could be brought to bear on him; while his own shot, had he been disposed to hostility, would have completely raked the little haven. But Vito Viti, though so enthusiastic an admirer of the art, was no gunner himself, and little liked to dwell on the effect of shot, except as it applied to others, and not at all to himself.
Of all the suspicious, apprehensive and curious, who had been collected in and about the port, since it was known the lugger intended to come into the bay, Ghita and 'Maso alone remained on watch, after the vessel anchored. A loud hail had been given by those entrusted with the execution of the quarantine laws, the great physical bug-bear and moral mystification of the Mediterranean; and the questions put had been answered in a way to satisfy all scruples for the moment. The "From whence came ye?" asked, however, in an Italian idiom, had been answered by "Inghilterra, touching at Lisbon and Gibraltar," all regions beyond distrust, as to the plague, and all happening, at that moment, to give clean bills of health. But the name of the craft, herself, had been given in a way to puzzle all the proficients in Saxon English that Porto Ferrajo could produce. It had been distinctly enough pronounced by some one on board, and at the request of the quarantine department, had beer
three times slowly repeated, very much after the following form; viz.
"Come chiamate il vostro bastimento ?”
A long pause, during which the officials put their heads together, first to compare the sounds of each with those of his companions' ears, and then to inquire of one who professed to understand English, but whose knowledge was such as is generally met with in a linguist of a little-frequented port, the meaning of the term.
"Ving-y-ving!" growled this functionary, not a little puzzled, “what ze devil sort of name is zat! Ask zem again."
"Come si chiama la vostra barca, Signori Inglesi ?” repeated he who hailed.
"Diable !" growled one back, in French, "she is called ze Wing-And-Wing, Ala e Ala,'" giving a very literal translation of the name, in Italian.
"Ala e ala!" repeated they of the quarantine, first looking at each other in surprise, and then laughing, though in a perplexed and doubtful manner; "Ving-y-Ving!"
This passed just as the lugger anchored, and the crowd had begun to disperse. It caused some merriment, and it was soon spread in the little town that a craft had just arrived from Inghilterra, whose name, in the dialect of that island, was "Ving-y-Ving;" which meant " Ala e ala,” in Italian; a cognomen that struck the listeners as sufficiently absurd. In confirmation of the fact, however, the lugger hoisted a small square flag, at the end of her main-yard, on which were painted, or wrought, two large wings, as they are sometimes delineated in heraldry, with the beak of a galley between them; giving the whole conceit something very like the appearance that the human imagination has assigned to those heavenly beings, cherubs. This emblem seemed to satisfy the minds of the observers, who were too much accustomed to the images of art, not to obtain some tolerably distinct notions, in the end, of what "Ala e ala"
But 'Maso, as has been said, remained after the rest had
departed to their homes and their suppers, as did Ghita. The pilot, for such was Tonti's usual appellation, in conse quence of his familiarity with the coast, and his being principally employed to direct the navigation of the different craft in which he served, kept his station on board a felucca to which he belonged, watching the movements of the lugger, while the girl had taken her stand on the quay, in a position that better became her sex, since it removed her from immediate contact with the rough spirits of the port, while it enabled her to see what occurred about the Wing-And-Wing. More than half an hour elapsed, however, before there were any signs of an intention to land; but, by the time it was dark, a boat was ready, and it was seen making its way to the common stairs, where one or two of the regular officials were ready to receive it.
It is unnecessary to dwell on the forms of the pratique officers. These troublesome persons had their lanterns, and were vigilant in examining papers, as is customary; but it would seem, the mariner in the boat had everything en règle, for he was soon suffered to land. At this instant Ghita passed near the group, and took a close and keen sur. vey of the stranger's form and face, her own person being so enveloped in a mantle, as to render a recognition of it difficult, if not impossible. The girl seemed satisfied with. this scrutiny, for she immediately disappeared. Not so with 'Maso, who by this time had hurried round from the felucca, and was at the stairs in season to say a word to the stranger. "Signore," said the pilot, "his Eccellenza, the podestâ, has bidden me say to you, that he expects the honour of company, at his house, which stands so near us, hard by here, in the principal street, as will make it only a pleasure to go there; I know he would be disappointed, if he failed of the happiness of seeing you."
"His Eccellenza is a man not to be disappointed," returned the stranger, in very good Italian, "and five minutes shall prove to him how eager I am to salute him;" then turning to the crew of his boat, he ordered them to return on board the lugger, and not to fail to look out for the signal by which he might call them ashore.
'Maso, as he led the way to the dwelling of Vito Viti,
would fain ask a few questions, in the hope of appeasing certain doubts that beset him.
"Since when, Signor Capitano," he inquired, " have you English taken to sailing luggers? It is a novel rig for one of your craft."
Corpo di Bacco !" answered the other, laughing, "friend of mine, if you can tell the precise day when brandy and laces were first smuggled from France into my country I will answer your question. I think you have never navigated as far north as the Bay of Biscay and our English Channel, or you would know that a Guernsey-man is better acquainted with the rig of a lugger, than with that of a ship."
Guernsey is a country I never heard of," answered 'Maso, simply; "is it like Holland-or more like Lisbon ?" Very little of either. Guernsey is a country that was once French, and where many of the people still speak the French language, but of which the English have been masters this many an age. It is an island subject to King George, but which is still half Gallic in names and usages. This is the reason why we like the lugger better than the cutter, which is a more English rig."
'Maso was silent, for, if true, the answer at once removed many misgivings. He had seen so much about the strange craft which struck him as French, that doubts of her character had obtruded; but, if her captain's account could only be substantiated, there was an end of distrust. What could be more natural than the circumstance that a vessel fitted out in an island of French origin, should betray some of the peculiarities of the people who built her?
The podestâ was at home, in expectation of this visit, and 'Maso was first admitted to a private conference, leaving the stranger in an outer room. During this brief conference, the pilot communicated all he had to say. both his suspicions and the seeming solution of the difficulties; and then he took his leave, after receiving the boon of a paul. Vito Viti now joined his guest, but it was so dark, lights not having yet been introduced, that neither could distinguish the other's countenance.
'Signor Capitano," observed the magistrate," the deputy. governor is at his residence, on the hill, and he will expect